Sunday, January 8, 2012

Narrow Escape

I have a little trepidation about sharing this story with you because it's the only time where I've (quasi) fictionalized an actual situation for one of my books and didn't change the name of the main antagonist.

His name was Max.

With that simple statement, I know that some of you are already on to which one of my books he wound up in. And if you are, I hope you're screaming, "Oh my God!" because, yes, Max and Max are frighteningly similar.

It started innocently enough. A room to rent in a new condo for only $100 / month.

Including utilities.

I was a college student trying to make it on a very tight budget, so I really wanted this room and was very excited when I got myself an interview.

Did it matter that it was a single man renting out the room?

Uh, yes.

But he was old! (Sixty at least. Maybe seventy!) And he was well mannered (and clean shaven), stylish (for an old guy), professional (he ran his broker business out of his home), and very pleasant.

Obviously harmless!

In exchange for such a reasonable rent he said he would appreciate it if I could answer the phone as his "secretary" on occasions when I was home and he had errands to run. Also, perhaps I could play tennis with him.


Yes, there was a clubhouse with a gym and courts. He was a member. He'd get me a membership, too.


Also, he liked that I was into healthy eating, and wondered if perhaps I could help him learn to prepare tasty vegetables.

No problem!

He offered me the place on the spot. It was definitely too good to be true, but there it was, true! I wrote him a check and moved in that weekend. And for the first month, everything was amazing! He'd even take me out to lunch once a week to "catch up."

It was like living with a cool, old grandpa. One who could still play tennis!

Then one lunch he began talking about the untapped power of the mind. An interesting subject, until the conversation veered into the moving of objects with your mind. He believed, given enough concentration, one could bend spoons with their mind and he had, he claimed, actually done it.

Not wanting to be impolite (or closed minded) I asked if he could demonstrate.

He could not, he said, and it frustrated him greatly because he had done it, knew it could be done, yet could not repeat it.

A little red flag went up, but I swatted it back down. This was just a case of an old guy with a dream-memory that seemed real. Who doesn't have those?

But there was a shift happening in the household. I started noticing him watching me. I sensed he was thinking things he wasn't saying, and he appeared out of nowhere on several occasions, really startling me.

Then he asked me for a picture of myself. I had headshots. He wanted one, but wouldn't say why.

Yes, it creeped me out, but rather than move out, I hid the pictures behind the cork board I had pinned to a wall in my room above the desk.

Then came our weekly lunch. I didn't want to go, but I did anyway, and that's when the weirdness escalated: In a previous life, he told me, the great love of his life, Athena, and he had been torn apart. He'd been traveling through the ages, life after life, in search of her and at long last he had found her back. He gazed at me through his glasses, held my hand and told me that he was beside himself with joy.

I was his long lost Athena.

What do you say to THAT?

I withdrew my hand, assured him that I was NOT his long lost Athena, that I had no recollections of previous lives whatsoever, and that there was no future US.

I should have walked out of the restaurant and abandoned all my stuff at the condo, but he had driven, it was too far to walk, and he seemed to have accepted my rejection with grace.

But the minute we got back to the condo I started packing. Because if a deluded old guy thinks you're his long lost love from a previous life and he's been wandering eternity in  search of you, what is the logical next step so that your lives re-sync?

Simultaneous death.

I locked my door, and was shaking as I packed my things. And as I yanked the cork board off the wall, I discovered that my pictures were missing.

He had found them.

Behind the cork board?


I looked around for a camera, but at that point, I just wanted OUT. So I gathered what I could carry in one trip, abandoned the rest, and made my escape.

And years later, still grateful to have survived, I put him in a book.

What book?


Colton said...

Wow. That's pretty scary!

Kylie said...

Was this in Sammy Keyes and the Hollwood Mummy? That must of been freaky when you told him that and when you found your pictures gone. I love how you put your real-life living stituations in your books, it makes them much more real. Can't wait for next week!

Optimistic4ever said...

Oh. My. Godsh!

That is so creepy!

Hollywood Mummy.

I have to go read that book again now, because I am amazed...

Love you!


Stefunny said...


Wendelin Van Draanen said...

Yup! MUMMY. Creep City :)

bookworm said...

Hollywood Mummy!!!!! OMG, I thought you just made Max up!!!! I can't believe this really happened to you!!! Wow, Wow, Wow........

Unbelievable, the people that you've met and what you've experienced in your life.....

What a creep.

Shaina said...

I have one word for you: YIKES!

Unknown said...

But what if.....

What if Max was RIGHT?


Anonymous said...

Mind my language, but the first thing I thought when I finished reading this was 'Damn, this woman has been through a lot!'
Oh my god…
That guy…
I LOVE how you took your own story and made it fit so amazingly into Hollywood Mummy.
I read your post this morning and all through the school day I've been ITCHING to read Hollywood Mummy (for the 50th time, I might add).
Your author-ness totally shows on your blog posts, you wrote this post in a very Sammy-like manner. ;)
Seriously, though, I love this post with all my heart and it is "starred" in my Google Reader list.
I mean, I'm not surprised he fell in love with you or whatever, I'M practically in love with you! In the most non-creepy, non-freaky-ish way possible, trust me, I am in love with you as my favorite author.
I can totally get why people think you're awesome.
Like, seriously.
And the kitchen people? They can just…go…scrub their kitchen or something, for all I care, because seriously WVD you are like.
I love this post.
So, so, much.
I knew from the start of the story this dude was bad news.
For some reason I pictured Hugh Hefner as Max in your blog-post, because when I think of creepy old-guys, I either think of Hugh Hefner, or of that creepy serial killer from the movie Disturbia.
But in Sammy Keyes I picture Max just as Sammy described him.
In conclusion to this embarrassingly obsessive and long comment to your amazing post…
(did you recognize what book that quote is from?) :D

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

warrenator: that is EVIL! (And very turn-the-tables creepy of you :) )

xxCLxx: I love the way you brain dump. It is so much fun and like really good popcorn. Who needs a movie when you've got that to read?

I'm wishing we could have a Sammy-con. Would that be fun, or what? Trouble is, lots of potential Sammy-con attendees have transportation issues. Sammy did in Sin City. Or Showdown. Or whatever abbreviated version of "Showdown in Sin City" you want to use! But she got around them. Your parents will have me arrested by the end of the series. Sigh. Really, I didn't mean to! Sammy made me do it.

I should probably go now. Love the bunch of ya!

Yusa said...

Definitely Hollywood mummy! Talk about creepy. I can't believe that actually happened to you! Wow the sacrifices you make for your books. I don't know if i should be happy that happened to you so we got somethinbg AMAZING to read or just creeped out.
I mean is it true you stowed away in a bus for Runaway!
Your college life was VERY INTERESTING.
Gosh i would be so creeped out if someone said that to me. Its amazing what you've been through. You've had as many adventures as Sammy or Holly.
Btw i LOVE Holly. Holly and sammy are amazing. That's why i love Psyco kitty queen. i love how they are so similar.
Oh and i just thought of a question for you.
Whos books did you like reading when you were younger? We like reading your books but who inspired or influenced you?
Who's one of your favorite children's author NOW?
Just curious. I want to know your opinion so i can see what you like and see how i like it.
Oh and xxCammyLoverxx i love your posts. They are long but fun to read and ... spontaneous!
You have just the right words to describe everything. :)

AbaGayleb said...

What a creeper! Creepy. Ew. Oh my. Hollywood mummy, of course. It took me a while to remember, though. BUT NOW I DO. NO WORRIES.

I would have DIED, if I were you. Like. ohmygoshhh. I'm STILL in shock. That actually HAPPENED to you(lol with all of my caps). Well it's a darn good thing you're still alive! Haha. :D

I love, love, loved the post. (:


Harriet said...

AHHHHH! Sammy Keyes and the Hollywood Mummy! That is so creepy...

Anonymous said...

woahhhh!!! as i read that book i was like "huh, who could come up with an idea like that!" but now its like....that was real?!?!?!
btw, i <3 these stories- i feel like i'm getting to know you better as a person and an author, because i get to see how you connected all these experiences to your writing, which is the coolest thing!

Unknown said...

*nods knowledgeably* Yes. THIS is why we don't move in alone with single old guys who play tennis and like healthy things, ESPECIALLY when it only costs one hundred dollars. I mean, who wouldn't want that?

Tsk, people of the world. Tsk. ;P