The monster is not under your bed. It is inside you.

My mother is on the phone barking the directions to Diamond House in Accra. She isn’t angry, but a dragon cannot whisper. After fifteen minutes, she puts down the receiver and repeats the entire conversation to me, ignoring the fact that I’ve been by her side the whole time. I nod without pointing this out.

The monster cannot be changed.

Four hours away, my father turns on the ignition of his Land Cruiser and backs out of the office driveway. He will drive for approximately two minutes before attempting to put on his seat belt: A dangerous juggle that could be avoided if he only strapped himself in before sparking the car. But he is my father and his mountain goat insists that a vehicle, once entered, must be moved... and that a man should return home every night—even if he lives in Accra and works in Takoradi.

Disguised as the thing that makes you strong, the monster slumbers in the crowning height of your personality.

Somewhere in the past my feet dangle over the arms of a garden chair, belying an easiness my heart does not feel. My back leans against the boy I like. Over the years, I have grown accustomed to keeping my own company. It used to make me feel special…strong…until now. Now I have met him and my tiny jellyfish of a monster no longer wants to be ‘left alone’. The problem is he is a bear in armored steel. A bear is bad enough. But encased in steel? What if he accidentally swats me. What if I accidentally sting him? What if… he feels nothing?

Do not underestimate its worth.

My mother’s doctor walks into her room .

“ How are you doing Mrs. Quist?” 

And so, she tells him. She tells him about the phone conversation with the driver who couldn’t find Diamond House. She tells him how many times her pressure has been checked and by how much it differs from the number of times he recommended it be checked. Then she moves on to her medication —I roll my eyes — The ones she has been given, the ones she has not been given and the new ones she thinks she ought to be given.  The doctor scowls, leaves the room and returns shortly, sincerely apologizing without ever admitting blame. He explains that my mother may have been overdosed twice, under-dosed three times and for someone operating on one kidney, she may have caught a disaster just in time. 

I sit up. 

Her dragon puffs out a cloud of justified smoke.

But such strength… What does the monster protect?

It is well after midnight when my father arrives. I keep my eyes closed but allow their conversation to serenade my thoughts. I’m still thinking about the boy in the garden and my monster. Is he worth the risk of letting her guard down?

Should I have to?

“Why didn't you wait till the morning? Driving at this time of the night is dangerous,” my mother starts. But my father grunts back a harmless dismissal before she can pick up steam. 

I mean a deadly jellyfish and a steel bear, how likely is that to work out? 

Slowly and tenderly, my father begins to massage her feet. 

About as likely as a fire-breathing lizard and a jumping goat.


Yaba Armahtext