When I was small and electricity went, monsters would instantly populate the dark. Scratch the ‘when I was small’ part of that first sentence.
Their inconceivably ominous, overwhelmingly paralyzing forms occupied my imagination. I was terrified that they lived under the bed, in the closet, in hallway shadows and behind closed doors. I wasn’t afraid of bandits, rapists or looming dangerous men. That’s now, not then.
Where did this fear come from and when did it become so palpable? What made it so irrationally resilient? Was there any way to conquer it, such that I ran monsters, monsters nah ran me?
Much later in life, I learned that other adults were actually not preoccupied with monsters once flung into the dense uncertainty of a T&TEC failure. Were they just brave or foolish? Was it worth the risk to find out?
Observing Ziya’s recently acquired, screamingly-acute angst about the dark, I wondered if I was looking back at my own fear’s mysterious origins, if such anxiety is a natural part of everyone’s budding capacity to make-believe, the spectrum of fictive life that begins to be conceived at Zi’s developmental stage. What is it about the dark that wrecked all the hours of socialization I spent on hard propaganda about how she should be brave like Durga and strong like Kali, and badass unafraid?
It didn’t help that blackouts also scare our dog. Our dog! That left me. For the three year old and the trembling pothound, I had to believe that we were safe. Full of bravado, I lay in the stillness feeling like real big people. Dead truth was I was just waiting for Stone to get here and make everything okay.
Watching children acquire fear is like a bad premonition. Fears can kill selfhood, assertiveness, trust and happiness. I’d do anything to help Zi find her own courage long before she is also a mother and turning forty.
Speaking of bravery, Stone calls the next day to say he sees a snake in the mesh on the roof. I say hold on, I almost reach. With my phone light, I identify what indeed looks like a curled up, patterned snake, probably a macaquel and not a mapepire, though we frequently find those in the yard. I call everyone I know who rescues snakes. An insanely cool woman sends someone to Santa Cruz.
He saw it in afternoon light. Now with a proper flashlight in hand, I verify, ‘Stone are you sure they aren’t leaves?’ He says he’s sure it moved. Zi’s doing her new angst thing.
In Stone’s territory wars with insects and animals, dozens of grasshoppers have performed in yet another night chorus because of me. I’ve saved bats, caterpillars and even small frogs. Caught moths by hand. God’s creatures great and small, right? So, now up on a ladder and peering into the roof’s pitch-black recesses, I fearlessly tap along the mesh. No noise, no movement. No snake. I make sure. I climb down. I breathe.
I speed dial the insanely cool woman and tell her that we’ve handled it. She’s skeptical about the snake’s safety plus someone is almost here. I could ah dead with shame. ‘What are you going to do with the snake? We can come to collect it’, she offers. Aack! No! In my least frantic voice, I unfailingly promise, insha’allah, that no snake will be harmed by us. She calls off the rescue. I thank about four pantheons of gods.
I show Stone. No snake. We agree. All is well.
It takes a story to explain how yuh girl could fraid monsters, but not macaquel.