I have a morbid imagination. Not just ‘vivid’, actually ‘morbid’. Left to itself, my brain loves to come up with worst case scenarios.
Let me give you an example. After getting home from picking up my middle child from school, I didn’t bother closing the garage door since I knew I had to leave again shortly to pick my husband up from work. I did a few things inside, then flew out the door, jumped in the car, and started to back up only to realize the back passenger door was open. I got out, slammed the door shut, climbed back in and resumed my journey. Twenty blocks later, I felt something pushing on the back on my seat. My five-year-old daughter does this all the time when she’s in her car seat—except my daughter wasn’t with me that trip. I was alone in the car. I told myself I must have imagined it.
A block later, it happened again: definite pushing on my back through the car seat. I suddenly remembered the open garage and open car door. All those urban legends about people who drive away without looking in their back seat and are carjacked by axe murderers began to flash through my mind. My adrenaline spiked, and I froze at the wheel. My God, I have a stowaway.
The light turned green, I kept driving. I looked in the rear-view mirror, but couldn’t espy anybody in the back seat. I relaxed a little when I realized there was no room for an adult axe murderer. However, a child could remain out of sight. My mind started pulling up scenarios of some stupid kid planning to steal my car for a joy-ride and accidentally stowing away.
Another stoplight. More pushing on the back seat as if the kid was squirming around trying to be comfortable. I considered announcing in a tough voice, “Okay, stowaway, end of the road. Get out of the car.” But I worried. What if it was a juvenile delinquent with a knife? Then my brain veered onto a side track: What if it was an eight or nine year old and he ran away when I stopped the car? I would feel terrible abandoning an eight-year-old in rush-hour traffic in an industrial area. What’s the etiquette in such a situation? Should I drive him home or just offer bus fare?
Ten more nerve-wracking blocks. I pulled into the parking lot at my husband’s place of work and shakily stumbled out of the car, keys clutched in my fist. The back seat was, of course, empty.
This is not the first time my imagination has done me a disservice, nor will it be the last.
I worry about all the everyday stuff that probably most people do--my kids, finances, the possibility of a car accident on icy roads—plus a lot of more far-fetched stuff. I cannot go into the bank without the possibility of a bank robbery crossing my mind. I make plans for what I would do if some disaster happened—aliens invading, zombies, Armageddon, plague.
Turning these worries into stories is quite frankly a self-defense mechanism. That way the horrible things aren’t happening to me, but rather to characters in my books.
Oh, and if you’re wondering what caused the mysterious pushing-feeling on the back of the car seat, here’s my eventual conclusion: I shoveled snow earlier in the day, which caused back spasms.
Either that or our newly purchased used car is haunted.