Monday, April 11, 2011

The Secret Under the Bed

The following is based on a dream I once had......... Any resemblence to reality is a coincidence, as this is simply a story based on fictitious events.

I kept a secret under my bed. It was a burden so great, yet a responsibility that I could not escape. Oh how I wished it would be discovered and lifted from me. I wished an intruder would ransack my bedroom or that some prying inquisitive eyes would call the authorities with a search warrant. I could barely keep from revealing the secret. Yet, at the same time, my lips remained sealed and I did my best to conceal my dark secret. I played in my mind in-depth scenarios of subtle ways that I could reveal the secret or to facilitate its discovery.

My days and nights were filled with anxiety. How I wished there was someone, anyone to confide in. But, I felt isolated and alone. While I was away at school or work, was the only time I felt a degree of freedom and peace. Though exhausted, I’d hastily jump out of bed, quickly going through the minimal formalities associated with proper hygiene and rush off to work and school. As the end of the day approached, a feeling of sick dread and anxiety grew. As I watched the clock tick, my skin would become moist and clammy in anticipation of what awaited me at home. Nervously, I’d glance at my watch; my throat tightened and my stomach felt as though it contained a lump of heavy lead. As I walked to my car, the keys would rattle and jingle in my shaking hand. My legs felt weak, as though they would buckle underneath my weight. I’d slip into my car, and with my heart quickly pounding, I’d make my way home. Unable to concentrate on the road, I’d somehow, find myself safely home, not even remembering the trip as if driven by auto-pilot.

During the daytime I was usually withdrawn and anxious. I did not watch tv. I did not listen to music. I engaged in solitary activities: reading, writing, drawing and playing with dolls. I would clean and organize my room and my books and my dolls and my various collections. I had many collections: rocks, stickers, stamps, petrified/ shellacked hermit crabs….. All these things were my expressive outlet- especially writing. I could spend hours, and even an entire night simply writing- filling entire notebooks within a few short hours! This was the age before computers- so I would write and write and write until my fingers were red and callused and sore. I had to finish, I could not leave a piece of work unfinished! Oh, how I lived my life in my room. I lived out my dreams- reenacting a perfect world, and fulfilling my wishes for revenge and my dreams. I created a miniature replica of a town, filled with homes and schools, stores and people. All those little tiny people represented real people. After school from the time I was eight throughout high school, I lived out my life of normalcy and dreams through the fictitious town I created as well as its inhabitants. I found peace by playing within that town. Anything that happened in real life, I would reenact in my small miniature town. No detail was too insignificant to include in my little town replica. In fact, it had its own transportation system, school system, a library and even a newspaper! The newspaper was available both in miniature format as well as larger traditional format- to this day I still have some copies. I enjoyed books and lived my life’s adventures from reading literature and novels. I also enjoyed philosophy, psychology and science as well. Much of my knowledge and experience came from books. I lived life experiences through reading, and made them come to life through my writings, my fantasies and the re-enactment through my dolls. To me this was life!

I looked in the mirror, and could not reconcile the image of the middle aged face staring back at me. Why did I appear so old? It couldn’t be me that I was staring out at, perhaps from lack of sleep my eyes were deceiving me. I was in a constant state of exhaustion. I read books to pass the lonely anxious hours away. I drank coffee and soda all day long to stay awake. I lived a life of quiet solitude, I was always a bit antisocial and distant- mostly keeping to myself. I did not have too many friends, and rarely entertained guests. I was mostly alone with my thoughts, except when I could escape through reading.

I especially dreaded the nighttime when it was time to retire, and loathed the mere site of my bedroom. I would stay up half the night awaiting the early hours of the morning when I was assured that everyone was asleep. At that time I would quickly sneak down the staircase, with my pillow tightly clenched in my right hand, and my blanket, clenched in the other, down to the sofa. Just before daybreak, before anyone would awake, after an hour or two of a pitiful, restless sleep, I would sneak quietly back up the stairs, back into the dreaded bedroom, and slip under the covers of my death tainted bed. I kept an ominous oppressive secret that I could neither share nor reveal, no matter how I prayed that it would be exposed or discovered. Under my bed, beneath the rusted, creaky, metal bed frame of my bed, I kept my grand-father, encased in an oversized shoebox of a coffin. Nestled safely from prying eyes I kept the secret burden of the decaying body of my grand- father. The putrefying stained carpet beneath the weakened, wet corrugated oblong box was safely concealed by the dingy, dusty ruffled bed skirt. The oppressive odor of decay was masked by a mixture of moth balls, bath salts and fresh potpourri. Don’t ask me the details or reasons, of how this came to be, because I don’t know how I came to be in possession of my grandpa. All I know was that I somehow bore the grave responsibility of keeping his remains. Why he was not buried in the consecrated ground of a cemetery, I do not know. My grandpa passed away unexpectedly when I was young, and as an adult, he was still with me. He was there under my bed after all these years. Not once did I look inside the container that encased his lifeless body – which after all these years was encased by layers and layers of sheets, bedding and towels- in an attempt to cover the stench and the fluids of decay. At one time having him with me brought me comfort and security, but now, I simply felt a strong sense of revulsion and an urge to break free and to simply get away- even if it meant running away. Oh how I had loved him in life, and deeply missed him. His unexpected death was as if it were a dream- it was unreal. I remember each and every minute detail of his last day as if it were yesterday. After his death, time seemed to have stopped. My mom as well as sisters, forever remained young as did I. I did not grieve and I did not mourn. I was strong and I simply moved on, barely acknowledging that anything had changed, pretending it didn’t happen yet knowing deep inside he was gone and I’d never see him again. His photos were hung on my wall. His button down dress shirts and his jacket still retained his comforting scent as I had remembered from my youth. His hat was collecting dust where it remained on the hook on the door, and his boots rested on the mat near the door just as they would have remained during his life. His wallet, his keychain, eyeglasses and pens and other personal effects- were safely contained in a small jewelry box on my dresser. I could not part with my grand father nor any of his things, yet at the same time, I felt a mixture of repulsion and trepidation.

I woke up one morning, it was a bright sunny day. I had no plans for the day. That same old tired reflection stared back at me as I half heartedly rubbed a dry toothbrush against my teeth. When I was finished, I let the toothbrush fall from my limp hand into the sink. In slow motion I picked the shirt and pants that had been carelessly dropped on the bathroom floor the previous evening and dressed myself. I was exhausted and did not care about anything. Yet suddenly without any warning or reason, I felt a determination that I had never felt before. As if animated by an unknown force, I quickly went back into my bedroom, taking all of my grand father’s things from the bedroom and hastily piling them in an empty laundry basket. I had an idea that I would carefully package each of the items and mail them to my aunts and sisters or perhaps place them in the attic. Next, I was drawn to my bed, and before I could talk myself out of it, I instinctively reached underneath my bed, and with a firm grip, began tugging as the layers of soiled, stiff and crusted bedding, throwing them carelessly into a pile at the side of my bed. There seemed to be a never ending supply of dusty, worn sheets, blankets, comforters and linens. I bent down bringing my face eye level to the space underneath my bed, in eager dread of what I’d find. With the rough carpet fibers scratching my cheek and ear, giving myself a bad case of rub burn, reaching my outstretched arms, as far as I could reach, under the dusty cavern beneath my bed, I found the remaining cocoon of bedding which I tugged out from underneath with the tips of my fingers. There was no stench of decay, and no stains of body fluids to be found, only years worth of dust that had settled underneath the bed. I sneezed as a puff of grey dust filled the air - as I stared at the dusty linen cocoon that I had unearthed from under my bed frame. I watched the dust particles dance in the sunbeams of light which shone through my bedroom window. With shaking hands, my anxiety mounted as I unraveled the layers of dusty, yellowed sheets, one layer at a time. Finally I reached the last layer of bedding, and after having unrolled it there was nothing at all contained within the bedding. I was puzzled as I confronted the fact that there was nothing at all inside the sheets and no indication that anything, other than just plain sheets had been under my bed after all these years. I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. The nightmare as far as I was concerned was over, there was nothing there and I was satisfied to leave it at that. I had no desire to pursue the issue any further, nor to question what I had imagined had been there. I could finally move on in peace. The only thing remaining of my grand father were the happy and peaceful memories.

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