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Lymphoma and Pets
When I was a junior at the University of New Hampshire, there was a campus creepster on the loose. Not only did he peep like a Tom, he sought out girls leaving parties, followed them home then once they went to bed, broke into their apartments, scissors in hand.
His signature move was snipping the straps of women’s tops or cutting their clothes off altogether so that they’d awaken naked, confused and terrified of what happened to them in the night. The media quickly dubbed him “Jack the Snipper” grabbing headlines in the sleepy New Hampshire town with this juicy story – something destined for Dateline. Meanwhile, the more his name popped up, the more it terrified us.
In the span of a month, seven women reported having their downtown Durham apartments broken into. Some recalled waking up to a strange man standing over them, others reported waking up surrounded by their own tattered clothes. The 27-year-old non-student was spotted staring into windows and lurking in shadows.
My roommates and I lived on the first floor of one of those downtown apartments – the Red House. It was a very decrepit historic home converted into way-too-many separate apartments. Locks could be picked with a paperclip, if they even locked at all. Before the Snipper, we left it open for each other knowing inevitably we’d forget a key.
Our windows were on ground level, my roommates’ bed pushed against the porch window in our tiny room that was just large enough to fit our two twin beds with nothing more than a human wingspan to separate us.
The premise of Jack the Snipper was sick, twisted and frightening. During the heat of the police warnings of his presence, we took it upon ourselves to set up our own defenses in the form of booby traps. We pushed furniture up against our front door, dropped balls on the living room floor, laid out trip strings, and broke into our Christmas decorations hanging bells and noisemakers from door handles and doorways – anything to create a ruckus for a would-be intruder, ruining his attempts at stealth intrusion. We would not be his victims. Makeshift weapons were at the ready by our beds: brooms, maybe a bat or two. It was akin to McCaulay Culkin’s Home Alone set-up to catch the Wet Bandits, minus Matchbox cars and hot tar and feathers.
As ridiculous as it seems now, it allowed us to sleep soundly. We made it through that month with all of our tank tops intact and were able to discontinue the nightly obstacle course set-up after he was taken into custody – crisis averted.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all fears could be sated with such simple solutions? Even if they realistically don’t stop the bad guys and bad things from coming, there’s something to be said for creating a safe zone – false security or not.
I haven’t yet been able to fashion a booby trap for cancer, something that’s impolitely invaded my personal safe zone for years now. However, I always have my thinking cap on cooking up solutions. I don’t think cancer would be phased by shards of glass Christmas ornaments nor a doorknob invisibly heated to burning temp by an electric charcoal lighter, just waiting for an unsuspecting hand to singe. It seems to be a warranted fear that can’t be blocked no matter how many safeguards are put up around it. I’d live surrounded by a ring of fire wearing a garlic bulb necklace if it’d keep the lymphoma from crossing – as long as the good stuff could still break through.