April 17, 2006
"I have a question," the child said, eyes wide and deceptively innocent as he sat beside me in Cordier, while the first strains of Dracula's musical score began. "How are we supposed to get home?" I tried to mask my horror as the boy stared up at me. I had a question too. How on EARTH did this happen to me?
I had been sitting in the Lounge, reading Jen's blog, when I caught a boy with crooked glasses and his young brother staring at me from the hallway.
This was not so terribly out of the ordinary. I am, after all, used to being the kind of (and I quote) "Freak of Nature" which draws the gaze of perfect strangers from time to time. However, I was unaccustomed to this taking place in the Lounge, where people know me well enough to just laugh at me, or avoid me at all costs.
These children took my deer-in-the-headlights expression as an invitation to enter the room, "Hey," the older one began. They thought they were cool. Really cool. Middle schoolers, I supposed.
"Hi..." I replied, avoiding eye contact. If I ignore them, they'll go away...I thought.
But Krystal was there, and Heather was there, and no one heard my reasoning, as none of us are even remotely telepathic. The boys sat, they talked, they felt like college students. Hooray.
Meanwhile, I was hoping to dissolve into the floor.
You see, there is something about me, something strange. My mother has it, my grandmother had it. Who knows what it is! Suffice it to say, we send off a kind of beacon, the brainwave of motherhood, which welcomes small children of all makes and models to our side, where they expect care and responsibility to wash over them. I have a target painted on my head, which their underdeveloped minds find alluring. Heather, I think, has this too.
But unlike Heather, I know nothing about children. Truthfully, I dislike most of them.
And these children, they wanted something.
They were looking for a concert of some kind, and expected us to know where it was. Not only did I not care about the concert--I was waiting for DRACULA! I also wanted nothing to do with the responsibility of making sure they found it.
So when the time came for me to leave for my play, I got up and left.
Becky had arrived by then. She was one of the many people I had pestered into coming with me. Neither of us were making eye contact with the children, and Becky had wisely chosen not to speak to them at all. I should have been so lucky.
You see, these were some of the many children I have encountered in my lifetime who get little or no attention from anyone. They had latched on to the Lounge's occupants out of loneliness. I felt awful for them.
Becky and I had gotten to the exit of Winger before Heather asked us to wait. The kids wanted to come.
So ten minutes later, after moving several times to ensure the littlest one had a seat where he could see, we were ready for the play to start. That was when the little one, eyes wide, asked me a question more frightening than a room full of vampires.
"How are we supposed to get home?"
I don't know. I thought. How did you get here? Do you have parents? Shouldn't you have considered this earlier? All this was followed by a resounding thought of, I'M NOT DRIVING YOU!
Krystal and Heather were kind. They found Torrance to see if he would drive them and their bikes in his truck. But they didn't have the kid staring at them from the seat next to them, continuing to ask the same question, followed by "When will this be over?" I continued to ask again and again, "Can't you call home?" But home had no phone.
This was not the evening I wanted.
The older boy finally made his brother be silent. The play proceeded. It was lovely. But the kids were still there.
If I took the kids home, I would be taking them without their parents' permission. There's no telling how they would have taken that. And if, by chance, someone was at this point, hours after the curfew I had just heard about seconds before, was looking for them, if the police had been called, I would be found and possibly seen as a kidnapper. And where were the parents? Didn't they care where their kids were, what they were doing? What kind of parents were they? And what if something happened to the kids while I wasn't driving them home? Would I be blamed for not stepping in? The older boy finally told his brother what they were doing, despite Torrance's offer. The kids rode their bikes home. But not before raising my anxiety level far above that which is healthy. And once my anxiety gets to a certain point, it stays there. That is, unless it grows to a new height. Since that night, I have had three panic attacks and indigestion which makes eating a pain. Sleepless nights have accompanied these other symptoms.
And as we all know, my anxiety has only GROWN what with the police v. pickup event. And having to deal with the Registrar. And the Honor's Convocation. And a botched photography presentation. Need I go on?
I have become an absolute mess. It makes it hard to set up plans for next year, and even harder to deal with day to day concerns, like what I want to eat at lunch, or what to do if my car windshield starts to leak rain onto my leg. So, friends, that's why I'm not in the Lounge right now. I'm in a quiet place, listening to good music and trying to relax a little before they have to drag me off and hospitalize me.