Wednesday, January 27, 2010
In honor of the Fabulous giveaway (Barrie Summy's book I So Don't Do Spooky, for those of you just tuning in), I've been thinking about spooky places.
I've been plagued with asthma my entire life. The worst attacks during my childhood inevitably occurred at night, triggered by animal hair, dust mites or pollen spikes. The sensation of feeling your airways close up to let just a tiny wheeze of air through to your lungs, which felt heavy like an elephant had decided to sit on your chest, induces a little panic. The strain of pushing your chest cavity open against the elephant weight meant even putting your back muscles into it. Asthma attacks take their toll all over your body--from feeling lightheaded from lack of oxygen to the brain to aching shoulders and back from pushing that tiny wheeze of air into your lungs. The entire experience is pretty awful.
I'm not sure why, but during one middle-of-the-night asthma attack, my parents brought me to a Catholic hospital for my adrenaline injections. Back then they'd inject me with adrenaline to jump-start my lungs--and make my entire body tremble with frantic energy surging through my veins.
I grew up in protestant churches--our sanctuaries are void of images. We have our rows of pews, a podium, a cross--that's it. Simple people scornful of idol-worship and frivolity gather there to worship. Protestant people only name buildings after saints, they never carve or sculpt or paint their images to adorn those structures. Occasionally you'll hear a righteous person of protestant faith claim, "Jesus rose from the dead, that's why he's not on our crosses." Catholic churches with their lavish decor and imagery fascinate me because they're exotic and foreign to my experience.
The corridors were dark and vacant and my mother and a nurse led me past doorways towards the room where I'd get my shot. On every wall hung a crucifix. The limp, gashed and bloody image of Christ suffering was everywhere I looked. There I stood in the shadows beneath a flickering fluorescent light, drowsy, oxygen-deprived and afraid. I'd turn to avoid staring at this disturbing image only to find a different crucifix hanging on the wall behind me. There seemed no escape. Even when I asked to use the bathroom after getting my injection--I stared at the tiled floor, hearing the shuffle of my sneakers echoing down the abandoned corridor. I glanced up to see the sign for "Ladies Room" and pushed the door open. There on the wall hung another image of Jesus, purplish blood draining from his temples, side and palms, his eyes swollen from the beatings and his body draped lifeless on the beams of that cross. Cringing with terror amplified by the injection in my bloodstream, I peed with my eyes clenched shut. When I left the bathroom, I raced past the dozen crucifixes marking my way back to the room where my mother and the nurse waited.
I couldn't wait to escape that hospital with death hanging on its walls. I now knew the only thing spookier than a hospital in the middle of the night was a Catholic hospital in the middle of the night. The next time I had an asthma attack I begged my parents to take me to the public hospital, wary of entering that Twilight Zone realm of spookiness ever again.
Spill it, reader, what spooky place evokes fear in you? Every comment is an entry to win I So Don't Do Spooky by Barrie Summy!