As a child, I was frightened of the dark. I would turn on all the lights. TV on, radio or boom box, headphones with tape recorder set to play. Forced my parents to call on neighbors for a ladder and aid in breaking in once. Even a few years after that incident, I still left the lights and often the boom box on for my parents to turn off, after I had fallen asleep. I made a game of it. Not stepping in shadows after night fall. How to navigate a darkened room with my eyes closed, so that I would not have to see the darkness. Not that I was so afraid of what could lay in the shadows that pooled around the corners or behind creaking doors, though that was a pressing concern as well, but moreso it was the fear that I was completely and utterly alone that sent me racing for the covers the moment the light switch was flipped.
The fear that there was no one but me. That come morning, I would awake to find that no one had returned in the hours I had slept, no one had returned. That they would just leave me. That one or the other would just take off one day and then I, a child with no assets to her name, no documentation, no proof of existence, would have to continue to exist. Alone. I was eight, the first time I truly realized, how powerless a child is in the world of adults.
There was another fear, perhaps even more frightful than the first. That even among all the people, I was truly alone. That there could never be another whom I could be connected to as it seemed like all those around me were connected to one another. As some believed they were to me.
And after some time past. The childhood fears faded, but never lain to rest. My many faces and practiced gestures, exactly that, better used, better practiced. The connection, a constant struggle to try to maintain, that often I wonder if it is real at all. If I am not, as I had feared, doomed to forever be alone.
Trust is the foundation of any relationship. And belief the foundation of trust. I believe in people, but I do not trust. Try as I might, I am still the child, quivering in the dark. Afraid to open her eyes, for fear that it would reveal her greatest horror: that no one else here. That she is alone. Truly and truly.
Upon the mountaintop, a cliff looks over crashing waves and there sits a house. Glass windows all a glimmer at dawn and dusk. A house it is, but not a home. Deep in the suburbs, a house of brown, shingles, and concrete stones. It is a house, but was it ever a home? A place of safety, of comfort, of familiarity. It is the place I write as my permanent address. Where I have spent the bulk of my life. Where I curled up to read far into the night. Where I cooked my first meal, played hide and seek and deinonychus then raptors in the yard. Where I opened up a desktop for the first time and began my first collection of extra screws. Where I kept the kitchen window open just a crack, for the days when I had to break into the house. Where I found routes around the house to slip out into the backyard unawares or avoid an angry person looking for someone to blame. Where I watched and listened to the great artistry of rain, sliding and beating around the world and contemplated what it was to live and to die.
A place where I lived. But was it a place I belonged? And if not to this, then to where was I, could I be bound?
I have cried an innumerable amount of times in that house and in the ones that preceded it. But I can count on my hands, the number of times I was seen. There was a time, before I learned control, from the time when my memories are scattered and the in between covered in haze, when I would cry. Cry until I hiccuped uncontrollably, from lack of breath. As it turns out, you can literally die crying. Or rather die from crying. My mother once told me that that had happened to someone in her family. That they had started hiccuping. Too rapidly to catch their breath and died from asphyxiation. That was perhaps my first warning on the dangers of crying. The second was on it’s futility.
I was perhaps five. I had lost something, a pencil box is what I have been told and what I vaguely remember. It had two tiers, metal, and there were pictures on the top of the cover and in the bottoms of the two inner levels. I was crying. I knew the meaning of losing something. It was not going to come back and I was sad. I was punished, perhaps not unjustly for my neglect of my belongings, but I had no conception then that others would bear me ill will. That I should be on guard against the intentions of others. I was punished and it hurt, already saddened from the loss of something I liked, I started to cry. And I was punished for that as well. Between the smacks that turned my arms blue and green, I will forever remember my father telling me to stop crying, because crying never helped anyone and the hits would continue until I stopped. Except that time, I got the hiccups and couldn’t. My mother had to step in, which resulted in another conflict of their own.
Perhaps it was that even as a baby, I rarely cried that my parents never learned the art of comforting. After that incident, I worked at controlling my emotions. The overwhelming hiccups scared me. There was no doubt in my mind that if it got to that stage, I really could die from crying. I learned to cry silent tears. And when I could not stop their coming, I would hide. Because by then I had realized that there would be no comfort from crying.
Growing up, I had no doubts of what was home. Home was where I lived. Then I moved. Thus home was where I and my parents were. Then I was sent to my cousins and that never felt like home. There I was always a stranger, always at best a guest, at worst a pest. Living with my grandparents was home, largely because first my mother than my father would arrive at that house while they later left to another. But the people who arrived were not my parents. They were different changed. No more attempting to hide their disharmony from me. I was dragged into their war. And the walls of that house, as bright and as white as they were, become more and more like a prison with each passing day. Years later I see that while I called this house home, it was ever only a house where people simply lived.
For most, the departure to college is the leaving of the nest. But to leave, there must also be a return. And for most, the return home eases that pang of homesickness. For me, each return furthered the realization that my home had long been lost. That I never had a home to return to. It had ceased to exist without my notice, while I was still clinging to the hope of a normal life. Of a normal family. While I still believed that nothing was wrong. Nothing to return to. No one to turn to. No one, in my darkest moments, amid my greatest fears, in silent or hiccuping tears, to call upon for comfort. No one to hold me, pat me on the head, and tell me, to lie and say that everything will be alright. For that is what a home truly is. A place where one is safe. Where one will find comfort. A place not to be alone, cast about in this big scary place called the universe.
And I cry today, silent streams finding routes down old acne battlefields, interrupted by the occasional sniffle to clear the nose, not because I fear I am alone. Though that fear remains. But for the loss of the home I now see I never had.