Sometimes, when humans are subjected to intense pain, their defense mechanisms force them to shut down. And during the shutdown time, there can be darkness.
As an adult, I found the healing required for proper functioning, living with the risk of pain without flinching from the possibilities of love.
I found my light.
As a teenager, I spent some time in darkness after being subjected to emotional trauma.
And during that darkness, I was unable to see some of the potential that passed right before my eyes.
Such potential was dancing with me at a college party in Chicago on a break from college.
"Please don't give me any of your plastic lines, boy," said the face connected to the beautiful body. "I'm really not trying to hear any of your bull."
I responded with: "If you haven't heard it, then how do you know its bull? I may be about to say the things you have been waiting all of your life to hear."
"I doubt it. I've already heard more than enough from you, and I'm not trying to hear anymore."
I was astounded. She dismissed me. And did so by name. She dismissed me after telling me how I had finessed her and dismissed her after I slept with her.
At first, I thought it was a joke someone was playing on me. I sincerely did not remember her.
"How do you know my name?"
She paused for a minute, cocked her head to the side as if pondering my question, and screwed her face up.
"You disgust me. I don't know if you're playing or not, but if you are or aren't you're still sick. I can't believe I gave myself to you and actually thought we could have something. You're no better than an animal."
No matter how hard I tried, I could not remember her name or face. This beautiful woman had been a nameless, faceless character in my summer break's stage play, and now I couldn't even remember the role she had played, because there were so many characters in that play.
Even though she had tried to hide it from me, and I had tried to hide it from my heart, it was obvious that she had been hurt by that event.
I tried to hide it from my heart because when I looked in her eyes, I saw the pain and humiliation, but even more, I saw the depth of her beauty and the sweetness in her spirit-a spirit that I had diminished
I disgusted myself.
But at that time, I had no idea how to stop the charade. Any solution I could think of involved facing the pain left to me by my first love and the pain I was certain had been waiting for me for all of my life.
When I felt the disgust, I felt a twinge of pain for the way I had been treating women who were trying to love me.
And when the pain tried to come down, I welcomed the darkness.
Darkness had protected my heart from the pain life and love brought me. And even now, as some women seemed to be willing to bring me anything but pain, I was still afraid. No matter what I saw in them, I was unwilling still to face the pain.
I had seen these things in many of the women who I used for sexual purposes, but the pain and darkness that surrounded my heart, combined with my immaturity and the confusion that clouded my days prevented me from acknowledging anything but their sexuality.
Sexuality did not bring me pain.
I had gone through a metamorphosis that had changed my outlook on women and life and love. The changes that occurred had made it difficult for women to deal with me and for me to deal with who I was and what I was doing.
As I grew older, the experiences in the world helped me to grow and mature in ways that I did not see in childhood.
But as a manchild, I pulled away from the people who could have actually helped me to process the new and difficult emotions that love and life bring.
I made some bad choices.
The choices we make on one day determine who we are and what we have on the next day.
And, sometimes the choices others make determine the choices we have and the choices we make. That's part and parcel of the human experience.
Without deciding who plays the victim, we harm each other even as we seek to love each other.
For my part, I realize the impact of each woman's presence in my life and wonder about my impact on theirs.
I realize the negative impressions left upon me by the ones who touched me selfishly and give them as much weight as the positive impressions until there is productive balance.
I wonder about the negative impressions I must have left on the ones I touched selfishly, or the positive impressions I may have left on the ones who were with me without being diminished.
I wonder about the happiness I might have left on the lives I touched when I was pure and I wonder about the regret that must be held by the ones who forced me away from their lives or left mine for the wrong reasons. I wonder about the abject sorrow that must be held by the ones who touched me for selfish reasons, or the ones who tried to hold on, but were unable to hold me simply because they came into my life at the wrong time for the wrong reasons.
My embrace of darkness came and left.
But some of the ones who could have loved me came to me while I was protecting myself from the ones who could have hurt me. I forced them into a nameless, faceless darkness where potential pain had no power.
And even as I protected my heart, I was still open mentally.
I often dreamed about love.
And those dreams flourished into plans and hopes when I began to climb out of the darkness to seek the light.
In my twenties, I was growing. And I was learning.
I was learning about the feeling of love and the act of loving from the friendships that I had developed and from the insight that I was cultivating, even as I did whatever I could to sabotage love.
The more I grew as a person, the more I knew that the ways in which I was dealing with sex and love was wrong. And even though I knew better, it would be a while before I could actually do better. It was, after all, the mind that was learning. My heart was still mired in the protective shell I had used to protect it from pain of love and life.
I was disconnected.
My mind was disconnected from my heart and my mind often seemed to be detached from my own physical presence. While the mentality may have been maturing, the heart and the physicality-specifically where lust was concerned--were stuck in a time warp.
The act of living can be a voluntary experience to be cherished as it is experienced, as well as in retrospect. But when life is filled with trauma and madness and mayhem, it can be an involuntary act, filled with numbness and darkness, and only the faint hope of reaching a piece of light at some corner of the darkness.
These days, my life is filled with light and the promise of more light to come. There is very little threat of darkness and past darkness has been processed and lightened.
And now I live in light.
Darryl James is an award-winning author of the powerful new anthology "Notes From The Edge." He released his first mini-movie, "Crack," and will soon release his first full-length documentary. View previous installments of this column at www.bridgecolumn.proboards36.com. Reach James at