I once wrote a story about a nice guy who ended up breaking into the home of his boss and strangling the maid when he unexpectedly found her there, innocently cleaning the inside of a giant vase with a vacuum hose. He snuck up behind her, yanked the hose from her hands and wrapped it around her throat. She twisted and kicked for a while, but he just dragged her around the house, tugging her along backwards from one room to the next to keep her from re-gaining her balance and putting up any real fight.
After she was dead, he kept his grip around her throat for another few minutes because he had seen so many movies where characters who are certain to be dead turn out to not be, and come back in the third act to surprise the killer who then stumbles down some basement stairs in shock and bangs their head against a water heater and dies.
Of course, the killer then never comes back to life in the same unexpected way the original victim did because they’re after all, a killer, and we expect fairness to prevail in our movies, unless the movie is directed by Robert Altman or someone German. But in real life, I know for a fact that you’re less likely to die from hitting your head against a water heater than you are if an intruder drags you around a house backwards by your neck with a vacuum hose. Ask anyone off the street about this; you’ll get the same answer.
When I was a kid and my parents let me stay home by myself, I would pull the largest knife out of the kitchen drawer and stab a cardboard box in my toy closet repeatedly, honing my aim and fortitude in case a burglar broke into the house and tried to kill me. Looking back, perhaps I should have asked myself why I thought a burglar might break into the house between 2 and 4pm on a Sunday afternoon, but ever since the time I was first able to pull myself out of my playpen, I have lived feverishly by the motto that you can never be too prepared.
As an example: I don’t wait until the end of the day to buy tickets for a movie Michael and I are planning to see that night. I buy them first thing in the morning. And if Michael is in charge of buying the tickets and plans on waiting until the end of the day, I try to warn him. “Maybe they’ll be sold out by the time you go to buy them. And then where will we be, hmmm?” But Michael just does what he wants. And almost always, there are good seats left. But sometimes there aren’t, and when that happens I don’t wag my finger and look at him with crooked lips, even though I could. It’s the same thing with being ready with a giant knife on a Sunday afternoon. “Maybe someone will crawl in through the doggie door and kill me when I’m home alone. And I won’t notice in time because I’ll too busy playing UNO against myself at the kitchen table. Then where will I be, hmmm? Dead. Dead with three Skips and a Draw Four card still unplayed, that’s where! And then people could say, “He should have been ready with a giant knife just in case,” and wag their fingers at each other during my funeral. Who wants that? Not me. That’s why I’m always ready: buying movie tickets, avoiding being murdered, and everything in between.
Needless to say, Michael is not fond of this paranoid quality of mine. When he’s supposed to call me at a certain time and doesn’t, I get panicky and start dialing his phone over and over, then hanging up before I leave a message, so he can see I’ve called fifteen times but won’t actually be met with the desperate voicemails I used to leave him, such as, “I need to know that a serial killer hasn’t gotten you. I’m worried. Plus I don’t understand how people are identified by dental records and I won’t do it right. PLEASE CALL ME BACK!”
Michael sighs sadly and presses his eyelids together dramatically whenever I start acting this way. Sure, I may sometimes walk down the street with my head facing the sky in case a piano is about to fall out a window. And when we hear about a trainer being pulled into the water by a whale at a marine park, I may look over at him and state plainly, “And THAT is why I want a harpoon!” I think secretly Michael believes I need help for this. But I don’t care. Sometimes, when we’re leaving the movie theatre he goes down the stairs without holding the handrail, and I say to myself, “We’ll see who gets the last laugh, buddy.”