Just around the corner is a small deconsecrated chapel, in the traditional cross shape with a high wooden ceiling and an old carpeted floor. At nights, when my mind is restless and full of melodies, I sneak through the side door that is never locked and tiptoe to the middle of the cross where the old little electronic keyboard sits. There is peace there, hidden in the shadows under dim lighting and opaque stained glass.
I creep there tonight with my blank music staves under my arm, and find the lights off for the first time. Nothing to worry about. I’ll find the switch. I flip my phone open and comb the the brick walls. Wooden crossbeams and candle holders. Black plastic outlets. Nothing. I sing loudly to reassure myself, and Gershwin’s “Summertime” bounces freely from floor to ceiling and back and dies on the muffled floor. All around me. Darkness. Interrupted by the dim glow from street lamps squeezing through the unwilling windows. And suddenly my mind empties and fillstobursting at the same time My chest is wrenchingdesperately inside my ribcage My heartbeatbeatbeat overcomes my voluntary motion Frozenboltinggone.
When I was maybe twelve years old I yearned to flex my independence. I moved out of my brother’s room for the first time and into the guest bedroom, where my parents’ library decorated two walls. On the other walls I taped black-and-white printouts of my favorite Christian bands. At nighttime, I lay under the comforter in the huge bed. I was too old and too cool for a night light. And in the dreaded moments of darkness between my mother’s good-night prayer and the unpredictable adventures of dreamland, I imagined dark hooded figures with cold, scaly fingers, gliding soundlessly to my bedside to smother me. to suck out my soul.
We don’t believe in a god. But the spirits of the dead haunt our very rooms. They prankishly flip our light switches as we sleep and jiggle our doors as we shower. They manifest their stolen power in floating orbs of dust on a camera screen. We try to chase them away. We burn sage and incense and seek our feng shui. But eventually, inevitably, we must either run away to another room or resign ourself to their presence and be content.
I’ve heard that the fear of darkness is simply the fear of the unknown. Simply. Two possible solutions: know everything (/ unwittingly claim ignorance). simply refuse to be afraid. Simply.
Listen: Darkness is necessary and sacred and precious and beautiful only because there exists light. A blind man can no more know darkness than a deaf man can know silence. Darkness is the canvas upon which the sun paints a masterwork of cherry blossoms and weeping willows and foamy surf and lover’s eyes only to be erased at dusk and resketched at dawn. She, my magnificent darkness, offers unthinkable terrors to those who flee her broad cloak, and profound secrets to those who gaze into her depths. She is all things in disguise of no thing. She is rightly to be feared by those who fear. Very rightly to be embraced by her children. (Simply.) as a nurturing mother.