It’s been almost four years since I originally published this. I’m posting it again for a couple of reasons: one, because Katherine Stone has been fundraising for this tremendously important cause and so it’s been top of mind, but the kind of top-of-mind that I keep trying to push down, because there are ghosts here, and I don’t really have the emotional bandwidth for coping with ghosts. Which is why, I suppose, (and this would be reason number two), I completely broke down reading this piece by Pam Belluck in the New York Times. Messy, ugly, lock-the-office-door-and-crouch-behind-your-desk-weeping broke down, the kind of breaking down that you can’t – or shouldn’t – ignore. So I searched for this post, to remind myself that those aren’t ghosts – they’re memories, of fighting real monsters. And to remind anyone who wants or needs reminding that the monster isn’t us. We’re the monster-slayers.
It was just one night, and one night, measured against the course of a lifetime, doesn’t seem all that significant. But it was a dark night, and I have never been able to shed the weight of the memory of it. I have never been able to put it, as they say, in perspective. I never will.
Jasper was not quite six months old. I had not slept in weeks. I lay awake as he stirred and fussed, bracing myself for the moment when I would have to rouse myself fully to nurse him or change him or soothe him. The darkness that night seemed particularly black, the kind of black that has a density, a weight. To say that it felt like it was closing in would be to use a trope that gets overused when writers are trying to describe dark nights and oppressive fear, but in this case it was true. The darkness was closing in on me like a heavy fog, like an army of ghosts, like a slick of oil, like night made solid and sinister. I couldn’t breathe. Jasper continued to fuss. I fought the dark.
I fought the dark. I think that I won. Even at the time, I wasn’t sure. I’m still not sure.