--"I'll Follow You Into The Dark (Cover)", Amy Millanfor those of you out there that might have suffered disappointments of the heart ever...
We had just said goodnight. I remember hating that part because it was already my third night there and I was fulling expecting another all-night conversation laying next to one another. I guess after two nights of that, though, we were both exhausted to continue the motif. It was probably for the best because I sure as hell wouldn't have turned another night down, but, as most people know, I have no self-control. I hated that part because I knew, despite being more than a little tired, there was no way I'd be getting to sleep any time soon. I figured I would just by laying there unable to compel my mind to rest.
It was nearing Christmas because I could still hear the faint sound of the holiday songs your mother had been playing since my arrival. Somewhere downstairs there was a radio that just would not die. It'd been a good holiday so far so I didn't even mind that there was yet another distraction to my getting to sleep. Normally I don't buy into all the festivities, but my spirits were definitely brighter than they had been in the weeks leading up to my trip. I just remember lying there, wrapped up in blankets probably older than me, with a smile in my heart and on my face. I just kept thinking this trip could not get any better than it already had been. There was no possible way we were ever going to top the first few days I was there. I kept thinking that and how much I wished I could just sneak across the bathroom that connected our rooms without the floorboards creaking or making a ruckus with the doors.
It's the worst thing in the world to be both an insomniac and someone who tends to get obsessive rather quickly. It makes for a lot of sleepless nights.
I must have been contemplating in bed for close to an hour like that. I wasn't really thinking about anything specific. I was just letting my mind wander about various things--what we were going to do the next day, what you really thought about me, what your folks really thought about me, and how freaking cold it was in that room. I also thought about how much warmer it would have been had you again been in it. Around and around in circles like that I let my thoughts go. I didn't want to give up the ghost that there was still a chance that you might sneak back through that bathroom door. You'd told me you might if you couldn't sleep either. I didn't want you to find me there fast asleep. I wanted to be awake just in case you changed your mind.
When I finally did hear the bathroom door open I could barely see you. I think I saw you move the wooden chair that you'd been sitting in earlier in the evening out of the way before I saw all of you. If I hadn't been expecting you, I might have thought that it'd been some kind of specter moving the chair. As it was, your face didn't come into focus until you lowered it nearly atop mine. Even in the gossamer light of the moon your oceanic blue-green eyes came across clearly. A few chesnut strands of your hair brushed lightly against my face and I could see the hint of one of your patented wicked grins spread slowly from dimple to dimple. Nobody in his right mind would have kept silent at such a sight, but somehow I did. What could I have said that would have made the moment any more memorable? I don't know--I think I was just nervous at what I thought was finally happening. I half-expected you to come crawling beneath the covers with me like you had the night before, but such was not your goal that night.
"Not tonight, sugar. I've got other plans for us."
That's when you grabbed my hand firmly and began to pull me up. All I had on was a pair of old running shorts and my red and blue La Salle gym shirt. As soon as my bare arms became fully exposed to the night air I felt exposed. I might not like freezing to death, but I hated wearing any type of constricting clothing to bed whatsoever. I was paying for my comfort as soon as I got to my feet. And you? You had on a pale blue wife-beater and a long pair of yellow pajama bottoms so you weren't faring that much better either. In fact, I could see your so-called "goose pimples" rising as we stood in the dark together. Whatever you had planned I secretly began hoping involved finding some bit of warmth and soon. You intertwined your icy fingers in mine, pulling me to the door. I held your hand tentatively as I had not been expecting the two of us to leave the room at all.
"Follow me. And make sure to stay shushed through this next part."
"Anything you say. Are you sure you want to do this, though?" I asked you while you peeked her delicate head out the door.
"You don't even know what I want to do so don't even pretend you're chickening out now," you whispered back.
"It's precisely because I don't know that I don't have to like it," I replied.
"Shush now, complain later."
I firmly expected us to move down the hall like we were sneaking around, like we were. You, however, grabbed my wrist and moved like you had a purpose. Your compact frame pulled us along like a locomotive, quickly clearing the hall in record time. I'm sure our footsteps made more noise than I would have liked, but we were across and down the stairs so quickly that I doubted if your folks had had enough time to even register what they might have heard in their slumber.
Once we were to the stairs your grip loosened and we took the last few feet at a far slower pace, a pace more befitting the skulking snipes that we were. As we passed your impressive Christmas tree, lit up like a green birthday cake for an eighty-year-old, you remarked how nice it smelled down here. You also remarked that it was a dear shame I couldn't smell what it was like in your sitting room. You pulled us towards the fireplace on the other side of the room. I saw that it was on its last legs, the final log still burning but resembling more a loose alliance of embers and flames rather than a coherent piece of wood. You sat down first by the fire. I followed right behind you.
"What are we doing down here, Breannie?" I asked, running my hand through the front of your hair. I could feel the warmth of the fire behind you and the sudden memory of your hair-burning incident flashed in my brain.
"You'll see. Have a little patience."
I watched you yawn, cat-like, before turning around to face the fire. It was probably two in the morning but neither of us were all that adamant about looking for a clock just then. All that might have done was convince us that it was too late to be sneaking around and how the next day we'd be paying for our shenanigans with more inappropriate yawns at the dinner table or elsewhere around the house. We couldn't look at a clock because we might lose all our resolve. Whatever you had planned, I could already tell, was going to take a lot of resolve. We warmed by the fire soon enough and I was slowly beginning to think that that was the extent of your plan. As far as plans go it wasn't bad. I probably could have stayed up the rest of the night with you just like that, me sitting beside you, my hand mindless stroking the back of your head. It would've been peaceful. We would have both been content for a long stretch of time. Yet if there's one thing I've noticed about you, it's that your not really one for the quiet moments. You always have an ace in the hole when it comes to planning something more demonstrative. Sure, you have your quiet moments, but I'm much more used to the Lucy that has something more spectacular planned than the Lucy that just lets the situation be. After all, you don't think; you just go.
Just as I had moved a bang out of your face, you started to stretch like you were going to get up again. Part of me felt disappointed that the night was again coming to a close, but I was grateful for the additional lucky few minutes I got to spend with you that night. If it had to end, I would have much rather have it end with us having sat by the fire and not just with a generic bedside good-bye.
Again, you had other plans.
"Warmed up enough?"
"Are you ready to go then, sugar?"
The incredulity in my voice probably came off harsher than I intended it to. It was merely that, while I was aware you had some crazy plans in the past, seeing it firsthand for the first time in person was another matter entirely. Walking outside in the dead of night with nary a decent stitch on it was tantamount to suicide I thought. It was far too cold, far too dark, and far too dangerous to have even considered it. I wanted even to tell you as much, but from your countenance you were so adamant about doing it that I didn't think words would be enough. I don't know what I thought. I don't know if I thought that you'd come to your senses in time, but I did want to flat out tell you no just then so I went with you as far as the door. I stood in front of the door without opening it for a long time. I think I was just working up the nerve to tell you what so many others are afraid to tell you, no. No, I didn't want to go outside just then. No, I didn't want to go walking around in the dark with my gym clothes on. And, no, I didn't want to leave the relatively safety of the house for who knows what was waiting for us outside. I was just about to give you more than one piece of my mind when you made your move.
You came up behind me as we approached the front door and gathered me up in your arms. You were, what, six inches shorter than me at the time, but it felt like you were eight feet tall and that your arms could wrap around me twice. And, I admit it, I acquiesced far too quickly. You didn't even have to ask. I would have followed you out that door into hell itself. I opened the door and we stepped out. Together.
I didn't know what your plan was. I didn't even know how far we were going. All I knew was that you wanted to go outside just then and that I wanted to be wherever you were. That meant I had to go outside too. I didn't care. I started to shiver right along with you as we took those first few steps down the block, but it mattered little to me. I started to glance around nervously for would-be predators, but it mattered less than I thought it would. Even the idea of tromping around in my night attire was a small concern. You started to take the lead from me and what became important to me was that I follow right in your footsteps. I needed to keep you company. I needed to keep you safe. I needed to be with you just then. Everything else just kind of fell away. I stepped up behind you and took your hand. You walked fast, but I wanted to make sure you knew that I was right beside you.you and me have seen everything to see
We ended up only walking around the block. It gave me a small idea of what it must have been like for you all those times you ran from home. I couldn't even imagine you spending more than a few hours of the evening out in conditions such as that. At least I had you as company. I think my courage would have been infinitely smaller had I had to traverse the blocks of your city on my own. And to realize you not only walked these selfsame streets but had to sleep out upon them was doubly worse for me. I don't know if it was just the thought of you so small, so young, having to fend for yourself when the night was so black and the air so cold but I started to get more than a little upset. I guess you noticed and asked me what was wrong.
"I was just thinking how scared you must have been all those times."
"When I was supposed to be home and wasn't?" you joked.
"It wasn't so bad."
But I knew it had been. I had heard firsthand how dire everything had seemed, the fragile depths that your mind had reached during those times you had acted out. While you hadn't been exactly walking the streets at all hours, sleeping beneath a friend's house or walking to the next nearest relative's place three miles away wasn't a cake walk, especially for someone so young walking by themselves.
I suppose that's why you still had it in your system that night. It'd been, what, only two short years since you'd stopped running away? In some silly way there was a part of you that missed it. It might not have been all cakes and cookies out there, but you had run from home because all that was waiting for you there was your mother's expectations. There was a kind of freedom you had in being out on your own at such an age when most would were still content to be tied to their mother's apron strings. You had a small taste of deciding what happened to you. I rather think you got hooked on the feeling. And I daresay you might have been missing it that night. That's why you called me out. That's why you took me for that walk in the dead of the night. You wanted to show me what it'd been like for you. You weren't scared. You'd done that same walk probably two dozen times. In a way, I think you were comforted by its familiarity.
However, on that walk you also were never more than an arm's length from me. You never sped too far ahead of me or let me get too far from you. Maybe it was just common courtesy, but I think something deeper was at work. All those times you had walked the streets you'd been on your own. There must have been a part of you that wondered how different the experience might have been if you had a sister or brother to tag along with you. Would you have felt less anxious? Would you have been easier to convince to turn around? Or perhaps would the presence of someone who would have been so willing to take your side, as I very well might have been, been enough to dissuade you from running away in the first place? I don't know. I know that on that particular walk you made it a point to be in contact with me as much as possible.
What I like to believe, though, is that it was more than that. When we rounded back around the block and started headed back to your folks' home, it was a different experience to be walking home with someone who had gotten a taste of an experience that had so finely defined you. None of your other friends, none of your other family members, had actually went "running away" with you. I don't know if you had asked anyone else--you must have, though--but I very well could have been the first and only person who saw a sliver of your world, of your experience, of your life. It wasn't just an expedition to give you an excuse to spend time with me; it was an opportunity to share a good deal of yourself without being all uptight about me.
I don't know--when we made it back to your front door I felt like I'd learned a great deal about you and what you makes you tick even though we never spoke more than fifteen words in the fifteen minutes it took us to walk around. Fifteen minutes, though, gave me a great deal of insight into your life up until that point.
I left thinking that it was such a crazy idea that you had had. I left thinking that it was insane to follow you out into the dark just because you wanted to.
I came back feeling even closer to you than I ever thought I could. I came back realizing that wherever you might go there was no question that I would back you up, I would keep you company, I would keep you safe, and I would want to be with you.
I left thinking it was a mistake to let you lead me outside.
I ended up following your lead for the next fourteen years and counting.
Labels: Amy Millan, Breanne, Devotion, fear, trust