My parents watch sci-fi shows. Always have. They banned my sister and I when we were kids, but occasionally would let us watch safe things on say PBS. We hid behind the couch or under blankets if scenes turned scary. Or avoid things in the house entirely like the alien book cover that still disturbs us. If something genuinely interested us, we would endure the chills. Unsolved Mysteries, anyone?
I loved The X-Files as a kid but couldn’t always handle it. I wanted to believe, but sometimes I needed a reprieve. Fast forward a few decades. This year The X-Files reappeared as a miniseries. What’s not to like with Agents Mulder and Scully reunited and uncovering conspiracies again. Sometimes the unexplained feels odd, but okay.
Maybe that’s why what happened the other day reminded me of the show. The chill and darkness of a winter evening fell over the neighborhood. The smell of roasting garlic and melted cheese filled the air as we left the local restaurant, bellies full. I pulled on my hat and gloves and zipping my long jacket closed before sweeping through the parking lot quickly to our car.
Once home Stockton rang up his family. I unbundled and flipped my long hair out from under my scarf. My hand stopped on my loose ponytail. That’s not right. I discovered the issue. Where’s my hair tie. I froze in the fear of past history with my dog, Matilda, the one who ingests inedibles. Low vision or not, I immediately entered the twilight zone of doubt.
With my jaw clenched, I turned to Stockton. “I don’t know where my hair tie is.” Stockton silently raised his eyebrows. We ended the phone call and secured our heavy duty eater of a terrier away from the scene of the crime. Last year’s stomach surgery on her was caused by, you got it, hair ties. Since that vet event, I secured unworn elastics on metal carabiners in my dresser drawer. Retracing my steps I figued the accessory vanished between leaving the restaurant and touching my hair at home. Now was not the time for theory. Now was investigation time. I dropped to my knees and crawled around as Stockton did the same.
The anguished search revealed nothing. I admit, I had no evidence of witnessing the dog snatch or chew anything. But when you’re paranoid you can’t handle uncertainty. I wanted to believe that everything was OK, but it was not. My heart pounded. The imprint on my wrist where I wore the elastic band earlier throbbed, reminding me of the loss. Gah.
We welcomed distraction. A trip to the pet store materialized. I held Matilda to my chest, wondering if the small, stretchy black band swam this instant in her tummy. I kept replaying my actions. My throat felt dry. Stockton reached over and squeezed my hand. I inhaled but the knot remained in my gut. I walked the aisles in the store dazed and confused while totally sober, the same condition but opposite attitude of a recently broadcasted line-dancing Agent Mulder on “mushrooms.” Unlike him, I could not smile.
We left the store, Stockton carried the plastic bag and I gripped Matilda’s pink leash. I felt a scratchy, almost electrical sensation on my spine. My neck hairs stood up. I clawed at my back. The car beeped twice as Stockton pressed the unlock button on his fob, unaware of my problem. I continued to grab at the affected area, something crawled around my spine. The truth is out there, right?
I stopped moving at the car. “What are you doing?” My husband said across the roof. I point my sorta free hand behind me, the other one pinching the mysterious lump between my shoulder blades. A true feat of flexibility while grasping an engaged dog leash. If the object moved anymore I would scream. Isn’t it too cold for bugs. It’s only tax season. It’s not cicada season. A shudder then a calm washed over me. Hmmm.
“Hurry I’m holding it. Reach up inside my coat right now. Take the dog.” Stockton put Matilda in the car, handed me the bag of bones and ventured under my long coat in the middle of the parking lot as I tried not to hop around. Must’ve been quite the sight.
He produced the offending object, indeed, the missing hair tie. Must’ve gotten caught in my bra strap as I fussed with my scarf and sweater collar at home. Stockton jumped in the car. I continued my happy dance, hoisting the shopping bag in the air in victory. Of course the plastic bag tore. Everything scattered with a clatter across the asphalt. I didn’t care. No elastic in Matilda’s belly.
I scrambled to pick up my merchandise, giggling uncontrollably as Stockton again asked what was going on. We drove away with big smiles on our faces. I hugged my dog and closed my eyes. The world continued. The only thing missing from the episode was a hint of cigarette smoke in the air.