Bogey Man

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Flat. Featureless. Unfathomable.

So began the shape of danger which morphed over the years into different, more recognisable forms. My bogeyman became variously a thief, a rogue, a soldier, a natural disaster; a noxious substance and then a malaise of the heart.

But I wake in my parent’s new home in South Africa to the curtains caressing the window bars in the morning breeze and realise my anxieties have mellowed. Dangers in life still exist, of course, but I’m no longer held prisoner to them.

It began innocently enough:

Aged 4

“Don’t pick your nose or else the bogeyman will get you”
I wondered what he looked like and where he hid
Giant leaps to my bed were meant to outwit him
But even then, I sensed he’d get me in the end …
Disobedience being a strong point of mine

Aged 5

Draped in white sheet, eyes invisible with just a dribble patch where he screeches
I meet the bogeyman who chases me around the house
…. And wears shoes remarkably similar to those of my brother
I no longer need my bedtime ruse
And pick my nose defiantly

Aged 6

Adult talk is whispered
Expressions look dire
Bars are welded onto windows
Doors are double bolted
The words “burglary” and “thief” enter my vocabulary …
I lay awake listening carefully to the sounds of the night

Aged 7

My brother is home from boarding school
I burst into his room
Swords of morning light cut through the window guards
And highlight the bogeyman sheet covered in blood stains
Contours of the fabric ripple with a whimper
A visage appears …
eyes swollen and bruised
It’s not my brother but a stranger taking refuge in his room
Mum and Dad rush me out
My well tuned ears pick out words from hushed conversations
“neighbour” “beaten” “husband” “hiding”
Bars on windows protect us from outsiders
But for the first time I learn that danger can come from within 

Aged 55

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I’m sorting through my parents old photographs

And find a double exposure where the camera film has failed to wind on during the taking of two shots

They have no idea who it is or when the image was taken

“It’s a bogeyman, I say playfully!” …

a reminder that childhood experiences have imprinted in layers on my mind, creating colourful, sometimes confusing, memory collages

 

Plot 148 – Page 149

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