When I was a child, I hated to drive at dusk, because the fields of trees on the side of the highway seemed like maybe they housed monsters and giants and bean stalks I never wanted to climb. And so, with sunshine I was strong, and with nighttime I slept, but as the sun slowly crept behind dark clouds, I always found myself afraid.
Middle of the night phone calls don’t scare me.
Middle of the night text messages do.
A phone call says someone else has already taken care of the situation. You’re being informed of a catastrophe, but someone has already instated a plan, setting the problem on a fast track to happily ever after.
A text message says help. And oftentimes the letters are blurred, and I know if they were on the phone, the voices would be slurred. Instead, there are just words appearing on the screen, illuminating my dark room and awakening me from a groggy sleep. Though it is dark out, this is my dusk; the thing I’m afraid of; the monsters emerging from the sheltering trees, and constantly I am afraid to lose those in need.
And I’ve mastered the art of waking up and reading words that belong in a dramatized fictional account of a hard life, but not in the minds of my friends.
Because I’ve mastered the art of waking up to heartbreak. And through my own dripping tears, I try to compose a temporary bandaid that can somehow hold together their own hearts from bursting—at least until morning.
Because I’ve been informed of deaths, and rapes, and drunken violent escapades via text message. And I’ve sat up—worried, alarmed, afraid—craving the morning and the light it will bring.
In the light of day, things break. But in the light of day, blinded by the sun—its beauty—we manage to move forward. Step by step by step. And as night falls, we shutter from the darkness, picking up whatever substance we can find to delay the pain. But darkness doesn’t create the hurt. It just forces us to feel the hurt. The hurt we let happen when we were blinded by the day.
And I’ve learned to stop fearing dusk. Because at dusk, in this transitional phase, we finally let ourselves see that things are changing, and things are spiraling out of control. But dusk will soon fall, and we’re left with only darkness. And a tempted phone call.
There’s a girl whose mom resides on a balance beam of wanting to be alive and suicide. Pulling her to one end of a falling seesaw is alcohol and insanity. Bringing her out of the deep end is only her family.
I am used to the texts telling me my mother wants to die, but what I wasn’t used to was the night I had to help keep my best friend alive.
I have driven through dark streets and dark nights to hold a fragile heart, to protest an unfair love, and to feed a starving best friend the food she deprived herself. I have driven through tears and stop signs to Velcro hearts together, but I’ve become completely and utterly unequipped when it comes to dealing with brokenness.
Because I’ve begun to fear the phone calls. Or a phone call. The phone call that doesn’t say someone took care of a situation, but instead that they lost to the situation. And I fear the lack of text messages, and I never want to see a day when I stop being startled awake. Because I’m faithful that a day will come when on my phone I will see happiness.
You are so afraid you’re crazy, and I am so afraid that without you I’ll be crazy.
Because as I drive through our darkened town—not even a McDonald’s awake—I see only darkened trees that probably never housed monsters, but that have only instead sheltered our own ghosts of insecurities.
In a town with more car dealerships and gas stations than people, I think we’re all afraid we’ll never get out. That we’ll be stuck in these states—of boredom, depression, nonchalant complacency—and that we’ll forget we need to keep moving. Above the nearly muted sounds of our local radio station, playing the 90s like they were yesterday, I hear crickets chirp, and I long for a new day when June bugs will once again tap at the window.
Because I’m tugging for the future, like that rope in elementary school gym class we all desperately longed to climb, because in the future you’re okay. And no phone has rang. And I awake to the sound of birds chirping outside, and you don’t hate fall solely because you fear the winter. And you no longer hate people for leaving, because you’ve finally decided it’s okay to stay. You want to stay.
In my dream, you smile at the trees and jump in leaves and you feel the sun bounce off your shoulders. And I long for the day when sunlight doesn’t sting, and nighttime doesn’t remind.
I long for the day when you know you’re okay. When you stop wondering if you’ll never be okay. Because I’ve driven down the street for you. And I’ve gone through a red light or two. And I’ve had my hand hover over a number, longing to press send. But I don’t want to false alarm this. I don’t want to Boy Who Cried Wolf you. Because you’re still hanging on.
And I don’t want to be the one to make the call. Because how naïve I’d been to think the voice on the other end of the line would’ve planned a solution and perfected the happily ever after. How silly to think that they wouldn’t be driving blind, losing their mind, as the sun begins to rise, just trying to keep you alive.
So I will wait, with my finger hovering over the button, wondering if it’s worse to make the call or to receive the call. Wondering if it hurts more in the dark of the night, or when you think you’ve forgotten in the daylight.
But I know it’s neither. It hurts most when the sun falls, and the dark trees are still just barely illuminated as the shadows fall, and from the woods emerge your fears—the past, the future, and now. This short-lived dusk scares the most. And as I wait for the final breaking second—my finger on the button, yours too close to a trigger—I know it’s the in between—the either/or, the send or receive—that hurts most.