A sliver of a moon
gives a sliver of light.
There’s a foul sign
in the sky tonight.
Nighttime has always evoked mixed emotions.
I like the anonymity it affords. You can hide in it. Relax your radar, let your smile slip, cry if you need to, all without being detected, chastised, chided or rejected. You can simply “be.” Allow the shadows to swallow you. Drop pretenses and remove the mask. Release the pressure and breathe without being evaluated, weighed.
With the light of day comes scrutiny and judgement. Demands are made, standards are set and must be met. Flaws are exposed and magnified. The worst is laid bare and probed, then mercilessly dissected.
The dark keeps your secrets. And forgives all flaws.
But the darkness is also treacherous. You never know when you are about to walk off a cliff or if you are taking your last step on solid ground before plummeting into a pit from which there is no escape. It keep all secrets; not yours alone. It hides all who come to it. All are welcome to take shelter in its impenetrable folds.
Even the monsters.
When I was a child, I feared those monsters.
I was convinced that Medusa appeared in one corner of my bedroom each third night of the full moon. Terrified I would look at her and be turned to stone, I kept my eyes tightly scrunched closed with my head under the covers in case I forgot and inadvertently let an eyelid raise just enough to see her waiting there for me. I was terrified of the ghosts who gathered and danced at the foot of my bed, anticipating opportunities to eat any fingers or toes that happened to slip over the edge of the mattress as I drifted into a troubled sleep. Waiting to drag me away into the place of forever darkness. I heard their footsteps as they wandered through the rooms and across the rafters, restlessly pacing, impatiently awaiting an opportunity to do me harm. Or to do me in. And I was terrified of the shadow monsters who lived in my closet and under my bed. Monsters who blended into the darkness, who came to life as dusk turned to night.
I feared…everything. Everything that lurked in the night. For the night was full of wraiths and apparitions, specters and banshees, all with malicious intent.
As I grew older, I realized monsters were real and they didn’t need to stay cloaked in inky shadows, only coming alive only when they couldn’t be fully seen. I learned that they hid in the daylight, in plain sight, without fear of discovery. And two of them slept in the bedroom across the hall from me.
There are monsters…and then, there are monsters.
The most terrifying monsters in my house were the ones who were not supposed to be monsters at all. They wore a pleasant mask to hide their menace and evilness. They knew how to smile at the right times. To say the right things. To appear to be harmless, or even kind.
But when the mask came off, I saw them for who and what they were. Even if there was only a sliver of moonlight to guide me. Even with my eyes scrunched closed tightly. I saw.
I escaped that house as soon as I could and fled the town where I grew up. I fled that place where I was forced each day to struggle with blackness and shadows. What I discovered was this: if you grow and live in the darkness, it doesn’t magically go away when you do. When you have soaked in it, it goes deep. It permeates your being. The night burrows far underground inside of you, takes root and flourishes.
The shadows became my skin. I was doomed to live my life shrouded in a thick, gloomy fog.
I discovered that you can run away, but you take yourself with you wherever you go. So, though I escaped the haunted house of my childhood, the house of perpetual darkness where evil ruled and roamed, I could not escape myself. Nor could I escape what it had made me. What I had become. I had to make peace with the night. I had to learn to embrace the dim sliver of light and live with the dark phantoms who now resided in my soul.
I learned to survive where monsters danced and cackled in victory. Where I was harshly caressed by their terrifying whispers. Haunted by an unseen presence. Tormented by their icy fingers squeezing my heart. Forever changed by those hideous shadows that darkened the landscape of my life and stole the sun from the sky.