Brightly-lit darkness, and where safety lies.

I’ve spent six hours in travel today – from home to Sydney and back – for a three-hour meeting, and then arrived home in time for an evening counselling appointment, and fatigue has set in. There’s a Naomi-shaped hole in a wall, and I’d like nothing more than to sleep for about eight days. Only, I can’t do that, because I’ve got to go back to Sydney tomorrow. The only difference is, tomorrow I’ll be getting on a train after six am, which is when the coffee shops open. Today I climbed on a train without coffee. That’s just cruel.

The last time I went to Sydney, I travelled down on the train, quite late at night after Evensong. My friends were worried about me. It’s dark, they said. You’ll be attacked. Make sure you keep a whistle to hand so you can blow it to attract attention. Stay in well-lit areas and sit up front, near the guard.

All of this is good advice, and it’s something that any smallish woman should probably take account of when she’s out and about, especially at night. But here’s the thing: I feel safe at night. I feel safer at night than during the day, in the bustle of people and demands of a bright-lit world. I know the dangers that lurk in dark corners of cities and streets; but I also know, as well as anyone and better than some, the dangers that lurk in brightness. Behind the security of closed doors, locked against an inhospitable world. In the security of well-lit houses, curtains drawn tight against the press of night – that’s when a fist is drawn back, when words are used as weapons. When a beating happens. When a rape happens.

That’s not my life anymore, and now a locked door really does mean security, and a brightly-lit flat in a dark night means nothing more than the fact that I’m still awake and working, or reading. But this morning when I walked to the train station in pre-dawn darkness – something which should instil fear – I was reminded of those people for whom light is not safe, for whom security only means captivity.

And I thanked God that I’m no longer part of that captivity, and that I’m not afraid of the darkness and I’m learning not to be afraid of the light. And I’m grateful for that lost innocence – I know what dwells in both, and I won’t let myself fall into its clutches again. And I raged against the reality of the thousands of women who remain in the clutches of such darkness, and I said a prayer for them too.

And the God of light heard.


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