The Intruder

When I was fourteen or fifteen, at an age of “any expression of individuality goes”, I was living a barren existence. My mom had been pestering me to clean my room, so one angsty Saturday, I move everything I owned into the small crawlspace that extended along the unfinished section of our house, accessible through the back end of my closet. All that remained was a mattress laying directly on the floor and a rickety lamp pole leftover from my parent’s budget conscious seventies decor. It was a pole that was spring loaded so it could be compressed to move, then expand to pin itself between floor and ceiling. It was gold (in color alone) and contained three individual lamps that could be pointed in different directions, but all turned on with one switch. I stood to admire my new living conditions when the task was completed. It looked more like a prison cell than a teenager’s room and that seemed appropriate.

I was sitting on the couch downstairs, smirking to myself when my mom asked me for the 30th time if I’d cleaned my room. When I told her I had, she was skeptical. Not enough time had elapsed to do a thorough tidying. I was nearly shaking with glee as she went up to check, expecting a big reaction. True to form, she instead came down showing no emotions and simply said, “well done” as she drifted through the room. Never give them the satisfaction was the unofficial rule of law in the Smith household.

I lived with that barren setup for a few months before slowly extracting a few things I needed that eventually returned the mess to the place. During that time, on an evening of no exception from any other night, I awoke in the middle of the night, with a sudden realization that there was an unfamiliar weight laying across my chest.

Still half asleep, this was a difficult concept to wrap my head around. What, exactly, was it? Since my right arm was pinned beneath the mystery weight, I reached my left hand slowly to the source, only to discover an arm. Someone had their arm laying across my chest.

As my mind raced about who this could be, how this could be, how to escape, what to do, a part of my mind noticed something about the arm. It felt like my mother’s. The texture of the skin had a particular smoothness that felt… familiar. It was a fleeting realization as the panic rose.

My plan was not complex. I counted to three, grabbed the arm, and flung it off me in a wild move that involved simultaneously trying to reach up to the lamp to turn it on and expose the intruder. Only the arm hit the lamp, sending it flying. I scrambled to spin around and push myself up, but my right arm did not respond.

In the least graceful manner possible, I flailed and gyrated my body up and to the light switch on the wall, illuminating the room with the ceiling light. There was no one there. The room was empty as the prison cell it was.

As the adrenaline subsided with my reptilian fight or flight response, and my mind started functioning normally again, I noticed that my right arm began to tingle.

I slowly realized what had actually just happened: I had fallen asleep on my right arm and somehow spun around in my sleep such that the numbed appendage came to rest across my chest. I had just thrown my own dead weight arm into my lamp and nearly given myself a heart attack.

After use of my arm returned, I fixed the lamp and checked to make sure I hadn’t woken anyone else in the house. I tried to get back to sleep, but it was made difficult by the dull ache of a fresh scrape on my hand caused by impacting the lamp, and the odd realization that my own arm felt so familiar to that of my mother’s.

Sweet dreams.