All women innately fear two things (both quite rational, of course): 1) Cancer, a subject we can only speak about in low whispers, as if it will catch and spread like gossip if we discuss our obsessive ruminations over every bump and lump with full-throated voices, and 2) the big, bad boogey-man, a dark, faceless figure who lurks at the edge of our periphery vision, yearning to do us grave harm, or at the least, startle us out of our wits.
Distress over cancer aside, I generally sleep like a cold snake, unless a dog barks, or a branch scrapes the window, or a siren breaks the silence, reminding me that the boogey-man never nods off. One such night, as my husband and I slumbered, at approximately 3:19 a.m. a terrifying, thunderous, shattering crash arrested me from tranquil dreams. My fingers clawed onto my unsuspecting spouse's flaccid arm. The noise was much too loud to be cancer.
An intruder I immediately surmised, stiffened with horror, perplexed that my mate, whom I keep handy for just this sort of event, still lay curled on the bed like a gob of mashed potatoes.
"Did you hear that?" I whispered, barely able to expel air from my lungs.
I checked his pulse and gave him a nudge. "Honey wake up. I think someone is downstairs." As soon as I articulated this, however, a third fear came to mind; the worry that something terrible had happened to my children.
"Oh, no, I think the bunk-beds collapsed," I breathed, leaping over my groggy spouse still mumbling about dreaming the sonic boom.
I rushed across the hall and bombarded my safely sleeping children with questions. "Are you alright? What happened? What was that noise? What are y'all doing in here?" Patting them all over, I found no broken bones or gaping wounds or even a contusion or two.
They stretched and turned over, saying, "Is it morning already? I thought it was Saturday. We don't have to get up."
Clearly, lethargy gripped all the men in my house by the throat. I feared (#4) I must face my nemesis alone. Briefly, I tried to convince myself that perhaps my bedmate did dream out loud, in surround sound.
Rushing back to my room, I found him sitting up holding a metal bat. "Did I dream it or not," he questioned, too loud for my personal comfort.
"Shush! Someone broke a window and came in. You need to go check it out."
He crept down the stairs, which squeaked like the breaks of a freight train, to investigate. Seconds ticked by. Then minutes.
I realized my fifth fear: the bad guy capturing my beloved.
Just before I enacted plan B (move everything from under my bed so the children and I could hide under it), my long lost love called for me.
A sixth fear darkened the door of my imagination. What if the boogey-man was holding my husband hostage and forcing him to call me hither? I spoke code to flesh out the situation.
"Is the floggin' rooster in the pen," I cautiously queried.
"What," came his irritated reply.
"Should the hen and chicks fly?"
"Lucy, get down here," he commanded. "I know what you heard."
In the dining room, a crystal bowl and four candlesticks lay scattered and crumbled across the tile hearth, beneath shards of glass from a large mirror that an unseen hand (fear #7) had flung off the wall.
Wait, make it eight fears. Women have eight, if I include the fear of seven years of bad luck.