When the lights go out, you don’t always see it.
It’s not like being at the theatre, where the house lights zip down and the stage lights go up; where there’s always someone front of house with a torch to guide you if you need it. And it’s not like drawing a blind against the glare of the midday sun: a gentle shade against unbearable brightness.
Sometimes – when the lights go out – you don’t even know it’s happening until the darkness is so complete that you can’t tell whether your eyes are open or shut. Sometimes, they dim, a single lumen at a time.
Things that were bright and sparkling… they become that little duller, that little bit less shiny – as though a mist is settling between you and them. Polished glasses on a shelf. Stars. Moving water under moonlight. Wits.
What glittered becomes grey.
That’s when you see it. If you’re lucky.
That’s when you need a candle. And that really is all you need. One, single candle – however small. Because in the dark, a candle is a lighthouse. A candle casts shadows – and believe it or not, shadows will give you hope… because for there to be shadows, there have to be edges. There have to be ends. There have to be places where the shadows aren’t.
A candle is all it takes to remind you that the shadows end.
A candle can be your lighthouse, guiding you home. It doesn’t need to be big. It doesn’t need to be bright. It just needs to be alight.
Depression, if you’ve ever tangled with it, is like that. It creeps or it roars – you can never tell which it’ll be. It overwhelms you like a wave… or it sneaks up on you like a changing tide and you don’t see it until it’s up to your neck.
It’s the darkness that sidles into your life and snuffs out every lamp you lit around yourself as it goes. And although I’ve been taught to see it coming, sometimes – just every now and again – the darkness is too fast and too deep and it is a thing with teeth and scales that whispers from the shadows and locks the door behind it when it comes in.
I think, this time, I may have been sitting in the dark for a while. I’m not sure: I can’t remember when the lights started going out. All I know is that somehow, sometime, they did.
And somewhere in the darkness, I put my hand down and I felt the scales and I felt the teeth… and then, a box of matches.
And that’s all I need.