when i was a child, night was an equivalent to nightmare for me. i don’t know if it is a usual thing for every child to ever have the experience of fearing the night. is it an inevitable part of growth? it was beyond my imagination that i can take it so easy now. however, i can’t forget the depression they used to bring me.
two months after i was born in shanghai, my mother took me to another province, where they worked. i’m not sure if every baby doesn’t want to sleep when the night comes, but i do know i didn’t. to deal with that, parents often use the same trick: frightening. big bad wolf is a prop most widely and frequently used, but my mother’s was different. she was very superstitious (and is still or ever more now), so i was unlucky enough to listen to all her stories about all kinds of ghosts and monsters. perhaps, the only favor that god left me was her lack in imagination. nevertheless, i was imaginative. so, usually, mother just gave me an inspiration, and i would complete the work of frightening myself. looking back, i’m often divided between tear and laughter.
later on, i returned to shanghai and lived at my grandma’s without my parents. at first, i felt no sadness at all. naturally, it is impossible for a child, who could barely talk, to understand what that meant. but i did feel something difficult to express especially at night. feelings piled up day by day. this city is crowded and the downtown location of my grandma’s was particularly so, and there were so many people around me. however, i still fear the night, while the fear has nothing to do with the ghosts or monsters. i didn’t know why, at first. afterwards, i thought, probably i was lonely in fact. i was like a man at sea, who’s surrounded by water but has nothing to drink. although i can’t memorize the specific date now, there must have been such a day on which i understood what it meant for a child not to be able to live with his parents. sometimes, there was an impulse to cry, but i couldn’t because boys are born forbidden crying. when the hustles and bustles in the daytime faded, what i could hear was a camel’s weeping in my heart. during that period, night was drowsy and soundless in my opinion.
time went on like this for 10 years or so, and i lived with my parents again. as i grew older, i could hear more things at night, and the night also exhibited me more of its colors bit by bit, though most of them were simply siren songs. anyway, i know more about the night. one day, i happened to hear mozart’s die zauberflote (magic flute), and then, the fury and impetuosity of night was revealed to me by the singing of the queen of the night. nights are not merely quiet any more. it can be so rich in content, which i had never known. it appears to be calm, but beneath the calmness are undercurrents violent. the night swallows up all the bad, the ugly, the false, and meanwhile, the good, the beautiful, the true, like a certain fat buddha, laughing all the time regardless of what he sees, good or bad. the night was both fair and unfair.
in high school, the major reason for me to stay up late became homework and pc games, and now it comes to be chatting online. sometimes the night becomes the day and the day becomes the night, since i say “good evening” to someone when the sun shines outside and “good morning” when the stars twinkle out of my window. if i was asked in my childhood what night was, i would answer in a nutshell “darkness before the dawn”. now, my opinion changed by my former classmate in high school. he was a buddhist in zen and fond of sitting with legs crossed for meditation. “night is the best time in a day for you to sit for meditation,” he said, “because it can calm down all your fickleness and there is no earthly disturbance. you can take that opportunity to find what mistakes you have made during the daytime.” though i don’t believe in buddhism, i think what he said was partly advisable yet. i really need some time to scan myself, to look into my soul.
has the night changed? i don’t think so. the night is still the night. then, what changed? or, who changed?