There was a time, when I was 12 years old, that I was afraid of the color red.
My family and I had just recently moved from the inner city of Tacoma, Washington to a more rural area on the Key Peninsula. We were surrounded by trees at the every turn and I struggled to watch TV at night with the curtains open. My over-active imagination would go berserk, conjuring up all sorts of lurking evil in the woods. By day, the trees were grounding and safe but at night... at night those trees only served to hide something coming to get me.
Because we had just moved, some of the only friends I had were the ones I had made at church. For one reason or another I hit it off the best with the kids who were just a couple years older than I was. I felt accepted and welcomed, but every once in while it was obvious that I was still ions away from their maturity- the path from 12 to 14 might as well be the Odyssey.
Wanting to fit in with my friends at school and my older friends at church, I asked my parents if I could watch The Sixth Sense. It was in theaters and everyone was talking about it. Tales of screaming in the theater, and jumping into the scrawny arms of unsuspecting boys? I wanted in. I asked my parents if I could watch it because it was rated PG-13, and I had just turned 12. My dad told me he wanted to watch it first, mumbling something about making sure there wasn't "like, Satan stuff" in it. Of course, watching a scary movie wasn't on his list of priorities so I rode out some of the hype until it came out on video and the hype started all over again.
A oh-so-mature 14 year-old friend of mine from church was having a birthday party. It was going to be a sleep over and everyone was going, both girls and boys. There was your standard cake and presents, but as it got dark, it was announced that we were going to watch The Sixth Sense. It wasn't a big deal to anyone else because, except for one other boy there, they had all already seen it. I got uneasy, but what was I supposed to do? Announce to the room full of older friends that sorry, my dad hasn't watched this yet so therefore I'm going to have to go sit in the other room? I was not THAT lame so I sat there on the floor, my back pressed into the back of the crowded couch, clutching the blanket on my lap. I jumped and screamed. In an hour and forty-seven minutes, I had both sworn off childish things like blanket forts and exploring old houses but regained the sense of fear of under my bed. I firmly decided I would NEVER go to the bathroom at night again.
No one was as affected as I was but I think I played it cool. I made it through. We could go back to eating snacks now, right?!
Nope. They decided to do the thing that ruined me.
They decided to watch all of the bonus features.
You would think that doing so would have HELPED me resume my disbelief, but no. All it did was teach me that M. Night Shyamalan had created a world that now existed in my own. When he said "I used the color red to foreshadow when a ghost was coming"
I heard "when you see the color red, that means a ghost is coming into your life and there's nothing you can do about it."
Later that night, all the boys slept in the house and all of us girls slept in the tree house in the backyard. Are you hearing me?! I had just watched the most terrifying movie of my life and I had to climb up a wooden ladder to sleep in an old tree house with my friends who seemed as relaxed as ever! I had finally started spinning out a bit, admitting that I had seen a red balloon in the bathroom earlier and almost cried. I had a pair of red socks on and I made someone trade me. I didn't sleep a WINK which is how I know there was no funny business between the girls in the tree house and the boys in the real house.
For the next week or so, I was pretty sure I saw dead people. I would ask my friends if they could see the biker across the street. However, the thing that got me the most were those still shots of long hallways and door frames. The ones where it's dark and quiet and you never know if a ghost is going to jump out from around the corner. Suddenly, at night, I could ONLY see my house through the lens of Shyamalan. I didn't sleep for days. I would run from my room into my baby sister's room and sleep on her top bunk. After I started becoming afraid of HER closet, I finally went into my parents room and asked if I could sleep with them.
They were annoyed. I was way too old for this crap. My mom told me I could sleep on the floor. The idea of facing what was under her bed hit me with a wave of panic. I cried and begged to just be able to sleep in their bed! They asked several times why I had been acting so weird lately and I just gave the good ol' teenage "I don't know" through tears.
Finally, my dad sat up and very calmly said:
"Carrie. What happened at that sleep over? Did one of those boys touch you? Even though they go to church, you can tell us."
That's when I realized that my parents lived in a darker world. One where there were worse things than ghosts who don't know they're dead. I quickly assured them that NOTHING HAPPENED and then, through sobs, admitted that I had watched The Sixth Sense and it was so scary you guys I'm telling youIcan'tsleeeeeep!
My parents looked at me like I was the biggest idiot on the planet. I'm pretty sure they IMMEDIATELY sent me back to bed because this was a ridiculous reason for all of us to be awake in the middle of the night. Oddly, I was cured. Something about how dismissive they were shocked my system and discredited all of my fears. I slept fine from then on, although, at 31, I still get very freaked out if I think about the movie for too long.
Someone told me once that it was the guilt of watching a movie I wasn't supposed to that had been keeping me up all night. Maybe that was part of it. But most of it had to do with cabinets.