As somebody who greatly values independence, it sure can suck sometimes, being alone.
There were times, growing up, never having any privacy, that I would fantasize about one day having my own place, getting up and going to sleep when I chose, eating in bed if I wanted, reading all day in my pj's. Now that I'm officially a grownup I can say definitively that I sometimes do those things, and that kinda rocks about living on my own. Nobody to answer to, nobody to consider if I make plans. It's nice not to worry about pleasing anyone but myself, sometimes.
Then I get a night like Saturday night.
I don't often have nightmares; they usually cluster around when I'm stressed out, unsurprisingly. And, most of the time, when I wake, I realize that a nightmare is nothing more than that; they even seem silly when I open my eyes. But, every once in a while, I get a nightmare like the one that woke me on Saturday, a little after 11pm, my heart pounding, palms sweating.
I'd been driving. Not an inherently frightening task, I'll grant you. Just driving, at night. I generally sleep with a sleep mask and ear plugs, as my neighborhood/building can be a little noisy and I sleep lightly, and in the dream I had that mask on and it kept slipping over my eyes, making it hard to see where I was going. Suddenly I drove into a dark area, and I don't just mean the streetlights had gone out. I was on a road dipped in pitch, and my headlights could only illuminate a short distance in front of me. The sleep mask kept slipping down, and I kept pushing it up. Then, my headlights showed people, and I rolled down my passenger window: to the right of me, people were running in the street. They were going the same direction I was driving, and in my head I asked myself: "Why is it so dark suddenly? And what are they all running from?" I wanted to shout out the window and ask, but part of me was too afraid to find out. And, I could barely see. There was something behind me in the dark, and I could barely see to get away.
I awoke, and as I lay in the dark I pulled out my earplugs, convinced I could not sleep with them because I would miss hearing something, some noise that could save me. I took off the sleep mask, too creeped out to put it back on. And, I lay there terrified, absolutely sure something dreadful was coming.
I know talking about it would have made it easier, that the fear would have receded and I would have been able to go back to sleep comforted. But, I was reminded, viscerally, that I am alone now. There was no one next to me, or on the other side of the door, or down the hall, to tell. No one I could call at so late an hour without greatly inconveniencing them for something so silly and unimportant. So, I lay there, heart pounding, jumping at every sound, and tried to close my eyes.
If I'd known this was what it meant, growing up, I might have run away to Neverland ages ago.