Some of my friends think that what I write about is sad. This is interesting news to me because I don't feel sad. In fact, I'm a very happy person, even though I sometimes choose to write about memory in a way that evokes a blend of emotions that can include sadness as well as fiction. But I don't feel sad, just creative most of the time. In fact, I am of a mind that you can't really write as well about sad events if you are in a state of sadness.
Although I am not sad, I do have a tendency toward guilt and so, as I may have made some people feel sad recently with something I wrote, this is in an attempt to make those of you who read this at least to smile.
Throughout most of my life, I have lived in houses with people but currently find myself in a situation where I am living on my own. This is mostly a wonderful experience. I love being by myself and doing what I like to do. The only problem I have with this is at night. The fact is I would much rather go to bed with a body than by myself because I really am afraid of the dark.
Please understand, the fact that I am afraid of the dark and would rather sleep with a body than without one does not mean that I long for a relationship. Just a body. Sometimes I think that's it's mostly been confusion and miscommunication that has resulted in couplings and marriages in the past--when really all I wanted was someone warm next to me as I sleep.
You may be thinking to yourself at this point, "Why don't you just get a dog?" Sure, dogs are cuddly, some of them, but they also cost money and have to be fed, and walked outdoors late at night, in the cold, when I for one would much prefer to be doing other things. Besides, these days caring for a decent dog costs about as much as it does sending a toddler to a good school. Too much. I don't want a dog, but a human--just for the night. Just for sleeping.
It's a funny thing about sleeping with another body. It's warmer sleeping with one naked, skin to skin. When I am in relationship with another body, I don't think twice about parading around the house in my birthday suit, even now. But if I am alone, there is virtually no item of clothing that escapes being pulled out of drawers and tested on my body--for comfort and security. Currently, my outfit is a little scary: a yellow neon Victoria Secret shift that was worn alone in very warm weather, but is now topped by a yellow green tee and a black yoga hoodie sweatshirt, black silk underwear from LL Bean and striped wool socks. This brings to mind Dr. Seuss and The Cat in the Hat for obvious reasons.
When I am sleeping alone in a house, the realization that I am alone never leaves my mind once nightfall comes and the television is off and the phone put down. At which point, a list of all the scary films I have ever seen-- from Psycho to Wait Until Dark to Sleeping with the Enemy--runs like a filmstrip through my mind. No matter that the windows and doors are all shut, locked, bolted. No amount of reasoning allays the monsters of the mind.
How much of a scaredy pants am I? Before I get into bed, I must not only lock the door to my bedroom, I must check in the closet and under the bed too before I switch off the light and hop under the covers. Beyond my room is a long valley of darkness filled with cackling possibilities. And I know, even as I fall asleep, that eventually I will have to "go there," step into that well of night before morning to go to the bathroom.
Unfortunately, that time tends to happen at the most dreaded hour before dawn when it's still pitch black throughout the house and world, three or four in the morning. If I'd been born male, I've sometimes reasoned, I could pee into a cup beside my bed and leave it there until morning and not have to step outside my room at all at night. But no such luck. (And trust me, that's the only reason I would have enjoyed being born male). Whenever I have to get up, the night light in the hallway doesn't help at all, as it casts huge shadows, so as I am racing out of my room toward the bathroom, all I see is someone chasing after me in the dark. A quick pee and prayer later, I run back to my room, switch on the light and quickly check in the closet and under the bed before re-locking the door and hopping back under cover. God only knows what number of ghosts and goblins might have invaded my room during my minute's absence!
I always check in the closet and under the bed, even though the only thing that could possibly fit under the bed is an anorectic midget. Even though, bending over to check for anything when you are half asleep and more than 50 years of age, is clearly risky business.
If I am lucky, I go right back to sleep after this. But if it's a night when my imagination is running particularly rampant, the night's over for me no matter what I try to do to return to dreams.
Lately, I have taken to reading David Sedaris's books before going to sleep--Naked and When You Are Engulfed in Flames being two favorites--just to laugh off the dark. Besides, I take comfort in reading Sedaris, who is clearly at least as neurotic as I am and equally capable of making fun of everything, including death and fear. I find myself laughing until I cry when I read his essays and will sometimes find that I have read his work for more than two hours, in which case I am effed, as I may be happy as shit, but I will also be too stimulated to sleep. So, it's an act of balance reading Sedaris before bed, trying to laugh myself just enough into an easy rest.
I was not only scared of the dark as a kid, but always afraid I would be the first to get it and always conniving some way not to be first. Even when we went away to the house in the country in Colombia and my two sisters and I slept next to one another on a big bed, I would spend most of the night crawling over each of my sisters so I would be closest to the wall and therefore the last to get nailed by the bogeyman!
Some things never change is a cliche and truism. While I consider myself brave in a lot of ways, as regards being a brave girl going to sleep alone at night, I remain a child, afraid of monsters in the dark that may leap even out of the toilet when I sit on it at night. No matter what I tell myself about darkness, when it comes sleeping time, all I envision is party time for demons, goblins and the dead.