When I was younger, I used to love to stay awake at night till well after midnight. I loved to read and I also loved to watch the night from my window. I used to watch how the lights in neighboring houses went out one by one and how the world around me plunged into darkness and everything became so quiet. And every time I watched I felt this tingling in my stomach, this feeling of awe and wonder at how things went from total mayhem into utter silence in just a few hours. In the words of Ray Bradbury
“Never in his life a silence like this one. One so utterly complete.”
During the civil war, once when I was still in high school, the situation got so bad and I got trapped in my aunt’s house in the city and could not come home for months. There was heavy bombing almost every night, and snipers on the streets during the day. On this one particular night when the bombing started, the sound was so loud and explosions so powerful that I stayed cowered in the corridor. My aunt tried to comfort me, and stayed with me there on the floor, in that tiny corridor. No matter how hard I tried to close my ears with my hands, I would still hear the blasts and jump in my place.
When after a couple of hours it was quiet again, my aunt left me and went to look around, only to come and take me to her kitchen and make me look out the window. There was darkness all around. Pointing to a dim light in the ravine below, she told me.
“See the lights in that house, they’re awake like us. There’s nothing to be afraid of. Besides there’s not much time left for the sun to rise, and the bombs will stop for a while.”
The sun rose and the bombing stopped just like my aunt had said. But as the day progressed, two ambulances from the red cross appeared in our street. They came to collect the bodies of the slain family in the only lighted house in the valley below. The time when my aunt pointed at their house and told me not to be afraid because their light was on too, they were being slain for belonging to the ‘wrong religion’ or whatever…
Every time I look out my window and see a house with the lights on I can’t help but shudder. And the tingling feeling in my stomach is replaced by nausea. Just to think how cruel human beings can be under the circumstances fills me with such contempt and I feel so alone in this world. The late Ray Bradbury wrote:
“Alone in the universe. There was a million small towns like this all over the world. Each as dark, as lonely, each as removed, as full of shuddering and wonder. The ready playing of minor-key violins was the small towns’ music, with no lights, but many shadows. Oh, the vast swelling loneliness of them. The secret damp ravines of them. Life was a horror lived in them at night, when at all sides sanity, marriage, children, happiness, were threatened by an ogre called death.”