it was a house of horrors

i thought i had a phone date with jared tonight, but…i guess i don’t. we just talked two days ago, & it did occur to me that it was kind of weird that we had arranged to talk again so soon, but i can’t imagine what day we did choose if it wasn’t today. so maybe i got the date right & he *sob* forgot. or fell asleep. he doesn’t have cell reception in the adirondacks, so we have to choose a date & time & i call him at the only pay phone that’s around for miles. earlier this week, some jerk was on the phone at the appointed time, which led to much frustration on my part. i admit it, i cried a little bit. but eventually i was able to get jared on the line & all was well. tonight some bratty undergrad picked up & was all, “jared taber? is he a grad student? yeah…we don’t know him. he’s not around.” then she giggled. fuck you, bratty undergrad. i was seized with a desire to somehow magic myself up there so i could kick her giggly ass, but of course, that is not possible. i had to be content with dropping jared a line expressing my confusion & asking him to suggest a different day. i’ll be glad when he gets to the city next weekend & we can talk via the miracle of modern cellular devices.

amanda is in new york for the weekend, so i’ve had the house to myself. i thought i’d be pleased about the alone time, but instead, amanda’s house is freaking me the eff out. i didn’t mind it at all when i was hear by myself a couple of weeks ago, while she was in virginia. no weird noises, no mysteriously opened or closed doors. this time is different. at one point, the basement door was mysteriously standing open. it doesn’t latch, so it probably opened due to changes in air pressure within the house, but…still. earlier today, amanda’s bedroom door was mysteriously closed after she left it open. she keeps her windows open, so probably a gust of wind blew it shut while i was out running errands. but there was also a mysterious scrap of newspaper in the hall that hadn’t been there before. perhaps it blew out of her room before the door shut. i also keep hearing weird noises like footsteps in the halls…but it’s row homes, so i am probably hearing the people next door. this morning, i thought i smelled something burning while i was laying in bed, wondering if i should get up. i leapt out of bed & examined every electrical appliance in the house, but nothing was on fire. thank goodness. there are also a million flies on the patio. it’s like the amityville horror. better flies than spiders or cockroaches, & probably they are coming from the mysterious bag of garbage in the neighbor’s yard…but i will still be very happy when amanda gets home tomorrow. i keep telling myself that if there’s a hobo living in the basement or a ghost on the third floor, they aren’t actually bothering me, & you never hear of people actually being killed by ghosts in real life. but still…i leave the hall light on when i go to bed, & i try not to look at the crack under the door, lest footstep sounds suddenly be accompanied by a shadow falling over the light.

okay, i am seriously freaking myself out. change of subject!

amanda hosted karaoke at the handle bar the other night, & after much waffling, i decided to tag along. i was anxious that i’d feel awkward & weird, not knowing anyone there except for the person who is busy all night queuing up everyone’s songs & calling names. many, many beers staved off the social discomfort, however, & because there was practically no one in the bar, i got to sing a million times. i sang white town, danzig, bon jovi, soft cell, girls aloud (the one unqualified disaster of the bunch–it’s hard to sing songs by girls with normal girl voices), marvin gaye, pat benatar, & closed things out with a rendition of “doll parts” by hole. i started off kind of nervous & shaky, but the bartender kept my pint glass full & by the end, i was in the zone. a group of hipster kids who had come in for a birthday of one of their fellows became my biggest fans. one of them actually hugged me before she left & asked if i’d be back next week. she apparently wanted to come hear me sing again. i think they were especially impressed by the hole song. courtney love & i have the same voice, & i spent many pathetic nights rocking out to “live through this” when i was fifteen, so i really nailed it.

the best part of the night though was another karaoke patron, gabe. apparently he trawls the philadelphia karaoke circuit & hits karaoke nights at least five times a week. this dude LOVES karaoke, & as soon as we showed up, he grabbed amanda’s arm & started yammering about how excited he was to sing some skid row. i’m not sure anyone has ever existed who has looked less like sebastian bach, so the idea of him wailing away on some skid row initially cracked me up. then i remembered this karaoke night i went to in bloomington, indiana, in 2004, when some 19-year-old frat dude got up on stage & did “i remember you”. he knocked it out of the park! i was dumbfounded. so…you never know. sometimes the most unlikely people are secretly amazing at karaoke.

well, gabe was amazing, but in a totally different way. never in my life have i heard a more terrible singer. he was unspeakable. everyone in the bar, including amanda & the bartender, was howling with laughter. amanda admitted that she purposefully turned the mic way down whenever gabe got up to sing, but there was no stopping this dude. he had PASSION. i am no great singer myself (see above references to having the same range as courtney love), & i hate it when people treat karaoke as their own personal “american idol” audition, so i have no problem with untalented people doing karaoke. but this guy took the cake. not only was he loud, & absolutely devoted to doing songs by singers whose technical ranges are astonishing to behold (say what you will about the homophobia, racism, & misogyny of dudes like axl rose & sebastian bach–in their prime, those dudes could really wail), but he wasn’t even getting the basic melodies even nominally right. the bartender & i joked that gabe should hand out autographed 8′ by 11″ glossies of himself. i said he was like the mother teresa of karaoke–he exists to make more insecure singers feel better about giving it a shot.

the other hilarious dude of the night was jay. he was gabe’s polar opposite in terms of energy. he just got up there & mumbled into the microphone, squinting at the words on the monitor, with absolutely zero passion or inflection. i was almost on the floor, rolling around in hysterical laughter, when he did “kokomo” by the beach boys. never have i heard a less enthusiastic invitation to a beach getaway. both jay & gabe got up to sing at least six times a piece. to thank amanda gets paid $20 an hour for this shit! i can’t decide if it’s far too much or in no way enough.

tonight there was an all-girl non-riot grrrl cover band show in west philly. i mapped out the route on google & figured out what bus to take & even called bart to get recommendations of other things to do over there, thinking i’d make a day of it. & in the end, i allowed anxiety to carry the day, & instead did laundry & went grocery shopping, turning over plausible excuses for skipping the show in my mind. two ladies i am acquainted with were in bands that were playing, & undoubtedly other folks i know were going to be in the crowd. but…no excuses, i skipped it because i was too anxious to go alone. i’m sure i could come up with any number of other excuses (haven’t taken public transit yet & don’t want to do it for the first time on my own, don’t want to come back home alone in the dark, shows are too loud for me in my old age, my back is really hurting lately, i was too tired after taking care of errands, i wanted to stay in to talk to jared, i wanted to stay in to write…), but the truth is that i didn’t want to have some kind of panic attack in public in front of people i don’t know or know hardly at all. i am way better at one-on-one hang-outs. shows are just too much for me. i also skipped the defiance ohio/mischief brew show today for the same reason. & again, a million other excuses could apply (too expensive, the crowd was sure to be fucking obnoxious as it is both philly & folk-punk, wasn’t exactly sure where the venue was, afternoon timing of the event interfered with my errand-running, too hot & the venue lack air conditioning, etc), but i actually just didn’t want to go alone. maybe that makes me a loser, but i think i cancel out some of the loser aspects by admitting the truth. right? i feel that if i am going to have to live with depression & anxiety, the least i can do is take steps to minimize triggers so i don’t bum out other people. loathe as i am to allow anxiety & depression to control my social activities…sometimes it’s necessary.

all right, back to the south philly’s little house of horrors. i’m so freaked out, even lightning bugs are making me recoil in terror. *shriek forever*

Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

10 thoughts on “it was a house of horrors

  1. It took me far too long to realize that respecting my boundaries did not mean I was just succumbing to my illnesses/disorders & letting them control my life. Sometimes avoiding triggers is a good thing, and sometimes it’s necessary to face those fears.
    It certainly isn’t enjoyable to have panic attacks around strangers.

    Do you what you gotta do.

    1. thanks, this is food for thought. i totally do think of it as “succumbing,” or letting feelings that i think i should be able to control, control me. & that’s undoubtedly completely counter-productive. i’ve gotten good at saying no to things i know i don’t want to do, & i’ve gotten good at recognizing shitty situations & removing myself from them, but i still struggle with anxiety around things i actually want to do.

      1. I do as well. I once missed a chance to see Bikini Kill because I didn’t have anyone to go with. I still can’t go to shows alone. I’ve done it once in my entire show-going life.
        My decision to go to PZS was one where I just decided Fuck it, I’m gonna do this no matter how hard it’s going to be. Even figuring that it was very possible I wouldn’t make it to the symposium itself. And that if I had any trouble taking the train to the hotel I would definitely end up crying in front of strangers & well, I would just have to deal with that!

  2. Oh, and about scaring the crap out of yourself in the house. I do this thing when I’m alone where I can’t help but imagine there’s someone behind me after I turn out the lights & head for the bedroom. I have to fight the urge to run. The person/thing I usually imagine is from a scene in The Exorcist III. EVERY. TIME. Without fail. It’s ridiculous!

    1. The scene from The Exorcist III with the nurse doing her rounds? Because THAT was genuinely scary! Both in and out of context, since I saw a video clip of that scene before I watched the movie years ago.

      I like leaving a light or two around the house when I’m home alone at night. My apartment has a long hallway.

  3. whoa, what was this all-girl cover band show about? i’m in philly and would love to see something like that. i wish i knew what it was.

    1. apparently it was cover bands that were made up of all ladies. & they were doing non-riot grrrl bands. i don’t remember all of them, but they included babes in toyland, joy division, x-ray spex…& three others, i think. i’m sure it was a cool show, i just couldn’t deal. are you in philly just to visit, or did you move here? if you have time, we could do coffee or something, if you want.

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