Sarah named this post after the chorus of a Grimes song. Artwork by Sarah.
There’s something really isolating, and sometimes almost haunting about walking in the dark by yourself.
Half of the time, I don’t really take note of it. I may have had a long day at uni, I may have worked a late shift, I might be coming home from a party. I don’t usually pause to think, like the rest of the human population. It’s fine. I just need to get somewhere. Sometimes it feels even liberating, to walk the streets alone and to feel like you’re at this strange state where you’re the only person in the world and the silence about you feels eternal.
Yet, it is not a feeling that is infinite. It is fleeting. It only lasts in that moment and when it’s not there, when I’m not exuberated or even feeling impartial towards my current circumstances, I tend to feel wary of the enveloping darkness.
I think it’s important to add that I live in a pretty safe area. The closest thing to criminal activity here in the last decade that I’ve witnessed was when someone broke into the house next door, but even then I don’t think anything was stolen. Or when I passed a drunken gentleman jovially pissing on the local Blockbuster’s sign late one night. He asked me to join him, to which I politely declined. The only graffiti tag I’ve seen around here is a sticker of some guy’s head (which is the greatest thing ever, by the way). These cases of destruction of property hardly affect my sleeping patterns.
And yet, when I am on my lonesome in the dark, there is still this consuming feeling of vigilence. It as if I am an animal in the wilderness initiating its survival mechanisms as David Attenborough narrates; I go into something like panic mode, and I feel instantly more aware of everything in my surroundings. I feel like prey in the dark. I feel vulnerable. The thing is, there isn’t a predator most of the time. If there is, they’re only a potential threat in the slightest. I have never been in a situation where I have been on my own, where I have been hassled by arseholes of human beings (that has thankfully only happened when I’ve been with other people).
I am fearful of the dark and the way that it so illusively covers everything in its wake. That there could be something or someone out in the black of the night and I wouldn’t know because I am a stupid homo sapien who has really shitty night vision and who also happens to be a member of a diurnal species, so it’s not like I can fall back on any buddies out and about doing their thing because they’ll generally be in bed or inside watching late reruns of SVU. Meanwhile, there is a part of me that is scared that a brutal re-enactment of that show will happen, and Detectives Stabler and Benson will discover my corpse next to a jacaranda tree the next morning. (What are they doing in Australia? I WAS DEEMED A SPECIAL VICTIM. THIS IS WHAT THEY ARE ALL ABOUT. THESE ARE THEIR STORIES.)
More than anything, what contributes to this fear is my gender. I was recently watching Donald Glover (Troy in Community) perform his comedy act, Weirdo. (Don is a 10/10 would recommend comedian by the by.) He mentions in one part how when he lived in downtown LA and whenever he had girls over late at night, they would always ask to be walked to their car and he never really fully understood why until he had the realisation that they were scared of being attacked. “That’s ridiculous,” he says. “As a grown man, I never have to think of that. Rape isn’t around the corner for me, like it is for a woman, which is so messed up.”
Girls are told all of their lives, to be scared of men. I shit you not. Everything is a risk for girls, from going out alone to what they wear. I was being told from the age of ten, (at least that’s the earliest I can remember) to be careful about what I would say and how I would act around boys. When I hit puberty, the warnings only increased in number and urgency. Girls are supposed to do everything to prevent being targeted, as if it is their fault, because they just happened to be born with a certain set of genitalia. This is perplexing, considering that no one chooses what chromosomes they receive. Unless I was asleep at the time and just fucking missed out, in which case I missed out on the most significantly life-changing decision I could ever make, and my pre-embryonic self is an absolute moron. Rape is the only sin where CHILDREN are told not “don’t do it” but “don’t get raped”. And grown men never have to worry about this, but a little girl will have this crippling dread instilled in her for the rest of her life.
Even if like I mentioned before, there isn’t a creep, there is always the tickling trepidation tucked away that there is one. Grimes’ song Oblivion is all about this. Her lyrics are so direct in saying, “And now the walk about, after dark / It’s my point of view/ If someone could break your neck / Coming up behind you, always coming and you’d never have a clue”. And maybe still, there are some of you out there that will dismiss this as a childish fear. You’ll tell me to install a night light and that there are actually some on sale down at Bunnings’, with nice kitty cut outs.
The truth is, I am generally more wary of the dark than I was a child. Then, the night was just what it is. It was shadowy and black. You occasionally heard weird noises, but it was fine. It happened every 12 hours. You got used to it. Now, it’s more about what it hides. And when you’re out there, the night renders you naked to whoever is out to get you, stripping you of all of the security you felt before. That’s the most terrifying thing about the dark; that is it is the most unapologetically saturated embodiment of the unknown. And nothing is more chilling than the unknown.