Try This: Imagining the Monster
Going through instead of around
Akin to the headache trick…
I wrote about the headache trick last year. It’s a stage trick where a member of the audience with a headache is asked to close her eyes. She’s asked to give her headache a color, then a shape, then a size. The headache sufferer might go on to give the headache a specific smell and taste. A texture. A name. Once the pain is completely envisioned, it’s gone. A miracle of healing!
Now the Mean Reds…
As Truman Capote described them in Breakfast at Tiffany’s:
The blues are because you’re getting fat, and maybe it’s been raining too long. You’re just sad, that’s all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re afraid, and you don’t know what you’re afraid of.
Throughout his childhood, Capote was often parked in strange hotel rooms while his mother and father enjoyed the nightlife. He’d wake alone, abandoned in a dark room, filled with terror. As he died in Joanne Carson’s guest bedroom he reverted to that same panicked child screaming for his mother. Call them night terrors or panic attacks, Capote suffered them his whole life.
Ghosts appear and fade away…
As the band Men at Work described in their song Overkill:
Day after day it reappears
Night after night my heartbeat shows the fear
Ghosts appear and fade away
And per my doctor…
If you’re going to drink alcohol before bed, you’ll wake up around three in the morning. By then your body will have processed the sugar, and you’ll feel an overblown angst.
However you put it, the headache trick works
Whatever the reason, when I wake halfway through the night filled with fear, I create a monster to justify it. Lots of teeth. Scaly hide. Sharp claws. If I’m going to afraid, I might as well be afraid of some image. As of late the most frightening thing I’ve seen in films was the overly tall demonic young man in It Follows, the stalking creature, impossibly tall and thin, who comes down the beach and stoops to look in the cabin window. But as soon as I envision—fully envision—something to justify my fear, that fear is gone.
An aside: I once asked David Fincher why he didn’t show Gwyneth Paltrow’s head in the box at the end of Se7en. He said that a moment after the reveal, the image would’ve seemed comic. Once we can see the horror, we can dismiss it.