I spent way too much of my time growing up in the dark.
The shades were always drawn. They were so thick, they barely let in any light, even on the sunniest of days. It’s funny, really. My parents had those orange curtains since the 1970s when they were in fashion. They contrasted the avocado carpet. Now, however, they act only to block out the light. More importantly, they make it so no one can see in.
Even in the summer, the house was dark, dim. My dad never wanted the light on in the living room. He said it glared too much on the TV. I guess that’s what happens when your priorities in life revolve around a glowing screen. Or maybe he wanted the light off because it was easier to ignore the mess around him. To pretend it wasn’t there.
In the summer, the piles of junk made the house stiflingly hot. My dad would open the front door to let some air in but cover the screen with a blanket to make sure no one could see inside. One time, someone had come up to the porch to pass out a flyer or ask if we’ve accepted Jesus as our personal saviors and I’m pretty sure my parents flipped their shit. Someone saw. From then on, the blanket was hung up to prevent prying eyes.
I was used to darkness, I guess. Going out into the sun made me squint. It was always a harsh shock to the eyes. Then going back inside was its own kind of shock. I couldn’t see a thing. My eyes adjusted to the brightness of outdoors and it took a minute or two for my vision dim back down to the drawn curtain glow. Sometimes, I liked the darkness. When I was older, I purposely made my bedroom dark and only had the light of candles to see by. But I blame that on being an angsty teenage girl. It didn’t have much to do with the broader surroundings of my home.
On the weekends, my dad and I watched movies. The living room, always dark, made the perfect place to catch a flick. We had a big screen TV for a while, but it broke when I was eight years old. That TV still sits in the living room 20 years later, pressed up against those curtains. In front of the old worn-out TV is a cabinet on which a newer TV sits. It was on that screen that we would watch movies. Watching horror films with my dad is probably one of my best memories from growing up. We bonded over that and I always liked the scary stuff. The gorier the better. It was all fun and games and we’d have a good laugh about the particularly bad ones. People Under the Stairs anybody? Still, I can’t help but feel like it was just an elaborate escape. Amidst promises of cleaning out the house so I could have friends over, we sat and watched movies instead of doing anything really productive.
I think my dad started out more of a collector than a hoarder. He collected movies and records, mostly. But as my mom became a hoarder, my dad’s collections turned into junk piles. He refused to let go of broken electronics. I thought it was chronic laziness, but now I’m not so sure. Maybe he was holding onto something, too. I happier past? The lasts figments of youth passing through his fingertips? Or maybe he felt like it was all he had in a house that was overrun by things that weren’t his own.
I still like the dark. Prefer it, perhaps. My creativity is sparked at nighttime and I loathe mornings. Maybe I’m afraid of what I’ll see under direct sunlight.