Music races in a hurry up hurry up hurry up beat above me, where sisters pound their feet along with the jarring notes, letting loose their voices, jumbling words so all I can distinguish is an occasional phrase in the midst of the musical rumble. I hunch lower in my seat by the computer, clamping headphones more securely over my ears. Fighting music with music. Across the room, my brother taps on a keyboard. I join him, the beat leaping from my fingers contrasting with the steady hum of a soundtrack in my ear. Words race across the screen, growing in tangled lines like black snakes wrestling in tall, white grass. I copy and paste and erase, struggling to unravel the words tripping over themselves, meanings hidden behind clumsy phrases. Behind me, my mother clangs a spoon in her bowl, raising her voice above the hubbub of my seven siblings each in their own world and sounds, to ask my father a question. I click the sound icon, scrolling up on my mouse to drown them out. Someone skips through the room, a younger sister in a bedazzled yellow-gold dress, with beads that flash in the light blazing from the ceiling. I squint at the glowing screen, my eyes watering from staring at the multi-colored pixels.
I glance over one shoulder, the computer screen blinking sleepy eyes as the snakes freeze in their game.
Too loud, my mother mouths.
I huff. Everything is too loud. The snakes want to continue their fight on the white page in front of me, but I close it down. The noise of music shuts off like a water tap, blocking the sounds inside the pipes of YouTube. I shove away from the computer desk, the chair colliding with the dinner table squatting behind me. I step around the abandoned textbooks and notes from various classes in all grades, crunch a forgotten doll’s turquoise dress into three neat pieces, and snatch a blanket from the overflowing basket of warmth and a rainbow of colors. I want to drape it over my head, blocking the sights and sounds of life, and collapse in a heap on the floor, but I can’t find a clear spot. Besides, as one of my younger sisters collide with the edge of a doorway with a book perched distractingly in her fingers, I know I won’t be safe in a deep red blanket on the floor. I can’t compete with a seductive story beckoning for her attention.
Instead, I slip around the couch, dragging the fluffy blanket by one corner, and shove open the back door. Outside, vague shadows of trees loom over the splintered wooden porch, blocking the bit of light from stars that shine like a lamp with a dying bulb from the dark sky. I let the curtain strung across the doorway drop back into place, and the last bits of light clinging to me motion with panicked gestures; the sounds and mountains of books and thoughts waiting only for my attention to spring back to their merciless existence in the forefront of my mind, shrieking in a cacophony of music that thumps along with the notes echoing from headphones, CD players, radios.
The dark chases away the tendril wisps of light and worry. The cold presses down with a calm hand on my shoulders, and I drift across the porch to the swing hunched against the blue-gray wall, now a dim gleam in the night. The blanket settles around me in a cloud of warmth. The darkness cushions whatever noise may leach through the walls, and here in the sleepy shadows, images of work are impossible to discern.
Under the night sky, everything seems further away—school, friends, work, even the books where I escape during the day. I’m the little girl again, huddled in a blanket, dreaming my little girl dreams, far from the prying eyes of the world which demands maturity and perfection. Night is the place to dream. An empty, blank expanse, like smooth calm of the ocean on a still day, able to be marked by waves and creatures, but not just yet. I am able again to start afresh, the world around me, which beckons daily to its busy work and play, flowers and trees and grass, all cluttering this ball of Earth. Blackness covers it all. In dark, the air around is still, quiet, and close. I am here, uninhibited to paint whatever colors I dream, without conflicting with the colors that exist in daylight. It was dark before time, and in dark again, I go backward in time, before the life begins that takes my time and energy, gobbling in its messy beauty to spit out a Future worth the effort.
The cold seeps through the soft blanket. I bury my face in the fabric, not wanting to return to the lights and sounds of real life. I am safe here.