By Wayne Arminavage II
My mother once said to me,
in the sluggish exhaustion of gray moonlight
that monsters did not exist.
She said, with utmost certainty,
that I should sleep easily.
For there is nothing.
Nothing in the closet,
under the bed,
around the corner,
behind the curtains,
or in the kitchen down the hall.
Sly as she was,
and naïve as I was,
I believed her.
A serpent that would swallow me whole,
a spider that would bite my neck,
or a masked maniac with a bloody machete,
were all too bizarre for this very real life.
But my mother was wrong.
She never mentioned that
when we become adolescents and adults,
every step outside of our bed,
is the nighttime that we feared as babies.
And she never mentioned that as an adult,
with emotions all of our own,
darkness comes when we are meant to be awake.
Yes, monsters are very real,
and more insidious than we ever imagined
as an innocent, innocuous child.
They wear masks too.
Just like in our childhood nightmares.
But real monsters’ masks are made of something far more dangerous
than plastic, rubber or metal.
They’re made of smiles.
Twisted and contorted around their barbed-wire laughter,
that cuts you like a knife,
their smile masks are even more terrifying.
They don’t need knives,
or sharp teeth,
or a serpentine body.
The only thing they need
to suffocate you,
bleed you out,
or take your life from you,
is their words.
Oh how my mother was wrong.
“Monsters are real,”
I told her many years later.
“You’re just not looking in the right places.”