When I was a toddler the moon scared me witless. I hated going outside after sundown on a cloudless night. The moon was a massive shimmering face hovering amid the pitch black void. He was motionless, sure, but could lunge at any moment. His expression seemed tranquil, of course, but he was long to gnash his teeth. If I absolutely had to be outside on a moonlit night I'd run from beneath the security of a roof to the nearest asylum. No matter how fast I moved I could never outpace the moon. Even travelling 55 mph in the backseat of the family station wagon was an impotent crack at escape. The moon followed me. He departed the Lycoming County Mall when I did, traveled at my exact pace west on Route 220, and arrived at 415 Woodside Avenue the exact second the car parked in the garage. He perched above while I darted to the front door. He lingered outside my bedroom window, glaring, until morning when the sun steered him back behind Eagle Mountain. "He sees you when you're sleeping." Yeah, and he knows when I'm awake too…sometimes he escapes the nighttime and appears DURING THE DAY.
As I aged I understood that the moon was nothing but a giant boulder captured in the earth’s gravitation pull while it traveled ‘round and ‘round the globe—a kind of perfectly controlled chaos dictated by physics. The moon did not glow itself; the lunar surface reflected the sun’s rays. The face was not a face at all, rather craters arranged in such a way to deceive a young child into believing a cheerless pair of eyes surveyed ones’ every move. (The human brain is programmed by biology to recognize faces in random patterns, you see.) The moon did not follow me—instead I was fooled by an optical illusion. What was once an ominous watchdog in the heavens had become a darn rock. I played with rocks in the driveway; the moon was just bigger and higher up.
A thought occurred to me recently on a cloudless night when the moon was nowhere to be seen. What if I've been wrong for the last 30+ years? What if the moon IS a monster? What if he's everything I thought he was when I was a child? What if he finally outpaced the car and caught up with me? Shit! What if that explains his absence in the sky? What if he’s come to harvest this faithless child because I stopped believing in him? What if he's waiting for me right now, poised behind the bushes with a carving knife? What if he’s hiding in my closet with piano wire measured to fit the circumference of an adult neck? What if he’s come to lead me by the hand to the rusty meat hook? What if he doesn’t come to call tonight, but he isn’t in the sky again tomorrow and all the “what ifs?” ricochet about my head every night until no nights remain?
No Matt, it’s just a rock. Just a darn rock.