Late Nights and Street Lights

Here lately, I’ve been staying up most or all of the night, and then catching a nap whenever Luna is napping or Robert is awake and doesn’t complain about my napping.  Except it’s not really just “here lately.”

I’ve always been a night owl, as the cliché description goes.  I’m sure my mother can attest to finding me, late at night, curled up by the window in my bedroom, reading by the light of the moon.

“Go to bed!” she’d insist, but I was having none of that!

The books I read were as diverse as the catalog at your local library: Dickens, Silverstein, Seuss, bodice rippers, and even the Playboy Book of Science Fiction, among many many others.  I craved adventure.  I craved romance.  I craved escape from reality.  The characters in the books I read were my companions when I felt I had no others.

I met my friend Charleen at the age of 10; I was embarrassed by my “boyfriend” Nick and the seat next to Charleen was empty on the San Marcos CISD school bus.  At 12, she joined the cheerleading squad for the dancing and I decided to follow suit.  Halfway through that school year I had finally started feeling comfortable talking to other people and trying to make friends.  But when I could no longer stand what was happening to me at home each night at the hands of my stepfather’s son, who had come to apparently decide I was his regular pliable sex doll, I told my sister and then my mother and my world changed.  I felt abandoned and exiled when my aunt and uncle came to take me to live with them and my grandmother.  I had to leave all those friends I was just starting to make.

As I grew and developed, so did the technology in my world.  I no longer had to just rely on books for escape, and while I’m sure they missed me and resented my abandoning them, I was grateful for the opportunity to use my insomnia for the purpose of elevating my social skills from awkward to palatable.  With the introduction of Internet access at my grandmother’s and what passed for a fast computer in the late ’90s, I was able to interact with people from all around the world.  While I was able to somewhat make the occasional real life friend (thanks to Charleen’s influence), now my imaginary friends could talk back.

More years went by.  By the time I was 16, computers and books no longer satiated my wanderlust and my appetite for socialization.  I began a new late-night habit that my mother was, years later, horrified to learn about.  I started going for walks, alone, and without a flashlight.  This was before everyone over the age of 2 owned a cellular phone and before I decided to start carrying a pocket knife around.  Sometimes it was raining, sometimes the sky was clear and I could look up at the stars.  My walks were restricted to my immediate neighborhood at that point.  But when I entered college at 18 I found myself walking square miles or across the entire diameter of Altus, Oklahoma, depending on my mood.

There was a glorious freedom to be found in walking out into the country along the dirt roads that extend away from the city of Altus.  Sometimes I would lay in the middle of one of those roads and look up at the stars.  The only potential danger would be if a random farm truck had happened by, but none ever did.  I felt safe on those dirt roads, hundreds of miles away from any town I’d grown up in.  When my walks took me through neighborhoods where lampposts lined the streets, that’s when I would feel the danger.  Streetlights created shadows.  Walking through the artificial lighting would make my eyes lose their natural adjustment to starlight and I would fear those shadows.

I imagined those shadows held creatures of the night.  The creatures in the books I adored staying awake at night to read came to life in those shadows.  The unsavory characters I had occasionally happened upon during my Internet adventures came to life in those shadows.  Sometimes I had reason to be afraid, such as the night I stupidly accepted a ride from a Mexican old enough to have have conceived someone old enough to have conceived me.  I ended up at his place downing diet cokes one after the other.  I ended up in his bed, but I felt nothing.  I was numb.  My body was going through the motions but my mind was yelling, “No! Stop! Don’t!”  There might have been drugs involved that I was unaware of; I just know it was altogether unpleasant.

My second semester of college Robert moved to Altus and my late night walks took me to his apartment on his nights off and to his job on the nights he worked.  Whenever we had the opportunity, we would make love like there was no tomorrow, bringing each other as much pleasure as possible…but there was always a tomorrow, and always more fun.

When I worked and lived in San Marcos at the age of 20, I walked to work every night down a country road with no streetlights.  I never felt unsafe, even when taking rides from strangers.  I even felt safe when I walked with Jack, the Johnny Depp double who tried to take advantage of me when I passed out drunk one night.  Walking to work at night was freeing, even though being at work ceased to be freeing.  But after my shift I could walk home again.  I continued the pattern of walking to work at night and of walking around randomly when I moved back to Fort Smith in 2006.

After Luna was born, I could no longer go for late night walks.  It is unsafe to take a child out in the middle of the night like that and I couldn’t risk something happening to her if I left her at home or something happened to me if Robert stayed home with her.  So I turned back to the old late-night lovers: books, television, and the internet.  Now I have Freya, and one more reason why I can’t go on my beloved late night treks.

As the years have gone by my excuses for not going to bed at a decent hour have varied, but the desire to roam the earth canoodling with the creatures of the night has not changed.

Rocky Horror Picture Show–Now all I want to know is how to go.  I’ve tasted blood and I want more.  I’ll put up no resistance; I want to stay the distance.  I’ve got an itch to scratch; I need assistance.  Toucha toucha toucha touch me; I wanna be dirty.  Thrill me; chill me; fulfil me, creature of the night.

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