I wasn’t asleep long before a tap on my cheek startled me awake. I sat straight up in bed. The cheek-tap came from my son, Jake. He stood beside my bed, dressed in SpongeBob SquarePants jammies.
He rubbed his eyes. “I can’t sleep.”
“Come on. Let’s get you a drink of water.”
“I’m not thirsty. Can I sleep with you and mom?”
I glanced at my wife. She snored softly. “No, let’s not wake Mom up. You’re a big boy. You need to stay in your own room.”
Hi sniffled. “But … there’s something in my closet.”
I swiveled my feet out of bed and stood. “Come on, Tiger. We’ll go check your closet.”
I herded him into his bedroom, turned on the light, and opened the closet. All his clothing was off the hangers in a heap on the floor.
“Jake, why are these clothes on the floor?”
He shrugged his shoulders.
“Well, there’s nothing to be afraid of in here. But in the morning I want you to hang these clothes on their hangers.”
“No buts, let’s go. Into bed.”
“But Dad, it’s the clothes. They’re alive.”
I never believed in repressed memories, thinking attention-craved Hollywood celebrities manufactured them. Childhood traumas created to “remember” and talk about. Sad, desperate attempts to feed their egos with sympathy from concerned fans. How pathetic. But when Jake mentioned the clothes being alive, cold fingers crept up my spine and tickled my brain, releasing a childhood memory. A terror-filled incident long forgotten.
“What’s wrong?” Jake asked.
I knelt down beside him, our heads at the same level. Even though my newfound memories demanded attention, I pushed them aside for a moment. I didn’t want to scare my son.
“Jake, tell you what. Just for tonight, you can sleep with Mom and me.”
Relief washed over his face. I picked him up, carried him to my bedroom, and laid him next to my wife. He fell right asleep.
She woke. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” I said. “Just nightmares.”
She sighed and rolled over.
I got into bed next to Jake.
Memories flooded back to me. The mental trick I had used to ignore them no longer worked. I’d been focused on Jake, making him feel safe, but now the past filled my thoughts.
I lay on my back, wide awake, watching shadows play sinister games on the ceiling, and turned things over in my head. Jake had said the clothes were alive. I knew it to be true. Years ago I had the same experience. The clothes, if not alive, were animated by some invisible force.