The Monster Under the Bed

by hughestim665

“Hey?  Are you there?”

“…”

Psst.  Are you awake?  I can see your tail.”

“Hm?…snrrrrkungf…ugh.”

“Are you OK?”

Ahemsnrrrrk…yeah, yeah.  Hmphsh.”

“You don’t sound great.”

“No, no.  Just a, uh, the waking up part, thing.  It’s–”

“Oh.  I didn’t mean to wake you, I just saw your tail is all.”

“No, no, kid, don’t worry about it.  It’s fine, all fine.”

“Oh, OK.”

“…”

“I’m sorry I woke you.”

“Oh, thank you.  But it’s fine, I assure you.  I’ve slept long enough, I have.”

“You never did say how that works.”

“What do you mean?”

“The sleeping thing.  You’re not there in the day, only at night.”

“It’s really complicated, I think.  I still don’t get it myself.”

“Really?  So but where do you go?”

“I just, you know, go.  It’s not like a place, it just, well, is.”

“I don’t get it.”

“I don’t know, it’s hard to describe.  It’s like I’m not here anymore, but I know I’ll be back.  Does that make sense?”

“A little bit.  It’s still kind of weird.”

“…”

“Hey, can I ask you something?”

“Uh huh.”

“Am I normal?”

“Um…”

“At school, they make fun of me.  They say things like ‘freak’ or ‘weirdo.’”

“The kids do?”

“Uh huh.  One of them took my book today and threw it in a toilet.”

“They shouldn’t do that.”

“I don’t like it.”

“I understand.”

“Am I?”

“What?”

“Not normal?”

“That’s not an easy question.”

“But if everyone says so.”

“What about your parents?”

“I think they worry sometimes.”

“Because of what the kids say?”

“No, I haven’t told them that.  I hear them whisper in the kitchen when I’m watching TV.  And sometimes I’ll be watching cartoons, and then my Mom will just sit at the kitchen table and watch me.  She always looks sad.”

“Has she said anything to you?”

“She did yesterday, yeah.  She sat down next to me at the TV and sort of, like, talked to me.  But it was different.”

“What’d she say?”

“She asked me if I was happy.”

“Are you?”

“She said I can have friends over whenever I wanted, or if I wanted, I think she said.”

“You don’t have many friends.”

“No.”

“Any friends, right?”

“…”

“What did you tell her?”

“I said, ‘Not many kids want to talk to me.’  I said that, and she looked sad again.  Then she asked me why, and I said, ‘They don’t like me.  I don’t think anyone likes me.’  And then she was quiet for a long time and watched cartoons with me.”

“…”

“And then she went back to the kitchen and made dinner.  She was very loud.  She banged pots and pans and chopped stuff really loud.”

“…”

“I don’t know if I am.”

“Am what?”

“Happy.  I don’t know if I’ve been happy.”

“Hm.”

“Does that mean I’m not normal?  Is that why they call me ‘freak?’”

“Do you know if you’ve been sad?”

“Maybe.  I think so.  I get sad sometimes.”

“Like at school?”

“Yes.”

“Well, being happy feels like the opposite of being sad.  How do you feel when you’re sad?”

“Um, sad?  I don’t know.  Just sad, is all.”

“No, no, I mean your body.  How does your body feel?”

“Like, um, slow, kind of.  Tired.”

“Heavy?”

“Yeah, everything is kind of heavy, sure.”

“Maybe being happy, then, is the opposite of that.  Like if you were light, you know?  If moving wasn’t so hard.  Have you ever felt like that?”

“…”

“Hm.  Well, think about it.  Or if you do feel like that, remember it.  That’s how you know you’ve been happy.”

“So being happy is not being sad?”

“Sometimes, sure.  How do you feel right now?”

“My tummy hurts.”

“Roll over on your side, sometimes that helps.”

“…”

“Better?”

“A little.”

“Good.”

“Is that what makes me not normal?”

“Everyone gets tummy aches, sometimes.  They just happen.”

“No, I meant because I don’t know if I’ve been happy.  Aren’t normal people happy?”

“Or are happy people normal?”

“…”

“OK, what do you think ‘normal’ means?”

“Um, like, when other people like you, right?  If I was normal, they would like me at school.”

“Hm, I see.  Well, to be normal means to be of a certain type that’s not really different from what people expect.”

“So I’m not what people expect.”

“Right, I think that’s true.  You’re a different person than others.  You are what some people would call ‘unique,’ you see.”

“What does that mean, ‘unique?’”

“It’s like being special.  One of a kind.”

“I don’t–“

“I don’t think you should get caught up on being normal.  It’s a weird word.  Let me ask you something, why do the kids at school get to decide if you’re normal?  Why does your Mom get to choose what you want to do?”

“If they’re normal though, then they decide, right?”

“Who decides that they’re normal?”

“But they’re all alike, they all like each other.  Isn’t that what being normal is?  To be liked by other people?”

“Maybe.  I think that people liking you happens no matter how you are.  It’s luck, really, is all.”

“Huh?”

“OK, what’s the rarest thing you’ve seen?”

“Um, I saw a Cardinal last week.”

“OK, good.  You don’t see many of those do you?”

“That’s the first time I saw one.  It was at the bird feeder next door.”

“So Cardinals are rare around here, right?”

“I guess so.”

“OK, then it was pretty lucky of you to see that Cardinal, right?  If that was the only one you’ve ever seen, chances are that you won’t see one for a while, right?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“It’s like that with people, too.  Finding friends, true friends, the real ones, is a matter of luck.  People liking you is just being lucky is all.  You just haven’t gotten lucky yet, but you will.”

“So am I the Cardinal?”

“No, you’re you.  You will always be you.  The Cardinal just hasn’t come yet, I mean, as a friend, you see.”

“But why not?  Why am I unlucky and everybody else is lucky?”

“Maybe you’re not unlucky.  Maybe everyone else is pretending to like each other while they’re waiting for the Cardinal to fly by.”

“Why would they do that?”

“Maybe they’re scared.  But you’re not scared, are you?”

“What are they scared of?”

“Being alone.  Being sad.  But you’ve been sad, you know what it’s like.  You’re stronger now because of it, because you’ve gotten past it and you’re still here, right?”

“…”

“Look, don’t you think that if they’re pretending to like each other because they’re scared, then they’re not being real?”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s sort of like they’re being dishonest with themselves.”

“Because they’re scared?”

“Right.  Everyone gets scared.  You get scared.”

“Uh huh.  So getting scared is normal?”

“Sure, but you need to know that why one person is scared can be different from why another person is scared.”

“So we’re all different.”

“Right, but you all get scared, too.  You can all be different and normal at the same time.  It’s that thing that makes you different that makes you you.”

“So I am normal?”

“Maybe, maybe not.  All I know is that you’re you.  That’s all anyone can know.  And if you weren’t you, if everyone wasn’t themselves, the world would have too many of one thing.  So why not just be you, normal or not?”

“Are you normal?”

“I’m just me.”

“Do you ever think about it?”

“No.  I only really think about stuff when we talk.”

“What happens when you sleep?”

“I don’t know, I’m just gone, I think.”

“You’re only here when I am.”

“I think so, yes.”

“Does that mean I’m making you up?”

“I don’t know, I’ve never thought about it.”

“It doesn’t bother you?”

“What?”

“That maybe I’m making you up?”

“Not really.”

“That would bother me, I think.  I would want to know I’m real.”

“How do you know you are?”

“I just know.  I feel like I am.”

“Do you feel like I’m real?”

“Yes, of course.  But I don’t know if other people think you are.  But you don’t care?”

“No.”

“Why?”

“Either way, I’m still myself.”

“…”

“…”

“I like that.”

“…”

“I think I like being myself.”

“…”

“Hey?”

“…”

“My tummy doesn’t hurt anymore.”

“…”

“Are you there?”

“…”

“I’m glad you’re not normal.”

“…”

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