I'm not sure what finally subdued my constant fear of the trains, but somehow my terror eventually became intermittent.
I think it had to do with the time we thought we got bed bugs (but totally didn't) and I started using that as an excuse to take six benadryl a night to conk me out.
Before I get ahead of myself, let's get back to basics:
Catherine went home every weekend. Religiously. I think she ended up staying till Saturday once.
I can't blame her, she lived a half hour away and her bed at home was much more comfortable. Besides, Monmouth is basically a commuter school.
I, however, could not go home every weekend because I had a part-time job at TJ Maxx. Lucky me.
One weekend during our second semester of Junior year I got a few bug bites. I thought, oh cool there's a spider in my bed. But then the bug bites persisted.
Catherine came back to the apartment, but she was free of the epidemic. I began to think I just might be dirty. I washed my sheets like three times that week.
I still got bitten.
I went to the school nurse and she informed me they had to be bed bug bites. She was very adamant about that. I panicked, and that was around the time Catherine entirely stopped living at the apartment because she didn't want to catch bed bugs.
I called an exterminator to check it out. He tore apart my mattress, which already had a rip in it that he decided to make more prominent, and he announced I had no bed bugs.
That week I returned to the nurse for more benadryl and told her an exterminator looked at my apartment. An exterminator whose job it is to look for bugs who said there were no bed bugs. But this nurse was very certain that the bites I was getting were from bed bugs.
Because no other insects bite people.
I am partially stressing this because that nurse was blind to the truth and really sure of something that was not true. Also, I want to make it clear that I never had bed bugs so you don't think I'm dirty.
For a short time Catherine put the idea in my head that I was having an allergic reaction, because I have incredibly sensitive skin and that was a plausible idea. Here is a quick list of things I'm allergic to: Sea kelp, benzoyl peroxide, poison ivy, shrimp, melons. There might be more, but who knows? I am also very susceptible to heat rashes and quick changes in temperature really fuck with my body.
My aunt suggested I stop sleeping in my bed. So, I slept on the couch in the living room.
It was surprisingly more comfortable than my bed. Probably because from the living room I couldn't hear the train trying to break through my window, and because all that benadryl quelled my hyper-fear.
What I didn't know at the time was that our neighbor Amy-Jess was about as bad as a psychotic killer train.
Catherine and I lived on the second floor (out of two). We were really concerned about this before we moved in. Every conversation we had revolved around how we had to live on the second floor. I have a feeling that I was the one who prompted this compulsion, but I'm not willing to admit that.
Amy-Jess lived underneath us. She was the only neighbor we shared a front door with.
We met her when we were moving in and she seemed really nice. Catherine met her first and said, "I just met our downstairs neighbor! She's really nice! Her name is Jess!"
I met her a short while after and said, "Oh, I just met our neighbor Amy!" Catherine then informed me her name was Jess, but I did not believe this. She looked like an Amy. If you had seen her, you would have agreed with me.
Catherine and I had a very detailed discussion about what our neighbor's real name was. We never asked her what her name was again, even though she gave me the opportunity a bunch of times by asking "What's your roommate's name, again? I forget." And, "I'm sorry sweetie, I can't remember your name."
So, Amy-Jess was born.
Thinking back on it, her name was probably Jess, but I'm still not willing to completely believe that.
Amy-Jess had this annoying habit of calling people "Sweetheart." She was a few years older than us, not a grandmother.
When I had to make the move to the couch I discovered some of Amy-Jess' annoying traits.
Her and her boyfriend argued at one a.m. nearly every night. If she was not on the phone screaming at someone, she was usually listening to really loud house music.
Once, the smoke alarm in the common area would not stop beeping. (And when I say "area" I mean a space the size of a coffee table. A small coffee table. That's broken.) I came downstairs and her and her friend were staring at it.
"It won't stop," Amy-Jess told me. They kept staring.
I went upstairs and got a duster and tried to hit the reset button with the end of it. Didn't work.
At that point Amy-Jess tried to step into action by asking me if I had anything better than the duster because it was obvious it wasn't working.
They had pencils in their hands. I wanted to scream.
I then tramped back up the steps to get a broom. The broom ended up working, and the crisis ended.
Her and her friend then slammed the door and started playing house music.
The most ludicrous night was when she had a nervous breakdown about her license expiring...in a month. At three a.m. she decided to call her boyfriend, her aunt and her grandmother. None of these people seemed sympathetic to her cause and even suggested she freak out about this in the morning.
But Amy-Jess needed to know that a month from then someone was going to drive her to the DMV. She was crying about it and stomping her feet: it was an all-out temper tantrum.
I'm pretty sure that night she broke up with her boyfriend for the umpteenth time and then called him back even more upset.
It took over a few hours for it to end. And while it might seem better to be kept awake due to annoyance than fear, I was missing the train. There is something kind of romantic about feeling you might die every night.
After this explosive episode I ran into her walking home and she said, "I'm moving out in May." We chatted for little bit about things I didn't care about and then around the time of finals she was gone.
And for one glorious week I was able to sleep in the apartment without the fear of the train or the noise of Amy-Jess. That is all that apartment gave me: one week of silence before moving out for good.
Thinking back on it, I am almost positive that the bug bites came from our new neighbors two doors over who had really loud dogs. I think that dog had fleas and being near that dog, and probably petting that dog, transferred those icky bugs to me.
I'm not sure how much better that is than bed bugs, but whatever it was, it was a really loud, miserable, itchy time in my life.