Have you ever had a monster in your closet?
I don’t mean a real monster, of course, but rather the imaginary perils that children love to create from piles of dirty laundry and tree-branch shadows on nighttime walls. The kinds of monsters that never cross their mind during the day when they’re playing with their toys in the afternoon sun, but spring out of nowhere come bedtime when mommy and daddy just want you to lay down and at least pretend to fall asleep.
I wasn’t the kind of kid who cowered under the blankets and shrieked for mommy if that evil tree-branch tapped my bedroom window. No, I wanted the monsters to be real. I dared them to come out and face me. I would wait until my parents had sneaked away to their own room, and then I’d wiggle out from under the covers, plastic sword from the Dollar Store in my hand, and challenge the monsters. Every night I’d taunt them, call them names – whatever I could think of to make them slither out from their hiding places and fight me. I had this dream, you see, that I’d slay a monster and become a hero: the first grade-schooler to ever kill the monster from their closet.
Of course, eventually I grew out of such things. I stopped threatening the imaginary creatures in my room and went on to real life. But every now and then, when I was having a rough day or felt like the world was being unnecessarily cruel to me, I’d sit in the middle of my bed, pretending to have that cheap plastic sword in my hand, and yell at the monsters again, daring them to challenge me, urging them give me the opportunity to be a hero.
Yesterday, I lost my job, my girlfriend broke up with me, and the woman in the apartment above mine flooded my kitchen again by letting her tub fill too high. So I flopped onto my bed, screamed into my pillow, and since I was the only one in the apartment now, I grabbed my imaginary sword.
“Come get me, already!” I screamed, pouring my frustrations into the fantasy. “I’m ripe for the picking! Just come get me!”
If I live to be a hundred years old I’ll never forget the way the closet door creaked open in that exact moment.