crime / fear / memory / men

Curtains and Mind Tricks

a view from my father's house

Memory is a trickster. Your memory is likely not what you think. Mine doesn’t half tell me what I want to know, and sometimes it holds my present mind hostage.

You may know that old post of mine about the man at my window. Like with many life stories I’ve posted here, I did not included every single detail. Some details dragged a story down and didn’t not add anything to the telling. Some details made no sense or would be so tedious to explain, I didn’t bother.

Now, as my obsessive mind goes back to that night (or very early morning), there is a detail that bothers me that I’d often left out of the retelling because it made no sense to me and I could not see how to include it in a concise and interesting fashion.

When I woke up that insanely early morning (between 4 and 5), what I really noticed first, what made me think something wasn’t right, were my curtains. My grandmother had made them, and she made them with these two-inch wide tiebacks made from the same cloth as the curtains. I think that is what you call them. Whatever they are called, I used them to keep the windows open. Since it was a Florida summer night and I wanted as much of the slight breeze as possible, I had used the long strips–each with a plastic circle at the end to hook to a nail in the wall–to keep the curtains open while I slept and also so that if the curtains should flutter in an ever hoped for breeze, they wouldn’t hit me in the face.

But when I woke up, the curtains were hanging straight. The tiebacks had been removed.

And as hard as I try to remember, I can’t remember if the tiebacks were still hanging from their nails, dropped onto the bed, or gone all together.

All I remember wondering was–why would a burglar untie the curtains and take the ties?

I did tell the police the man had undone the curtain, but they acted as if curtains were definitely unimportant. And I often left the curtains out of many retellings because they made no sense–a thief who bothers with curtains. Absurd.

But the curtains are bothering me. All these years, and you have to wonder why I need to think about those tiebacks at all. And perhaps I am imagining things. Maybe my writer’s imagination is making a fool of me.

Why should anything from so long ago disrupt our dreams now anyway?

7 thoughts on “Curtains and Mind Tricks

  1. Back then you thought the guy was a simple burglar. Now you know he was probably a crazy person, so you can connect the dots better. That is just so disturbing.

  2. Maybe the tiebacks were a trophy he took? Hard to say. And details always pop up out of the blue. Happens to me all the time. My guess would be that you’re thinking about the tiebacks because you’re thinking about that night in general, and the tiebacks are a detail that doesn’t fit. It’s a fact so it can’t truly be ignored, not by your own memory, but it doesn’t fit and your mind needs to make sense of it all somehow, including misplaced tiebacks.

    Just glad nothing more serious happened! And that’s an amazing view too. 🙂

    • I know how crazy your life is, Darcs, so thanks for stopping by.

      Funny how something that was unimportant one day, become something else entirely with slightly more information.

      The incident at the window happened at my mother’s–not a place with a lovely view. But my father still lives in the same house he bought in 1963. The view is still beautiful even if a few more houses can be seen.

  3. Last year, we bought The Stepdaughter a laptop. A few days ago, she told us that she desperately needed to use Microsoft Word for work — which we’d bought, pre-loaded by Dell — but she had a problem:

    Every time she’d used Word on that computer, it had prompted her to please register the product with Microsoft. She’d kept clicking on the “register later” button because she was always in a hurry. Apparently the warnings came with an expiration, though, because last week it locked her out of Word altogether, a couple days before a critical legal deadline. The only way she’d be able to use it would be if she entered the official product key for her copy.

    “It’s on the disk,” I told her. “One of the disks that came with the laptop.”

    She swears she got no disks with it. She carried it straight from her car, she says, into her house, and there were never any disks with it.

    No, The Missus reminded us: after The Stepdaughter took it home the first time, she brought it back here so I could install my favorite antivirus program, Web browser, and so on, and I needed the disks here. So they were probably around here somewhere.

    My own memory: the last time she took the laptop home, she left the disks and other accessories in a box here. It sat around downstairs in the living room for weeks. We finally managed to get that box to her, either by taking it home herself, or having her pick it up at The Missus’s office, or by dropping it off when we went over for dinner. But the disks LEFT THE HOUSE eventually.

    So, who’s right?

    I have no idea. Personally, I like my version (of course)… but I don’t think I really believe it. I just think it makes the best story, and that is why, subconsciously, I keep returning to it. The details are more interesting.

    I’ve also no idea, of course, about the tiebacks on your curtains. They certainly do put a point on the story, though, and I doubt I’ll ever again think of this story about you without remembering — vicariously — that little detail. True or not, the detail makes it “realer.”

    Sometimes I read about a writer who’s obsessing over word count — too many words, I mean. They toss out not just sentence-structural cruft but also details (what’s in a room, what the weather’s like, what’s playing on the stereo) because “the story doesn’t need it.” Personally, I think there’s such a thing as too little detail in a story, and I think it’s a flaw of too many stories. (You know I’m not referring to yours, btw.)

    Maybe it’s disrupting your dreams — your mind — now because now you’re more sensitive to the details a story needs… whether the details are “true” or half-true or completely imagined.

    • Just before Christmas at a party I talked to a woman who I hadn’t seen in years. Her and her husband had taken my husband and me out to see a play. I remember seeing Dr. Jeckell and Mr Hyde. She says she has never seen that play. She says we saw Phantom of the Opera. But I say I’ve never seen Phantom of the Opera.

      Who the hell knows?

      At least I know the curtains were down. Or I’m fairly certain. (!) I remember trying to remember if I had undone the tiebacks myself, but that made no sense to me because of the heat and my desire to have nothing in the way of any breeze. It is where-the-tiebacks-went that I simply can’t answer. Frustrating because while I’m all for a good story to tell, I also like to think I’m telling the truth.

      And now I’m pondering lots of details I’ve left out of stories here. Nothing major. NOthing that would change the point of anything, but telling details all the same.

      Isn’t that so much of writing–which details to put in?

      And some stories do have too few details. Now I must go scour mine!

      (And I’m sure your version is correct!)

  4. Pingback: We All Were Children After All « The Fairy Tale Asylum

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