Footed-pajamas fully zipped; firmly stowed in the bottom bunk, I say my goodnights as mother turns out the light. In the dark, I strain my eyes to wonder at the rocket ships and moons decorating the underside of the mattress above me. I sing songs, and talk to my dog Adelaide, who will soon desert me for my sister’s room and a quiet night’s sleep. I do anything to forestall the gnawing cowardice that accompanies a fear of the dark. It is in vain. Soon, phantoms, monsters and dread surround me, speaking a universal tongue: menace. I cry out and the light returns thus completing a nightly ritual.
A year later, the yellow Lilly replaced the black Adelaide. Lilly liked to talk preferring my nervous ramblings to the silence of the rest of the house. She was a yellow-snoring ball of reassurance. Her arrival ended the nightly ritual, her snores drowned out the clamor. Together we learned the loopy thrill of being brave.
Last night I latched the door of my ping and bolted the “Alice in Wonderland” door of my Ger. I outgrew my pajamas twenty years ago so I slept in cotton boxers. The flags of my country and my new home have replaced the rocket ships and moons above my bed. In the dark, I strain less hard to see them; I sing fewer songs. Adelaide is gone. Lilly is gone too. However, the phantoms, monsters and dread still creep from the moldy corners of my mind. In the dark, with time on their side they broadside me with insecurities fired on the tack from the mid-ship-38 pounders, the same guns that set Her Majesty’s Navy to flight.
Twenty years and seven thousand miles later and I am still a kid, afraid of the dark, bouncing from one loopy thrill to the other. Life here? A mad dash. Like a junkie looking for his next fix, I ride horses with Gana and slaughter sheep with Mogi and drink vodka with Magnai, Naraa, and a host of other Bats and Sitsiks, all in the hopes of recreating that yellow-snoring ball of reassurance that encouraged those early bouts of bravery.
I agonize over easy decisions: camping or stay home? And I reprimand myself for the sorriest of mistakes: two hours of South Park was a waste of time. I dash from plan to plan: extend? Business School? The tropics? and I spend hours writing to-do lists on calendars I will never look at again.
Amidst the fury of my twenties –my least luminant decade – I write letters and stare, child like, at dust storms coming across the Steppe. I share tea with grandmothers who tell me about their grandchildren and great grandchildren and about being young in a world even more wild than it is today. With them, I think of my own grandmother who also drinks tea, and the occasional bourbon, with adopted twenty-somethings who stare, child like, at weather coming across the Atlantic. The serene company of grandmothers grants a reprieve from the dark and the broadsides. They are the yellow-snoring ball of reassurance.
But for me the tea must end. I have not yet secured enough years to warrant a second cup
and so I take my leave, returning to the dark and the hail of 38 pounders fired on the tack.