There were many words to define me as a young child: shy, creative, quasi-funny, actress and more. But above all, skittish.
The mere idea of sitting next to a fire and listening to scary stories made my heart drop. Watching a spooky movie at some friend’s sleepover unnerved me. Anytime I walked next to a dog I would grab my mother’s hand like there was no tomorrow. Butterflies, bees, mosquitos, every kind of insect made my skin crawl. Sleeping over someone else’s house was a big no-no for me. Would their parents let me sleep with the lights on? What if their closet had monsters? Who if not my own parents would protect me from the unspeakable creatures that creeped trough the endless night? Yet the most alarming idea for me were ghosts. Someone dead from the beyond could appear at any minute and scar me for life. I was ever so young and had a life to live—what if the ghost took me with it?
In due course, ghost stories seemed to be forgotten, the monsters of the closet decided to move somewhere else, dogs transformed from wolves to puppies and butterflies became something that fascinated me. The unutterable consternation and distress that inhabited me for years and years washed over me. Furthermore, I started going to sleepovers and watching Freddy-Kruger’s-type of films and listening to stories that, if younger, would had snatch away my sleep. As I grew older, the term fear was no longer associated with werewolves but with other situations; getting sick, fighting with my parents to the point of never talking to them again, getting bad grades, losing a love one. Eventually the last fear became something that I had to face, because that is the way life goes. My grandmother, who I felt was the light of my life, who lived with us since I was born, who would indulge my every whim, who would stroke my hair with the love only a grandmother feels, passed away. The word fear had not only changed its meaning but it had an accomplice: ache. At that point, I had felt the ache that makes one focus on breathing, the one that makes one unable to rest, the one that feels like one will never smile again, the one that makes one feel that a black cloud will always be there. Eventually the anguish starts to fade, very much like the foliage on the fall it falls one by one—and we start remembering without pain.
Nowadays, only a tad older and not the much wiser, I came to a realization. Ghost stories are indeed about dead people, yet that is not the scary part. Ghost stories are about people that used to turn around when someone uttered the word “mom”, couches that used to be covered in someone’s blanket, cups that used to be someone’s favorite cup, mornings that used to be shared in the sun in the kitchen. The frightening part is that the couch that will remain empty, the cups that will no longer be filled, the corners of one’s eyes that will no never spot that dog anymore. The scary part is the unsaid I-love-you’s, the unshared mornings, the undanced waltzes, the unspoken fights and ungiven apologies. If only we had known that was the last movie, the last goodbye, the last silence we kept. If only.