Erik Quinn: The Heart of a Family: America's Most Paranoid

Sunday, July 30, 2006

America's Most Paranoid

I'm sitting here rubbing the grit of sleep from my eyes this morning and thinking about brewing some coffee, although I haven't gotten that far yet. I'm also trying to snap out of one of my horrible nightmares and thought writing might help. I usually climb into bed around 8 o'clock on Saturday nights and watch Cops and America's Most Wanted. It's probably not a ritual that induces the world's most restful sleep, but it usually doesn't bother me in the least. I'm not entirely sure why I am addicted to crime shows. I know I get some of that from my family, as I grew up with the crackling and hissing of a police scanner in the background. Even my grandmother has one! It's almost a comforting sound to me. I have always fantasized about being a medical examiner or working in forensics in some manner. I would love to work in law enforcement, but I tend to look for the good in everybody before I see the bad, so I'm much too gullible for that choice of careers, but I know there would be a place for me where I could be successfully objective in a more clinical setting. It would be quite fulfilling to provide a voice for victims of crime in this way. Like most people, I have had criminals touch my life here and there over the years. As a child, our home was broken into when a neighbor kid crawled through the window, leaving a dirty footprint in my mother's kitchen. On another occasion, my father's truck disappeared into the night (we eventually got it back). In college, I came home from a weekend away to find the handle of my patio door had been removed in a half-assed attempt to enter my apartment (I broke in with a screwdriver once when I locked myself out, made less of a mess, and actually made it inside). In the midst of my poverty, when I was residing in yet another cell-like studio apartment with one window and no air conditioning, I awoke one sweltering evening to find a man had reached through the open window, popped the lock on the door, and was sitting on my bed talking to me like we were having high tea (I asked him to leave). Another evening I found myself lying on my stomach behind the counter at my job wondering if the man who just robbed me was going to shoot me in the back of the head. Those were the longest few seconds of my life. A few years later, I noticed a man hanging around my car in the darkness. It was not long after that my car disappeared and was stripped of a couple of lousy parts, shot full of holes, and left in the woods to rust by meth-heads (there is much more to this particular story, some of it quite funny, that I will tell you about sometime). I do admit that I like to see people pay for what they do, as crime chips away at a person's sense of security, which can never be entirely repaired. Because of these people, I never feel completely safe anymore at any time. I am on subconscious high alert day and night, especially in public. The worst of all is trying to sleep, especially when Brian is gone. I'm not sure how I slept the 10 years I lived alone! I did have my father put a metal grate over my bedroom window of my first house (see reason above) because I will never feel secure enough to sleep with an open window again. I guess I will always have a little bit of PTSD from all I have been through, although I am probably not nearly as bad as I have been in the past. I can now sit with my back to the door in a restaurant or spend time in a bank lobby, although I would rather not.

What has always frightened me the most is not knowing who is behind a crime that touches me personally. Putting a face to a criminal takes the edge off my anxiety a great deal and makes the offender much less sinister and more pathetically human. Not knowing who is behind a crime, like my robbery, conjures up the feeling I had of thinking there was a monster under my bed. If I had a mug shot of the man who robbed me, I could rest much easier. Unfortunately, he was never caught. Because of this, there will always be a bogeyman to me.

Well, what I'm getting at is this. Last night on AMW they featured the story of Adam Walsh. John Walsh, the host of AMW, was his father. In 1981, Adam's mother left the 6-year-old in the toy department of Sears while she was shopping, and he vanished. It turns out a security guard kicked Adam out of the store for arguing with some other boys, and he was abducted from the parking lot in broad daylight. They found part of his body in a nearby river days later. A man in prison confessed to the crime. His car matched the description of one seen by a witness, and there were bloodstains on the carpet inside. That's when things went horribly wrong. The impounded car was somehow sold for scrap metal before the conclusion of the investigation, the bloody carpet samples were accidentally discarded by law enforcement, and the man recanted the entire confession, dying a few years later in prison. How this little boy's folks made it through all of this with no real closure is beyond me.

In my dark, grainy clouds of sleep last night I couldn't find Erik. Surprisingly, he wasn't the victim of any crime. He seemed to be in a dark, cold, wet place underground I couldn't find the entrance to, no matter how hard I looked. There were people milling about, going about their everyday life, sitting in neat rows of church pews or doing their grocery shopping. I was frantic and yet trying not to disturb them in my search for a dark crevice in the ground in the middle of this Norman Rockwell world. This nightmare had no ending, although I knew in my heart that each passing second was my enemy, and upon awakening it took every fiber of my being not to go in and place my hands on my sleeping kid. I'm now comforted by the silent flickering of my Fisher-Price baby monitor, which tells me he is snoring with gusto, safe in his crib. I guess this is all part of being a mother. It's still pretty new to me. Having a son who will never know a stranger doesn't help me relax at all, but, as far as me being his mother, because of a healthy but survivable dose of the real world over the years, I'm thinking I just might be the perfect woman for the job. I will just need to keep my anxiety under wraps so I don't fuel his own.


Blogger Kati said...

Poor you...these nightmares could be very frightening...:( I don't know where you live exactly...
And about Erik: you don't know if Erik will be extremely friendly to strangers or no, so don't worry for the future, maybe he has the "be-unfriendly-to-strangers" genes :DDDDDDD I hope Szabi has these, too!!!

8:16 AM  
Blogger Kerry said...

Man! It sounds like you live in NYC, not America's heartland! I like crime shows too, but have never been involved like you have been. I think I'd get a little paranoid myself.

4:36 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home