It’s snowing this morning. Real, honest-to-god, sticking-to-the-ground, snow. I wasn’t expecting it but there it is, a light dusting just beginning to accumulate. It will be the first snow our son has ever seen or touched, and so today will be special. Or so I hope once he wakes up. Right now he is asleep in his crib while I surf the ‘Net here in my office. I’m listening to the baby monitor from which emerge the static-ridden sounds of waves and seagulls. These sounds come not from some inland sea that we denizens of Central Oregon have kept hidden from the rest of the world, but merely from the clock radio in his bedroom. It has a white noise feature that we set to “Ocean” when we put him to bed. And so I hear the same waves wash onto shore every two seconds, and the same lone seagull cries every four seconds.
Swish, swish, “scree!” Swish, swish, “scree!” Over and over.
It is repetitive and hypnotic, to the point where I find myself wondering if maybe, just maybe, what I’m hearing is not actually the clock radio at all. Perhaps behind my son’s closed bedroom door some strange portal has opened onto a distant shoreline, on a faraway world. If I go into the hall, will I see a bright light seeping ‘neath his door, the glow from a golden gateway crackling with awesome power that has somehow appeared in the middle of his room? And dare I discover where it leads? Will I see glittering, sandy, beaches awash with phosphorescent kelp and ominous tide pools under a strange night sky? Will there be alien seabirds gliding against huge, twin moons? I sit immobilized, afraid of what I may find, afraid that maybe this portal is some quasi-quantum-mechanical thing: if I look upon it, only then will it become real.
Swish, swish,”scree!” Swish, swish, “scree!” I wait nervously, afraid my seagull will suddenly go quiet upon hearing some monstrous creature emerge from deep, dark waters.
Nor do I doubt there are scary beasts in that room. I know the sounds our child makes when he sleeps, the coos and fussing that come from a wet diaper, or hunger, or just general discomfort. But these always start quietly as he rustles around, slowly emerging from sleep, and get louder and more insistent until we finally rouse ourselves to go look in on him. But sometimes, not every night, in the dead silence of a deep sleep he will scream at the top of his lungs, just once, and then go back to sleep with nary another sound.
Those moments terrify me. They bring back long-forgotten, natal, memories of when I was a child, sleeping alone in the dark, waiting for the bogeymen to come out and do unspeakable things. I remember how real those monsters were, their presence under the bed and in the closet a tangible thing, filled with gamey fur and claws that went clickity-clack. And the monsters have returned, in my son’s room somewhere, unseen and unseeable by his parents.
I am paralyzed. My rational self justifies this cowardice, ” it is simply the dream of a child, everything is fine,” but in a small corner of my mind, I know the truth. It is because I’m afraid of what I’ll find. Opening that door just might make it all real and unleash the horrors beyond. What then???
And why does my son only scream once? Is it even him screaming?
The snow is a thick blanket on the ground now and I am holding my breath, waiting for a seagull to cry.