Thanatophobia

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Fear and I go way back.
Back to the days when
he would show up on the news
as another girl missing from her bed.
“That poor girl,” reporters would say.
“She was only twelve.”

I would lie awake
and replay horrendous stories of murder
full of images
that should never cross a young girl’s mind.
Fear would sit at the foot of my bed
and whisper words
to fuel my bedtime stories.
I’d listen intently
as he unraveled beautifully
unnerving tales
of little girls, just like me,
finding similar fates
to those on the news.

I developed a routine science
of waiting long enough
for my parents to fall asleep,
crawling out of bed,
and whispering in their ears
that I was afraid of the men in my dreams.
They groggily lifted the covers
and with this act of acceptance,
fear would win again.

I became too old
for my late- night escapades.
Fear was relentless, though.
I would close my eyes
and he would soundlessly
creep to my bed
and whisper our shared memories
that I wanted nothing more
than to forget.
I turned to nighttime sitcoms
allowing the comedy styling
of the Tanner Family
and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air
to lull me to sleep.

Somewhere between the news stories
and the restless nights,
we’ve forgiven each other
for the distress we’ve caused the other.
He stopped showing up every night
and I stopped living with the worry
that he might show up today.

Fear and I have grown apart
these past few years.
We exchange Christmas cards
and share
“I used to know you”
head nods
when we pass each other on the street,
but we are essentially strangers
to whom we’ve become.

I’ve lost the only friend
who fully understood my
senseless dread.
Although it’s strange living without
my former constant companion,
he’s not a friend I’d embrace again.





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