It's October, so it's a good time to talk about monsters, ghosts, and ghoulies and distract ourselves from the pain of the all-too-real world for a few minutes, right?
I realize the evening news brings us evil in tangible form each and every night now. Terrorism. Mother Nature. Capitol Hill. Fire, death. Wind, death. Water, death. Anger, death. Guns, death. Bombs, death.
It hurts. It burns in our bellies and souls like a cureless cancer.
I've reached a point where I tune in to the local morning news long enough to hear traffic and weather, and then I turn it off. My a.m. commute past the White House and the orange menace puts knots in my gut and dark clouds in my head, so I flip 1600 Penn the bird and go to my happy place with music turned up to 11.
Sometimes it helps. Most of the time, it doesn't.
So, how about we talk about some less real things that go bump—and don't threaten nuclear annihilation—in the night? How about the monsters that held us spellbound in terror and fascination as kids, but couldn't really harm us? Yeah. Those guys.
My first monster was born was born of unnecessary (and super creepy) obligation.
Obligation is a bitch. A right royal biyotch—the polar opposite of spontaneous joy.
Sometimes I hold onto things far too long out of a sense of obligation—or out of a twisted, misplaced guilt (obligation's neighbor in the Duplex of Misery). Sometimes I hold onto people that same way. It's an old habit from a Catholic childhood, and it encompasses everything from odd, tiny gifts from kind people who don't fathom my likes—or dislikes—all the way to random people who brushed past me in the cocktail party of social media, and I made the mistake of acknowledging. With a shrug and an "accept friend request," there have been a few times when I've found myself with a closet racist or casual bigot tapping on my shoulder, hiding ugliness behind a big smile. I'm reluctant to give away gifts, and I'm conflicted about leaving people behind, hopeful for redemption and something better inside to lighten a dark heart.
But sometimes, there isn't anything redeemable. You have to recycle the hideous gifts and part ways with the bigots and the willfully ignorant.
When I moved to my new apartment, I donated a box of offerings from the motley (and tiny) group of men who have deigned to go on a single date with me. It was a bit like a Whitman sampler of dead mice brought to you by overeager tomcats, except I didn't immediately toss these things or shovel them into a Hefty bag, like I should have.
- the dollar store cookie jar (price tag still on bottom) in the shape of a badly deformed kitten with one unpainted eye—this from a guy it turns out had a cat hoarding disorder and had been evicted from his apartment
- the I 💙Toronto ashtray from a guy who told me it "might come in handy someday" (to throw at someone's head? for when I think asthma, Benson, and Hedges should be my squad goals?)
- unsolicited World of Warcraft rip-off game disks from the guy who said I could be a gamer if I really, really tried (nope)
- the sad-faced teddy bear wearing a button that read "U R BEAUTIFUL 2 ME" (and nothing compares 2 donating U)
- a huge roll of glittery stickers that said LUV U on them
I'm not exactly the kind of woman who gets many gifts from single, available men. So, there was this little voice that said, "Hey, at least this guy thought you were worth $2.98." And so, I added each awful gift to the beat-up, recycled Amazon Box of Sadness and shoved it to the back of my bedroom closet.
I am ashamed that little voice ever spoke to me. I'm worth more than $2.98. We all are. (But I do hope the deformed feline crock found a nice home with a non-judgmental child or cat lady.)
It's harder to get rid of humans, but I have started blocking people who've outed themselves as racist, homophobic, or weirdly, casually cruel toward anyone who doesn't fit in their limited world view. I usually find myself at the end of someone's pitchfork of dudgeon if I try to explain why I'm walking away. (This includes the time someone set up an online group called—and this is not a joke, and yes, this was done by an adult—"I Know What a Real Friend Is and You are Not a Real Friend" in response to me moving on.) So, I've stopped explaining. *click*
I recognize it might be difficult for some people to believe—especially considering how often it seems I have to stick up for myself and be fierce—but I am actually conflict averse. It exhausts me to be confrontational, and negative experiences—real ones in-person, anonymous ones online, or even imaginary things, deep in the quicksand of sleep—can haunt me for days.
In some cases, weeks or months. Hell, in some cases, years.
That started young, too. Really young, in the case of my dreams.
I had a recurring nightmare from my pre-kindergarten days until I was almost in high school. I can see it clear as day in my mind right now. A big man, Paul Bunyan-sized, stands in the darkness outside a blue church with red shutters. There is no sound, save for a howling wind, and the man just stands there, a shovel in his hand, next to an open grave.
I mean, sweet baybee Jeezus, what happens in a child's mind to cause the demonic Brawny Man to clutch at her dreams? I don't know. Honestly, I don't. But clearly, monsters have haunted me from the beginning.
But it wasn't just in my sleep that something reached for me.
See, I had a monster in my bedroom closet until I was 18 years old. I defy you to tell me otherwise.
I started to tell the closet monster story out here six years ago. I got an entry or two in, but then I misplaced the notebook in which I'd scribbled pages and pages of text. I started again, typing in a new version straight from my brain to laptop, but in the middle of the work, my Blogger screen went blank, and all was lost. I was way too focused on ideas to bother hitting "save" now and again. Gone. Bye bye. Adios, words.
Older and wiser now. Save, save, save. But at the time, I was so annoyed, I just walked away from finishing the damn thing.
Now I'm taking another shot at writing the story of my monsters. Other than the return of pumpkin spice lattes and sweater weather, October hasn't started well this year. Let me tell you of my imaginary monsters to take your mind off the real ones.
For the five people who read Part One of my Closet Monster story years ago, I apologize for the edited repeat here, but I have to start again somewhere. So, let's go!
To be continued...