I saw him everywhere, when I was younger.
It’s strange, because I have such vivid memories of him — of actually seeing him, outside my window, or in the night as I rode in the car. The memories I have of him are just as real as my memories of throwing toy pteranodons in the air to pretend they could fly during preschool, or sitting on that vibrantly lettered rug in kindergarten, or watching my teacher’s lizard run across the water at daycare.
It sounds silly, now, to describe him, even though at the time he terrified me. I called him Mr. Scary. I don’t know if that was his real name, or just how I felt about him. I suspect it’s the latter, as I don’t recall that he ever spoke to me. Mr. Scary had the fabric skin and wide, staring eyes of a Muppet. Yes, I know that sounds odd. Muppets aren’t scary. They never have been. Not to me, anyway: I recognize that there are children who are scared of Oscar the Grouch, or whatever.
Mr. Scary had a large nose. I can only picture his face, up close, with a huge, beak-like nose covered in brown fabric, with little rolls of fuzz on it like a blanket that has been washed too many times. The rest of his body I only ever saw from a distance, but I recall that it was short and squat in comparison to that monstrous nose.
Perhaps this doesn’t sound frightening to you. If I’m honest, reflecting upon Mr. Scary now, he doesn’t seem that intimidating. But I will tell you, when you’re lying in your bed at night and you look down at the window that’s there, just a foot or so from your feet; and the blinds are down, but somehow they’re being held open; and you can see him, peeking in, watching you as you try to sleep… That is scary.
When you’re riding in the car with your parents and you look up at the radio tower, and that glowing red beacon on the top isn’t just red, it’s hungry; and it’s not a beacon after all, is it, it’s him, glowing red, standing on top of the tower looking down at you, and you recognize him even though he’s so tiny because he’s far away… That is scary.
The interesting thing about imagination and memory, for me, is that when I imagine something in a particularly strong fashion, I remember it just as well as I would a memory of the real world. I have a memory of putting my hand on a bee and getting stung, for example, but when I look down at the bee in my memory it has big googly eyes. Obviously, that’s not real. But I remember it.
Did I imagine Mr. Scary, all of those times he looked in my window? Did I fabricate the visions of him in the red lights at night? Logically, I know that I must have. Things like that don’t exist. Mr. Scary isn’t real. My adult mind tells me that. The thinking, reasoning part of me tells me that my juvenile brain invented him.
But: I remember him.