October is my favorite month. I love everything about it – pumpkins, leaves, Halloween parties, sweaters. The beginning of my first October in LA was rough. The temperature hung out in the upper eighties and the trees stayed bright plastic-y green. I didn’t pack any sweaters in my one meager carload of stuff when I drove out to LA, anyway. I wanted to make snickerdoodles (because they are the best autumn cookie ever), but between the carbs and the gluten and dairy, almost everyone I knew couldn’t/wouldn’t eat them. Not only was October failing me on multiple levels, but I’d just quit my job at a super skeevy bar and finished my first level of acting classes with no money to continue – so October started out as a month of failure.
I refused to let circumstances get me down. One morning, on the second or third day of the month, I decided to wake up super early (before 11am) and go for a run. Starting the day/month off right! After a refreshing, invigorating run, I would apply to a couple high-profile PR agencies and spend the afternoon leisurely choosing from job offers.
Because unlike the hundreds of other places I applied (screw you, starbucks), today was going to be different. Today, I was going to be awesome.
I even felt so cool and hip and “totally California” that I decided to run in only a sports bra. ~Edgy~, I know. But with the temperature creeping toward ninety and the unfortunate fact that I sweat like a morbidly obese man, it made sense.
I trotted down to the underground parking beneath my building to grab my iPod. I bounced around the garage, singing Call Me Maybe, and did a dramatic turn –
And saw blood dripping from the trunk of my neighbor’s car.
A clump of scraggly blond hair hung out from the end, matted with the same blood that was drip, drip, dripping on the floor of the garage.
You know, just your average dead-body-in-the-trunk-of-a-car, happens all the time in Los Angeles, right?
Three thoughts instantly played through my mind.
1- I am going to die.
2- I am going to die in Los Angeles, and my dad is going to say, “I told you so” approximately 700 times at my funeral.
3- I am going to die not wearing a shirt, and everyone is going to think I’m a total skank.
I bolted upstairs to my apartment and locked the door, shaking so hard I dropped my keys twice. Dead body. Murderer in my complex. What if someone saw me? What if the murderer saw me? Who was the girl? Was I a witness? Why did I ever decide to live with someone I met on the internet?
I picked up my phone and panicked about who I should call. I had a bad experience with 911 being utterly useless during a break-in once, so they were out. I considered calling my crush because he lived nearby, but even in what I thought were my final moments alive, I thought mayyybe he would think I was kind of weird/crazy and I WANT HIM TO THINK I’M COOL. Discovering a corpse would probably put me in the “too weird to date” category. I mean, I guess getting murdered would put me in the “too dead to date” category, but obviously I wasn’t ((/am never)) thinking rationally.
So I called another guy friend, who already knew I was weird.
As soon as he answered, I started yelling/weeping – not so subtle if there was a murderer hanging outside my door.
- “OHMYGOD SHE’S DEAD / HOW DO YOU TELL IF SOMEONE’S DEAD / I MEAN I THINK SHE’S DEAD / DEAD BODY HELP / OHMYGOD CAN YOU COME OVER / WHAT DO I DO / I’M GOING TO DIE / HELP ME I DON’T WANT TO DIE OMG OMG OMG”
As I gasped for air (my final breaths?), he asked if I’d tried to shake my roommate.
- “What? She’s not home, that’s why I’m calling you!”
- “Wait… who’s dead? Are you in your apartment? Carbon monoxide poisoning? You should go outside.”
- “THE GIRL IN THE TRUNK IN MY GARAGE IS DEAD CAN YOU PLEASE COME OVER.”
He again reiterated that I should go outside where there was open space, and then lurk around and get the license plate, and finally call the police. I crept outside and slunk against the wall, with one hand by my neck so I couldn’t get garroted (shoot, I’ve seen Phantom of the Opera – “keep your hand at the level of your eyes”). He told me he needed to get ready and would head over immediately, and to call back if anything changed.
I flitted around the outside of my complex like a hummingbird on speed. Who needs drugs when you have the fear of imminent, painful death looming overhead? Suddenly, I noticed a man exiting one of the apartments. I flung my body behind a tree and prepared for the worst. Should I confront him? What if he had a gun? The murderer appeared to be a skinny Asian hipster in a purple V-neck. Not what I was expecting, but those hipsters do have a lot of pent-up rage at society. From my spot, I watched him walk up to the corpse car and get in – not even bothering to check and see if anything hung out of the trunk. His first murder, for sure. Very sloppy.
The garage gate opened and I prepared myself to memorize the license plate – 911 already typed in my phone. I’ve never been more focused in my life then when that car turned and headed toward me…
Until I noticed two perfectly placed neon-red handprints on the top of the trunk.
In the sunlight, the smears of blood around the trunk also appeared bright red. And as any crime-TV-junkie knows, blood turns brownish when it oxidizes (ooh big words!) The hair flapped limply, suddenly appearing like a cheap, ratty wig.
My phone buzzed.
- - "Did you get the license plate number? I’m headed over soon!”
- -" No…”
- - "What?”
- -“I don’t think you need to come over anymore…”
- - “WHAT??”
- - “I think it was fake.”
I explained the situation, but only grew more confused as I tried to articulate it. In the dim lights of the parking garage, I was completely certain that I’d been standing four feet away from a fresh corpse – it was DRIPPING BLOOD ON THE GROUND, for crying out loud. But in the sunlight, something seemed suddenly but severely off. We briefly debated whether or not to still call the cops before he stopped and swore –
- - “I hate October. Stupid people.”
I took offense to this. How could you hate the best month ever? If someone would just eat my damn snickerdoodles, health concerns be damned, then these stupid Los Angelinos would appreciate the wonderfulness of October.
- - "That’s a bit harsh. October is my favorite month ever and just because this happened to be an unfortunate way to start the month – ”
- - "R. Grace, it was a Halloween decoration.”
The revelation took a moment to sink in. And then it made sense. Well, except for
- - "WHAT THE HELL SORT OF DECORATION IS THAT? WHO DOES THAT?”
- - "People with poor taste, I assume.”
- -"IT’S THE SECOND OF OCTOBER! WHO DECORATES THAT EARLY? WHAT HAPPENED TO PLASTIC SKELETONS AND PUMPKINS? THAT’S NOT SPOOKY IT’S TRAUMATIZING. I HOPE SOMEONE SEES IT ON THE 101 AND CALLS THE COPS.”
- -"I seriously doubt they’ll get too far before someone makes them remove it.”
But once my rage subsided, my fears crept back.
- - "What if it’s real, though? I mean it really is too early to decorate… and the perfect time to hide a body in plain sight is around Halloween so maybe everyone assumes it’s a decoration when actually it’s a body and I thought the killer was so sloppy but maybe he’s very smart omg there’s a killer next door and he saw me looking omg omg he knows where I live omg…”
- - "R. Grace, that’s quite a stretch.”
- - "Do you know how elaborate serial killers can be? Silence of the Lambs is my favorite movie; I KNOW THESE THINGS.”
After a couple more minutes of assurance that I wasn’t going to die, my friend told me to go ahead and go on a run anyway. It would burn off all the adrenaline and make me a little less jittery. Sage advice. I got this, right? A brush with the macabre wasn’t going to stop me from having ~the most productive day ever.~
I ran past maybe four house before a giant flash of black fur and teeth came charging at me. This effing beast came out of no where, jumping and flailing and definitely going to kill me, probably to save my serial killing neighbor the effort. What do you do when a giant dog targets you for a kill?
Probably not stop and scream, “HELP HELP IM GONNA DIE,” but that’s exactly what I did.
(I once had a large dog take a solid chomp on my bottom, so I do tend to freak out and panic around dogs. Just a little bit.)
In my one stroke of good fortune for the day, the owner came outside and called off the ferocious beast before it could shred the flesh from my bones. I then had to listen to a sob story about animal shelters and abandonment issues for a good five minutes. I wanted to mention that I’d have some serious abandonment issues if my leg abandoned me inside the creature’s vicious jaws, but decided to smile and nod and go on my way.
Running: round three. Two brushes with death were plenty for one day. I could overcome these obstacles. This was a test! I got this, I got this –
And then I stepped dead-center (ha) on a rotting squirrel carcass.
Squirrel entrails and sneakers are not a good mix.
I gave up.
I staggered back to my apartment, leaving a little trail of gore to the garden hose. Murder car had yet to return. I didn’t even care. Squirrel guts seemed a more pressing issue than certain death.
I finally returned to my apartment, somehow alive, and went straight to look up a recipe for snickerdoodles. My computer had at least six tabs open on how gluten would kill me, dairy would kill me, carbs would kill me… close, close, close.
Out of all my options, death by snickerdoodle seemed the most preferable choice of the day.
October is the worst.