Backseat Driver

The car’s headlights pierced the darkness and the wide beams illuminated my driveway. Leaves captured in a swirling vortex of late autumn wind raced across the hood and circled the vehicle. Winter was almost upon us and the only escape I could think of at the moment was to go out in the crisp fall air and get ice cream. It was literally the first thing that popped into my mind.

Ice cream? Really?

I hate ice cream.

Nancy enjoys the frozen treat and perhaps I was thinking only of her at the time. She’s partial to vanilla, caramel toppings, and peanuts. I, on the other hand, prefer a piping hot, thick chocolate brownie, fresh from the oven; or homemade cookies. I’ve had a sundae or two in my past, but an early childhood incident in which I indulged in too much ice cream at a birthday party, turned me right off from the dessert. Now it makes me sick to even think about it.

Once I snapped on the car lights and looked in the rear view mirror, I pondered what type of ice cream Joe preferred.

I could feel his disembodied breath on my neck. The old bastard was already in the backseat, buckled in, ready to leave. Goosebumps rose and fell along my skin from the top of my scalp to the bottoms of my ankles, I shivered in my seat and was finally in a place where I couldn’t distinguish reality from fantasy any longer.

For a moment, albeit brief, I questioned if I needed therapy.

It didn’t work before. It won’t work this time either. Been there, done that. Waste of time. Just remember…

It’s all in your head. He’s a figment of your overactive imagination.

Nancy reached down to the radio and turned up the music. I reached down and turned it up louder.

Joe pitched forward, pressed against his restraining belt, and he dropped both elbows on the seat beside each of our head rests. That won’t help!! He screamed in my ear.

I looked in the mirror and he leaned back, shaking his head in disappointment.

Taking advantage of the brief silence, I had a second to answer her question. “Are you happy?” She asked me.

I managed a smile, reached down to her hand and gave it a squeeze. “The happiest I’ve ever been. The past few weeks have been magical.”

Joe stuck his tongue out, rolled his eyes and slammed the back of his head into the seat cushion. My reply striking an obvious nerve.

You fool. You have no idea about magic. Magical my ass. 

I released her hand and wiped my clammy palm across my forehead.

Will you shut up?! I can’t think straight over here. You don’t belong, Joseph, and I demand you leave right now!

Tough shit. You need me now more than ever. We still have unfinished business, you and I. What to do about that? What to do…

You keep saying that, but I’m not seeing it. You belong in the refuge, Joe. There’s a time and a place for everything.

The time is now.

My heart thumped and my foot slowly came off the accelerator. Joe was right about one thing. Perfection may feel perfect, but rarely ever is. While I felt as though everything was now pristine in my world, my children safe and happy, a wonderful person at my side, great employment, my dog had a place to rest her head, I could finally be me… something was still missing and I couldn’t figure it out.

A time is coming, real soon. A time where you’ll be forced to make a decision. It’ll hit you like a ton of bricks at the most unexpected of moments. You’ll never see it coming. Or… maybe you will. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see. I’m nothing if not patient.

What the hell are you babbling on about?

He looked out the window and ignored my stare. You’ll know it when it happens. A light bulb will go off and everything will finally become crystal clear.

It’s already crystal clear. I don’t need anything else.

You only say that, because your blind. You’ve been following that dim light in the darkness for so long, it’s all you know now. But once it appears, it will all make sense.

You’re full of shit. Get out of my car.

No.

“Is everything OK?” She asked.

“Yeah. Everything’s fine. Sorry. It’s been a long day.”

“You look like someone walked over your grave.”

“I’m starting to feel that way too.”

She placed her hand on my head. “You’re burning up! Are you getting sick?”

“I hope not. Too much to do. Can’t afford to get sick.”

“Do you want me to drive?”

“No. Thanks, but I got this.”

She’s real pretty, Jere. What did you do to deserve this?

I didn’t do anything. I was just being myself. Life happens, right? Your words, not mine.

You don’t deserve her. 

I could absentmindedly feel us veering into the opposite lane, head on, in the path of a pick up truck, while Nancy was rooting around through the glove box for a CD. The headlights from the oncoming vehicle filled my window and when the horn started blaring, I jerked the car back to my side.

“Nancy, I’m going to pull over and you’re going to drive. Is that OK?”

“Of course.”

I stopped the car in the breakdown lane and we switched places. Joe remained in the backseat and his eyes followed me around to the passenger-side. I opened the door and slumped into the seat, buckled my belt, exhaled deeply, and he laughed out loud.

You think that’s going to make it better? He reached forward and massaged my shoulders with a hearty squeeze. Now that she’s behind the wheel, we can really chat. He gave me a gentle shake and clapped his meaty palm twice on my upper arm.

Now we can really chat.

Thank you for reading and being a part of my journey. Please subscribe in the provided area to receive a notification of new posts by email or follow me on Twitter. Please give this a like if you like it, feel free to share with others or leave a comment if you wish. See you at the next one.

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Firestarter

“Love is friendship set on fire.”

-Jeremy Taylor-

 

As far as I’m concerned, the single greatest thing about new relationships, is the lack of a rule book. No guidelines. No grand design.

One thing I’ve always hated (and I’m sure many can agree), is when someone approaches you at the height of a new relationship and makes statements such as, “It’s too soon.” Or,  “You’re moving too fast. Slow down a little and think it through. Don’t jump from one relationship straight into another. Are you crazy?! Don’t make a mistake you’ll regret.”

Horse malarkey. If something was a mistake, we need only learn from that mistake and try to do better next time.

“Ok, master relationship person. What is the designated time frame to abide by? Hmmmm? How many dates should we go on? Can I see this book your getting your info from? Can we text, Skype, or talk on the phone? You tell me… what are the rules?”

There are no rules.

Some relationships have lasted decades, some into old age, and have originated from a spouse throwing out another, and moving someone right in, not an hour later. In many cases, that new relationship has been active, long before the breakup even occurs.

While that situation is typically frowned on by others watching from afar, or the fine folks smack dab in the middle of it, a connection was made regardless. Two people have united, and then life goes on.

Most of the time, people get over it. The victim(s) of the situation takes a liiiiiittle bit longer to “get over it” but eventually, new connections are made and life goes on.

I believe in connections. I believe we’re all connected in one way, shape or form, even if it’s only destined to be a short time. Some are subtle connections, while some are intense and almost indescribable. A collective consciousness that weaves, travels, and intertwines with others when the time is right.

Or, I could be a complete fruit loop, and talking just for the sake of talking tonight. It’s been a pretty long, ugly week, and I have my moments. Sometimes I enjoy the esoteric more than the designed lifestyle surrounding me, so my sincere apologies for rambling this time around.

Sometimes the connections start out subtle, and then escalate into indescribable. Profound moments. Moments you can’t share with others cause they’ll think you’re crazy and it goes against all they might believe in. I can only speak for myself. I’d dare not venture into others people’s experiences. I can only speak from my own.

Moving in together was a tough spot to be in, at first. The first few days were a challenge because we had all this external negative energy surrounding us. Some people were quite pleased with the decision we made, and we were supported, while others were more openly opinionated and negative about the decision.

For the most part, we didn’t care what others thought. We were two grown adults doing what we believed was right for our lives. Opinions be damned.

But unpacking and setting up the new home, was pretty quiet initially.

I remember sitting cross-legged on the kitchen floor opening a box labeled “collectibles” and thinking about a space in the basement where I could store them.

I sealed the tote, wrapped it in duct tape to ensure it was tightly closed and “basement proof” and approached the cellar door. She looks to me, “Where are you going with those?”

“Taking them downstairs.”

“Why?”

“I thought they’d be better off down there, and it keeps the walls open for your stuff. You have wayyyyyy more than I do.”

“No. I was just thinking your stuff would look good over here along this wall. Besides, I need that tote for Christmas decorations.”

I was frozen. I didn’t know exactly what to do. Was she kidding? Was she toying with me?

Something isn’t right.

“In fact, “she continued, “put them wherever you want.” She gestured broadly to the mostly empty space. “There’s enough room for mine.”

Ok… something about Nancy that I must get out of the way. She collects M & M trinkets.

Toys, stuffed figures, pillows, blankets, coffee cups, Christmas ornaments, coloring books, candy dispensers, metal tins, cookie jars, puzzles, calendars, antiques, Hot Wheels still mint on card, hats, key chains, tee shirts, her Comic Con lanyard… M & M Monopoly.

She has five M & M characters tattooed on her left shoulder blade, to include Miss. Green, and the orange one is her favorite.

My home has been called by my kid’s friends, the M & M Museum. M&M paraphernalia is literally everywhere. Every room. Every shelf, nook cranny and corner from the moment you enter my home, is decorated with M & M stuff. We have a blue plastic children’s M & M canteen hanging from a hook in the mudroom.

Not a joke.

She would like to stay at the M & M hotel someday.

All my stuff fits comfortably around hers.

I have a love for science fiction. Star Trek, Star Wars, Stargate, Star Fox. She pulled out her hybrid M & M collectibles, Darth Vader, R2D2 and Optimus Prime and set them beside mine.

I almost cried.

Not because I’m a geek and I finally had a home where I could be me, in my entirety, but that she too was comfortable and could be herself as well. That struck a chord with me. To quite a few out there, this toy metaphor may seem foolish.

To me it was a goldmine.

All that negative energy vanished. I felt light on my feet. My growing adoration for her escalated. I felt a warm glow deep in my gut. A complete sense of comfort.

Symbiosis.

Then out of nowhere, he showed up. A slow lumbering figure from the corner of my eye. A shadow creeping out from within the shadows of my periphery.

I knew who it was, but tried to ignore it.

Somehow he breached the veil and entered the waking world. The conjuration of my unconscious mind sneaking his way into a place he shouldn’t exist. Joe decided to join the unpacking and make himself at home.

I looked to Nancy. She was finishing pounding a nail in the wall and mid swing she slowly turned her attention to my wide open eyes. I whispered, “Ice cream?” gesturing to the door leading outside.

She lowered the hammer to the floor, never questioning or hesitating, and said, “Ice cream.”

Thank you for reading and being a part of my journey. Please subscribe in the provided area to receive a notification of new posts by email or follow me on Twitter if you like. Please give this a like if you like it, feel free to share with others or leave a comment if you wish. See you at the next one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Love Story

Starting fresh with my clean slate and day one into the New Life, I vowed one thing above everything else. And to be honest, the vow was mostly out of spite.

I would never love again.

The concept that life would be so much easier, if I went a different route.

There’s one thing you’ve never been in your thirty five years. From freshman year in high school, to current age… you’ve never been single.

Be selfish. Be mean. Tromp over the backs of others to get what you want. That seems to be where the happiness is. The proof is all around you. Can’t you see that?! Use people. Manipulate, deceive. Discard at will. The dark side is so much more alluring. That’s where you’ll find peace. Everyone else seems so happy. Give it a try.

For a short while, (a very short while) I enjoyed that nastier side of me. The side not many will ever, ever see. The side where I say or do something and those who hear about it instinctively say, “That doesn’t sound like you.”

The worst part of my nasty side is I actually stop and think about what I’m going to do, or say, before doing it or saying it. I don’t have a broken filter where the words accidentally slip out.

“Oops… I didn’t mean to say that. Sorry.”

No, I damn well meant to say it.

To my dying day I will always have specific regrets. Things I can’t ever rectify, though not for a lack of trying. Those things I’ve said in anger towards others, even if it felt deserving.

I’m so glad I chose the right path.

My love story goes a little beyond the conventional and dives into the strange. A good strange, yet different and interesting. Not two people finding each other online or riding a buzz at the local bar, falling into conversation. We didn’t bump into each other in passing. We didn’t meet at a singles club or a local event. We had actually worked together at the same building for roughly a year and saw each other quite often, though we hardly spoke much.

Something about Nancy that struck me quite odd in the beginning, perhaps her second visit, she enjoyed the quiet as much as I did. We could sit, in silence, watching t.v. or a movie. Sometimes not saying a word until it was finished.

We had our introductory conversations and got through the awkward surface dialogue, but once we started feeling more comfortable in each other’s presence, we found the ability to be ourselves.

Some of that time, being who we are, was spent in quiet harmony.

Learning about each other over the following months was the head trip. At least for me.

To get it out of the way, Nancy and I have many similarities, but we are completely different people.

I hate shopping. Even for myself. Nancy loves it and shopping for others is a part of who she is. The woman has more boots than anyone I’ve ever met.

I enjoy Family Guy, American Dad and other adult cartoons. She watches Law and Order and Criminal Minds.

I play video games online with some buddies on occasion while she attends local concerts in Maine.

I write. She colors in one of a hundred adult coloring books we have shelved in our room.

She thrives on tattoos. I wish I could get rid of mine.

The fourth visit, I found things we had in common I wasn’t expecting. The things that slowly helped me reinforce that idea there’s no such thing as circumstance. Nothing truly happens by accident.

It happened more frequently over time, but in the beginning…

My father and I married a women with the same first name.

My father divorced and remarried a Nancy, and I was slowly falling for one. Nancy’s father was born on March 3rd. My father, March 2nd. Her mother, August 3rd. Mine… August 2nd. And a few other things most would find trivial, so I might as well not discuss it.

Later on, more numbers come into play.

One of my hangups at the time was, “Who’s going to want someone like me, and all this emotional baggage?”

I’m guessing she might have felt the same way.

Just before the first snowfall of that year, we decided to move in together. She was renting a single bedroom apartment and I was staying with family. When she wasn’t at my place visiting, I was at her place.

The problem was, no apartments or housing was available. We know what we wanted to do. It all made sense. But we were trapped.

Out of nowhere, an opportunity made itself known. Less than a thousand feet from my workplace, a three bedroom two story home was ready to rent. A friend of a friend of a friend owned it and our names were dropped to the landlord.

Again, my biggest worry, was housing the mutt. Insurance companies hate large breed dogs, especially one as large as mine. She was 150 pounds.

“The dog is fine. Move in within the next couple of months and we’ll work out a contract.”

Just when I thought the task was impossible, it fell into my lap from out of nowhere.

Damn. You have no money. No savings. New credit cards. 

That afternoon, pacing and wondering if my bank would loan me anymore money, and knowing it wouldn’t, my mail was brought to me. On the top of the bill pile was my monthly statement for an old 401K investment arrangement I started through previous employment. For the first time in eight years I decided to open it.

The results were nothing mind blowing. Just a record of a rapid stock decline and how much money I was losing.

I was about to put it in the fireplace with the other fliers and junk mail and just before I crammed it inside among the coals, I looked at it again.

It was the earnings that captured my attention.

I snatched up my phone and called the number at the bottom.

“If I was to cash out with you, today, how much would I get?”

The total was a couple hundred dollars extra for what was needed for first months rent and security deposit. I was able to purchase the start up supplies with the extra and once the check showed up, we were able to move in right away.

A handful of months later, at the peak of the spring thaw, just when the flowers were poking through, I was forced to go to war.

This time, not to attack, lash out, and inflict pain.

This time, it was to defend.

Thank you for reading and being a part of my journey. Please subscribe in the provided area to receive a notification of new posts by email. Please give it a like if you like it, feel free to share with others or leave a comment if you wish. See you at the next one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Kicking and Screaming

“Jeremy. This is voluntary.”

“Good, if it’s voluntary, then I don’t want to go. I have better things to do with my time.”

“Well… it’s voluntary, but we still suggest you attend.”

“So… is it voluntary? Or is it mandatory? It can’t be advertised as one thing when you mean the other. Are you suggesting, or stating outright I need to go? It’s one or the other.”

“It is indeed voluntary, but you need to go.”

“That doesn’t make any sense. So it’s mandatory. Don’t tell me it’s a voluntary assignment, when I’m being forced to participate. That’s not the best way to get this done.”

“You have to go.”

“You said it’s voluntary. You’ll have to drag me there kicking and screaming.”

I was such a child. Living with blinders on. Blocking out everything around me for self preservation. If something didn’t agree with my standards, wants, or my personal philosophies, I wanted no part of it. Everything I was forced to do in life became a barrier to happiness. If it didn’t bring joy, I steered clear. My own personal happiness was paramount to my well being.

Those who know me well, know I’m a big kid at heart. Even today.

I collect toys and comics, watch cartoons, make model star ships, read fantasy and science fiction novels, scaling rock walls at the ocean, playing games and enjoying the simple things in life. I like climbing trees, playing in the water, building snow forts and watching silly videos that make me laugh to tears. I am not a typical adult.

I don’t watch the news. I have no clue who’s participating in the next big sporting event. I barely watch television anymore. I can’t recall the last time I watched the Oscars, a music video, and I’m clueless to what’s considered popular.

I get snippets of information here and there or caught up in conversation with others where I’m then filled in on happenings and events.

Then I’m back to doing what makes me happy.

For the longest time, I didn’t know what created happiness. As long as my kids were happy, I was happy. I was such a miserable wretch all I could pursue was an inkling of something to bring a smile to my face.

The news was intolerable, so I ignored it. Music was depressing, so I kept the radio off. Work kept the money rolling in, but I was careless with my cash and found spending to be the best outlet. Nesting. Preparation. Collecting and hoarding. That’s where I found my joy.

Then one day I was forced to participate in an activity I wanted no part of.

It was work related and advertised in the email as voluntary. Because it was voluntary, I decided it wasn’t for me. I’d rather spend my Saturday playing a game or reading a book. There was no way I was going to this event without a fight.

A fundraiser? Are you kidding me? I have to spend my weekend at a fundraiser to help others? What a waste of my precious time. No one would miss me if I didn’t go.

“You have to go.”

Kicking and screaming, I was dragged to a fundraiser. My “job” at the event was monitoring a children’s game where they would throw small sandbags into colored numbered holes on a slanted wall and regardless of the points accrued, each participant wins a prize.

The first hour was a living hell. I made my discomfort and displeasure known to absolutely everyone in attendance. I spoke in a deadpan voice, no enthusiasm, no smile and watched the clock on my phone every opportunity I had a break.

Interacting with families and strangers was a misery I could barely tolerate. I hated every second of it. Perhaps if I kept up the negativity, I’d never be asked to attend a fundraiser again.

Then I met a mother and her two sons.

The two boys were, I’m guessing, seven or eight years old. They each had a dish of vanilla ice cream with chocolate jimmies sprinkled over the treat and the mother looked tired.

Join the club. Welcome to my world.

She attempted a weak smile and gestured to one of the boys to try the game. I handed the child the sandbags and stepped to the side rolling my eyes; arms crossed high on my chest.

The young boy stepped up to the line and before he made his first attempt to land a score on the board, he stopped and looked up to me.

“Sir… do you want some ice cream? You look sad. You can have mine if you want it.”

I was completely taken aback by the sentiment.

Then the Sherlock Holmes in me came out. I looked the family over and noticed things I would have typically overlooked had the child not said anything.

Their clothing was stained with crusted food. Their shoes were without laces. Hair greasy and unkempt. The mother had dark circles under her eyes and two buttons missing from her blouse. Her white flip flops were tattered and coming apart at the seams.

But the boy had a smile on his face that melted my frozen heart.

I dropped to my haunches and offered a high five. He slapped my palm and I replied with a half smile, “No, thank you. You enjoy your ice cream. In fact, here.” I reached into my pocket and withdrew a twenty dollar bill. “After you score big here, you and your mom go enjoy yourselves. They’re making burgers and fries at the end of the tent. Enjoy lunch on me.”

The mother cried and wrapped her arms around me.

I haven’t been the same since.

My awakening was knowing I know nothing and the fundraiser that day changed me. The moment she slumped into my arms and thanked me repeatedly, was the moment everything began to change. My problems in life didn’t hold a candle to others.

By the end of the event, I was flipping burgers, scooping ice cream, moving from game to game, participating in water balloon fights, allowing children to do face painting on me and doing my best to bring a smile to the faces of others. All my problems ebbed away and my pain diminished the more I assisted and interacted. The smile became easier and I ignored the clock for the rest of my time there. In fact, after that day, I made sure to volunteer more where I could.

Since that day, I make myself available if possible. I don’t get the opportunity to attend as often as I’d like, but I make the attempt. I attend and participate with Special Olympic activities. Some of my paycheck is automatically deducted and donated to local causes. My youngest daughter and I helped raise money for our nearby homeless shelter. I helped organize a donation to the elementary school with help from a construction company to fill their sandboxes with fine sand for recess play. I carry loose change in my pocket and the cup holders in my car to donate to whatever can or bottle sits on the counter of the convenience stores I often frequent. The moment I receive an email or a flier for help in donations with school supplies, I do what I can to provide. I realized during my awakening, my time, energy and money can be better utilized if I try to help others around me. At least I try.

I found through helping others when possible, I was in turn helping better myself.

And my actions were seemingly karmic. I had invested my time in helping, and in turn when I needed help the most, the community rallied around me. When the monsters and demons waged war, I had help in the fight.

Thank you for reading and being a part of my journey. Please subscribe in the provided area to receive a notification of new posts by email. Please give it a like if you like it, feel free to share with others or leave a comment if you wish. See you at the next one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Apocalypse

“The apocalypse is commonly known as the end of everything. Though “I” tend to side with the ancient ones. It means an awakening. Something hidden once, now coming to light, a lifting of the veil. Unraveling truth, discovering proof, a chance to follow a brand new trail. Yes times are tough, a darkness grows, an evil shrouded in sin. But fear not, fellow travelers for good will always win. It may feel like the Apocalypse or Armageddon is on the way. But view it instead as an awakening, and everything will be OK.”

–JSM–

My multiple visits to the refuge were difficult to understand. Joseph was a cryptic conjuring of my subconscious and he spoke in riddles. The dreams were out of order, sometimes repetitious, and bounced back and forth erratically through time and space. Trying to make sense of the nonsense was a chore I could barely keep up with, let alone understand.

Eventually, to make sense of it all, I had to unravel a puzzle. A multidimensional puzzle. A puzzle without a reference picture. A puzzle devoid of edges and corners. A puzzle of ten thousand upside down pieces scattered across the universe. I’d find a small piece, flip it over, stare at it for a moment, place it on the table with the few others I discovered along the way and it still didn’t make sense. Even connecting two pieces together was disheartening and forced me to swipe them from the table’s surface back to the dimension from where they were found.

All I was able to do, was let the dreams linger in my memory for a short time, and then file them away with the other forgotten files. Here today, gone tomorrow. What else could I do? When something doesn’t make sense, either we dismiss it altogether and carry on with what does make sense in our reality–pretending the nonsense doesn’t exist–or we somehow make sense from that nonsense. Even… if eventually making sense of the nonsense… doesn’t make any sense. You’ve figured it out and the outcome is just as ridiculous. Yeah… that’s a tricky spot to be in.

Right… OK… moving on.

Joe had been correct about many things. My desires to escape. Running and hiding from life’s problems. Following the pack. Intentionally making wrong choices. My need to be a victim. My desire to experience self loathing. Dragging my feet from one responsibility to another while forcing a smile. He was right on a lot of it.

The thing he was most accurate on, was one specific sentence uttered a few nights earlier. He was in the middle of a brief outburst. “You know nothing. In fact, you know less than nothing and don’t you ever forget it.”

He couldn’t have been more right. I know less than nothing and I’ll be the first to openly admit it. I’d like to say I know a little about a lot, and can carry on some decent conversations but at the end of the day… I know very little. And that’s just fine. I can say one thing for certain. I am self aware.

My youngest and I have some neato conversations. A more recent one was centered around self awareness. Knowing oneself. Understanding and recognizing personal flaws, working on said flaws, and focusing on strengths. Self acknowledgement. Personal growth.

It took quite awhile, but my awakening was knowing I know nothing. My own personal apocalypse. My defining moment of self awareness. Once I made that discovery, I knew I had an opportunity for growth and expansion beyond my own restricted paradigm.

That glorious night I burned the refuge to ashes.

The box I was existing in was small and claustrophobic. The air was stale and difficult to breathe. The space around me lacked color and meaningful substance.

I was tired of the life I was thrust into. Not tired to the point where I was ready to do something drastic about it, but tired of believing there wasn’t anything more to the life I was living. I was at the point of accepting mediocrity and stagnation. Complete surrender to complacency. It’s better to ride the wave, than fight the tide. My fight had left me.

Then one day, it came back.

My journey hasn’t even really started yet at this point in the tales. I still have many visits left at the refuge. Meeting Karen formally for the first time and shaking her soft gloved hand. The day Joseph provided me a compass and told me to sail my boat north. How Bill and the vault all connect to it.

The week before Nancy and I signed a lease on a rental home, Joseph did tell me a battle was on it’s way. I’d have serious choices to make. I believed afterwards his statement could be interpreted as simply as, “every day is a battle.” That’s how I made sense of it in my brain. To my fractured mind, that made the most sense out of the nonsense.

“Every day is a battle.”

Once again, I was wrong. Yes, every day can be a struggle, but the monsters that waged war with me on my doorstep, I still think about today, six years later. Pure evil. An evil with a minion army. Poison and pain. Blood and suffering. Endless tears.

It was during that war, I discovered myself. My awakening. My first glimpse into the apocalypse.

Thank you for reading and being a part of my journey. Please subscribe in the provided area to receive a notification of new posts by email. Please give it a like if you like it, feel free to share with others or leave a comment if you wish. See you at the next one.

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Oysters and Pearls

I was pulled from the stifling darkness with a forceful yank. One moment I was enclosed in a wooden box, paralyzed from head to heels, and the next I was shaken from slumber by terrified family members. The transition from dreaming to wide awake was instantaneous.

My eyes ripped open and their concerned faces filled my vision. I felt a cool hand on my forehead and I bellowed, “Get out! I have to go back! He has something for me!”

They must have thought I’d hit my mid-life crisis, or I was losing my mind.

They took hesitant steps towards the door as I pulled the comforter up to my throat and thrust my arms under the blanket. I ignored their collective concerns, pretended they were gone from the room and settled my head into the pillow. I squeezed my eyelids shut and concentrated all my energy and focus on returning to Joseph’s refuge.

My door creaked closed, the space quieted around me again and I felt my consciousness slipping away back into la la land.

Placed with gentle care, I was returned to the box as quickly as I’d left.

Right where I needed to be.

***

Relax. Breathe. Close your eyes. This is your reality now. A box. A thick impenetrable box in which there’s no escape. All you have is your senses. What do you see?

“I see nothing.”

You’re not looking hard enough. Look around. Let it come to you. What do you see?

“Darkness. But it’s moving. I see black within the black. One’s darker than the other.”

Tell me about the black. 

“Blobs. Like a lava lamp. They creep, split, slither and merge together.”

What do you want them to do?

“Nothing. I just want to get out of here.”

Jeremy. That’s all you do. You seek escapes. Every time you visit me, it’s just conjurings of your imagination. This is all because of you. You’ve created this place. Me. My now dead wife. Karen…

“Who’s Karen?”

Karen. I told you about her a few months ago. When we first met? I was hitchhiking and you picked me up and dropped me off in the parking lot. Shelby wasn’t too fond of me at first. She kept sniffing at me. Remember? You still have unfinished business with Karen, you know. But we’ll cross that bridge later on.

“Can we get back to the point, please?”

Of course. Like I said, you’ve done this, not me. I am just an extension of this bizarre world you’ve created. So why don’t you do us both a favor and take a step back, think about it for a second, stop being such an asshole and realize it’s you, and not something else. Stop blaming your anger, confusion, and loss of faculties on others. Man up for once. Coward.

“What do I want the blobs to be? How about this. I want the darkness to help me find a way out. I don’t want to be in this box anymore.”

This box is reality. It’s your prison. Only darkness surrounds you. This is your life now. All you have is your senses. If you seek an escape, then this is the only way. Use what you have.

I envisioned an ocean, and the darkness vanished. The water was deep blue, unending, and twinkling diamonds danced along it’s surface. Hypnotic waves rolled and undulated in slow rhythmic pulses. The sun had partially risen and the only clouds in the sky hovered over the distant horizon.

There. That wasn’t so bad. An ocean it is. Why the ocean?

I turned around, found my feet on solid ground, and Joe had joined me on a small island with a single palm tree reaching to the sky from the island’s center. The old man was wearing a three piece suit and sitting in his palm was an oyster. He crossed the sand and closed the gap between us.

I couldn’t move. All I could do was stand and stare.

Want to hear something funny about oysters, Jeremy? Of course you do. The pearl that comes from an oyster isn’t always spherical. Most are misshapen and uneven. In fact, the harvesters of pearls are typically the ones responsible with shaping the jewel. The harvester will slice a slit into the tissue and place a foreign object within the mantle, to increase the secretions that create the pearl. You see, pearls are the result of infection. Pearls come from obstructions or injuries. The oyster is manipulated to produce something of value. It has a defense mechanism and a natural reaction to protect itself. A pearl grows from the obstructions inside it. A jewel is formed from injury and manipulation. We can also eat them.

He laughed and shook his head.

If you could give this ocean a name, what would it be?

“The Rillian Sea.”

Strange name. Why that name? Where did that come from?

“From nowhere.”

Breathe in the air. Smell the salt. Feel the warm wind. Listen to the waves. Taste the sea spray against your lips. This is where you’re free. Here… there is no box. There is no oyster. Here… the infection heals. When you’re here, you’re without pain and obstructions. 

I allowed my five senses to activate. The smell of salt water entered my nostrils, I felt the wind, tasted the sea spray, listened to the waves and watched the palm tree sway side to side.

When I turned to face him again, Joe had disappeared. Placed in the sand a few inches from my wiggling toes was the oyster. I plucked it from the ground, ripped open the shell and to my dismay, it was empty.

His voice whispered around me. His final thoughts before allowing me to return to reality. There is no oyster. There is no more infection. The obstacle’s are all in your head. The pain is unnecessarily self inflicted and you want a pearl as a result of that pain. You won’t find a pearl so don’t bother looking for one. What you need to do is think on your freedom. Look at all of this! If the world is yours, what do you want to do with it?

“Damn good question. Will it come to me?”

I think so. Your problem is, you seek a pearl where they don’t exist.

“So, pretend I don’t have any pain, regret or remorse? If injury creates something of value…”

Once you find what it is you seek, and you will find it, that discovery will be your pearl. You’ll find your treasure in the strangest of places. Trust me. Would I lie to you?

I paced the beach and looked for the origin of his voice. “Can I ask you a personal question, Joe?”

Oh, of course.

“How old are you?”

He hesitated before answering. Moments before I opened my eyes and returned to my bed, Joe replied. I am three hundred and fifty seven years old. Next Saturday is my birthday. I’d really like it if you stopped by.

I opened my eyes.

I breathed deep, pushed the blanket from my chest and for the first time in months, I withdrew my dream journal from my book shelf.

Thank you for reading and being a part of my journey. Please subscribe in the provided area to receive a notification of new posts by email. Please give it a like if you like it, feel free to share with others or leave a comment if you wish. See you at the next one.

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Claustrophobia

When I was a child, my father asked me to help work under the trailer (we once called home), to wrap water pipes and stuff new insulation in preparation of the upcoming winter. A tight crawl space where the both of us had difficulties maneuvering. We laughed at the predicament and tried to make light of it, but the end result of the chore was me eventually developing a fear of small spaces.

Spiders and their thick webs brushing my cheeks and arms. Bugs dropping onto the back of my neck. The noises and scurrying of unseen critters hiding in the darkness just out of sight. The feeling of brittle and old insulation particles falling from the framework, covering my skin like dried and stringy wisps of cotton candy. Forced to military crawl to shimmy forward to the next area.

Since that day in the crawlspace, when forced into small or congested areas, I get antsy. I find it hard to breathe. I sweat and look for escapes. Crowds bother me, unless it’s an event I enjoy such as a Comic Con or a laid back concert in a wide open field. I shake, feel dizzy and have to leave the situation as soon as possible. I don’t shop the malls during the holidays, and if I do, it’s late at night when there’s less people. When at a restaurant, I tend to be away from the walls and windows and closer to the open floor. At movie theaters, I prefer an aisle seat if at all possible and in most cases, I’m the first person to find the emergency exits in a room.

Conquering my fear of heights was easy after awhile. I forced myself to embrace the height and realized it wasn’t necessarily a fear of heights I was dealing with, but a fear of falling. Once I came to that realization, it became a matter of caution and thinking it through to ensure I wouldn’t fall. I merely changed my thinking. The fear of high places eventually disappeared. The Appalachian Trail hike was the cure.

I can’t force myself into small spaces to alleviate that fear. I’ve tried. I’ve searched for that cure. The more I try, the more it overwhelms me and I’m inclined to step back and avoid it. I can’t help it.

An item on my bucket list, is to one day experience a deprivation tank. Even if only for a few minutes. Floating in body temperature salt water, in a dark sound proof booth, or with light music coming from speakers built inside. Something relaxing and soothing. Weightless. The only thing you can see, eyes open or closed, is whatever the mind produces.

Having an esoteric out of the box conversation with a close friend, she mentioned wanting to try one out with me.

Despite my eventual goal to one day give the tank a try, at this moment along the path, I’m hesitant. Somewhere deep inside, a small fraction of fear still resides. I’m hoping someday I can work up the full courage.

Fear is such a buzzkill.

When I left the Old Life and started anew, it was with very few personal possessions. Shelby the mutt, a backpack, and a duffle bag. The “Safe-house,” or as some have come to know it, “the Island,” was an emptied, two story, five bedroom unused home on the fringes of town in which I started fresh. No bed, couch, table or chairs. Just me and the things I brought with me coming into the New Life. Once crossing the threshold and before even unpacking my books, trinkets, and clothes I collapsed on the hardwood floor and slept for more than twelve hours.

I had more than enough room to do whatever I pleased. Space was no longer a worry in my world.

Once lifting my head from the puddle of drool, and beginning the process of re-nesting, the new fear I was stricken with, was being alone. I had burned so many bridges getting to this point, I was surprised people even wanted to talk to me. I wasn’t easy to get along with. Obstinate. Harsh, defiant, and I spoke my mind even if it hurt others; not caring about the outcome or people’s feelings. Becoming alone and the fear that accompanied it, was self induced.

My irrational fear of small spaces developed early in childhood, and stuck with me. My monophobia was because I constructed it from scratch, and allowed that new fear to resonate. Having both phobias simultaneously was a nightmare. Not wanting to be around groups of people, yet scared to be alone? (shudder) I don’t wish it on my worst enemy. It’s debilitating.

Over the last six years, I’ve managed to conquer most of my childhood and self induced fears. Roller coasters. Deep ocean water. I’m working hard on my fear of planes and I believe most of the trivial phobias are long gone. We all have demons to face and destroy. Mine just took a little longer than I wanted.

Six months into the new life, the options for apartments and new places to live were next to impossible. The room I was occupying at my family’s home was shrinking. In fact, for a time, the entire home seemed to decrease in size. I felt surrounded and maneuvering my living space was becoming cramped and all I wanted to do was pace and escape, and that night when my eyes fluttered closed in bed I returned to Joe’s neck of the woods.

I’ve only screamed out loud twice in my life.

In southern Maine, on the interstate, I had one hundred miles left to drive before returning home. I stopped at a tollbooth to pay my toll and asked the attendant a question. To this day I wonder if I had asked a second question, or never asked one at all, if I would have missed hitting the deer that night. When the buck jumped the guardrail and his face was glowing in the headlight, I screamed my most manly scream I could muster and the deer destroyed the vehicle. The impact could have been avoided if I had one single extra second.

The second time I’ve audibly screamed, was seeing Joe again. My dream scream was loud enough it cut and traveled through the veil separating the realms of dreaming and being awake. I can’t recall the exact sound, but it was loud enough to where my family had to wake me up.

***

When I opened my eyes, I was on the roof of the refuge. Not outside sitting on the shingles, looking around and taking in the sights, breathing in fresh air and listening to the rustle of leaves in the wind. No, no, no. That would be a pleasant experience. Instead, I was lying on the roof inside the refuge, the crossbeams just out of arms reach, and to my right was the chain to the chandelier. The room was lit up by the light fixture dangling not far from me among the timbers and sitting cross legged on the floor below was Joe, playing a solo card game across the carpet.

Wrapping my paralyzed body from feet, to tight around my throat, was a bright red sleeping bag. Only my head was visible. I couldn’t move, other than turning my face side to side.

He looked up as if he was startled to see me up there and the playing cards returned to his hand. Once the whole deck was back to his palm he swore out loud, “Damn it! Now I have to start all over again. You ruined everything, Jeremy. I hate it when you people make me start over. You’re going to have to be patient. It’s going to get dark in here. Damn it all to hell!”

My attention was drawn back to the chandelier as the lights dimmed and the structural timbers moved around the roof to either side of me. Joseph entered the kitchen, the door swung closed behind him and the timbers along the ceiling moved slowly closer. The light had fully extinguished, the room became pitch black and I could feel the pressure of the wooden beams pressing into my chest, arms, stomach and boxing me inside a coffin. I couldn’t see the timbers anymore, but I knew what was happening.

Once the final beam was placed, I let out a blood curdling scream that I was certain Joe couldn’t hear. My cry for escape fell on deaf ears and the light never came back on. I was stuck, trapped and helpless, inside a thick wooden coffin.

Thank you for reading and being a part of my journey. Please subscribe in the provided area to receive a notification of new posts by email. Please give it a like if you like it, feel free to share with others or leave a comment if you wish. See you at the next one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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