I’m sorry I didn’t listen when you told me how awful the world was — when you groaned and moaned and told me to hide away like you. I’m sorry I ignored your warning. When I heard your long nails claw at the floorboards at night, I didn’t ask you why — I never asked if you were alright. Instead, I scampered down the hall, crying for someone to lie and tell me things would be alright.
I’m sorry I asked for my parents to come look under my bed, look deep into your red-rimmed eyes and tell me that nothing was there. They called you nothing; they saw your pain as nothing. They said you didn’t exist because they were so invested in this fantasy that everything would be alright — that the world really isn’t scary and that monsters aren’t really real.
As I got older, I stopped running for my parents and, instead, curled underneath the sheets, hoping to escape your cries on my own. I’m sorry I never listened. I’m sorry I never crawled under the bed and sat with you and asked what you had seen — what was haunting you each night. I’m sorry I never held you at night and asked if you were alright. Maybe, had I listened just once, I would have known that people can be monsters too.
When you followed me to college, I began to wear earplugs to sleep, assuring myself that I wasn’t hearing voices — your voice — but that I just wanted some rest. I’m sorry I left you alone, causing you to wander my dorm’s hallways. I’m sorry you found even more monsters on those nights, lingering in doorways or jiggling doorknobs. I’m sorry I didn’t scooch over in my twin-size bed and offer you a spot right next to me — right where things at least seemed safe.
After graduation, you slunk under my bed in my dingy, new apartment, continuing your cries. I’m sorry I ignored you yet again. I’m sorry for the nights when I prayed you would just leave me alone and let me sleep in peace. I wish I had crawled down by you and just held you so we could talk about our monsters. Maybe if we had shared our nightmares, they wouldn’t have taken over both of our lives.
When I let him up to my apartment that night, I’m sorry I ignored your shrieks, begging me to see the monster in front of me. But I was convinced. I was convinced that true monsters looked like you, covered in scales and with daggers for teeth. Despite all of the nightmares over the years, I was sure that I could recognize a monster. I had you, after all.
But I couldn’t see that the man in front of me was more a monster than you would ever be. I’m sorry I ignored your pleas to make him leave, ignoring your hopes that maybe monsters really did only live under beds. I’m sorry for what you heard while you sat curled, shuddering under my bed that night.
And I’m sorry for all the times I cried throughout the night, sharing the sound of my tears’ descent but never admitting that we were the same. I’m sorry I suffered alone and made you do the same. I’m sorry I never asked if you were alright. I’m sorry if my sobs kept you up at night.
I’m sorry I never held your scaly hands and prayed with you — prayed that we would stop seeing monsters when we looked in the mirror — prayed that we would finally see the monsters who had stood right in front of us.