I developed an obsessive compulsive ritual at a very young age. I started checking to see if my family was breathing while they slept. In the middle of the night was when I felt we were at our most vulnerable. I’d creep into my parent’s bedroom and stare over them until I heard a sigh, snore or could see their chests moving up and down. I don’t exactly know why I became obsessed with making sure my loved ones were still breathing throughout their slumber, but I think it could have something to do with my dad’s incessant fear that one day a gas leak would kill everyone in our home. This was his biggest fear. His fear manifested in the form of me regularly waking up to make sure that our gas stovetop was turned off. My nose led me throughout the house hoping and praying that I didn’t pick up the slightest scent of our toxic nemesis.
My brother was a sleepwalker, which made it easier for me to tell if he was breathing. We’d regularly wake up to find him sleeping near the backdoor of our home. And sometimes what he thought was the toilet was actually the doorway to my parent’s bedroom. There he stood taking a leak on the horrific green shag carpeting. Carpet so ugly that the piss made it more attractive. And because of that and the fact that I knew for certain he was breathing, I am forever grateful for sleepwalking.
In 2010, my boyfriend moved into my Scottsdale, Arizona apartment. Everything was going great. We were happy and enjoying doing that thing that couples do when they first move in with one another, nesting. And soon after we realized that we had the exact opposite taste in home decor. I couldn’t believe he wasn’t a fan of the “Dream A Little Dream” movie poster I hung in our dining area. Did he not know that this 1989 classic was the BEST movie the Corey’s had ever starred in together? For those of you who may be unaware, the two Corey’s consisted of the late, great Corey Haim and the still rocking in this free world, Corey Feldman. I adored them. Especially Corey Haim. And this movie defined my childhood. Everything I learned about being a teenager in high school, I learned from this movie. In my obsessive compulsive nature, I memorized every line in the movie and acted out each scene in my bedroom hoping no one would walk in on me and expose my passion for living in cinema.
My childhood bedroom was an alternate reality where I was a famous singer/actress/tap dancer. I spent most of my time singing and reciting monologues to the large collage of pictures of teen heart throbs, actors, bands and pop singers that I cut out of magazines and taped upon my walls. I’d sing Mariah Carey to a picture of Mariah Carey, and let me tell you, she loved it. My rendition of, “Make it Happen” always made her smile. Granted she was always smiling, but I had this feeling that when I left the room her smile turned upside down. In my bedroom I was safe to be as delusional as I wanted to be. It was where I concocted the story that Corey Haim and I were married in a previous life. It was loosely based on the Beetlejuice death scene.
Basically, we were happily married and then one day, BAM, we ran our car off a beautiful country road and into a pound where we drowned together. Romantic, I know. Then we were reincarnated. Me as an aspiring attention-whore living in St. Paul, Minnesota and Corey as a successful, yet tormented child star turned teen heartthrob turned drug addict. Unfortunately, I was the only one who remembered our previous life. I wrote countless letters to his fan club hoping it would remind him of the love we once shared, but sadly I received no response. After a year of writing letters, the fan club did send me a wallet-size autographed picture of him, which I took as a sign that he remembered. After spending many years in my pocket and fanny packs and then taking a couple of trips in the washing machine, the picture wore so thin that all of the color faded from it. His once crooked grin and head full of mouse was now just an unrecognizable white blob, which coincidentally is what I often resemble when someone takes a picture of me while I’m on stage. More proof of our love or as Mariah Carey would say, “we belong together.”
Soon after moving in with my boyfriend, I began waking up numerous times a night in order to make sure that he was still breathing. Sometimes I would put my finger under his nose and other times I would just stare at him until I could see his chest move. And on occasion, just to be sure, I’d put the tip of my finger inside one of his nostrils until he swatted his hand against his face. For the first couple of months, he had no idea that I was checking his breathing while he slept. I was in the clear. I could maintain my image as a somewhat sane girlfriend, but then it happened. He caught me.
There I was face to face with him. My eyes were perched wide open staring intensely at him waiting for that sign of life. Then as if out of a horror film, his eyes popped open. He appeared startled. “What are you doing?” he asked. “Oh nothing,” I replied hoping he’d believe this was a dream and fall back asleep. “Why are you staring at me like that?” I paused and then replied, “I just can’t stop looking at you.” At the time, I thought this was a better answer than, “Oh, nothing. Just making sure you’re not dead.” It wasn’t. It made me seem very creepy. “How often do watch me while I’m sleeping?” I didn’t know how to answer that, but before my brain could string together a good answer I said, “Four to six times a night.” I then spent the next hour trying to convince him that I wasn’t planning to murder him.
The next day I decided to come clean. I explained that I wasn’t watching him sleep because I was obsessed with him, but rather I was obsessed with my fear of waking up next to a lifeless boyfriend. Surprisingly, he seemed relieved. That following week I asked my psychiatrist to increase the dosage of my anxiety medication. It helped. Sometimes I do still watch him, but please don’t tell him that.