Is it the night you fear? Or me, in it?
Not long ago, I grew a temporary want to relive my old days of taffin’ about on the internet. So I decided: I was to head into some all-night McDonalds and just waste my time reading random blogs and playing some Age of Empires II.
Damn right, Age of Empires. I cannot describe to you what a privilege it is to play Age of Empires at 11pm while living off baguettes and cheese. At that moment, I was king of McDonalds, and that ‘Hardest’ difficult CPU opponent didn’t see what it had coming.
As in literally, it can’t see anything. The game’s opponent is not actually a computer, it’s just a series of events programmed to happen one after another. I don’t think it even has conditionals, it just does things. So it could not have ‘seen’ that it was going to completely destroy my Mayan army.
Long story short, losing in Age of Empires at 11pm in McDonalds makes you feel like a king.
Finishing my game, I headed out towards my trusty hobo-home; a nearby farm with a discreet place to put my tent. Only, I had only bought coffee in the restaurant so I’d grown quite hungry. I sat down at a bench and started my midnight meal of baguette and cheese.
It was a Friday in the suburbs, but the night was dead. Not a soul passed me by, only a few indiscriminate cars. The bench was at the side of a road, lying as if in wait before a handful of terraced houses. And at the upper floor of one before me, a light was on.
It’s true that the night air does strange things to the mind. I recall a night in my youth when, through strange circumstance – I walked five miles back to my home on a warm summer evening. Just the right temperature that the cold was no concern. I had nothing on my back, I was just walking. It was at my old country-side town, and the stars were well alight. I decided, or I chose then and there that I had stumbled across the most significant human question one could ever ask:
What do others think, on nights like this? The others, – any others. What do people think, on a walk in a star-filled night?
Now back on that night in France, I, around then, was feeling pretty sure of myself. If I could verbalise my thoughts, they probably would have went a little something like:
muddafoo-in, … BREAD, fmmm, – ch, yeah cheese. Mmhm. Cheese. Put some fummin’ ham on that shit. Yeah. Fuckin’ Mayans.
My eyes wandered back to all I’d observed earlier. The cars, the street, the light in the building. I found myself absently staring, at a figure who appeared at the window. A woman in the illuminated room.
I’d swear I was ethereal. It never crossed my mind that at that moment, I existed. I was just eatin’ my mufuffffin’ ham, and then – she looked outside – and saw me there staring at her window.
In an instant! She shut off the light, and dashed somewhere back into the dark. Then and only then did it occur to me that I did exist, and indeed, I could be seen – eatin’ my muffmmffufin bread.
I quickly looked away, back again to my surroundings. Oh, a cat, a dead streetlight, a bike-chain around a tree…
The window, again.
There she was, peaking out at me from within her dark room. She noticed I looked and hid again.
I scratched the back of my neck. I was dressed entirely in black, a rusty-looking hat on my head, and a weird looking backpack beside me. I’d stretched my legs out and was leaning back like I owned the world.
The poor woman, I think she was terrified? Who was this stranger right outside her window? Why was the man looking into the woman’s bedroom, so late in the night?
Well, I looked to my left, and kept my position fixed like that. Finished the last of my bread, and I dug into the bottom of my bag.
There lay my long-broken pocket watch, one of only three items I carry for no other reason than sentiment. I took out my notebook, wrote on a page, and left it on the bench. Keeping my gaze fixed towards the left, I lifted up the watch to make it visible. I held it there for a moment, and lowered it onto the page.
I took up my bag and left.
I never looked to the window, so I wonder if she ever saw me. Even if she did, I wondered if she would ever have the will to step out and look at what I left.
The note, it read:
‘Ne peurez pas le mal.‘
And below it in English:
‘The world is not so frightening as you think.’
So says this speaker.