Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.
I woke with a start.
My nine year old body inhaled slowly, quietly, deliberately, and then refused to exhale. I held it in, listening. Listening. Listening.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
I thought there might be a time-bomb in my bedroom.
To be honest, I didn’t even know what a time-bomb was. I didn’t know if they were small or big or if they started fires or took down buildings. I didn’t know if they could be hidden or not. I had no idea if they would kill me or simply knock me out. I had heard about the existence of a “time-bomb” from a movie my parents were watching that night.
This wasn’t the first time I’d convinced myself of something entirely outlandish (now looking back on it, it’s clearly outlandish, although at the time, I’ll readily admit, I was thoroughly convinced). There was another time, not long before this ticking incident where I felt my heart flutter and was entirely convinced that I was destined to die young. I worked myself into such a panic that I broke out into a sweat, cried (okay, sobbed; grieved over my own life being stolen far too young from me), gave myself a headache, and fell into an exhausted sleep that my mom woke me from when she came home from work finding my dad sitting nervously by my bedside. I remember her scoffing and chuckling and saying, “Oh, Becca, SUCH the drama queen.”
It was in those words that I realized, “If Mom isn’t worried, it means I am a drama queen. Oh my gosh! I’m not going to die!” Relief washed over me and I felt instantly better.
I lay in my bed this particular night telling myself over and over, “It’s not a bomb, Becca, go back to sleep. You’re just a drama queen. It’s not a bomb. It’s not a bomb. It’s not a bomb.”
I feel shameful even writing this. I sound like a paranoid schizophrenic, though I swear, I’m not. I have this imagination that goes to all kinds of places and as a kid, it was unchecked by my lack of knowledge about the world.
“It’s not a bomb,” I said to myself again.
I tossed and turned.
Tick, tick, tick.
“It’s not a bomb.”
Finally, I thought, “Maybe the time is almost up. Maybe it’s about to go off.”
Without hesitating, I leaped from my bed, sprinted to my parents’ bedroom, woke my dad with a shake and blurted out, “Dad! Dad! Dad!”
“Huh? What’s going on?” He asked, half-asleep, half-alarmed.
“There’s a time-bomb in my room I think.” I told him urgently.
“A what?” he asked, probably wondering if he heard me correctly.
It’s moments like these, when I write old stories from my childhood, that I have great pity for my parents and a complete understanding as to why they now have a handful of gray strands on their heads.
“I can’t find it,” I told him. “But I think there might be a time-bomb in my room.”
“There’s no time-bomb in your room, Becca.” I think during the day he would have laughed at this scenario, but in the middle of the night woken from a dead sleep, I’m pretty sure he was too tired to even process the fact that his nine year old daughter was convinced she had a time-bomb in her bedroom.
“Daaaad!” I exclaimed, exasperated. “Come and listen for yourself! I can hear the ticking.”
Right, because that’s the first thing you’d want to do if there was a bomb in question…have your dad enter the proximity of that bomb.
“Do you have any toys that tick? A watch maybe?” he asked.
“Why would it be a toy or watch? It’s a bomb!”
“Go back to sleep, Becca.”
“Dad! Please! Come and look! I can’t sleep with the ticking! I’m too young to die!”
He sighed, swung his legs to the side of the bed, pulled on his bathrobe, and explained to my just-waking mother that he was going to go look for the time-bomb in my bedroom.
I have never heard her speak about that night ever again. It’s kind of the thing we just tried to move on from in my house and never bring up again. I don’t think my boyfriend has even been told this story before. It’s like…the shameful skeleton in the closet. The day Becca snapped.
He tore that bedroom apart, looking for the ticking. He finally found a watch, sitting on my headboard, a watch I’d had for years.
“Would this be the culprit?” He asked me, holding up the flower band with the small round analog clock facing me, its second hand ticking away.
“Um…Oh…huh…” I gave a nervous chuckle. “Well,” I laughed again. “I guess it was a watch after all, Dad. Thanks for finding it. Didn’t know I still had that.”
“Yeah, no problem. Goodnight.”
He started to leave.
“Tuck me in?” I asked, not wanting to admit I still felt a little on edge from my previous scare.
“Sure.” He turned around, never complaining once about the fact that I’d woken him up on a work night in order to tear my room apart to find the watch responsible for giving his daughter a time-bomb scare. Now that’s a good Dad.
“No more TV for you.” He mumbled with a chuckle, stumbling back to bed.
I thought about that tonight when I was wrapping presents in his office, listening to the clock tick above his desk, hearing his mouse click away on his computer while he tried to get his work done since he’s home for this month doing a chemo-cream treatment on his face.
I interrupted him for about the ten-bazillionth time today. I love having him home, but I think he’s realized that there’s a reason why office buildings were created and why his family doesn’t sit around the foot of his desk while he tries to organize a conference call with Malaysia.
“Dad,” I said, breaking the silence.
He clicked once and then looked up. “What’s up?”
“Remember when I asked you to find the time-bomb in my bedroom?”
His face broke out into a smile; he sat back in his chair and threw his head back laughing.
That was answer enough for me.