When I was a kid, my parents dropped me off at my aunt's house for the day. I was four or five. Or six.
I can't recall it was so long ago.
My aunt had 10 cats, a creepy husband, and a daughter (my cousin) who had so much metal in her mouth her lips had track marks. (You whipper snappers who bitch about your clear plastic "braces" don't know how good you have it!)
The creepy husband liked to watch creepy movies. My cousin and I liked to sit behind the couch and pretend we were playing with Barbies, but really what we were doing was sneaking peeks at the horror movies he was watching.
Because listening to the blood curdling screams wasn't enough.
That fateful day I happened to catch a creature of some kind walking down a hall. A little girl was sleeping in her bedroom. The creature wrapped his fingers around the door frame and peered in on the girl.
To this day I remember those fingers and fingernails: long, bony fingers and talon-like nails. Slowly wrapping themselves around the wooden frame of the door.
Then, the creature's head. Sloooowly peering in.
My parents paid dearly for that day of freedom. As I lay in bed that night I stared at the door frame, convinced I could see the tips of the creature's fingernails. Convinced that the second I closed my eyes he would peer in on me and eat me.
I told them as much.
Night after night. Month after month.
"I can see him!" I'd scream. "He's going to get me!" Sometimes it was right at bedtime. Sometimes it was in the middle of the night.
I believe my mother entitled this phase "We hate you" in my childhood scrapbook.
I remembered all this as I stood next to Junior's bed tonight. We let him watch Cars 2. As he lay there, his stuffed animals tucked sweetly underneath his armpits, he said, "My mind keeps seeing the mean cars. I don't want to close my eyes."
My first thought was, I so feel his pain. It was in his very bedroom that I'd slept as a child and given myself all those panic attacks. I knew exactly what he was going through.
My second thought was, Please don't let this fuck up our sleep. Please. I just want to sleep.
Or maybe that was my first thought. During the opening credits.