Saturday, October 8, 2011

Afraid of the Dark

I was born afraid of the dark.

I have always been afraid of the dark.

There was no “before”. Never a comforting night. Even before I was born, I remember. I swear it is true. I remember. And though they say to me, “Impossible!” I remember. There I was, floating, not even a proper person yet to speak of, but already there was fear. There was fear and there was the generalized stickiness of the womb.

But I did not fear that part. The generalized stickiness, I mean. For I have never been afraid of stickiness. Not one bit. So it is true I can take pride in that much, at least.

Oh, to have been born with a fear rare and extraordinary! To have been born afraid of… Thursdays or Irishmen or ring fingers. I dream sometimes, and sometimes when I dream, I dream of a world in which I am the possessor of a fine fear, a fear which has made me a celebrity about town. If there is such a thing. But I think that there is. Almost everything is, somewhere, if only one looks hard enough.
Tacitus, or at least I believe it is Tacitus, though it might have been someone else very different entirely, records the sad case of a man afraid of the light. Blind from birth but otherwise healthy, he was given sight in adulthood by a well-meaning doctor. He was found dead sometime later. The blind man, I mean. Not the doctor. Though it is to be assumed the doctor eventually met his end as well. But that should be of minimal concern to us right now.

What I mean to say is our blind man – or more truly, our formerly blind man – was found dead. He was found dead with darning needles plunged into both his eyes. That is, he was if Tacitus lived in a world with darning needles, anyway. Otherwise, something else, I suppose, equally long and equally pointy. And near the blind man, not far away, they found a note, and the note said this: “The world is so much uglier than I ever imagined when I was blind.”  

No famous historian will write my story.

I am just afraid of the dark, and nyctophobes are a dime a dozen. Like fear of spiders or of heights or of Asian drivers. Practically everyone is.

And when she’s away – I mean, when Dana is out of town on business or at her mother’s or for some other inscrutable reason does not see fit to come home at night – I sleep in the corner of a closet. Usually it is the one in the hallway where we keep the clothes the kids have outgrown. Never the one that holds the winter jackets or the one with my books. I would never sleep in a corner of those.

The kids never understand. It has been said to me – quite forcefully at times – that I am not to try and explain it to them. Explain fear of the dark, that is. I imagine this to be because Dana can foresee a future when she arrives home from Boston or from Tokyo or from Tangiers to find all four members of her family huddled inside the hallway closet, trembling, hands over their ears, waiting for daylight.

And beyond that unacceptable image, it can definitely be said that I am twenty-six years old and by any measure have reached the age of adulthood. And the secret of adults and children is that adults must never under any circumstances admit to a child that adults feel fear.

So I sleep in the closet when she’s away, and the kids rat me out when she comes home. And then we have to have a talk. I come out of my corner in the hallway closet and I sit down with Dana because we have to have a talk. And even though she knows all about it, we have to go over the same old ground.

So I say, “I was born afraid of the dark. I have always been afraid of the dark. There was no ‘before’. Never a comforting night. Even before I was born-”

And “I know this,” Dana says. “We’ve been through this,” Dana says. Because she knows all about it. Just like I told you. But she is the one who wants to talk about it and I have nothing to add to my previous statements on this particular subject.

I am going to scare the children. I am going to make them afraid of the dark. Like me.

But maybe they really ought to be afraid of the dark. You don’t know!

I believe I could be right on this one. And in that case, someone really ought to warn the children... 


  1. When sleeping at home alone things go bump in the dark and you cannot tell the difference between say an intruder, monster or your window air conditioner making an unusual noise that might cause you to pull a .357 and point it at the potentially possessed air conditioner until you are sure it is not a threat. Sleeping in the closet seems sensible.

    How did you like my run on sentence? I have been practicing.

  2. @Brent: While I admite your run-on sentence, I must warn you that I have a blogging monopoly on purposely ungrammatical English around here.
    I have carte blanche to use dangling modifiers and end sentences with prepositions wherever I want to.
    Anyone else has to pay me royalties and/or get insulted for their grammar errors...
    (Now cue JerseyDave with a snider remark about the term "dangling modifier...)

    October 9, 2011 9:56 AM

  3. Trust me I want no legal trouble. I know you work in a building with lawyers. God knows all you have to do is comp a bag of Doritos and a diet coke to the right guy and suddenly I am being served with a cease and desist order.

    I still have no problems with you sleeping in the closet if Dana is out. It is no sillier than sleeping with a Samurai sword or a AR 25 under your bed.

  4. Maybe I'm weird but I was never really afraid of the dark. That's because I know the real monsters are just mean people, and the darkness makes things equal (and if we're on my turf I have the advantage because I know where everything is). I would rather both of us be in the dark than just the other person, who can see everything I'm doing.

    Irishmen however, are another matter. They should be feared.

  5. How about fear of moths? We could trade phobias!

  6. @Brent: A closet is really just a tiny room with no wall plugs or a/c vents.
    I’ve lived in efficiency apartments roughly the same size.

    @Ted McLaughlin: Yeah, I’ve always sort of assumed that monsters would be more autonomic nervous system-type entities – that they wouldn’t be great problem solvers or anything. So escaping one would be closer to escaping a dog or something than it would be escaping a lynch mob.
    Plus, I’m not even sure zombies would have brain stems that function with any degree of reliability.
    I’m a fast runner!

    @Bill the Butcher: “Omphalophobia” is fear of belly buttons. That’s my favorite. Sadly, I do not have it.
    Moths? Hmmm...
    I have tarantulas and people seem to really be freaked out by them. I work with someone who can’t even hear the word “spider.”

  7. I'm deathly afraid of old ladies, that's why I always scream at them if they creep up on me.

  8. @Rafa: Old ladies are scary!
    They always look like they:
    a) have already judged me, and
    b) are ready to mete out the proper punishment in response.
    Granted, I might be paranoid from the guilt of stealing medicine out of their bathrooms, but still...

  9. I'm sure the kids will end up cowering in the corner after you explain something much more innocuous, like why they shouldn't have a second bowl of extra-sugary breakfast cereal. You do have a way with words.

  10. "Almost everything is, somewhere, if only one looks hard enough."

    Take delight, for example.

  11. Omphalophobia is belly button ... OH you said phobia not fetish. Never mind then.

  12. @JerseyDave: A way with words...
    Maybe. I don't know what to do with the writing thing lately, though.
    And I refuse to do the politics thing, even though people are more likely to read that than just about anything else.
    I'm thinking that if I can keep this blog on the topics it purports to be about - Houston, black metal, "advanced lesbionics" (with a side order of bigamy and anarchism) - I could find a core audience with similar interests.
    I dunno.

  13. you do seem to get distracted by number hunger.

    Be clear on the distinction between adoration of millions, and adoration of the core. You've experienced the core in the past. I think it's about the writing, not about the numbers.

  14. @JerseyDave: I don't think adoration of millions has ever been at issue...
    I liked writing this entry - I had fun with it. But it's getting fewer page views than any entry I've ever written. Ever.
    Will that color my next entry? Probably.
    That doesn't mean the next entry will be pictures of kittens chasing cheeseburgers.

  15. I think your readers are distracted by the pending Republican Candidate winnowing...

  16. Wait.. if it's page 'distinct' views your after, then it's really all about The Title isn't it. Do people read it once.. and then tell other people they have to come see it, or readers come back multiple times in incredulity?

  17. @JerseyDave: I am not in possession of this information.
    Based on my stats page, they mostly find the page after googling for "lesbians on an elevator."

  18. @My 2 Pesos: Ha. Yeah, well, sometimes it is fun just to lie there and feel the fear. It's like riding a roller coaster or something.
    It's just tough to sleep with adrenaline levels so high...

  19. Take a walk through the deepest, darkest ghetto, until you find a crack whore so cracked out she looks like she could be a zombie. Talk to her for 2 minutes.

    Suddenly, your closet isn't so scary anymore. You're welcome.

  20. @A Beer for the Shower: The main difference that I've seen between crackheads and zombies is that zombies sort of become docile and happy once they've eaten brains (although the anti-zombie media never SHOWS us that, do they?)...
    Crackheads and meth-heads continue to act bizarre even after they've gotten their fix.
    Street drug addicts ARE pretty damn scary.

  21. Say, for example, you and your friends are running from either a) zombies or b) crack heads. Your plan of escape includes tripping your friend and leaving them behind while you escape. We all know the zombies will stop, but what do the crackheads do? And what's a good distraction when running from crackheads? Dropping a $20?

  22. Now THIS is what blogging is all about!

  23. @Mike: Everybody knows a crackhead is like a T. Rex. If you don't move, they can't see you.
    Therefore, in the situation you just described, so long as the friend you so callously tripped lies still on the ground, they are safe and you are toast.

    @JerseyDave: The sum is more than its constituent parts.

  24. That little girl in the mirror looks so sexy, i`d love to pull her knickers down.


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