N is for Nighttime
I was definitely one of those “scared of the dark” kids, even though I knew, logically, nothing was there. I had a younger sister and I remember sending her into rooms to make sure it would be ok, which sounds crazy in retrospect. She just wasn’t afraid of, well, anything. Other than maybe broccoli and casseroles.
But the funny part about my fear of the dark was that in most other ways, I enjoyed nighttime very much. I have this very vivid memory of having gone to the mall one night with my dad after dinner. But this was a very different outing than our normal ones. The mall previously mentioned that my mom worked at was a mere six minutes away, while the other one was about five. (Also, two malls within 10 minutes of each other? Oh, the 80s!) No, this night we’d gone down to the Aventura mall, which was a haul at 21 minutes, on the interstate! It felt so far to 9-11 year old me. I cannot remember exactly how old I was but my sister was pretty young; she fell asleep in the back of the Taurus station wagon. On this particular drive back from the mall, I remember loving seeing all the homes lit up cozy inside. It felt like a very dark night and as I sat in the way back with my slumbering sister, the song by Richard Marx, Right Here Waiting, came on the radio. Somehow it created this odd atmosphere for the drive. This sticks with me as a time that night was not as bad or scary as my adolescent brain made it out to be.
As I grew up, I appreciated driving at night. Once I gained the freedom of a license and started hanging out with friends, we’d literally just drive around neighborhoods and all the surrounding suburbs of Orlando. Night could be quiet or it could be loud and crazy. On Friday night in the 90s, it was commonplace for people to cruise the main drag in downtown Orlando. It got bumper to bumper sometimes; people blaring music, folks crossing here and there, hanging out on the sidewalks, going in and out of tattoo shops, novelty stores, bar, restaurants. But I preferred the quiet rides down Edgewater boulevard. It was just a fun road to be on and as we neared my friend’s house, crossing the flyover near the mall that went over I4, there was one place on this road, West Central Parkway, where it curved in such a way that if you just went straight, you’d automatically find yourself merged into the right hand lane. For some reason, my friends and I got a real kick out of that.
Sometimes I appreciate night more than I think I will, even though I like to think that I am my happiest when the sun is shining. Sometimes it feels like it envelopes me in a sense of comfort, even though there’s still a part of my brain that finds fear and uncertainty in the unknown darkness.