In October, 1998, a 10-year-old girl decided the Wes Craven film, Scream, was a good fit for her Halloween themed birthday party. As both her parents were out until 10 p.m. and her older sister was being a typical 16-year-old chaperone, no one was there to advise the wiser.
Fifteen Grade 5 girls gathered under pillows and comforters on the living room floor and proceeded to shriek loudly while hiding under Little Mermaid sheet sets for the next 90 minutes. While peering through my fingers at the box television, I experienced what I can only pinpoint as the first pangs of anxiety and pure terror.
For the next three years I had a foamy lying on the floor of my parent’s bedroom — it was there I slept every single night from the hours of midnight to six. Like clockwork, I would awake yelling at the top of my lungs as soon as the house was quiet. Afraid of nothing concrete, but afraid of absolutely everything nonetheless.
My panic attacks were intensified each morning around seven as I walked the streets of my Westside community delivering newspapers. Alone and in the dark I glanced up at each and every tree, afraid I would see the remains of a young Drew Barrymore strung from the ghoulish limbs.
I became, what some might deem, a ‘fraidy-cat.
Slowly but surely, however, my mind stopped playing tricks on me. The Scream masks became mainstream Halloween garb and I became comfortable sleeping through the night in my own bed. By the time I celebrated my 14th birthday the nighttime issue had resolved itself and was put into the past.
I did not watch anything horror-related again until I was tricked into seeing Texas Chainsaw Massacre by a gaggle of boys in my grade 12 year. By that point, the adrenaline of the handholding and a tough-girl façade enabled me to keep my fears at bay.
Then, gradually, I began to enjoy slasher movies. I made it through The Shining. I even attempted to watch The Exorcist before quickly realizing I had taken it too far and shut it off before being psychologically affected.
But not Scream. I was unready to approach the root of my initial fear.
As we age, however, I have found we begin to underestimate the hold our past has on us. The broken arm probably didn’t hurt that badly. The fear we had of moving from one monkey bar to the next was downright stupid. The hike from the lake up to the bluff wasn’t much more than a stroll.
At least, that’s what I was telling myself as I hit play on Netflix the other day — Drew Barrymore’s appearing on the screen in that cream coloured sweater, the phone ominously ringing in the background as she tried to juggle the cord and the Jiffy Pop at the same time.
It won’t be that bad, I told myself. I was ten, I told myself.
Yet, it wasn’t even five minutes in when I began to recall a face at the window — a face that had haunted my dreams 17 years ago and, obviously, still hid somewhere in my mind as a figure worthy of intense dread.
I covered my face with my hands and began hyperventilating.
“You’ve got it wrong,” my husband said, “she’s outside now, there’s no face at the window.”
But, I knew better. It was there — in my mind — clear as day.
Sure enough, moments later, I heard him yelp.
I managed to watch the rest of the movie through a combination of my fingers and my courage. Just to say I could do it, I suppose — or, to prove my ten-year-old self silly.
What I came to realize though, wasn’t that I was silly as a ten-year-old, but that I was silly now to discredit something that played such a big role in my maturation. Whether the movie should have been that scary or not was never the question, the question should have been why did I doubt myself?
We do not grow up and lose our fear of the boogeyman, of the man in the mask, of the ghosts and goblins in our closets — we grow up and open the closet. Sometimes we realize there is nothing to fear anymore and yet, sometimes, we have to recognize that we still don’t like what’s inside.
— Andria Parker is an Instagram-obsessed idealist with at least 600 words to share on every topic, ever.