When I was in college, I injured my knee and spent six months in a knee immobilizer. This meant that when I was flying, I met every person in the airport. And also on the plane. I was constantly telling the story of How I Injured My Knee.
The result was that once I was off crutches, the last thing I wanted was to talk to people on planes. So I thought about how to avoid that.
I have always read a lot, so that’s my usual method of passing the time while in flight. I decided that what I needed was to select my books very carefully. If I read a bestseller, someone would want to know if I liked it, and whether I was going to see the movie, and what did I think of the casting. If I read one of the books for my classes, I’d probably have the great good luck of finding out I was sitting next to the author right after I said I thought it was boring.
It became clear that there was only one genre that would keep people from striking up conversations: true crime. Over the next couple of years, I read a lot of true crime. (By the way, that last one? Total BS, as is From Hell–both the graphic novel and the movie.)
My plan worked. No one wanted to talk to the girl reading about Jack the Ripper. And it wasn’t just coincidence–on one flight, a mildly creepy older guy sat down next to me, started to speak, looked at the title of the book on my lap, and stopped mid-sentence. He then talked to the man across the aisle for the rest of the flight. I call that a win.
Time passed. I stopped reading true crime because I got bored with it. But I did periodically watch movies about fictional killers. And Dennis Lehane’s Darkness, Take My Hand is a novel so scary and so well-written that I had to keep reminding myself that I didn’t actually believe in what he was describing.
Then a few things happened: I had two miscarriages, and Mr. Sandwich and I read Zodiac and watched the movie based on it. Both the book and the movie are very good. The Zodiac Killer was a really scary guy.
These things seem unrelated, but they weren’t. I developed mild depression after my second miscarriage, and suffered from insomnia. And since I was already distressed and exhausted, it didn’t take much for me to become unnerved by the Zodiac Killer.
“But,” you say, “That was decades ago.”
Of course, and that’s what the logical part of my mind told me (it also told me about how long the odds were). The other part, whatever you might call it, was scared. Not so scared that I wouldn’t go outside at night to hang up laundry–but scared enough to wonder, “What if?”
My brother, who knows that I enjoy thrillers and history, gave me a copy of The Truth of All Things by Kieran Shields. It involves a number of my interests, including detectives, mystery, and the Salem Witchcraft Trials.
But I’m choosing not to finish it. Because while I could get through the gruesome murder that takes place at the beginning of the book, later discoveries by the main characters made it clear that the killer was taking actions–and likely had a motivation–that I just couldn’t keep reading about.
Don’t get me wrong. I was enjoying the book. But I know what gets in my head, and what I don’t need to add. I didn’t need to see the posters for “The Strangers.” Or for any of the “Saw” movies.
There’s enough ugliness in the world. We can see that today in Boston. I don’t need to go looking for it.