Darkness

The sound of the crickets droned on outside the window. It was completely dark in the room, just the way I liked it. I once spent several nights rearranging the modem that sat on my desk in the corner of the bedroom so that none of the blinking lights were visible from the bed. The only lights I could stand were the dull red numbers from the digital alarm clock we had owned for 20 years. I sure hoped it never broke. The new ones had brighter displays that shone like tail lights on the back of a car down some deserted road. You couldn’t miss them.

I stared upward toward the ceiling, though I couldn’t see it. I imagined the sky way up above it, dark with the night and peppered with the flecks of a million stars. Hot tears ran unchecked down the sides of my face, leaving behind a cool trail and creating a slight wet spot on my pillow. It would be dry by the morning.

The tears came more freely these days. If you asked me, they were quickly wearing out their welcome. I’d spent decades avoiding them, successfully holding them at bay. It was as if 2 years ago they had gotten fed up with their prison inside me and had stormed the gates. They were still setting each other free. Just when I thought we were done with it, more showed up. Was there some kind of eternal fountain inside constantly replenishing itself?

I never wanted anyone to see me cry. Some people cried gracefully, and others were noisy. I couldn’t do either. I mostly just held my breath and tried to hold it all back. That approach, learned early in life, robbed me of the ability to speak and cry at the same time. When people were around they wanted an explanation when I cried and I simply could not give one. So I avoided the situation altogether. 

When the dark times were hot on my heels, breathing down the back of my neck, I never shared it. I put on a smile for the faces around me. I forced a laugh to hide the struggle. I would not make my problem someone else’s problem.

Even as I did it, I knew that wasn’t the right approach. We were made to share our burdens. Our shoulders should have been as much for friends to cry on as they were to hold our arms in place. I could never escape the thought that if I couldn’t stand my own mind and heart, how could anyone else?

Old hurts mixed with new hurts, leaving everything inside feeling like a tossed salad made up of ingredients no one wanted to eat, like beets. I couldn’t tell what was bringing the sadness. Was the past whispering in my ear, falsely interpreting how I saw the present? Or was the present not what it was supposed to be, the past shining a light on it in mockery of my pretense?

It was all quite ridiculous, really. I reflected a moment on the good things. Oh, how many good things there were! It made no sense to me how such good and such heartache could coexist inside one life. The good and the bad were each overwhelming in intensity when their waves crested and then washed over me.

It was too much to figure out. I grabbed some toilet paper I had stashed next to my pillow and blew my nose. I finally took in a long deep breath, releasing it on a loud sigh. The tears were done for the night. The last of today’s escapees were gone, leaving only exhaustion in their wake.

I didn’t immediately get up and throw away the tissue. I simply turned over on my side, knees curled up, and held it in my hand until I fell asleep, hoping next day would bring a fresh perspective.

Morning made itself known filtering in through the sheer white curtains. The windows faced the East, so when the sun made its daily pilgrimage into the sky, it filled the room with golden light. The crickets of the night were silent, their sounds replaced by the birds of the morning. I entertained the thought that nature’s night shift had gone home to rest and the day shift was here to take over.

I got up slowly. I made the bed like I did every single day, this time gathering up the evidence of the evenings tears. I tossed them in the garbage can before anyone saw them.

I hoped they took away a little bit of the darkness with them.

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