Can’t Look

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I haven’t let my six-year-old son into the house in over a year. He’s actually been driving me crazy. I’ve tried lots of things. Earmuffs, headphones with loud music. I’ve tried blindfolds, reading, and Netflix on high-volume. But I’m not sure how long I can do this. I feel like I’m going to slip soon.

Tonight, I’ll try writing.


The first time he tried to get back in, I was laying in bed. There was a noise. I stared at the ceiling for a while, waiting and listening. Silence. Then there it was again.

Noise. Quiet noise, but incessant. Ticking.

Then that ticking eventually became scratching. Then back to tapping. Then scratching again. Back and forth.

Maddening.

So I turned over and looked through the window. There was my son staring in at me through the glass. He wouldn’t stop scraping the pane with his fingernails, which were all black underneath from dirt. I could see his skin had gotten very pale. He was grotesquely skinny now. His eyes were all red-rimmed.

“… Let me in, Mommy …” He whispered it right through the glass, although I was honestly not sure if I only heard it in my head. “… Let me in, Mommy, let me in … I’m hungry …”

I said, “No, no, no.” I was very upset and very scared. There was no way he could have climbed up the flat brick wall of the apartment, fourteen stories, up to that window. But somehow he was there clinging there like some kind of lizard.

If I’d just let him in, though, everything would be okay. I wouldn’t be upset or scared anymore. I’d be in fact very happy because we’d be together again. All I had to do was open the window.

I squeezed my eyelids shut, stayed in the bed.

“… Mommy … please … let me in … why won’t you look at me? …”

“No, baby. No, no.”

“… Look at me Mommy … look at me …”

“I won’t, baby. I can’t. Don’t do this to me. I can’t —”

“… Look at me! …”

And for a moment — just a moment — I opened my eyes once more to look at my son for what I believed would be the last time. His face on the other side of the glass starts twitching into an eager grin and he starts pawing the windowpane like a dog. His eyes were huge; black as a squid’s ink. It would be easy, so very easy, to get lost in those eyes. So easy to just get sucked up into them.

“… Open up, Mommy … I’m hungry …”

“No!” I scream. “NO!!”

His face twisted into a rictus of animalistic rage. Then he hissed at me, revealing teeth that had grown hideously long and sharp. “… Mommy! Open up! Open up, open up, open up! …”

At that moment, perhaps if I was someone else, I absolutely would have. I would have, if I hadn’t known the truth. And I thank Christ every day that I knew, because that truth planted itself firmly into the reality of what was happening. But I could not look at my son ever again. If I looked again, if I even only glanced again, even that steel-cold dagger of truth wouldn’t matter. I’d get sucked right into those dark eyes.

I squeezed my eyelids shut again and turned my back.

“… MOMMY!! LOOK AT ME!! …”

His shrieking was horrible and hellish. But now I was sure: its voice echoed only in the warrens of my mind and heart.

I got up and ran into the bathroom, locked the door. And for the rest of the evening all I could do was sit on the floor, in the corner, with my palms pressed over my ears against the distant tapping and scraping at the window in my bedroom across the hall.


This has gone on for a year. Not every night, but still far too frequently. Sometimes he shows up with a dark substance smeared around his lips and his cheeks. So far, I haven’t opened the window. I’ve been able to distract myself, as I’ve mentioned.

But I think I’m getting weaker.

My sanity can only be stretched so far. It feels like it’s fraying like a rope being pulled too hard in opposite directions. I miss him so much. I love him, of course. It’s why I can’t bear to tell anyone our names. A part of me is glad he’s still alive. Yes, I’ll readily admit that. It’s so much better to know that than the truth — the terrible, terrible impossible truth: that a year ago I found him in bed, cold as ice, without a pulse.

Yet at the same time, I know it’s not any kind of way to exist. And he doesn’t want my love. No, I don’t think he wants love at all.

And he’s still out that window, scratching, begging me … begging his mother. It’s so difficult. God, I miss him so very much. Even when I try everything I can still hear that tapping, that scratching, the tiny sound ricocheting off the inner-walls of my skull. Maddening … it’s maddening … and all I’d have to do is open my eyes, open the window, and say, ‘Come to Momma, sweetie. Come home.’

But I can’t look at him. I can not look.

And above all, I can’t invite him inside.

That’s how they get you.

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