Someone is watching me sleep. I’ve named him John. Because John is a funny name that helps me forget his piercing all-knowing stare. I feel like he can see through my eyes and feel through my fingertips, enveloping my soul with dark depressing nothingness until I’m not myself anymore. But because his name is John, the monster in my closet doesn’t scare me as much.
My room has collected sticky stained orange furniture. Each piece is stained with rings of water damage: Tall dressers and dusty plastic foliage. I live in my mom’s childhood home in the room she grew up in. She won complete custody over me in court. She told me we were short of money afterward and couldn’t buy a fancy new house like the ones the other kids at school live in. Sometimes I don’t believe her though. She still bought fancy dresses and left me home alone to watch my favorite cartoons until I couldn’t stay up anymore. Sometimes she wouldn’t come back until the next morning. She would usually be cranky on those days. I wish she liked cartoons as much as I did. If she did, she might’ve stayed home to watch them with me tonight. It’s not so bad with her out of the house though. I know I’m not alone.
John has shown himself to me many times before. However, even when John’s shadow is not painted across my outdated sixties wallpaper, I still feel his presence around me. When I’m laughing with friends or focusing on a hard lecture at school, I still get worried he will reveal himself from around a corner. And I’ll have to lock eyes with the regret and resentment he holds. I like to imagine he’s hovering over my shoulder because he’s nervous and afraid about making good first impressions on people. John just needs a friend to give him confidence and help motivate him to put himself out there. He’s just like me.
Something is different tonight though. I can tell John is in my closet but… I don’t know. Does he feel friendlier? I can’t see him but I feel like he’s smiling. My towering dressers don’t feel as tall and my fake plants look like they’re blooming and vining a beautiful canopy over my bed in this dim yellowish light. This is nice. I feel nice. I like friendly people.
I peel my scratchy comforter from my face. Sitting up in my bed I take in my surroundings. My room is dusty and everything is polished. This feels good. John must’ve done this for me. He must want to apologize for his behavior.
Moving my legs towards the left side of the bed, I place one foot after the other onto the cold hardwood floors.
“It’s okay John,” I announced.
Each step feels like there is zero gravity. The only thing keeping my feet onto the floor is the suction of my heels sticking and unsticking to the ground until I am looking at my reflection in the mirror of my closet. My facial features are barely able to be made out. My hooked nose and my short forehead being the most noticeable. The lighting hides my dislikable features.
I place my hand on the closet door. Firmly pressing my fingertips against the glass I start to slide it open.
“I forgive you,” I continued.
The closet is open. I am making eye contact with John. Something that used to be so scary.
Except this is not John. Am I still looking in the mirror?
In a shaky breath, I whisper, “What’s going on? Why am I still looking at my reflection?”
This time I could see my gross red pimples speckled across my cheeks and forehead. Along with my lips that I wish weren’t oh-so-paper thin. I step back hesitantly, releasing my fingers from the mirror.
John responded, “Because you’re looking at yourself. Your whole self.”
The guilt and sadness that I associated with the dark figure came back. I feel my heart pounding. The depressing memories of my mom and the embarrassing things I’ve said race to my brain replaying them too fast for my brain to comprehend. This hurts. The dressers are growing taller than the empire state building suffocating everything in their path until they become my room. This hurts. The canopy that had grown over my bed is wilting. The petals fall to my comforter wilting and shriveling into dust. This hurts. I feel like I’m falling apart.
“Stop! I don’t like this! I’m scared!” I yell.
My fake self responds once again, “I can make this go away. You’ll feel better. You won’t feel bad ever again.”
I feel too overwhelmed. I fall to my knees pressing my hands onto the wood. My fingernails make screeching as if on a chalkboard against it.
I look up at my fake self.
A sharp pain enters my stomach. The fear and depressing feelings fade away instantly. I almost feel nothing. Like I’m floating. My fake self or I guess John, was right. This does feel better.
I look down at my stomach. Crimson spills everywhere onto the floor. It’s light and delicate. I look back up at the closet. No one is there. All that is left are the fingerprints I left on the mirror.