A child enters my room sometime after midnight.
I know it’s my son by the silhouette of his cheek,
his spiky, sleep-tossed hair.
I say his name. He doesn’t answer.
I call his name again and
again, he does not answer.
It is my boy, isn’t it?
Or have I transformed a masked stranger into a
second-grader in blue plaid flannel pajamas?
A whisper of a laugh escapes him and
it does not sound like the laughter of the boy I know.
Someone else has come upon us,
insinuated himself into our family,
eased in on a black night.
Fear slips cold gloves around my lungs and
I can’t breathe.
Motionless on the threshold, the
stranger stares at me in darkness.
Next morning at breakfast the
eight-year-old is back. His spoon lifts
in and out of a cereal bowl, flashing silver.
He sees me gazing at him in the morning sun.
He smiles his gap-toothed smile.
After a minute I smile back at him.
I don’t want to think about
what I witnessed there, in the dark:
the man inside the boy, waiting to get out.