I used to live alone in a studio apartment. And not a big, sprawling warehouse type studio from movies, where I’m just always roaming around in a giant button-down shirt and painting large canvases for no reason. No. If I had to describe it, it was like a one bedroom apartment had been Honey, I Shrunk The Kids-style zapped into a very miniature version of itself. And then zapped again. It was probably 300 square feet. But for me, it worked.
As someone who had never lived alone before and found (and still finds) a reason to worry in most scenarios, this set up was actually convenient for me. I could see the front door from my bedroom. And, when it came to intruders, there was quite literally nowhere for them to hide. But even given the fact that if someone wanted to hide in my bedroom, they’d literally have to fit themselves into a one-foot by one-foot cube and hide under a shelf in my closet — I still felt the need to check every nook and cranny before I went to sleep at night. Because if Law & Order SVU has taught me anything, it’s that danger is lurking at literally every turn and also someday a serial rapist might stalk me from coast to coast but also have an evil twin brother who is following him around as well. You see my point. I had to be thorough.
(In the below picture you can see both my living room and entryway… in case you were curious *just* how small it was).
I would check under the couch before going to bed, just in case Gumby himself had managed to squeeze under there and wait for me to get home from work — and, let’s be clear, at about 1/2 foot off the ground, Gumby is quite literally the only thing that could get under that couch. Having said that, an evil, stalker version of Gumby is a truly terrifying thought, so… why not be prepared?
I would look behind the shower curtain (which, obviously, is always the most reasonable place for someone to hide), throwing it back in one swift motion each night, so on the off chance that a villain was lurking behind it, I would have the benefit of surprising him before I was inevitably abducted. I sometimes yelled, “AHA!” during this, to make it clear that I was serious about my surveillance habits.
Instead of pulling the coats back in the entryway coat rack to see if anyone was behind them, or I don’t know, checking if I could see anyone’s feet, I would sometimes just use the handle of a Swiffer to poke around in there. Because if anything is going to subdue a stalker or serial killer, it’s definitely going to be a lime green, plastic mop handle poking them in the stomach.
Sharp Objects is one of my favorite, most creepy crime books (although not true crime, which would almost be too much for even me).
Obviously, none of this makes any sense. Well, except the shower curtain thing because, obviously, everyone should do that. But I did it all anyway, and often still do, even post-studio. Part of this is because of my natural inclination toward anxiety about most things. The other part is probably because I spend most of my free time reading books and watching shows about crime. If you know anything about me, you know this.
When I was younger, it was all Law & Order SVU — and not the other Law & Orders, ever. Obviously. My mom would walk into the family room in the summer, I’d be on my seventh or eighth consecutive episode, and she would shake her head, “Olivia. How can you watch this? This is just disturbing. I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all.” She also said this about Millionaire Matchmaker, which is a different kind of disturbing, but a show I enjoy binge-watching as well. But I digress.
I’ve watched all the shows. I’ve read the books that remind me of the shows. I’ve watched the shows based on the books that remind me of the shows. And even though it is only rational to assume that my anxiety about, I don’t know, being kidnapped in the 2.5 seconds when I have to close my eyes while washing my face has something to do with watching and reading about crime for hundreds of hours, I just can’t quit any of it.
As strange as it sounds, there is a weird sense of control that comes from knowing the worst possible outcome of a situation — or a version of it, anyway. It’s oddly comforting to know that, sure, there’s probably not someone hiding behind my shower curtain, but if there was… I might know what to do. That combined with the simple luxury of getting lost in a story that’s just enough removed from your own life that for a while there, you don’t have to think about any of your daily stressors, makes true crime addictive in its own way. It’s both totally familiar and completely foreign all at once.
The thing is that, for a usually-anxious control freak like me, even if I stopped reading about murders and kidnappings and everything in between, odds are I would still check behind the shower curtain. And in the closet. And under the couch. And in that Harry Potter-style closet under the stairs. And in the hutch even though a human can’t fit there. And in the 1/2-inch space between the fridge and the wall. And… well, you get the idea. So why change things now?
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