The night (and human stories)

City night

I used to hate the night. Every time it came, we had to retreat inside. Grown-ups said it was for our protection.

They claimed the night releases the worst creatures, supernatural and not, to roam the streets. You know, the kind of creatures that abduct children…because reasons. Once abducted, the chances were you would disappear forever. Children, always one of the easiest targets.

Well, the adults’ words were not completely alarmist. People do get terribly harmed at night. But, the real stories I’ve heard mostly involve adult victims. Even then, many more took place during daytime.

Don’t let the sunshine fools you. It conceals the underlying menace that also prosper under the sun. The daytime is as dangerous as the nighttime. Actually, no. It’s a lot more dangerous.

It’s the time where we let ourselves unguarded. Bright colours, upbeat sounds and vibrant human activities. With those around us, what could have gone wrong? Well, everything that parents fear will happen to their children.

Almost every real-life horror story (at least, the ones I’ve personally heard), including the ones that involve young children, happened under the sun’s cheerful watch. That’s why sunlight is the only reason why I love daytime. Very trivial, unlike the reason why I love the night.

(That’s a warning for my incoming pretentiousness, btw. Maybe I should make more such warnings in the future).

One night, me and my family were heading back home late at night. The streets of Jakarta were uncharacteristically calm. Usually, such physicality would evoke either of these feelings from me: boredom and fear.

The boredom ensued when I was inside any vehicles. I looked through the windows and thought how boring it was to be a creature of the night. Unless you live in a sleepless city, lifelessness would be your only friend. But, exit the metal cocoons and everything changed.

Fear emerged and gained control. I felt I was in constant peril. I could get ambushed by anyone or anything. The shadows of urban edifices were their perfect hiding spots. Tried to be more alert…and ended up paranoid instead. But, on that night, I had a brand new sentiment: curiosity.

The calmness unveiled fragments of urban life that I previously failed to notice, thanks to all of those rush hours’ havoc. Yes, I just blamed my mental oblivion on my surrounding. That’s cute. If I tried a wee bit more, I would have made this discovery much earlier. So, what did I discover?

The ‘lifeless’ night is very much alive. Unlike the day, it is a lot more discreet in its self-expression. Want the urban goodies? Don’t expect them to hand over themselves to you. Put on some more efforts. Explorers, you have to be. You can start by open your literal eyes wider.

From inside the car, I could occasionally see other vehicles. I even saw pedestrians walking either alone or in small groups. Even at its sleepiest, cities still have people roaming around. As I’m typing this, I realised something.

Even if I was the only living creature around, asserting the supposed lifelessness is a distortion of reality. My mere presence is a sign of life! I forgot that I was a living creature all this time. Me as the only one is not lifelessness. It’s so obvious, it hurts.

On that night of realisation, me and my family were coming back from a concert. We were deeply allured because it was a live performance. Our minds were more aesthetically charged. What we felt was so abstract and impossible to describe simplistically. We were metaphysically vibrant and had grand things to offer.

Assume the same thing from every night commuter/traveler. Besides concerts and the likes, they all have reasons to be out that late. They may be night shifts workers. Not all of us know how it feels to be one and they can share their experiences.

Those people may have things bugging their minds. Late night strolling present them the time, space and atmosphere to obtain the mental remedies. Obviously, we should respect their privacy. But, they have rich personal lives of their own. This is just the humans on the street.

One can still find eateries serving hungry customers at this hour. I don’t know about you. But, they are invisible to me during rush hours, drowned among the sea of moving metals, over-stressed anthropoids and an assortment of health hazards.

In Indonesia, those eateries tend to be greasy spoons, serving some of my favourite foods. It’s preposterous how I failed to locate good foods from miles away. They are not hidden, anyway. But, some things, to some extent are always so.

We presume the vibrant night life only occur recreational venues. Admittedly, some do have restricted access. But, their presence are still very public and their night life are still within our grasps. Some public places aren’t so during the night.

They are always closed after dark. But, we often forget about the employees who work overtime for various reasons. Reasons like the need for extra cash, more time to improve their works, deep love for their occupations…or compensating their lonesome personal lives and needing an excuse to avoid their homes, more godforsaken than abandoned cemeteries.


Overtime working process isn’t public. But, most of us can relate. We have experienced working beyond the regular hours. Even students with barren résumés can relate to an extend. If that and nocturnal recreational venues are partially reachable, there is one area where access is even more restricted: private homes.

One boring, ultra-conformist person alone can tell many unique stories, let alone a house with a myriad of differing occupants. After work and study, they passed on much of the storytelling energy to their homes, where they have a tiny, invitation-only audience.

A sprinkling of those exclusive tales can be retold to acquaintances or even strangers. But, one essential requirement is ought to be fulfilled: their retelling should not violate the personal lives of any living characters involved. Whether the deceased ones must be ‘respected’ or the stories must have social merit, I’m still wrangling about.

Most of them fail to fulfill the principal requirement. Therefore, they should always be perpetually buried. Unless you’re among the pivotal characters, you do not deserve the uncut and raw unveiling. Those stories are as intimate as private sex tapes. Yes, I dare to make that analogy.

In the end, we should acknowledge the constant spiritedness of our surrounding. Easier said than done. It’s very easy for us to enter the ‘boredom’ realm. But, if we just try to get to know our fellow beings on a deeper level, we would have a better understanding of the world. I love to point out the obvious.

(Yes, yes. I did mention about respecting privacy. What I am trying to say is we should have a disciplined sense of curiosity. Slack a bit and it’ll become nosiness. With the self-discipline, you can satisfy your curiosity honourably. No excuse to be a papparazzo. Again, I love pointing out the obvious.)

Also, we should enhance our regard for the night-time. Not only it provides us daily interludes, it removes almost every single distraction from the daytime. It presents us the chance to unearth anything we usually take for granted. It also compels us to grasp the idea that serenity is not lifelessness.

God, I almost forgot. Surely, not everyone is a social butterfly. I know because I am not one. How do people like me get interesting human stories? Well, we interact with lifeless objects.

They do not think or feel. But, at some moments in their life, they have interactions with humans. What the humans do to or with the objects make interesting stories. They can be inspiring, revolting or unemotional, just like the ones we got from the actual humans themselves. One can still achieve human connections from solitude. Human understanding is not and should not exclusive to extroverts.