If it happened to you you would tell your mother.
If it happened to you you might tell your neighbor, your teacher or even your fairweather
playfellow who, unlike you, still believes in the Bogeyman.
If it happened to you you would tell and no one would blame you for telling. No
one would say you were imaging things, were overreacting; would call you a pantywaist.
In fact, if it happened to you most people would encourage telling. Wouldn’t
discard the tale as though it weren’t true, were merely apocryphal—the pearls of your
imagination, your fears, your burn for attention.
If it happened to you you might learn to tear the fabric of disassociation over your
skin before it got you, before the hand landed on the skin, before the Bogeyman inched
his way in.
You might have run away. Might have hidden. Might have taught yourself to die a
little each time it happened so that the next time you would not feel it as much. Might not
know what it was to be alive in that moment, and to carry it with you, to remember.
Though if it happened to you and you were still twelve the only place for you to
run away to might be inward. And once there you might go and not leave a map. Though
being twelve the only closet for you to hide in is your own head. So you make of yourself a hiding place, and once inside you cut out a doorway that goes even further in.
And as far as learning how to die, you are on your last death, at least until you
turn thirteen, then, you learn other ways to do it, other ways to chip off the old you, or
show others how do it for you. Let them.
In fact, if you were me you might choose not to be. You might feel like your were
in somebody else’s skin, some beastly thing, never you again after it happened to you.
You would choose not to be you.
All of this if it happened to you and you were me.
But you are not me.
No, for if you were me and it happened to you you would know that all the
Bogeymen worth fearing only have two eyes. Have only one mouth, two hands, ten
If you are me and it happens to you then you would keep it in because you learn
soon enough that the disbelief hurts almost as much as it happening at all. Begets other
monsters. Digs deeper rabbit holes.
For if you are me you lock it away and swallow that skeleton key, but not for a
day, a week, or when you get your first shrink at fourteen, but for the whole of your life,
which brings you up to now.
For if you are me you fill any space inside you so as not make room for love, for
peace, for sleep. You hold it inside until the monsters that grow out of the memory of it
each night come to hear how it happened. Come to tug on your sheets, you hair, your ear
all wearing masks that resemble the Bogeymen of old. All ready for play; all burning for your attention.
But you do all of this not because the monsters are now your only friends, but just
because you have grown, because you are still chipping away, because you are me.
About the author:
F.’s work has appeared in several publications under several nom de plumes, and is forthcoming in several more.