26 April 2003

It's Only Your Imagination

The one thing about my childhood that has continued to haunt me was the phrase, "It's only your imagination." That statement has always been an excuse in my opinion, something that parents said to brush off future complaints a child may have about a creature being in their room. My mother used to say that to me every night. She would tuck me into bed and kiss me good night. When she would reach for my lamp I would whine, asking her to leave the light on to keep the monsters away. But since I didn't have a job and didn't pay the electricity bill, the light would suddenly disappear, throwing my room into the world of shadow and darkness where things that went bump in the night came out to play. I would hold her parting shot to me like my blanket, which was, "There's nothing in your room. It's only your imagination."

I always wondered what was the deal with our imaginations, its purpose and all. It didn't seem to come out during the day when I was falling asleep in my lecture classes, nor did it help me when I needed to say something witty to someone who was smarter than me. It had also abandoned me when I needed a very good and simple lie. At these times I couldn't help but question its usefulness. The only thing it did successfully was keep me up at night.

Why was it that my imagination let monsters come alive? It let goblins creep around at night, slowly opening doors just to slam them. Some would eat our food while others tried on my clothes, leaving the ones they didn't like in a pile on the floor. The monster under my bed had nothing better to do than to grab my feet or hands if they hung over the mattress, making me scream in fright as if it lived only to smell my fear. It would then disappear under some invisible trap door when the sun came up, just to come back the next night.

I didn't understand why my imagination let ghosts run up and down the hall, walk through walls, and float over my bed. I would see their white faces smiling at me against the blackened air, their ghostly teeth jagged and full of holes, as their eye sockets looked at me, seeing. Their white, decaying clothes would shimmer with the absence of light, and their gangly fingers would reach out to me in an attempt to touch me before I threw my blanket over my head. When I would look again they would be gone, replaced with shadows that ran along the wall, only to be seen in my peripheral vision. The shadows seemed to laugh without sound as they raced around my room playing tag, before vanishing into the closet.

According to my imagination, the closet was the entrance and exit to any creature allowed into my room, and because of that I feared it the most. I would stare at the closet door in horror as I watched it slowly open, its buttery light spilling onto the carpet as a hand of mangled fingers came around to grasp the handle. Sometimes I heard a growl, or the monster with a voice as rough as gravel would say my name. I would then bolt out of my bed, out of reach of the monster under it, to fly into my parents' room before whatever it was had a chance to eat me.

Now that I'm an adult, I understand that the monster under my bed isn't real, that the shadows on the wall came from the headlights of cars driving by, and my closet door had always been open a crack with the light on. So now, when I go to sleep and hear the goblins coming out for the night, I simply close my eyes and think, "It's only my imagination."