*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 me to function properly, 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.

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.

As I grew older, my experiences in the world were helping me to grow and mature in ways that I did not imagine as a child.  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.

But even as I protected my heart, I was still open mentally.  I often dreamed about love.

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.

The more I grew, the stronger the light became. Only light can destroy darkness.

Eventually, I understood the difference between the light and the darkness and I embraced the light.

As an adult, the light became a foot soldier in my battle against the darkness.

I triumphed over 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.”  James’ stage play, “Love In A Day,” opens in Los Angeles this Spring. View previous installments of this column at www.bridgecolumn.proboards36.com. Reach James at [email protected].