Sunday, February 24, 2008
i like scary movies. a lot.
and when i say “scary” films, i mean scary films, not horror movies.
i can’t stand horror flicks. tits, guts, more tits, more guts. no, thanks.
i’m talking about movies that tap into the supernatural, like “the exorcist”, “the omen”, “rosemary’s baby”, and more recently, "stigmata" and “the exorcism of emily rose” . . .
why? well, because it appeals to the catholic in me (the recovering catholic, that is) and, too, in my family we have a long tradition of scaring the buhjesus out of each other.
i was thinking about this last night as i tried to watch what turned out to be a very disappointing scary movie called “an american haunting”. it was laughable. as a matter of fact, i mostly laughed. the scene, for example, where the young heroine gets slapped in the face by a poltergeist is downright hilarious.
looking back, maybe best buy mistakenly put it under “horror” when, in fact, they meant to put it under “comedy” . . .
but i digress.
so much of who i am today is directly related to my childhood experiences. i think this is true for most people . . .
see, when i was a kid, nothing brought my three older brothers more profound, unadulterated bliss than seeing me cry hysterically at the end of one of their complex, meticulously planned, drawn-out scare schemes.
the worst plot, or rather, the best, however, was actually the impromptu work of the youngest of the three, my brother moe.
i was eight and moe was eighteen. moe, had unluckily plucked the short straw and been left to babysit me on a friday night in the middle of what was, at the time, the largest manhunt in california history.
the man for whom authorities were frantically searching was richard ramirez, also known as, “the night stalker”.
in 1985, richard ramirez, was (is. he’s still awaiting execution in san quentin) the worst serial killer america had seen since maybe “the son of sam”, david berkowitz. according to a bio of ramirez on wiki, ramirez killed as many as 15 people throughout california, victimizing as many as 25-30 in both california and other states in the southwest. he was caught on august 31, 1985, one day after the police released his photograph to local media, when he made the mistake of trying to steal a latino man’s car.
i mean, fucking hello? everyone knows you don’t fuck with a latino man’s car.
shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit (you people MUST watch "the wire". like, NOW!).
especially a latino man in the middle of working on his car during a weekend . . .
apparently, ramirez got knocked-dafuck-out when the latino man and his neighbor took a steel pipe to his head.
for weeks prior to his arrest, my family and i had been glued to the television, terrified by a map of where the night stalker had struck. i remember my father going around to every window and every door each night and methodically checking and rechecking each one to make certain everything was securely locked. my mother, a fervent catholic latina, would follow behind him, blessing the house with holy water, rosary in hand, chanting hail marys and our fathers, and making the sign of the cross in front of every opening. even my brothers took precautionary measures, namely, tucking loaded .45s under their pillows . . .
about a week before moe had been forced to watch me, ramirez had been spotted in burbank, just ten minutes away from our house.
that friday night, august 30th, one day before ramirez would be taken in to custody, moe spontaneously hatched his own sadistic plot.
it was close to bedtime and having showered, moe ordered me to put on pjs and brush my teeth while he went to the corner liquor store to buy himself a gatorade. as he walked out the door, moe claims to have muttered to me something about locking the door behind him.
i, busy singing “like a virgin” into my toothbrush, didn’t hear him.
to be fair, this wasn’t the first time i’d left the door to our house unlocked. i did it all the time. and it wasn’t just the house i’d forget to key, but also the front gate . . . hell, all gates . . . cars, peanut butter jars, mayonnaise containers, you name it. generally speaking, i was and still am really bad about locking things up.
and moe had apparently had enough . . .
teeth sparkling and fresh, i went to my bedroom, pulled out my rainbow brite pjs and skipped back down the hallway to the bathroom. closing the door, i began putting on my nightgown.
i was in the middle of “touched for the very first time . . .” when i heard the front door slam open.
“moe?” i called.
it must be moe, i thought . . .
“like a virgin, feels so good inside . . .” i sang, now having picked up my hairbrush.
as i made what i believed to be my best virginal face into the mirror, i caught the flicker of the brass door knob turning. fortunately, however, this door i HAD locked.
“mooooooeeeeeee, is that you?” i said again.
then, i heard footsteps shuffling outside the bathroom door. floor boards creaking, i saw a large shadow in the door’s frame.
i crouched down on the tile, cheek on the cool surface, and peered beneath the door. there, i made out, in the dimly lit corridor, a pair of large, male sneakers.
backing away from the door, i called once more, “moe? is that you? it’s not funny. tell me if it’s you! i’m going to tell papi that you’re scaring me . . .”
i scooted myself back against the wall opposite the door, terrified.
the knob began turning once more.
slowly, then harder, more vigorously, then, finally, outright violently . . .
one rapid, rabid turn after another.
BANG, BANG, BANG!
i became paralyzed, certain it was the night stalker coming to rape and murder me.
the door shook with such force that i was sure it would come clean off its hinges.
“stop it, stop it, stop it!” i tried screaming, my voiced drowned out by panic and fright.
the vicious shaking continued . . .
i stood up, determined not to become ramirez’s next victim, and opened the small bathroom window, pushing out the screen. climbing on the sink, i leveraged myself onto the window’s frame and tried to squeeze out the impossibly diminutive aperture.
fuck you, shakira! damn these latin hips!
i managed to push myself only halfway out the window, when i heard the door give way and felt two hands seize a leg. i kicked furiously with my free leg and tried to hold onto the outside of the house with my small, eight-year-old arms.
sobbing, i was unable to yell for help. i was being dragged in and there was nothing i could do.
my nails scrapped against the stucco . . .
then, i heard a familiar laugh. “it’s me, you moron!” the voice cried in between breathless chortles.
“it’s me, moe!”
i continued to kick, too scared to process what had just been said.
“IT’S ME, MOE!” the voice kept shouting.
“oh, you muthafucking, sick, twisted piece of shit,” i would have said had i had then the extensively profane vocabulary i possess now. instead, i melted into a puddle of tears.
i was beside myself.
moe was beside himself, too, falling down on the ground next to me in a fit of diabolical laughter.
(he told me, years later, that his abs hurt for about a week after the prank.)
i made the silent cry. you know what i’m talking about: when you’re crying so hard that you haven’t any breath and all you can do is open your mouth, voice mute, face in full wretched glower.
then i blacked out.
when i came to, moe apologized profusely, smirk now gone from his face. i’d like to think that he was genuinely sorry, but i think he was just hoping i wouldn’t tell our dad what he’d done. but there wasn’t any need to confess to my father because when he and my mom came home several hours later, and as was customary my dad came in to kiss me good night, i was still breathlessly sniffling and snorting in my sleep.
there was no hiding . . .
in addition to a serious beat down, i think moe was also grounded for something like a month.
thankfully, no real permanent damage was done to me (much).
what’s more, the following night, richard ramirez was off the streets.
now thirty, with larry, curly, and moe all in their forties, married, and moved away, i long for those days . . . sitting here, staring at my extensive collection of scary movies, i realize it’s not so much the scare i seek by watching these films, but rather a time when the only thing scarier than the night stalker or ghosts or the devil, himself, or my brothers pretending to be any one of those, was the thought of growing up and losing the closeness we shared living together as kids, as family, under one roof.