This is the hallway from my bedroom to my office.
It’s a four-step commute by day but takes an extra step or two if shuffling sleepily for a 2 a.m. pee. I could use the much-closer ensuite toilet, but journey to the office bathroom out of consideration for my sleeping husband.
I had a strange encounter with this hallway recently. Two steps into the mid-sleep-pee-shuffle I bumped hard into a closed door. Startled but still drowsy, I paused and then walked into it a second time. This jolted me into alertness.
I reached out for the door handle but couldn’t seem to find it in the dark. Wait. Why was it so dark? There is usually a glow from the programmable thermostat in the hallway. I spun around but was afraid I might wobble and fall down the stairs, so I retraced my footsteps backward to look for the glowing gadget on the wall. Nothing. The power must be out.
I stood still in the darkness, my mind now racing to make sense of the closed office door (which I was sure I’d left open earlier), the shortened hallway, the eerie darkness and possible power outage.
I must be somewhere else. Were we visiting some one? No, this was definitely my home’s hallway. I could see the dim outline of my bedroom window behind me, right where it should be. I could hear the dogs snorting on their floor beds. And I needed to pee. That was whole reason for getting out of my nice warm bed in the first place. Hurry Jean! Your bladder will explode! Think, think.
Taking my bearings from the window behind me, I cautiously moved forward down the blackness of the hallway and again encountered the office door entirely too soon.
“I don’t know why this door is closed or why it seems to be in the wrong spot, but I am going to open it and see what is going on here!” My thoughts were now coming in a clear, commanding tone. I was Sigourney Weaver, Jodie Foster and Mayim Bialik rolled into one.
(Meanwhile, some other part of my brain was narrating the scene in a golf whisper: Jean is confused by this situation but she is handling it calmly, I must say. She’s a clever girl, folks. Let’s watch her figure this out.) I giggled, perhaps for the sake of the imagined audience. “What the heck is going on here?” I said quietly, still careful to not wake my husband.
I began to feel the door for its handle (why couldn’t I find the handle?!) and touched something soft. Fabric? Did the door slam in the breeze from an open window? Were the curtains somehow caught in the closed door? Impossible. The curtains wouldn’t reach. I had closed the windows before bed.
Oh God. I knew exactly what had happened: A burglar had cut the power, came in through the office window, and hastily shut the door as I approached – wedging his jacket as he did so and pinning him motionless on the OTHER SIDE OF THIS DOOR.
Sweet mother of mercy, I was inches away from an intruder!
My heart pounded and my head spun. (Golf whisperer: “Ladies and gentleman, this woman’s composure is astounding. She should be screaming right now but she is cool as a cucumber.”)
I leaned my ear towards the door to hear my killer’s breathing but couldn’t seem to land on it. I raised a hand in front of my face and in the blackness touched something so startling I gasped: a shoe.
A shoe I knew immediately: my own Fleuvogs.
Suddenly it all made sense.
I’d missed entering the hallway from my bedroom by a sleepy stumbling step and was instead in my closet. The “door” I’d encountered was really a bank of drawers. The murdering burglar’s jacket was a protruding t-shirt. Above the drawers are shelves for my shoes – had I reached higher to begin with I would have figured this out immediately. Instead I had just spent several moments in the pitch black closet, pondering mysterious circumstances and then fearing for my life.
No time to reflect, though. Back to reality – I needed to pee.
Out in the (actual) hallway the thermostat glowed normally just as it should. The power was not out. Four strides ahead the office door was wide open, and within seconds I was gratefully completing my original mission.
I laid awake in bed afterward, smiling to myself. I have been sober for three years now, and one of the most unexpected gifts of recovery has been my ability to laugh at situations that would have otherwise felt disgraceful.
Had I drunk 5 glasses of wine before walking into a closet to pee, I would not feel so free to laugh at myself. I would have chalked up the misstep to shameful drunkenness, feared greatly for my sanity, and ultimately may have even peed in there. (Golf whisperer: “She is shuddering at the very thought of that. Urinating off-target was one of her greatest fears, folks. One of her greatest fears. And rightfully so.”)
The next morning, my husband asked, “What were you doing in the closet last night?”
“You knew I was in there?” I hooted. The thought of his awareness juxtaposed with my confusion made the situation even more amusing.
“Yes, you were in there for a long time. Just standing there mumbling to yourself.”
“Well, it’s a funny story,” I started and soon I had him laughing with me.
“You’re crazy,” he said, shaking his head.
“Nope,” I smiled. “I am just fine. Clear as a bell.”
“This girl can handle anything now, ladies and gentlemen. Anything that comes her way she can handle.”