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What Does It Look Like in the Dark?

My first recollection of it occurred on the back porch steps of my rural home in North Carolina. Nine or ten years old, I slumped, cried aloud for what seemed like an hour, tears cascading down my cheeks onto the steps, obscuring my view of the sun setting behind a mountain. An overwhelming sadness, a deep-seated loneliness, enveloped me. At the time, I couldn’t put a label on my emotional state nor identify a reason for the hurt. *** Like any other hormone-crazed high school male, I wanted to date. Yet I never asked a girl out. Instead, I often cried myself to sleep, wishing I could be more “normal” and confident. Why bother to ask when I knew she’d reject me? The poor self-image, coupled with low grades that fell far short of my academic potential, instilled self-loathing and a daily barrage of accusatory self-talk. More than once, I balled my fists and whammed my head repeatedly until I couldn’t take the pain anymore. *** I stood with the rest of the congregation for a familiar hymn. Except mouthing the words took a herculean effort. My heart felt numb and parched. I felt out of place in the midst …