It’s appropriate that I’m beginning to tell this story in October, because it begins with a somewhat spooky story. It involves a haunted bedside table.
Bear with me.
In retrospect, I have no idea when the Lyme-infected tick or other insect bit me. I didn’t have a bulls-eye rash–most Lyme sufferers don’t–and the symptoms can hide for years. But looking back, the first symptoms of what I now know to be Lyme disease began my senior year of college.
I was going to Wilson College, a small women’s college in rural Pennsylvania, half an hour from my parents’ house. I had wanted to go away to school, but I was more comfortable staying relatively close to home. Wilson was a good compromise–and it was a school with a great reputation, interesting classes, a small student body (which I enjoyed), and a beautiful campus.
For senior year, I had managed to land a fantastic room during room draw: it was large enough to be a double, in the lovely old senior dorm on campus, with a big window and a private bathroom that I shared with my suite mate in the attached room. Now, I was an education major, and was planning to do my student teaching the second semester in my hometown. My dad suggested over the summer that I live at home my senior year so that I would be closer to the school I was student teaching at.
I was NOT pleased. It was my senior year, my friends were all living on campus, I wanted to spend more weekends with them instead of going home. I loved campus life: calling up my friends whenever I wanted to hang out and constantly having them right there. And like I said, the campus was beautiful, and I enjoyed living on it.
So I told my dad No Way. I was living on campus. I had an awesome room, and I was going to enjoy my senior year. Period.
So I moved into my fantastic room. My friends and I went to the Renaissance Faire, we watched Attack of the Killer Shrews in my big dorm room, we scared the crap out of the freshmen (as is tradition) during spirit week, we joined the fencing team, and went pumpkin picking with the college’s Christian Fellowship. It was a blast.
Heather doing her homework on my floor. Sarah doing a nap on Heather.
The first problem was the Ghost Tour.
Wilson College was opened in 1869, so there were plenty of ghost stories about the campus. One of the employees did his Master’s thesis on the history of the campus, and along the way he had found lots of information about the ghost stories (most of them apocryphal) and the real deaths that had occurred there. So he would do a Ghost Tour every October. Originally it was an actual tour of the campus, but by my senior year, it had become a presentation in Memorial Auditorium. My friends wanted to go, and I was interested in history, so I agreed.
Ghost stories freak the heck out of me. I don’t know how I had a blonde moment intense enough to make me forget that fact. But the ghost stories about the place where I was living–especially the ones about my dorm–freaked me out. So much so that I left partway through the presentation.
Meet… YOUR DOOM
(Seriously. I went on a campus tour at Gettysburg College my senior year of high school, and the student tour guide spent most of the time telling me creepy ghost stories about the campus. I was like, THIS IS NOT A GOOD WAY TO GET ME TO COME HERE. THIS IS THE OPPOSITE OF A GOOD WAY TO GET ME TO COME HERE. THIS IS A GOOD WAY TO GET ME TO RUN SCREAMING.)
Suddenly, my dorm room was creepy, especially at night. Lights would travel in weird ways around the room when cars drove past, there were the occasional funny sounds. And about this time, I had two situations in which I heard voices when voices shouldn’t be there, once in the complete silence of my room and once in the “snow” sound on a disconnected call.
I chalked it up to overactive imagination. But in retrospect, this was probably the first symptom of Lyme disease. Not the fear of ghosts and the overactive imagination: that was congenital and incurable. But hearing voices is one of the weird mental side effects one can get from Lyme.
The most dramatic part of this weirded-out-ness was the night of trick-of-treat. My friends had stopped over in my dorm room, where I was supposedly doing an (incredibly boring) online class. We wanted to trick-or-treat, so we walked around campus and got some candy and saw the kids from the Women with Children program in their costumes. When we were done, we came back to my room to hang out and I told my prof that my computer had gone on the fritz for an hour and a half. Eventually my friends went back to their own rooms and I went to bed.
And then I realized my bedside table was glowing.
It was the faintest glow, a very faint green, so subtle that at first I didn’t notice it, and then when my eyes had adjusted, I thought was imagining it. WAS THERE AN ALIEN UNDER MY BEDSIDE TABLE??
I wasn’t going to be terrorized by this intergalactic bogeyman! I flicked on the light and lifted the tablecloth.
It was a glow bracelet: one of those phosphorescent ones you bend and shake to make them glow. My friend Aliyah had been wearing one earlier that evening.
Me, in blue, posing with THE CULPRIT (who was dressed as her roommate for Halloween)
I laughed, decided to tease Aliyah about giving me a stroke by losing her jewelry, and pitched the bracelet.
I’d love to say I slept fine after that, but it was a couple more weeks before I could shake off the feeling that there were GHOSTS DOGGING MY EVERY STEP. It didn’t help when some girls from the third floor started talking about their creepy poltergeist problems. But eventually, one night, I remembered how my dad hadn’t wanted me to live on campus, how I had put my foot down. I had FOUGHT to get this awesome room, and BY GOLLY I was going to enjoy it! “I don’t care of the HOUNDS OF HELL come parading through this room,” I said out loud: “I’M STAYING.”
“And what do we say to the Pugs of Hell?” “GIT. GO HOME.”
Didn’t have another problem with ghosts.
As for the Lyme… well, that didn’t show up again until White Dinner. But I’ll leave that for the next post. 🙂