A child enters your room sometime after midnight.
You know it’s your son by the silhouette of his cheek,
his spiky, sleep-tossed hair.
You say his name. He doesn’t answer.
You call his name again and
again, he does not answer.
It is your boy, isn’t it?
Or have you 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 you know.
Someone else has come upon you,
insinuated himself into your family,
eased in on a black night.
Fear slips cold gloves around your lungs and
you can’t breathe.
Motionless on the threshold, the
stranger stares at you 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 you gazing at him in the morning sun.
He smiles his gap-toothed smile.
After a minute you smile back at him.
You don’t want to think about
what you witnessed there, in the dark:
the man inside the boy, waiting to get out.