June 9, 2015 – by DAnthony2
As dawn bursted with warm yellow ribbons, it reached around the sun-bleached shutters and forcefully pulled my heavy, sleep-filled eyes ajar. Excitement immediately built up in my chest, relieved only slightly by a gleeful exhalation. Anticipation for the distant evening was nearly unbearable for my six year old patience threshold. This was the day I would attend a sleepover for the very first time in my entire life.
Most of the day that followed included an in-depth preparation ritual that consisted of me packing all of my necessary equipment. This included a thick, white blanket to use instead of my black, quilted sleeping bag which, for some reason I can’t remember, was unavailable for my overnight stay. A variety of pocket flashlights resembling generic white doctor’s pens were stored in my pockets in case I needed to navigate my way to a bush to relieve my bladder in the middle of the night. I, in my six year old state of mind, thought that I would abide by the unspoken rules of camping rather than make the twenty foot journey to the house and use an actual toilet. Anyways, the entirety of my things were neatly rolled up and stuffed into an incredibly small plastic garbage bag in a scene that resembled the creation of a sausage. I distinctly remember sitting on that bundle for hours in front of my hulking CRT television set while watching some cartoons so that I could occupy myself until the sun started to dip behind the verdant evergreen Oregon trees. A conversation arose from my worried La Fave 1 mother, who wanted to make sure that I would be able to handle the new experience of spending a night alone without her in regards to my crippling fear of the dark.
“Now, are you sure you want to go to this campout?” she asked in a voice of maternal concern.
“Yes, mom.” I replied in a tone that only a six year old can get away with.
“Okay honey, I just want to make sure you’re alright.”
Little did I know that the night would, in fact, not go as I had hoped.
Arriving at my neighbor’s small, plain looking house a few doors down from mine, I held my oversized and overstuffed sausage bundle close to my chest in an embrace like that of two long lost siblings. Much of the evening has since escaped my memory, although I have a faint recollection of roasted marshmallows with their blackened, sizzling exteriors. Now that I think about it, I don’t even remember how many kids in my neighborhood were present. However, I can recall with near certainty the layout of the backyard campsite. The aforementioned site contained three mid-sized tents in a triangular formation with blue tarps stretched across their tops like snowcaps on a mountain range. The backyard itself had a modest line of bushes which hugged the traditional and ever-present white picket fence of the small suburb. A large set of sliding glass doors faced the yard, casting light from the kitchen onto the pseudo-wilderness. After the not-so-memorable events of the evening, everyone turned in for the night, each tent with three to four occupants. If the night had ended then and there, I probably would have thought of the whole experience as mediocre.
The full moon wrapped itself in the sparse cloud cover above as a flapper dons a flamboyant feathered boa. I woke with a start, a feeling of great urinal pressure invading my sleep. Wielding one of my trusty pen-flashlights, I noticed something strange: besides me, my tent was completely empty. I unzipped the entrance with the rapidity of a desperate prisoner escaping in the night. Though I had originally planned to urinate in the bushes, as previously mentioned, I decided that I would check on the house first. As I peeked into the glass sliding doors, I saw my tent mates curled up in the living room across from the kitchen. They had abandoned me for the comfort of a large brown sofa which seemed to mock me from inside the security of the home. I tried the sliding doors to no avail and I knocked without a response from the comfortable betrayers which left me in the tent alone. Panic set in as my urge to relieve myself became impossible to ignore. I made my way to the nearest bush, holding my flashlight with my teeth, and doing the dirty deed. Though I had no audience, the feeling of peeing in a bush left me mortified. Upon further inspection, the other tents were just as vacant as my own. My fear was pressing against my diaphragm, forcing me to breath a little heavier. It was night, the middle of the night, and I was alone.
From deep down within me, and from depths of my personality that I had not yet explored, I found a light in the darkness. The fear that used to debilitate me had now become inconsequential compared to a growing sense of mechanical awareness. It allowed for me to shut off my fear of the dark in order to rationalize the situation I was in. The evidence I gathered told me that I was alone and that I should pack up my things and walk home. So I did. I marched back to that tent, I threw all of my things back into that tiny plastic bag, and I walked away with my pack hoisted over my shoulder, reminiscent of a cartoon hobo. The shoes I had arrived in were also thrown into my bag, leaving me barefooted as I made my way to the moonlit street. As I walked, the brisk night air filled my lungs with a satisfying tickle while the lightly shrouded full moon greeted me with a clear path home.
I made my way up the porch and up to the solid oak door that barred entry into my home. With a quiet yet strong voice, I called out to my parents while tapping on the large door. The hollow sound of my knocking echoed across the empty streets and bounced off the fences of my various neighbors. My mother answered the door, squinting from sleep with an expression of relief. She knew, somehow, that I would return and she slept in the living room in direct view of the main doorway in accordance with this prediction. Call it maternal instincts or what have you, but I was overjoyed to see her and solidified this joy with a hearty hug. Tonight, I had overcome my fear of the dark.