Is everything going to be okay? I whisper across the cream-colored, faux-down comforter. The cackles of the neighborhood bar-goers are constant white-noise to anything that is said or done between us when we’re between these sheets.
Is everything going to be okay? I G-chat across three time zones and three thousand miles – and if we’re being honest, three years.
Is everything going to be okay? I ask only in my head while I run, knowing back at my apartment his entire body is covered in my overly exuberant blanket (“A rainbow person!” I’d exclaimed joyfully before leaving) except for one arm poking out like a defiant flesh-colored stem.
I was afraid of the dark until I was 23. This meant that I slept with the lights on (dimmed, but on) every night until I went away to college (and then again on every break). At camp, I’d “accidentally” fall asleep with my flashlight on, always careful to bring enough D-batteries to last a full nine nights. In my college dorm, I again feigned falling asleep while reading – giving a purpose to why my desk lamp stayed on til sunrise.
My fear consumed me, the second a room went dark. I’d stare into the nothingness before my eyes and think of things that seemed far worse than death: nuclear warfare with bombs landing directly on my house, airplane crashes through our roof, my parents being killed by an intruder, drought to the point of death by parchment, a comet hitting the Earth and scattering dust til the end of days, the sun exploding and gobbling us up. All, for the most part, things that led to dying. But the anticipation of them was probably much worse than anything that would come after, and it was the anticipation that caused panic attacks.
Night is when everything changes, when you wake up different. Light is when everything stays the same. With the lights on, at least it looked like everything was going to be okay.
I’ve sought reassurance from lovers and from those I’ve loved for as long as I can remember. Since letters were written and sent, since phone calls were occasionally made from pay phone booths, since MySpace allowed us to send messages. I’ve used any and all means of communication available to me to keep the lights on. I hope that everyone else’s belief in the okay will make it possible for me to believe, that all things are in their right place; that they weren’t going anywhere.
Is everything going to be okay? I text Simone while sitting in Huckleberry Fit. His dark shadows are familiar, in sharp contrast to the low-end housing silhouettes just beyond my window.
Is everything going to be okay? I email Whitney. She’s too practical to brush me off with an “Of course,” but not so cynical she’ll go all Liv Tyler in Empire Records and say “No, and it never will be.”
Is everything going to be okay? I ask myself as I’m lying in bed with the lights off, curled up with my dolphin Betty and waiting, as I do whenever I ask anyone, for a piece of honest truth.