I’m 34 and Still Afraid of the Dark
When I was a kid, I used to sleep with a heavy comforter over my feet — no matter the season. I’d keep my legs wrapped up to my knees. Why? Witches, obviously. I knew — knew — that, if I were to lay with my feet exposed for more than a few seconds, a witch would come up from under the bed and eat my feet.
This would be a cute childhood story if it ended there. But twenty-five years later, in the hot-hot summer, I found myself sitting up in bed trying to explain to my partner why I didn’t want to put the winter comforter away. By the suspicious look on her face, you’d think I had another woman rolled up in our sheets. The truth was somehow worse.
“You think witches are going to eat your feet?”
“No — well, I don’t think witches are going to eat my feet. I imagine that witches are going to eat my feet and it scares me.”
She was a pragmatic person. She looked to the end of the bed, then to the side. “Why don’t they want to eat your hands?”
“They might want to eat my hands but that’s why I sleep against the wall.”
“What about this side?” she asked, jerking her thumb behind her.
“Well,” I said, speaking before thinking, “you sleep on that side of the bed.”
She nodded slowly as the implication washed over her — yes, I was happy to let the witches eat her first. Then she asked, hesitantly, “So, what do you do when I’m not here?”
I didn’t answer right away, but it didn’t matter. She closed her eyes and turned away from me. “That’s why you always leave the bathroom light on.”
Look, witches don’t come in the daytime. They don’t haunt well-lit rooms. They are creatures of darkness. Not just witches, either. There are all sorts of creepy creatures, particularly twitchy black-eyed kids with sharp teeth who whistle spooky tunes. So, I do what would be the rational thing in a world where these threats exist. I spend as little time alone in the darkness as possible.
I’ve tried to unpack why this fear of mine has never gone away. But at thirty-two, I still dash up the stairs in dark stairwells, flee randomly from dark alleys, and constantly turn the light on in my…