by Liz DeGregorio
I think it’s funny that I was frightened of Jack Nicholson as a little kid, and you think it’s funny too. I pass my beer bottle from hand to hand, sliding it across the slick surface of our table, glad to have finally hit on a story that keeps your interest.
I get into it now: I tell you I watched The Shining when I was just three years old, a toddler watching a tsunami of blood coat the halls of a creepy hotel. I was three when I watched Jack try to axe-murder his wife and child, and this was after a whole two hours of watching him emotionally axe-murder them with his distance and his anger and his abuse.
While I tell the story, I force myself to think about Jack in The Witches of Eastwick, a movie I enjoyed much more when I watched it as a teenager, even though it wasn’t nearly as sexy as the John Updike book it was based on. I surreptitiously snuck the novel out of my parents’ bedroom, leaving the lights off and feeling my bare toes against the tufts of the cool rug.
Everything smelled like mildew and paper, and as I approached my mom’s side of the bed (she had most of the good books), I could smell her beautiful mom smell. It wasn’t perfume–it was just the scent of her skin. She never seemed to perspire, and she never grew hair above her knees, a fact her more hirsute half-Italian daughters could barely comprehend as we shaved our arms, our legs, our tummies.
I remember Jack’s character in the book, either post- or pre-sex, grimacing because he had dirt in his eye under his contact lens, causing him excruciating pain. I got excited then, thinking how I was like this too. Once I ripped my contact lens and continued to wear it for months before an eye infection finally forced me to tell my parents I would need new lenses, even though I knew just how expensive they were.
When I was four, I started screaming in my sleep, seeing Jack in the corner of my pink bedroom, trying to hide from him under my cozy tea-rose comforter but knowing he’d be there, grinning at me, eyes too wide and his smile just the same.
Who’s to say he wasn’t really there, anyway? All these years later, I’ve seen many unexplainable things. Perhaps the devil from The Witches of Eastwick teamed up with the psychopath from The Shining, and there he was, in my little-girl bedroom, whispering in my ear, making my rip the sheets off my bed, throw my clothes across the room, pull down my posters and overturn my tiny rocking chair.
What else did Jack have to do in 1987? He was in Broadcast News that year, and it was such a great movie, but no one even remembers he was in it. Everyone just wanted Albert Brooks to finally get the girl, I tell you as I drain the last of my beer, which earns me a glazed-over smile that gets me started thinking about Jack all over again.
Liz DeGregorio is a poet, writer and editor who work has appeared in Ruminate Magazine, Electric Literature, BUST Magazine, Ghouls Magazine, Gravitas, Scorpion Magazine, Beyond Words Literary Magazine, DecomP, Drunk Monkeys, *82 Review, The Ocotillo Review, Danse Macabre, From Whispers to Roars and other publications. She’s also performed at Providence’s Dorry Award-winning storytelling series “Stranger Stories.”