“You should get some sleep,” he’d say. “Everything’s okay.”

When I was young and cute, I dated a fella named John whose next door neighbor loved reggae music. John’s neighbor seemed to particularly love reggae music at three in the morning, played at a volume which provoked a rage in me I was not previously aware I possessed.

I would toss and turn in John’s bed, pillow over my head, trying my best to avoid confrontation. But it was no use. I’d pound on the wall with a shoe, and the music would get louder. Without his hearing aids John was profoundly deaf, so he was oblivious to all of this.

I’d try to explain my frustration to John the next morning. He’d just tell me not to worry about it, that I should just stay in bed and get some sleep, as though that were an option. How does one explain annoying sounds to a deaf person? I told him the aggravation was like having roaches crawl all over me.

Later, when John started having nightmares about bugs attacking him in his bed, he blamed me.

The air conditioning unit for our house is right outside the bedroom window of our schizophrenic neighbor, because OF COURSE IT IS. She already thinks I’m planting listening devices under her house — I know Crazypants wouldn’t hesitate to use lethal force if she sees my shadow.

I consider the very real possibility that these could be the final moments of my life, and wish I’d eaten more cheese. Then I creep around the house, feeling like the guy from the Neighborhood Watch signs come to stumbling life.

I shine my flashlight on the inactive unit, remembering all the people who told us to buy a house and stop throwing away money on rent. Screw those people. I wish I had a landlord right now.

I consider kicking the air conditioner, because that tends to work with vending machines when they won’t relinquish my Snickers, but decide against it. I follow a cable to a fuse box on the side of the house, covered in ivy. I start ripping the ivy off, delighted by a possible solution. That’s when I see the big spider. It’s one of those fat, hairy bastards.

This launches me five feet back, having a small panic attack. Because I saw “Arachnophobia” at a particularly impressionable age, I have always viewed spiders as malicious, calculating creatures, hell-bent on world domination. Even Charlotte’s Web gave me the heebie-jeebies, especially because she had Debbie Reynolds’ voice, and frankly I find that woman alarming.

She’s like a garden gnome in drag.

Now the spider is the only thing standing between me and cool air, and by extension, sleep. I take off one of my flip-flops and run toward the fuse box kamikaze-style. I smack the hairy monster off the box, flip a switch, and the air conditioner returns to life with the sound I was hoping for.

Then the light comes on in Crazypants’s bedroom, and I run for the house like I’ve been set on fire. I’ve fought enough battles for one night. Everything’s okay. I should get some sleep.


Topher Payne is an Atlanta-based playwright, and the author of the book “Necessary Luxuries: Notes on a Semi-Fabulous Life.” Find out more at www.topherpayne.com

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