There was an odd wind that evening that blew across the field. Something about it that carried an air of intrigue as it rustled the tall grass. As the big top tent rose, curiosities were wheeled in one by one under the cover of the night. Some boxes were large, and others were small. The night protected those wandering eyes until everything was ready. The ringmaster already knew how his performance tomorrow would awe. He knew exactly what to say to reel them in.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he would start.
“I have for you today, a look into the fantastical and the strange, straight from the beautiful Caribbean.”
He would motion to the left, where he kept the treasures of the deep. Including the sirens that had been stolen away just for his collection.
“Be careful not to listen too intently, for those which follow songs into the depths rarely return.”
He delighted at the thought of seeing the faces of the patrons light up. But still, this was not the cruellest monster. He would gift them a scare, but leave them wanting more. If a water creature wouldn’t turn heads, then surely a Dwende would. And if not, then the Ringmaster would unveil his latest curiosity. It had taken him years to find until he trapped and captured ‘his’. This monster was his pride and joy.
This monster is not born of old oral folklore or myth.
This monster is a patient predator found in the most quiet of places. This monster manifests in the mind and grows and feeds off the loathing of self. As you become weaker, it becomes stronger. It is constantly stalking, waiting for the slightest crack in resolve, and it attacks.
This curiosity is not for the faint of heart, of course. Such a creature would need a good introduction…
“As the sun sets on the islands, and darkness creeps and slinks into the homes of islanders, the people empty the forest to escape the terrors of the night. But it is not only those things which go bump in the night that should be cause for fear—in fact—what if I told you that some of the scariest monsters our people know wait for you in your homes. They hunt in broad daylight!”
Sometimes the monster which we should fear most is the thing that is blatant and ever-present. It might be something we imagine ourselves, or something that we convince is too ridiculous to be afraid of. Perhaps it is a fear of open water or the fear of being rejected. Whatever it is, it looms, and it hangs above us like a thick grey cloud. In a moment of silence, this supposed irrational fear sneaks into the mind; it hangs back in the shadows waiting for a moment of vulnerability. A moment when it can pounce and catch you off guard. There are no feasting jaws or glowing red eyes, but the fear it induces is all too real.
He shuddered at the thought of his first interaction with the beast.
And for the grand reveal.
“Close your eyes.
Think about every time that you’ve been called exotic. Or when others were surprised that you knew more things about their home than you did about yours.
Think about the shame you felt when you realized you knew nothing about your home.
Where are you from?
Where are you really, really from?
Or when someone was surprised you spoke English after saying you’re from the island.
Who said it? What did it feel like?
Did it make you feel small?
It is these feelings of insignificance, these feelings that make you feel like an imposter, that the monster lusts after. As it sinks its claws deeper into you, it freezes you, making you unable to flee. It renders you vulnerable to all of the distasteful, hypocritical lies, convincing you that you are not worthy of dignity, of respect, of love.
And within this toxicity, it thrives.
Think about when you smiled when the lady touched your hair on the elevator; it grew,
or when your friend said “You are different, not like those people” it grew.
In those moments, you bit your tongue, laughed along, it grew.
Those moments you couldn’t get your legs to move even though your brain was screaming at you to run – it was the one weighing you down. Feasting on your strength.
Insecurity is it’s trigger, and ignorance is the bullet.”
The ringmaster had worked himself up, excited to share with the world what he had finally captured. Rejoicing too because he knows he has been freed from this leach.
He cued the symbols and the trumpets, cues the curtain drop, and revealed an exhibit of nothing, yet he smiled.
The monster doesn’t show up in person. It may not seem to be present, but it hangs back. Watching. Waiting. For those of us who have been called coconuts all our lives. Us who are strong and brown on the outside and soft and white on the inside. Those of us who are constantly trying to break open, break up with, break out of, learning to live with, or even learning to love our coconut. Learning to drink its water. Until we understand that we are not lesser than, this apparition lives and threatens the lives history creates for us, and the lives we’ve created for ourselves.
The audience would pale.
He would feign shock that the crate appeared empty.
Nothing you say? Nothing there? Are you sure?
It only means that you are safe for now.
And with that, he had a show to prepare for.