When I was nine, I prided myself on my lovely, longish, clean and well shaped fingernails. Like anything that a person is especially proud of, I was certain that other people were jealous. Oh look at her fingernails! I could imagine the other fourth graders saying. I wish I had fingernails like that! Maybe I didn't have the coolest leg warmers, and maybe I sucked at making friendship bracelets from fishing lures, but my nails were fabulous.
You know who else likes long fingernails? Witches.
It's a well known fact, to nine year old girls at least, that witches sneak into your room while you are sleeping and rip out your fingernails, if they happen to be long and lovely. I could avoid this fate by simply trimming my nails, but I was far too vain. Instead, I would carefully tuck myself into bed, slide my hands under my pillow, and will them to stay there throughout the night. As an added barrier against evil, I would surround my body with my stuffed animals. Papa Smurf at my feet. Fozzie Bear had my back. Strawberry Shortcake and her posse kept watch against a frontal assault. And Miss Piggy, ever vigilant, sat by my pillow. Even witches know not to fuck with the Pig.
I would fall asleep to the mantra don't move your hands, don't move your hands, and wake with great relief to my intact nails.
After my fear of fingernail stealing witches had faded, and I stopped sleeping with stuffed pigs and fruit-scented dolls, I still fell asleep with my hands tucked safely away under my pillow. Even now, I can't drift off until they slide into that cool space, hidden away -protected from witches.
2 weeks ago