Image for post
Image for post
Daytalking (from CITD), Nightwalking (courtesy of John Alspach), and Stargazing (from CITD 2017)

“There are a thousand and one gates leading into the orchard of mystical truth. Every human being has his own gate. We must never make the mistake of wanting to enter the orchard by any gate but our own. To do this is dangerous for the one who enters and also for those who are already there.”
— Moshe the Beadle, from Elie Wiesel’s Night

I thought it happened exactly a year after they died, in 2010. But I was wrong.

Memory, you see, is a cheat.

“I remember,” you start to say.

And I’m standing ready with: “Yeah, well, whatever…”

So, as a longtime diarist I’m grateful to be able to dig into my journals and find out when I did the Nightwalking.

So I looked for the entry months before, since I’d tied the memory to the day I broke up with my girlfriend.

We’d been together for nearly a year, but grew apart as 2009 began. On a May evening, she didn’t come home. When I phoned her, the call went straight to voicemail. The next day I called her at work — she revealed she’d gone out with another guy and spent the night at his place. Right then and there I decided we were through.

All I remembered was crying so hard I couldn’t see to drive my car home from work. I was afraid I’d have an accident, so I pulled down a side street and parked.

And sobbed.

I had to get somewhere where I could rest, or talk to someone. My parents were dead, my girlfriend was gone, and I never felt more alone.

When I recently looked for this incident in my journals, I was surprised to see it occurred a month after the breakup. My ex had gone abroad on a summer trip and it was a normal day at work — but one that got more and more claustrophobic. So I left work early to go home and take care of myself.

Be kind, rewind. The story is correct, the date was not.

And that’s how Nightwalking begins.

It closes in, making a once-spacious and generous world very, very small.

Nightwalking used to mean, “Me out walking at night.”

Mom and Dad were pretty lax when it came to what we kids did in the evening, as long as we returned home at the prescribed hour.

Sometimes that stretched beyond what we were able to grasp at the moment, but probably not by much. We were good kids. It was a different time.

I recall walking alone, but sometimes I was joined by friends. It’s the lonely walks I remember the most.

And so, Nightwalking.

Image for post
Image for post
Nightwalking streetlight circa 1974, from Completely in the Dark.

Nightwalking was an opportunity to bask in all the day’s misplaced melancholy. Nighttime was perfect for it: dogs barked in the distance, their owners shouting for them to come in, car headlights snaked through streets and suddenly veered off, never to be seen again, and humming streetlights welcomed swirling insects and lonely Nightwalking boys who happened to pass underneath their shadows.

A lot of the spacey-dark music I was listening to also fell under that Nightwalking streetlight: nearly everything by The Moody Blues — but it could even be The Beatles with “No Reply,” a perfect Nightwalking song. Later came The Zombies and “Time of the Season,” and even later The Flaming Lips’ “The Sound of Failure.”

So, where does it begin, and where does it end? Is it just a sound inside our heads?

“I pray to the God within me that He will give me the strength to ask Him the right questions.”
— Moshe the Beadle, from Elie Wiesel’s Night

“It’s dark.”

And it’s painful.

That’s the side of Nightwalking that I hope to write more about in future posts, mostly because I see a lot of it these days. Nightwalking thrives on silence, so it can generate fear and always be right. Caught in its spell, you are always wrong. You can’t express your dark emotions. Nightwalking says, “That’s okay, just keep walking.”

These days I see people looking like zombies, worried, disheveled, angry and confused faces, all feeling lost — feeling like it’s forever night.

But it’s not.

It is, however, time to wake up and ask the right questions — the difficult questions — so I can move forward after nearly a decade of fear, loss, grief, stress, and despair.

Nightwalking is where I wanted to start because it gets a lot of bad press, compared with the “virtues” of Daytalking and Stargazing. But it’s a vital part of the trilogy of biology/behaviors/beliefs that have made me who I am.

Maybe you, too?

Writer, editor, and media maker. Blogs at Completely in the Dark (www.completelydark.com) and lives in Minneapolis, MN. I notice things.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store