My bogeyman woke me up again last night. When I was little, he would hide silently in the house, creeping toward me if I dared to breathe. He wore a long black trench coat and a black fedora. I never saw his face, but he appeared in my dreams often, conjuring suffocation curses for my family. Upon waking, I would lie in the dark, so still my muscles would ache. My ears would burn listening for any sign that he was in the house, and where.
I know now that the bogeyman was the fear of brother’s severe asthma. Not understanding what could make a person suffer from lack of breath like that, I assigned a monster to it. How was I to know that this is something that would not attack me or my parents. To a little girl, this was a random assault that could happen at any time, to any of us.
These days the bogeyman resides in my head. He says terrible, frightening things that wake me from my sleep, sometimes suddenly with my heart beating wildly. Some nights I can lull him back to sleep by adjusting the blankets, breathing deeply, evenly. Last night was not such a night. I pleaded with him to go, but he would not.
He started out by reminding me that I had still not paid the bills that came in the mail last week. Then he reminded me of some purchases I made this weekend, shaming me for my impulses. I tried reasoning with him that it had been so long since I had new clothes, and he scolded me for my selfishness.
Next he went down a common path about saving for the future. He shouted that I ought to hope to die before I run out of money. I thought of the different ways I could end it if it came right down to it. And he asked me, laughing, how many people I thought would actually show up at my funeral. He was cruel. Relentless.
In the wee hours of the morning, he told me my whole life had been a joke. That my poor children had had a horrible mother, I never made one decent life choice, and what made me think anything I was doing now was better?
As I sobbed hoping I could cry myself back to sleep, the dogs came and went, tails wagging low to the ground. Instinctively, they nuzzled my side and licked my face. Ever the protectors, they finally turned the bogeyman away. Two hours after he had awakened me, he was gone. We all finally slipped off to sleep. No longer than forty-five minutes later the alarm went off. The dogs rose as if it had been any other night, eager for their morning walk. While I propped my head in my palm at my desk, I imagined them home quietly napping.
I no longer recognize the bogeyman by his trench coat and fedora. Now that I am grown, I recognize him by the fear he instills in the night, threatening me with the sharp blades of the unknown and incomprehensible. He is the darkest part of me, surfacing in the deepest dark of the night. All at once I am a child again. Not willing to breathe lest he know I am here. Just when I think I have outgrown the bogeyman, I find he has followed me into adulthood. He waits and listens to my hidden thoughts and fears, using them to torment me.