Monster Under the Bed
Oh, monster under the bed, today’s your day to romp, even if you are a miniature horse named Fluffy. Today's your day to shake your tiny mane, and poop in the minivan on your way to a rich harvest of equally miniature good ‘n’ plentys (why does anyone eat that?), kitkats, and weird, sticky jackolantern lollipops. Today’s your day, monster!
Today's the day we park our regular monsters in my studio, so they don't eat any trick-or-treaters. Today's the day I carve the pumpkin I bought for $9.60 at the nursery, into a bear’s head with braces, or a salamander with a stuffed-up nose, or Fred Astaire’s skull, or whatever. You tell me, monster: it’s your day.
Recently, I started hanging out with people who talk about The Veil Being Thin at this time of the year. Part of me thinks, What? How is it, at any other time? And part of me thinks, Super! Let us all agree to a time of the year when the imagination gets to come out from under the bed, and be heard.
I wonder how this Thin Veil theory interacts with the subsequent emotional intensities or stupefactions of Thanksgiving and the winter holidays. Quick, thicken that shit up again, the family’s coming to town! Or is it through the thinness that we glimpse all the monsters of disappointment, bereftness, not-met-ness, that stick around through New Year’s, when we are once again released to go back under the bed, and lick our wounds?
I personally aim to keep my monsters well-fed and groomed, to romp with them at least once a day, and to respect their need to take up space. Yesterday, at the end of a long dance weekend, I stepped into a witness role, and saw much that was delicate to the point of inertia. Much that seemed disconnected from a planet where there’s a lot going down. I watched, and as I watched, feeling the quietude of the room, something rose up in me. I took a deep breath, parked my glasses in a corner, closed my eyes, and went in. Crawling backwards, fast, then slow. One hand sweeping the ground, and then amplifying the sweep into a scrub. I am the mad washerwoman-monster, getting shit done! Wake up! There is shit to do! Both hands scrubbing, whole body, putting my back into it, collecting all the dust of the don’t-care mind onto my black clothes. Stumbling, then up drumming with my heels, leaping, spinning. I am the monster dancing at the edge of dissolution! Everything falls apart, but there’s no sense in letting what’s good slide to ruin it before its time. Sure, my knees are fucked, especially the right one, but they’re also wildly strong, and I am dancing the palpable quality of getting work done in the world. Once this day’s work is done, rest comes cleanly. Not abdication, but repair.
Monster under the bed, who put you there? If we flip this whole thing over, and now I am under there with the dusty towel, and you're reading James Hillman’s The Dream and the Underworld, how long does it take for us to turn into one another? What might it be like to be what we are, while also being allied with that greater awareness that takes no sides? What if we Murphy bed the whole thing now, and so we're standing vertically with a mattress between us? Then we do a little sideways slam-dance, bringing down into ourselves what it is that tangles us with the stars’ cold radiance (plus a little plaster), and bringing up into ourselves what roots us in the earth’s primordial warmth (plus some dust-bunnies).
If we trade roles thoroughly enough, spaciously enough, we wind up wise to them. That's what reincarnation is for, once we let go of needing it as an assertion of lineage. Oh yeah, I tried that once. It was pretty delicious, while it lasted. It was wildly suffery, when it ended.
I dream of living in an apartment with young people who leave their radios on in the kitchen, and have noisy sex behind closed doors. Are the radios supposed to mask the sex noise? It doesn’t work. In the dream, I have a cougar’s desire for young flesh (yes, Bill Clinton, I understand), but not, luckily, a clear path to access. It's too gross, going beyond leering into interrupting the flow of what is rightly a young person's game. I know that monster, and I'm sure, more times than I can count, I've played the grosser role. Try something new. Be trustworthy. Know the monster well enough to know that it won’t really burn you alive to be lonely for awhile.
Reading back on my words before time’s up is a monster – it's the one that wants this all to come out right, intelligible, clear. Fuck that. Nothing I'm writing makes sense until the whole shape of it has been allowed to shuffle out from under the bed. That’s true of everything. Let it come, let it show its true shape. I let go of the illusion that I know the whole shape, when all I can see is a snout and a pair of bright eyes. There could still be wings, or a roach’s butt, or flippers. Only don’t know.
Tonight I will be doing a kind of Audubon field count: Who shows up wearing someone else's monster, or their own? Who comes from the country, livestock in tow? Who is willing to tell me something of themselves, their imagination, what's come out, and where it’s going? And who is just a little freeloader, convinced, somehow, that the treasure’s in the bag, out there, at the next house, just a bit further and stickier?
Last year I was a trick-or-treat worker on Berkeley's golden strip, in the oasis of my friend Michelle's beautiful Alice Wonderland. The lines were absurd: miles long, adorable, compulsive, a press of need and accomplishment. And what were we handing out? Little finger-traps, to bind people together just long enough that our monsters had to talk to one another. Shit! We’re stuck! Somehow, the bed’s flipped, and we’re both underneath. Relax. Make eye contact. Move towards what binds you, until it releases of its own accord.
I'll probably just go to Price Chopper and get five pounds’ worth of safely wrapped nonsense to hand out. That's what fits. But I'll find a way to talk with all tonight's little fiends. Tell me something true. Show me something real. Do me a dance. OK, now, we are somewhere, together. You’re welcome.
Fluffy the horse stands patiently in the midst of his cowboy-clad family. He's not thinking much about anything. It's OK being out at night, because his people are there. It's OK being the monster over the bed, once everyone recognizes that they've been there, too.
Julie Püttgen is an artist, expressive arts therapist, and meditation teacher.
108 Names of Now