I get ready for bed. I turn out the overhead light and realize I forgot to turn on the bedside lamp. No big deal and certainly not worth turning the overhead light back on for the short, uncluttered distance to my bed, right?
I walk bravely through the dark room to the bedside. I reach for the extra pillows and toss them aside. It’s very dark. And very still. My ankles feel particularly exposed.
Too still. Without waiting to pull the bedcovers down, I jump on the bed and laugh at myself. I’m not four. I’m forty-four. And I’m still afraid of the monster under the bed.
I think about the monster under the bed quite often. I’ve never seen him, but he’s been with me since I was little, moving from one bed to another, one room to another, one house to another. I imagine him as two long arms with grasping, reaching, pincer-like, warty, green hands. What’s at the other end of those arms is a mystery because, of course, he doesn’t exist. He’s the curse of too much imagination.
Or is he? I think the monster under the bed is irrational fear, and irrational fear comes in many forms. In today’s world, irrational fear can seem frighteningly realistic. Ebola. EV D68. Russia. ISIS. All of them grasping, reaching, strr-etcchh-iinn-ggg to reach bare ankles from under our beds.
My monster hasn’t reached me yet, but maybe that’s because I’m too fast for him. I can still jump up on the bed and snatch my ankles away too quickly for him to get me. But what will happen as I age and slow down? In spite of what you might think, forty-four is still pretty spry. Maybe I should test my irrational fear, stand by the bed in the dark with my bare ankles and feet pointing toward the monster. If he grabs me, I can give him a good, sharp kick in the face, right?
And maybe he wouldn’t since I know he’s not really there. Probably.