Several months ago, while wandering the aisles at my favorite used book store, I came upon a stash of Agatha Christie books. Immediately I scooped up four of them and have been on the lockout for others ever since. I'd forgotten how much I loved her books, how much I loved hiding away in my room, safe on the second floor with my parents down below, as I read story after story of Jane Marple or of Hercule Poroit. Miss Marple was my favorite, her tottering self so sharp and so far ahead of me as I struggled to piece together the clues that were so obvious to the seemingly ancient detective.
Those lovely books are gathering dust on the shelf in the guest room; I'm afraid to read them. I haven't watched one Law & Order rerun all summer, scary movies are not even mentioned and sadly, the local news is proving to be a bit too much. Small towns terrify me.
This summer, for the first time, the girls and I are spending most of our days, and nights, in our favorite Michigan beach town, a charming, and small, spot on the water with a population that swells to less than 10,000 during the summer. Terrifying.
Jack assures me that absolutely nothing happens here. My neurotic checking of online data shows that this is simply not true; just last week some poor man was stopped for a minor traffic violation (specifics not revealed to protect the offender) just blocks from our house. I am fairly certain that I remember hearing the sirens on that fateful day, quite possible in that the only other audible sound for blocks was my children screaming at each other over the badminton net in the back yard. Also a possibility, me screaming at my children to lower their voices so as not to disturb our quiet neighborhood.
This is the problem, it's a little too quiet here. Also, very dark. Maybe one or the other but together, scary. We don't have quiet in Chicago, and we certainly don't have dark. Last week the girls and I drove home around 9:30 pm after dropping Jack at the train. We passed one car. I cannot remember the last time I went outside in Chicago and didn't see another soul. In a city where the rising crime rate consistently makes national headlines, where the idiots in the neighborhood think shooting at each other is just as acceptable as yelling insults from car windows, I feel safe. Er.
It's been over twenty years since I lived on the ground floor of anything; for 20 years I have lived in a world where access to one of our windows required a ladder or climbing equipment. Our bedroom window in Chicago faces a brick wall. The only people that can see in any of our windows are the Vietnamese couple whose kitchen sits about one arm's length from the dining room windows. Watching Mrs. Pham putter around her kitchen is comforting, I open our windows to smell the fish sauce and garlic and wave when she looks up from her chopping. The entire world, or almost 10,000 of them, can see in the windows when we are in Michigan. You know what is outside the dining room window there? Darkness. Scads and scads of dark, as far as you cannot see.
It's back to reality next week, home to the familiar paranoia of living in the city and away from the comfortable horror of living with open windows and unlocked doors. Several days ago, not far from our apartment in Chicago, five people were shot when a few gang geniuses got confused about which side of the street they were allowed to stand on, or something equally important. That should be terrifying but sadly it's not, it's home. Nothing Miss Marple faces could scare me more than that.