Tag Archives: darkness

Tourist Mine

“And for those of you with children – please keep them close, okay?” He glanced towards Ann. “Believe me, you don’t want to lose her down there.”

“No,” I said, “of course not.”

“That’s what I hoped to hear!” The guide winked.

On the way down Ann held my hand tightly. Except for the one light bulb right above our heads the world seemed to be made of metal bars and the dark stone of the shaft.

Not five minutes later we stood at the entrance to a vast cave that seemed to be a world of its own; heaps of stones appeared like small hills, in between them reflections revealed ponds of different sizes.

“Imagine what this kid must have felt like, when he crawled in here to discover all this?” The guide waved his hands around while he spoke. “There’s a rumor that he was fleeing from his abusive father or something of the kind, but probably he was just fooling around like children do. He must have come in somewhere near the top of the cave and then falls down right into the middle of this planet!”

He pointed to two points near the far end of the chamber. Continue reading

Wait

There are no sirens anymore and no planes anymore. The explosions have stopped and I sit and I wait. “She will come back,” says grandma. “Just you wait and see.” I smile and I nod and I wait. “She’s a smart dog,” says my grandma. “She’ll find her way back.” I nod and I watch the smoke. And I wait until darkness. And I wait the next day. And I wait until night. The house smells of onions and smoke. A hand on my shoulder. “Come to dinner,” says grandma. “And don’t be sad. She’s with your mommy now.”

The Dark and the Light

My father said he chose Suraiya for me because she was blind. He said she would understand my fears and worries. Maybe that’s why I, too, understand her so well.

She was twelve years older than me and even as I was her master she always called me her little brother.

In just fifteen years my father had transformed his father’s fruit shop into a wholesale franchise that served most of south India. My grandfather chose a good bride for him. They held a festival when she got pregnant. I was meant to be the completion of their happiness. Two days they were the happiest pepole on the planet. It took them two days to notice my flaw and two years to travel the world’s hospitals to find there was no cure.

I was two when they hired Suraiya. I was six when Suraiya told me that her parents repaired and sold second hand sandals and that they could not afford a dowry big enough to find her a husband.

I was eight when she shook me awake in the dead of the night.

“We have to run,” she said. “Quick. Quick!” Continue reading

“Don’t ever let them in.”

I am terrified of the dark. My grandmother, on the other hand, had an affinity for the dark. She loved and enjoyed the dark so much that most windows in her house were walled shut and the few that remained were, except for rare occasions like family visits, blacked out with several layers of black curtains.

It was only when I was about 16 that I realized that those two, her love and my fear of the dark, were connected.

When I was small I was, supposedly, very hyperactive. My mother never managed to control me and my father only did so on those rare occasions when he threatened me with punishments. But I loved my grandparents and, as my parents, said, I always behave right when my grandmother was around. Accordingly my parents dropped me many times at my grandmother’s place so that they themselves could have a calm weekend.

I was 8 years old when she died. At that time I was already scared of the dark – except, of course, when my grandparents were around.

Those eight years I stayed many times over. I remember vividly how I played with my grandfather and uncle Owen in the darkness. We had our special games, like a noise-based version of hide and seek which only worked when the house was particularly quiet and my grandfather taught me how to carve wood into spoons and flutes with just my sense of touch.

I remember their faces exactly – the way their faces were lightly visible in the dark but their eyes always penetrated even through the thickest curtains of darkness with a black pupil surrounded by a bright white that seemed to glow from inside.

My grandmother was always working around the house – cooking and baking for me, cleaning or tidying or preparing the beds for the night. The room always felt warmer when she was there and so, usually, i asked my grandfather and uncle Owen to play with me in the room that she was in.

Those weekends I never missed the light. Even my dreams were, often, just noises and smells and textures and shapes – never colors or visible objects. Still today I can navigate perfectly in the dark. And still today I can see very well in the dark and around my 16th year of life I concluded that my strong vision at night was the cause for my paralyzing fear of the dark.

The fear had been there as long as I remember and on most nights I slept with a nightlight. On those weekends with my grandmother the darkness had never been a problem. Cuddled up to her warm body I never felt fear and I never minded the figures that seemed to stand in the room, all around my bed.

They only came with the darkness. Never when there was a slight flicker of light, just with the absolute blackness of a night in a room without windows.

My grandmother called them the ‘Outcasts.’ She said that they were family and friends, former close ones, that wanted to return from the other side. She taught me again and again that I should never let them return.

I remember the way she said it. We were lying in the bed, my head cuddled up to the warmth of her shoulder. Somewhere behind me my grandfather was snoring and when I turned I could see his face glowing in the darkness, with his white skin it was even more visible than that of my grandmother.

“You can see the difference in their faces,” she said. “Their faces are darker. But if you really want to make sure then you have to look at their eyes. If their eyes are as black as their face or even darker then they are on the wrong side; they are dead and and they should stay that way no matter how much you miss them.”

“So they can’t come?”

“They can’t come unless you allow them to come.”

“What if I let them in?”

“Don’t ever let them in.”

Black on black, but I still saw them as clear as a pencil line pressed hard on a piece of paper, the type of pencil line that doesn’t just color the paper but rather pushes itself into the paper.

That night my grandmother fell asleep quickly but I, in the safety of her arms and with my grandfather behind me, watched the figures. They were gesturing and moving, voiced words and sometimes fought against one another; they pushed each other to the side and backwards, fighting for a spot on the borderline to life.

I saw their figures and I recognized their sizes and hairstyles, often I even thought I knew which clothes they were wearing. I never asked my grandmother about that, but for myself I concluded those were the ways they looked in the moment that they stepped from life to death.

With my grandmother I was safe. But without her the nights were terror. They came closer and they seemed more energetic, more violent, more likely to break through that barrier. Maybe they were closer because I was closer to letting them in, half out of fear and half out of curiosity.

The nightlight was my savior, but in those nights when my parents forgot to plug the light in there was no salvation. They stood above me with their dark figures pressed into the darkness and those eyes so dark that they seemed to extend deeper into space; as if they were hollow.

With 16 I tried to cure myself off my fear by “shock therapy.” I threw myself into one dark night after the other but rather than improve the situation got worse.

There was one figure particularly pushy. A smaller one with wild, curly hair and the darkest eyes of them all. I always knew who she was. She had only been there since I was 8.

The conclusions of my 16th year made too much sense to be overturned. I gave up my defense and accepted my fear and eternal dependence on nightlights. When I moved to university I even chose an apartment with a street lamp outside so that the light would certainly come through my window and keep the figures at bay.

With 23 I learned the truth about my fear.

I was at my mother’s place. We were at our second bottle of wine and a soothing melancholy, the type that you can see in a French actress’s eyes, had enriched the air. Somehow we came to speak about my grandmother.

“I miss her,” my mother said.

“Me too,” I said. “Sometimes I still dream of her cookies and when I wake up I can nearly taste the vanilla.”

“Oh,” she said. “Your grandfather loved those.”

“Did he? I don’t remember him eating any?”

My mother laughed.

“You were probably too young to remember that.”

“Not really. I remember playing with him.”

“Oh, you do?”

“Yeah. I played with him all the time.”

“Really, you remember that?”

“Of course.”

“Wow,” she said. “I’m really happy for that.”

“Me too.”

“I always thought you wouldn’t remember him because you were so young.”

I took a sip from my glass and let the bitterness fade from my mouth.

“I don’t remember going to his funeral.”

“Of course not,” she said. “We left you with a friend and went alone.”

“What? Why?”

“We thought you wouldn’t understand it. You were just 2 when your grandfather and uncle Owen had their accident.”

When I was 16 I thought I was scared of the figures standing at the borderline to our world.

Since I’m 23 I know that I’m not actually scared of those figures at the borderline. I’m scared and wondering how many others were allowed back inside.

My Grandfather Knew Why We Run from the Dark

I always admired my grandfather’s courage. He had fought in the war on what we nowadays think of as the wrong side, but he had never been a believer in the cause. Sometimes a rifle is pressed in your hand and your choice is either to fire and worry about being shot from the front, or not to fire and be sure that you’ll be shot from behind.

He was young when he was drafted, barely 16. Before he left he gave his first kiss and a promise to a girl. She waited five years until the end of the war, surviving on just five or six letters that she kept as treasure.

The war ended but even the defeat was celebrated. Not openly, but in the hearts and eyes of the people. People never wage war, it is politicians that wage war. No soldier that ever stood in the line of a rifle believes that war is heroic, only those divorced from reality, those that sit in tidy offices, those dream of war.

Soldiers came home with thin bodies and bandaged limbs. They hugged their wives and women before they fell onto beds and relived the front in dreams that made them toss and turn and wake up from their own screams.

His girl watched with tears in her eyes while her sister and mother each welcomed their men home. She heard the men scream at night and each scream lodged a stone in her throat. She prayed that the man she had kissed did not have to scream and then she prayed that the man she had kissed was alive enough to scream. Then she prayed for forgiveness for her selfishness. Continue reading

Life in the Mirror

The apartment seemed as if it was made just for me. I had a bed and two shelves. The apartment lacked bed and shelves but had everything else – tables, chairs, a sofa. My bed was exactly 1.6 meters in width – and the tiny bedroom a perfect match.

There were two things I didn’t like. The first, of course, was the lack of a dedicated bathroom. The shower cabin was in the kitchen and the toilet in a small room off the balcony. The second thing I didn’t like was the mirror in the bedroom.

It’s not that I don’t like mirrors. But in a room just barely big enough for the bed, with walls to all sides, there was something disturbing in having one of the walls as just one large mirror. It felt misplaced and odd like a lone, smiling stranger standing in the middle of a desert road.

The first night I was tired from the move, every muscle in my body seemed to be aching and my body was still sticky and sweating even after two showers and four hours since the last box. Still I first lay awake for two or three hours, rolling from one side to the other and hoping for the salvation of sleep. Continue reading