15 May 2013

Ain't Afraid of No Ghosts

Last weekend, on a tip from a friend, I drove up to Byhalia to find a certain used clothing store where everything costs a dollar. I'm not fond of shopping generally but if you're talking beautiful or fun clothing for cheap, I'm ready to go.

I found the store and walked in with a wad of $1 bills ready to pick up an entire summer wardrobe. The dress racks were full but my heart began to sink within a few minutes of browsing. All of the dresses were huge. On closer inspection, it became apparent the clothing was grouped, more or less, by size and I was in the wrong section. 

Browsing the scant section of dresses in my size, my heart sank further:  there was nothing on the rack that matched my taste. Onstage, playing a Church Lady or a School Marm or a Matron or a Small Town Prom Queen, this would be the dream dressing room; but playing myself in the real world? 

I kept looking and eventually found a long sheath in a slightly-African-looking fabric. On a shelf full of linens, I found a long sheer curtain that would work in the kitchen. At the cash register, after I paid for both items, the elderly clerk offered me a free religious tract -- not Daily Word but something like it. I gently declined and left the store. The full bright sunlight of my arrival had turned overcast by the time I reached my car. I glimpsed my face in the rear view mirror as I backed out -- I was scowling. NPR's Saturday afternoon programming was irritating; I turned off the radio and rode home in silence.


Earlier this evening, I popped today's delivery from Netflix into the DVD player. Misery. Five hours later, I am less than 20 minutes into the film. I've seen it before. The first time was back in the 90s, a few days after my adolescent son moved to Kansas to live with his father. I rented the cassette the afternoon before he left but had been scared to watch it that night...or the next night...but, feeling somehow obligated not to waste my investment, finally found the courage to watch it during daylight hours before rental time ran out.

It was a disturbing film. A scary movie. And, judging from my behavior tonight -- watching for a few minutes and pausing to wash dishes...returning to watch for a few minutes and pausing to make dinner....returning for a few more minutes and pausing, again, this time to play Internet backgammon for awhile and write this blog... -- this movie still scares me. Why did I order it from Netflix? I don't know.

I started thinking --during yet another pause, this time for a cigarette on the back porch -- this is an unfamiliar feeling. I am not often afraid. What else instills me with this kind of fear, real fear? I wondered.

I mentally scrolled through a list of  the things that people frequently say they fear:  ghosts, public speaking, heights, enclosed spaces, snakes and spiders...  These are scary, I guess. I think I could write a story and employ some of these as scary elements. But neither thinking about nor encountering snakes or heights make my heart race. I don't have a physiological reaction to the thought or the real experience of speaking in public.

I have a physiological reaction to the mere thought of Misery. And I become so mentally and physically uncomfortable when watching it that I have to pause the film and leave the room.

When have I felt like this before? I asked myself.

And then I remembered:  it was last Saturday! Driving home from the thrift store. Browsing through racks of dresses and slacks and blouses discarded by my new community of residence and finding nothing that I would wear scared me. Maybe it was partly the strangeness of leaving virtually empty-handed, after a lifetime of gorging myself in thrift stores; but it was more than that, too.

I have never thought about it before but clothing reveals something of the ethos of a community. Similar to the way that the absence of a bookstore or coffee shop here leaves me disoriented and not-quite-at-ease, the thrift store offerings say Girl, you are out of your element here.

I find I am not nearly as worldly as I might have thought. I ain't afraid of no ghosts but take away my books and my funky old clothes and I start shaking in my boots.