I have always been afraid of the dark. When I was eight and shared a bedroom with my sister, it took an hour to fall asleep because once the room grew quiet, then I could see the darkness. I talked until my sister had to yell at me. I fell asleep crying. That was okay because crying directed my attention away from fear.
I pictured so sensibly the strange crazy man under my bed waiting to come out. So I prepared, as I lay in bed grabbing at the blankets around my neck. I thought about what I would do when that man did come. I planned movement by movement; I discusses the pros and cons of screaming, thought out my priorities, and who in my house I would want to save.
My bedroom filled with darkness was not the bedroom I played in or got dressed in. My bedroom at night was mysterious and unknown to me. When I got up at night to go to the bathroom, I was afraid to creak the floorboards, but even worse, I was afraid to put that first foot onto the floor. It was so close to the crazy man. I pictured him grabbing my foot out from under me. I could feel his pull on my ankle as I gathered the courage to put my foot onto the floor. My heartbeat hurt. Once I was out of bed and realized that maybe the man wasn't under by bed, or he chose not to get me, the next fear was of opening the door to go into the hall. The hall light was always on, and I could see the brightness through the cracks around the door. It seemed that I could see flashes of darkness at the cracks as if there was someone moving on the other side. The doorknob was wobbly and the door noisy. At night every sound was amplified.
My fear of my own dark house amazed me, even then, when it was so real. And now, it is still real; the only difference is that my fears are not completely controlling me anymore. I have gotten more acquainted with my house over the years, which has maybe helped, yet still when I'm forced to pull open that bathroom door at night, I'm as scared as all the times before. With my hand on the porcelain knob, it only takes a fraction of a second to create an image of what, or who could possibly be on the other side of the door.
Only until tonight, when I walked into the bathroom after dealing with the same fear, only until now have I questioned why I am afraid of this darkness. I thought about it many times before and have thought about how to get rid of my fear; I even tried before and was successful for a short time.
Once when I was twelve, I had to go to the library at night and my mother suggested I walk since it was a mild night, and the library was only a block away. I didn't think my fear was an acceptable excuse not to walk. So I walked. Once I stepped outside into the quiet night of my neighborhood, I decided that not only would I walk to the library, but I would consciously get rid of my fear on the way. This seemed to me an absurd idea even as I decided it, and it seems pretty absurd now. I thought that by incredible concentration I could, in one night, be unafraid of the dark, something I had feared as long as I could remember.
What amazes me is that I had convinced myself that I had gotten rid of the fear. My bravery (or my acting) lasted about six months. When I walked around my school's campus on early winter nights, I was able to think my own thoughts and was no longer committed to the imaginary men hiding in bushes or around corners. I could stop planning what was going to happen to me, and how I would react. I was free from fearing the dark.
Now though, still filled with fear, I'm trying to imagine what the origin of my fear is. Why am I afraid to walk into my own house at night? n
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.