Thursday, May 17, 2007

Monster in the Closet

Some memories are harder than others to face. I spent years in therapy dealing with a lot of major events. One of the techniques that worked for me was talking about things in the abstract. It's easier if it happened to other people. If other people got hurt or hurt someone else then there is no guilt, blame or personal responsibility associated. That's the beauty of fiction, right? So, here's a story I wrote that I never shared with anyone before. Aren't you lucky?

Some things, even my parents don't know.

There’s a monster in the closet. Mom and Dad always say there are no such things as monsters, so I don’t bother telling them about this one. I wish I had an older brother, I’d run and get him to help me kill the monster.

I don’t really remember the first time I saw the monster. I was lying in bed at Stephanie and Andrea’s house. The three of us crammed into one bed, but we’re only little so it’s ok. Well, I’m the little one. They are older than me by two and three years. My parents like it when I play with them because they are my only friends in this country. It’s very hard to make friends when you don’t speak the language.

Anyway, this wasn’t the first time I stayed at their house. It was the first time that the monster showed up. We were lying in bed giggling. One of them, the eldest but I can’t remember which that was, tried to teach me a new game. I didn’t like the game. Maybe if I had played the game the monster wouldn’t have come. Too late.

We were supposed to be asleep, so when the door started to open, no one moved. I saw the big dark shape in the doorway. It was dark in the hallway too, but I could still see the darker shadow. It didn’t make any noise when it came by the bed. I have a bad habit when I sleep. I like to kick my feet out from under the covers and roll into a cocoon around my shoulders with the blankets. Pig in a blanket, head and feet out. Oink oink.

This is why I am sleeping on the end of the bed by the door and not in the middle. Usually the littlest has to sleep in the middle, but my friends knew I would just mess up the covers so I slept on the end. That’s how the monster got me. I thought he would gobble me up, like the monsters in the books.

For a long time, he just looked at me. I had my eyes squeezed shut really tight except for the tiny place I peeked out at it. I felt the covers move away. In my head I just kept saying, ‘Monsters aren’t real. Don’t scream. Don’t scream.’

A touch on my leg pulled my Strawberry Shortcake nightgown higher and I must have made a sound. Behind me a hand tugged on the back of my gown. They knew the monster was here and they were afraid too.

‘Please don’t eat me.’ It was the last thing I can remember thinking. The rest is blurry in my mind. I remember being cold and scared. I know I never fell asleep and felt very dirty. The next morning, when the sun was high enough in the sky that people started venturing outdoors and street noises woke my friends, I begged to go home.

No, I didn’t want breakfast. I didn’t want to play. I didn’t want to watch a movie. I just wanted to go home. Home, where there were no monsters. My dad finally came for me and I was very happy to leave.

Two weeks later, I had to go to my friends’ house again. “You like Stephanie and Andrea. Why are you being difficult? I already told them you were coming over.” I knew she wouldn’t believe me about the monster, because monsters aren’t real after all.

That night, I tried to climb into the middle. Then I tried to sleep on the side of the bed that was farthest from the door, but Stephanie complained that I pulled the covers and Andrea was afraid to sleep by the window. I was just afraid to sleep. Then I thought, maybe if I go to sleep really fast, the monster will ignore me.

I kept my feet tucked under the covers and pulled the sheet over my head. I fell asleep like that, but when I woke later in the middle of the night the covers were gone. My nightgown was bunched around my thighs. I saw the door swinging shut and felt tears in my eyes. The monster had come anyway.

That was the last time I went to their house, even in the daytime, to play. I cried and pleaded with my mother. She thought I had a fight with my friends and I let her believe that. They had not protected me from the monster and I couldn’t trust them.

Then one night, I woke up in my bed tangled in the covers. The door was firmly closed and I was all alone. I lay in the dark and shivered. I had been dreaming of a dark shadow in the room, pulling my blankets and touching me. That’s when I knew the monster had followed me.

Instead of creeping in my room at night, it crept in my thoughts. Invading my dreams, it turned every night into a nightmare. I started to hear noises from the closet, or at least I think I heard noises.

I woke up screaming one time. Just once. My mother ran into my room and touched my forehead. “What’s wrong? What is it?” She was breathless.

“There’s a monster in my closet.” I said in a small voice. She looked at me disbelieving.

“There are no such things as monsters.” She firmly pushed me back onto my pillow and tucked my sheets around me. “You are too old to believe in such nonsense.” She looked angry and disappointed. When she left, though, she kept the hall light on and cracked my bedroom door.

I rolled onto my side and stared gratefully at the light. My mom was wrong, you see. There are monsters. Years later, I find myself cracking the bedroom door open and leaving the hall light on. My friends ask me about it, but I never try to explain. My little brother and sister think it’s funny. I don’t care if they laugh because I know what they don’t. There’s a monster in the closet.

I keep debating posting this story. What if my sister and brother read it? What if my parents or someone from my church stumbles across this? Is this an anonymous enough forum?

Screw it. Maybe someone will read this that has a similar story. If you do - if it's happening to you right now, tell someone. I was six, almost seven, when this happened to me. I wish I had told someone. I wish I had known it was ok to talk about the monsters. Instead, I the lesson I learned was to hide the things that scare you and lie about the things that hurt you. This will only lead to more hurt in the end.

Also, if you have monsters in your closet - you're not alone. It doesn't matter how old you get, how small they eventually seem, or how much you recover - a monster is a monster. There's no shame in that.

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