As a child I used to fear the dark, afraid of graveyards, afraid of the dank, shadowy basement of my grandmother’s house. My parents divorced when I was six, and I grew up without a father. As I grew from childhood to adolescence, I became introverted and embraced all that was magical and mystical of the time from dusk to dawn. I yearned to find that doorway, to pass from my mundane existence into a magical realm or another time and place. I even tried to conjure a gateway by sheer force of will.

Then, in the early summer of my seventeenth year, when the carnival returned to town for its annual one week run, and for reasons I no longer have recollection of, I was offered a touring job. With my mother’s blessing and her written consent, I joined up with my new “carnie” family in the Southern Tier of Western New York. I traveled with them until late August.

The din of carousel music, the multicolored lights of carnival rides, the starlit sky above the town square, it was like I was living a Norman Rockwell painting. This was my first time away from home unsupervised. I walked a young girl home that first night after we closed. Her name was Holly, and to this day I still remember walking the dim lit, fog accented street alone, well after midnight, as I walked back to the town square from where I had came.

The chill of the night, the darkness that surrounded me on the long stretch of road was exquisite. I stood in the center of the street—the sounds of crickets playing there night music, the scent of the damp night air—I embraced the moment as the darkness embraced me.

My brief time with the carnival was the singular event which brought me out of my introversion. I finally saw what my eyes could not see—beyond the darkness.

Returning to high school for senior year, I discovered an inner awareness and the confidence I never had. With this came an urgency to express myself. This was the year I learned how to articulate myself through writing.

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