In the darkness one can not see any boundaries. The blacker the night the more freedom I feel I have. This is something I learned when I was still a small boy, strutting about like a little man, spouting off about the high gas bills and complaining about the Phone Company. Adults were comfortable with me. Schoolteachers, such as Mrs. Williams, loved to talk to me on the school playground and told my mother what a bright and gifted child I was to have in class. Mrs. Williams always chose me to clean the blackboard. A job I cherished. I would trudge down the long and emptied hallways 15 minutes before the final bell and grab the little yellow bucket marked with my classroom number. Carefully I would carry it back to class and begin to use erasers to dust away the chalk lessons from the day and the homework assignments for that night. Then, my favorite part, I squeezed the water out of the sponge and began to carefully streak it downward on the black slate. And with the wetness on the blackboard I could see the reflection of the room behind me. I could look into my own eyes and watch the well-behaved boy before me doing as he was told. Finishing his chore. I looked into the blackness and tried to convince him with my eyes to turn and run as I continued streak after streak to leave the board in a pristine manner so that new lessons could be learned the next day.
And even in the darkness, I would hold my hand in front of my face and convince myself I could see it. I could. Couldn’t I?
I learned in the darkness as a boy that breathing could change how I feel. A fast shallow breath left residuals of fear but deep breaths, slow and methodic could allow the mind to leave the darkness and explore. With a slow breath, I could think about the words I erased from the blackboard. I imagined in the darkness what had been painted earlier in the day with chalk. Tomorrow I would go to class and I would be the first to raise my hand. I would remember all the lessons from the day before and Mrs. Williams would smile proudly as Aaron Anderson glared across his desk at me.
In the darkness you learn to be still. Any movement in such vast emptiness can hurdle you through space and time. So I learn to stay still and quiet. Mrs. Williams told my mother how behaved I am compared to the other children. For an eight-year-old I am very controlled. That was the exact word: Controlled.
And when the light breaks the darkness and I see that I have been locked away in the attic again, confined in a small trunk for the night, I learn about gratitude for a mother who releases me. My mother tells me it is for my own good and this will teach me to behave.
I am behaved. I am controlled. I am quiet and Mrs. Williams tells my mother that she is doing an excellent job raising me. I proudly smile up at my mother and she pats my head, “Thank you, Mrs. Williams.” She says, and we walk home together.