Shadows and Light

I was mildly afraid of the dark when I was a boy. I blame this on the cartoon Speed Racer, of which I was a huge fan when I was six – until, that is, I saw The Episode. Speed’s stalwart girlfriend Trixie, worried that his current race might cost him his life, dreams that she sees his car cruise to a stop in a valley. Relieved, she races toward him and reaches the car as Speed, still wearing his helmet, steps out of the car with his back to her. “Oh, Speed,” Trixie cries, laying her head against his back. “I thought you were dead.” But then Speed turns, turns slowly in this dreamscape . . . revealing a demon face of blue skin and pointed teeth. “I’m not speed!” he hisses.

And I ran from the room.

From that day forward I slept with my bedroom door ajar, keeping my eyes fixed on the narrow swath of light piercing the darkness. The shadows were simply too seductive a canvas for my young imagination. Best, I decided, to keep my attention on what is known, rather than what could be.

Someone pointed out this was the same year my parents got divorced, and I suppose it is possible I would not have needed the door left ajar if my dad were still sleeping across the hall. We will never know. What does it matter anyway? Sooner or later you will become keenly aware of the difference between light and dark. And sooner or later you must discover what is waiting for you in the shadows.

It has been my goal as a writer to illuminate those very shadows. There’s no use living your life trapped in some little triangle of safety. Let the whole world be plunged into blackness if it must. My light always shines clearest in the dark.

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