Repeating it again and again, I approached the heavy, wooden door with dread— the entrance to the largest, darkest place I knew at 8 years old, a damp, sunken basement storage room that stretched in a black void across the old apartment building filled with immigrant families’ possessions.
Whenever I opened the door, I froze by what I heard but could not see: garbage-fed city rats, feral cats, and insects living in a dark world of total blackness outside of civilization and daylight. Their scurrying sounds and animal scratchings inhabited the blackness.
Frantically, I mustered all my courage and ran to the middle of the darkness, blindly navigating by instinct to the center of the room until I found the cold, damp concrete wash sinks, my buoy in the sea of darkness. Above them hung my salvation, a single light bulb and its dangling string, a lifeline in the immense blackness.
Fighting panic, I whistled to scare off the creatures of the dark. If I could only find the light before they found me. Only the light could save me. I groped the air for the string, desperately standing on my toes and waving my arms above the sinks, grasping for the slender string before the eternal night's creatures claimed me.
Blinded by the blackness, I grabbed for the light bulb’s string.
When my small hand caught it in mid air, a dim light entered the space, and my body sighed with relief as the string swayed above me.
That single, small light conquered my terror in the dark space. The other living things became silent in their hiding places as I found my way to our storage locker.
I know now that the dark, scary place is a metaphor for when the blackness and the unknown seem to engulf my life. Sometimes it is hard to find the light when there are fearful things around me and I cannot see where I am.
At those times, I remind myself I can overcome the terror of the dark when I grab hold of the light.
Copyright © Erana Leiken, 2009 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Bulb photo by Szekér Ottó