One night, I told my mom that I was afraid of being the only person awake in the world
. I was two or so and the world was still pretty small
. I was the only child
, in the family and in the neighborhood. My earliest memories are from this time when I was two, when briefly, my parents and I lived in a trailer park
outside of a beach resort.
It wasn't the kind of trailer park you'd think of today. This was a park people went to for the summer, where they'd clean out grandpa's double wide for a season of fishing and sunburns. There were also empty lots where mobile homes that were still mobile could park indefinitely. I remember a lot of kids summer after summer, always coming back, but never staying.
The park was framed by an inlet off the bay, two strips of bare fields, and woods. At night, the darkness of the void, blotted only briefly by citronella candles, crept in through the screen and shook me from sleep.
Our trailer was not just some box, it was a home. My father, a carpenter, built on two extensions; one was a sunken den with a fireplace, the other was my own room, complete with a bathroom and separate shower. I never asked why he thought a 2 year old would need all this, but I used this private space as best I could. I hid in the bathroom with the light on, reading until I was exhausted. Sometimes, I would pack a lunch.
I think I was born a night person, straight from the womb. I was constantly sneaking out of bed to watch TV long after my parents were asleep, guided by all the lights that were left on for me down the hall to the living room. I'd read under my covers, sure to keep my feet squarely pinched with the sheets covering them at all times so the monsters wouldn't see them. These were my coping techniques, my answers for an unsolved riddle in my head.
My mom just had one. She sat over me and must have not seen how scared I really was, I remember the nonchalance in her voice, how sure she sounded. "Well, let's leave the radio on so you'll know that you're not alone." She reached up to the clock radio and turned the dial until she caught someone's voice. She set the volume on low so that the voice was reduced to a scratchy ticking in the speaker, barely audible.
I would concentrate on that voice until I fell asleep, until the fear's hold on me would just have to wait for the next night. I had theorized that perhaps even this voice was not the voice of someone awake at the time, but a pre-recorded voice. I guess what I resorted to, besides the fact that a 2 year old could not be pacified with trusting someone else's word, was a hope that I wasn't the only night person in the world.
Except for one four year entanglement, I have always had a light on and a radio playing softly when I'm trying to go to sleep. My apartments are always the smallest size on the market, preferably designed so that I can see every corner and cranny from my bed. I live alone and sleep alone, and even now I think I hear noises or voices and crave the sound of a DJ's voice to fill the complete silence. Even now, at 1am and at 24 years of age, there is a light on for every room in my apartment.
It's no surprise to me that I am a bit of a net geek. I was talking to a friend of mine about it on IM earlier tonight while I was cleaning my apartment. We weren't talking really, but we left the IM window open, just in case. It was oddly comforting that he was there, more or less, and a captive audience. That I wasn't alone, the only one awake in the world. Not the only one staring at the blue screen, waiting for contact.