Tears for Fears of the Dark
By Mike Day
With artwork by Launa Winship
When I am really anxious I become afraid of the dark again. Usually I am nocturnal, like an owl, or a bat, or an aardvark. I get to sleep around 4 or 5 am and wake up at around 10 or 11 am. This is exactly how I like it most of the time. I like being up in the early morning when everything is quiet and still. In high school I had this friend who used to call it the blue hour – the time of morning before the sun rises and the sky starts to light up, but the birds aren’t out yet. I walk outside, and all I can hear is the wind, and the hum of distant cars. I feel peaceful.
My anxiety is the enemy of the blue hour. Tonight I spend some time imagining what it would be like to be sucked out of a plane, like in a movie. Just flung out into the sky. I watch a video of a GoPro attached to a weather balloon falling from the edge of space, imagining that I am the GoPro. I imagine my body hitting the ground, even though I have already died from fear/shock/lack of oxygen. I close my laptop, but then watch the video again on my phone. Then for some reason I search through the tagged photos on Facebook of someone who I haven’t talked to in about four years. The not talking was a decision, but now it seems stupid. I think about talking to them again, but then remember how once I saw them at a bar wearing a ball gown, and how I avoided eye contact. I play this scene over in my head at least thirty or so times, trying to remember if they caught me looking.
I put my phone away, remembering that I read somewhere (nope) / someone told me (plausible) / I saw in a movie (likely) that you shouldn’t use electronic devices before bed. And then I lie in bed with my eyes fixed on the door, because I can’t stop imagining Christian Bale from American Psycho standing right behind it.
Also, my mouth is now very dry, and I can’t sleep without a glass of water, so I decide to get up using the light on my phone to protect me. I open the door quickly, so that maybe I can startle Christian Bale, who it turns out definitely isn’t behind the door (although he could be hiding). I move through the house like the member of a SWAT team, checking all the corners, securing the perimeter. I try not to worry that from outside the house the light moving around looks a burglar deciding what’s good to take (TV, record player, guitars, Lord of the Rings Extended Edition DVDs etc.).
The taps in the kitchen are so loud. It’s fucked, because any hiding Christian Bales will definitely know my location now. I back into my room as nimbly as possible and then vault into my bed. I decide that I am probably safe and turn of my phone light, but it is now after 5am. Soon my housemate who is a vegan chef will be waking up for the breakfast shift. I wonder whether it will be easier just to stay awake and go to bed tomorrow night. I try to imagine how long I can stay awake for, but I remember that my eyes get very bloodshot when I am tired. Everyone will think I am stoned, or allergic to something.
I think about how when I was a kid there was this corridor with a corner in my house between the kitchen and my bedroom. I would always imagine that there was something right behind the corner. I can’t remember exactly what, but I definitely hadn’t seen American Psycho yet. I would have to run around the corner as fast as I could.
Now the bed feels very empty. I always sleep better with someone in my bed. I wonder whether if I will ever be able to sustain a long-term relationship, and then the cat comes into my room. We hug for a while, but she wants food, so I get up and feed her. When I go back to bed, I hear my housemate getting ready for work. I feel very bad. It is getting light now. Oh god. I can hear birds now. Fuck birds. Maybe tomorrow will be different. I take some lithium, and then some anti-anxiety meds that I should have taken before watching that GoPro video. I think about jerking off just to knock myself out, but sometimes the floorboards creak and I am having trouble keeping my eyes open watching the door for intruders.
It could be a few days or a month later but when I wake up my mood is different, and for whatever reason my anxiety has subsided. The blue hour is beautiful again, and my cat decides to sleep on my bed, because I’m not constantly moving around and switching the bedside light on and off. I get out of bed before midday, and when I go to bed, there are no Christian Bales behind the door, and I am not afraid of the dark.
Launa Winship is a Melbourne-based artist and graphic designer. Heavily influenced by pop culture, visual arts and fashion, she jumps between these mediums with the mission of combining them into one singular genre.