I’m 76 now and things look different to me.
First of all, I don’t run up and down stairways anymore. I trudge the steps. When I do the laundry, I have to climb down 26 steps and then back up the same 26 steps.
But that isn’t the major change. I have clear memories of being frightened at bedtime. I knew there were monsters hiding in my room. The first thing I would do upon getting ready for bed, besides putting on my pajamas, was looking deep into my clothes closet, pushing the clothes aside to make sure the creatures weren’t hiding there.
Then I would make my way to the bed and bend down and look under the bed, because I knew the demons hid there and were waiting for me to climb into bed and catch me when I was unaware.
I believed in vampires, werewolves, and ghosts. I knew death was a reality because one of my friends went for a tonsillectomy and died during the operation. Like me, he was eight years old. I asked my mother what happened to him and why did he die? She told me not to worry, “Dying is just like going to sleep!”
Well, that didn’t help my frame of mind at all. Once she told me that I knew that there was a good chance, once I fell asleep, that I would die in the night.
When I climbed into bed, I would get under the covers but make a peephole to watch my room for the creatures. If, for some reason, I lost the peephole, I would have to get out of bed and check the closet again; check under the bed again because I knew, while I wasn’t paying attention, the monsters could have snuck into my room.
There was no sense in hiding under the covers without watching because I knew, quite well, that just because you don’t see it coming, that doesn’t mean you’re safe and it can get you while you hide. You have to pay attention, just like looking both ways when you cross the street.
Something changes within us as we grow older. Do we block the realities of the monsters out? Do we bury our fears in our subconscious mind? Do we just put our childhood fears into boxes within our minds and close them off?
I started using drugs when I was very young. I drank codeine-based cough syrup and boosted the high with Doriden, Seconals, or Tuinals. Did I pick up drugs to cover my childhood fears? I know that when I was high, I usually felt safe. There were times when the fears popped through my high and I would jump up, startled by the terror, but then I would slip back into my drug dreams.
Was I safe? I don’t think so. I was just less aware of the realities that were waiting for me. Is this what happens as we grow older and become what they call “adult” or “mature?” As we age, do we just ossify and become more concerned with worldly things, as opposed to supernatural effects?
I know there are sounds I can’t hear. I know there are things that exist that I cannot see. My sensorium is limited to that which I am allowed to be aware of. There are things going on, even inside me, that are creeping towards my finish. I know this is true because I’ve seen it happen to other people I know.
When I went to prison because of my use of drugs, many fears came back. I thought I would die before I was released. Being inside steel and stone revived old fears and brought about new fears. Not everyone in prison is your friend.
I had a cellmate once who said to me, “What would you do if I set you on fire while you sleep?” I looked at him and told him that he had to sleep sometime too. Nothing more was said about it but it did shake me up. Maybe what I said shook him up too.
I realized that not all monsters were invisible. I found that I could not even trust my own thoughts. Imagine if every thought you had was true. If you don’t believe me, just monitor your thoughts for a 15-minute period. No editing allowed. If you think it, it could happen.
I don’t know which is worse — getting old or being a child. Both aspects of our existence have drawbacks. Don’t forget to check under your bed before you go to sleep. Reality is not always your friend.
I hope, dear reader, that I haven’t upset your world. That was not my intention. I just wanted you to know who I was when I was a child and who I am now that I am older, but not necessarily wiser. Welcome to my world.