Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Monsters

It began when Cassandra's night light burned out. It was a pretty little thing, a fluorescent bulb behind a rolling blue screen with dolphins on it and a rippled plastic case that made everything look like it was underwater. She doesn't like the dark. A lot of five-year-olds don't. They think it's full of monsters, and it doesn't matter how often you check the closet or look under the bed, you can't convince them that what they can't see isn't somehow dangerous.

Or maybe it began on January 29 when a young woman was reported as missing because she had failed to show up for work. People put up posters and organized searches and formed facebook groups and looked to the local police and then the Ontario Provincial Police to find her somehow. They did. On February 8, they found her body just outside the village where my brother maintains his business.

Or maybe it began back in 1987. I remember riding the TTC from my part-time job in Etobicoke to my apartment near Lansdowne subway stop. The train passed over the park and river valley east of the Old Mill stop, and I was thinking about the news. A lot of women had been assaulted in Scarborough. The police were trying to find the man responsible. A few years later, they did.

Regardless, last night I dug through drawers and opened boxes and finally came up with a light that was bright enough to dispel the shadows, but dim enough that Cassandra could sleep. Because that's what Daddies do. They fix things. They protect their children even from harmless shadows. They tuck their little girls into their beds and tell them stories full of friendly unicorns and giant penguins and they rig up nightlights. They check in the closet and find only old clothes and a box of stuffed animals. They check under the bed and find only coloring books and slippers and the box where they keep fairy wands and princess crowns. Most important of all, they tell their babies that monsters don't exist.

Then they go out into the living room and they watch the news and they try not to bawl their eyes out because monsters do exist. They're real and they look like us and there's nothing a whole army of Daddies can do to protect little girls of any age against them. In the face of that kind of realization, all any Daddy can do is savor every day and hope for more of them and try to drown the terrible helpless feeling in the bustle of everyday living.

In the face of that, it's all Daddy can do not to confiscate every light in the house and turn his daughter's room into a fucking Christmas tree as bright as the sun.

3 comments:

Erin Lee Ware said...

reading list rating--5.

Susan Quinn said...

Damn, you're making me cry with that.

And great daddies do keep the monsters at bay. If you don't believe it, look at the girls without one.

Ulysses said...

Erin: er... is that a "minus minus 5?" (but then two minuses make a plus, so...)

Susan: It's hard to deal with not being as good a father as I need to be. Being as good as I need to be would require transcending human limitations, but that doesn't make it easier.

Thank-you both, ladies.