Rage

The ride to the the hospital the following morning was a brief trip of silence. I drove with a white knuckle grip, lost in my thoughts, and she sat in the passenger seat sending text messages to her friends, family, and co-workers to fill them in on the details of her day surgery.

We were both in semi good spirits and came to a realization the night before, while packing her day bag, that this hurdle was a necessity. It’ll be over and better before we know it. Just something we have to get through. Just like any other hurdle in life. Jump over it and keep on moving forward.

Her biggest complaint was not being able to eat anything the night before. God love her.

My mistake was not asking more questions.

Always ask questions. Dig for information. Read the fine print. Read, research. Question everything. Absolutely everything. Take nothing at face value. Burrow under the surface. With the right information, we can be better prepared. Preparation is everything.

Regardless of my mistake, we entered the hospital and made our way to the designated room.

The drugs were taking effect after a short time, and she was feeling giddy and light headed. She relaxed into her chair, licking drool, eyes rolling around, giggling at nothing, and I could tell it was almost time and that’s when the nurse approached us and said, “OK… we’re ready now.”

I kissed the top of her hand and watched the nurse wheel her away through the double doors. A moment later a second nurse came up to me and said, “Nancy asked me to text you from her phone when it’s over. Is that OK?”

“Of course.”

“She’s in good hands. It’s a fairly quick procedure and shouldn’t take too long. I’ll text you when she’s in recovery.”

“Sounds good.”

I left the hospital and immediately went to my place of employment.

Concentration was impossible. Focus was all but gone. I couldn’t think. I paced throughout my office. The words and numbers on the computer screen transformed to foreign languages I couldn’t understand. Co-workers tried to make conversation and all I could hear was gibberish.

After a few maddening hours trapped in my mind, I received a text message.

“It’s all done. She’s in recovery. This is what we removed.”

The message was accompanied with a picture.

(I was going to dig up the old photo from her phone and attach it to this post, but to this day it makes me squeamish. I decided not to include it.)

The picture showed the removed mass cradled in two cupped, Latex gloved hands. Under the extraction, I could see the bloody tools and scalpels, and wadded up blood crusted gauze on a silver tray. The tumor was the size of a softball, dark crimson, and streaked with black lines.

I couldn’t believe something that large was wedged and growing inside someone that small.

I almost lost what little I had eaten for lunch.

Feeling a little overwhelmed and off balance, I bolted for the car and sped back to the hospital.

After I checked in with the receptionist and found her location, I hurried down the hall to her room. Staff was entering and exiting with clipboards, whispering to each other in their own secret codes, and the doctor we consulted with the day before was sitting on a wheeled stool at the foot of her bed, making notations on a tablet.

I couldn’t breathe. I felt as if I was teleported elsewhere. I was in someone else’s reality looking through the eyes of another.

This is all a bad dream. This isn’t happening.

Oh, yes, it’s happening. The question now, is what to do about it.

She was partially reclined and unconscious. A thick plastic tube was stuffed in her mouth and taped off at the corners to keep it secure. A see-through plastic accordion device sat on the floor under her bed pumping blood through hoses and beeping machinery. She was connected to the wall behind her with wires and small digital contraptions and displays, and the room was a cold, dark tomb. Her hospital gown was partially opened in the front and a long white bandage was taped to her breastbone; starting at her throat, and disappearing under the blankets which were folded down neatly and perfectly across her stomach.

The doctor stood up and approached me. “The good news is that we didn’t find any cancer in, or around the tumor.”

My face reddened and my legs weakened. I lowered my voice. “What’s the bad news?”

He snatched up a clipboard and half smiled. “No bad news. The procedure was a complete success.”

Feeling on the verge of fainting, looking at her from the corner of my eye, I asked, “What’s the recovery time?”

“It varies. She won’t be able to climb stairs for at least a month, possibly six weeks to be certain.”

Our bedroom is upstairs.

“She can drive a car again, to be safe, eight weeks, but keep it local. The bandage will need to be changed often, probably every few hours to help fight any potential infections. Infections can lead to fevers and if her temperature climbs anything over 99 degrees, she’ll need to be brought in right away. She’ll need to have her temperature taken every hour.”

Keep going, doc.

“This is her pillow.” He places a thin white pillow over her feet. “During the healing process she’ll have a natural instinct to cough. If she coughs, or feels like coughing, put this over her chest and tell her to gently hug it.”

You’re not done yet. Give me more.

“For the first couple of weeks she’ll probably need help getting to the bathroom. She’ll be sleeping a lot. Simple tasks will be difficult and she’ll need assistance. We’ll provide ointments, prescribe the medicines, pain killers, and all the materials needed to make the healing process as quick as possible for when you bring her home. We’d like to keep her here for a few days and monitor. You can visit any time you want and if you want to stay the night, we’ll make you a spot.”

“See, doc? There’s always bad news.”

My vision tunneled and the room stretched out. The nurse in the far corner seemed a mile away and I had to blink through the disorientation and lean against the closet.

“Are you OK?” The doctor asked.

My eyes opened wide. I was morphing into something I always try and suppress. Bringing the internal darkness to the surface is always dangerous and I fought the impending violence festering in my head. A fight I felt I was bound to lose.

“No. Not really. I’m fucking far from OK.”

Something clicked in my mind. I was watching a scene unfold that I couldn’t control.

I reached to the floor, grabbed the silver stool’s leg, and swung the lightweight chair at his face with all my strength.

It was bound to break something.

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Tension

The cough intensified as the days wore on.

Deep and rattling. At times, uncontrollable.

As if she was surrounded by an evil entity, squeezing all the air from her lungs. It literally came from nowhere. All was fine… until the cough magically appeared.

Nancy’s one tough lady, but this was knocking her down. All I could do was offer my support and retrieve from the store what she needed to fight it. What I was able to provide, didn’t seem to help.

She eventually paid a visit to her doctor.

This may rub some folks the wrong way, but I don’t look fondly at western medicine. I used to, once, in the Old Life, but not anymore. I have my reasons, and experiencing Nancy’s next few hurdles, solidified my position and stance on the matter.

Her doctor prescribed her a nebulizer with an inhaling mist, and told her she had bronchitis.

It wasn’t bronchitis. But we wouldn’t know that for another week or so.

I wish they could get their diagnosis accurate the first time around.

She’d draw the mist into her lungs and cough until she was purple in the face. Hands clutching her chest. Deep breathing and wheezing in between the moments of doubling over in obvious pain. I was helpless watching her go through it all.

“What can I do? What can I get you?”

“Nothing.” She’d reply. “I just have to get through it.”

We dealt with that for almost a week.

It takes a catastrophe to keep her from work. When she started calling in to her job, and taking extended time off, was when I knew we had a more serious problem than a case of bronchitis. She made the decision to re-connect with her doctor.

I was told over the phone she’d fill me in when she returned.

I stood at the kitchen window and listened to the water fill the sink. I scooped up a pile of plates and lowered them into the suds, keeping my attention on the flock of crows gathered on the neighbor’s roof, and cursed out loud when the water spilled over the edge and splashed across my feet. Something didn’t feel right. The hairs on my neck stood up and the room felt smaller.

I was losing focus and concentration.

Something was about to happen. I could sense it. That bubble which once surrounded me for protection was starting to reappear.

I paced the room feeling anxiety racing under my skin as the dishes sat in the sink unattended.

I told you something was coming. I told you the fight will soon be on your doorstep. You never listen to me. You need to prepare.

“For what?”

A war. 

“My wars are over.”

Sorry. You’re wrong. They’ve only just begun.

Five minutes later she called me and asked me to meet her at the doctors.

Typically I drive like an old man who can barely see over the steering wheel. I’m cautious of the law, speed limits, and all the rules of the road. I was lucky I didn’t get pulled over on the way to her.

I tore open the door and felt as if I was walking into a brightly lit tomb. We found each other and I was introduced to her primary care specialist.

He had the same Joker smile as my old buddy, Bill, from BizzaroTech.

Why are you so happy?  I thought, while shaking his hand. You’re about to tell us difficult news. Wipe that smug smirk from your face.

I watched the doctor pull out his file, slap an assortment of X-Rays on the wall, and flipped on the light. “I’ll just get right to it.” He said, and pointed to his breast bone. “We did a series of tests and took some X-Rays of the chest cavity and found something that demands immediate attention.” He approached the light and circled a location blocked out by a large dark mass. “Ordinarily, the human Thymus disappears and is replaced by fat after we reach puberty. Nancy’s never did.”

I swallowed hard and was waiting for the bomb to drop. “Inside her Thymus, is a growth. A tumor if you will, that needs to be removed.”

“Is this a quick and easy procedure?” I asked him.

“It does involve surgery. But in order for her to heal, it needs to come out.”

“How soon can she have this taken care of?”

“We can do it tomorrow.” He sat back down and scrawled notes on his papers.

“How rare is something like this?”

He glanced up to me over the rim of his glasses. “Very rare.”

I looked to her and she attempted a smile. I asked, “Do you want to do this tomorrow?”

She nodded.

Here it comes. I told you something was about to happen. You need to start listening more.

Thank you for reading and joining me on 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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The Silence Before the Scream

I stare at the horizon and the waves hit my shins. The receding water buries my feet in warm sand, and I’m finally at peace. My cluttered mind now at ease. A place I desperately wanted to call, home. Here, I can relax. “I’m not returning until I find answers.”

“You’ll leave when I tell you to leave.”

Then I was back. Back to the paradigm we call, reality. Torn from the fantasy world once again, and whisked against my will back to the land of the living through a swirling vortex of color and light.

When I snap out of it, it always takes a moment to re-calibrate. I have to find my footing and clear the webs from the noggin. I have to stop in my tracks, back up a few paces and remember what it is I’m fighting to forget. What is it I’m trying so hard to ignore?

I believe that’s all it really is on the grand scale. We cling to those negative past experiences and once they become the primary focus they slither deep into our souls. The roots find a home where they’re nurtured and watered daily, then they branch, weave, and spread out like a virus without a cure. Thick vines choking us out to the point where eventually the inability to breathe feels normal. No machete or chainsaw is strong enough to hack it all away.

We find comfort in escapism. We seek methods to mask the madness dwelling inside. Those coping mechanisms vary individual to individual, but we all have them.

Sometimes we walk the path of the light to escape, and sometimes we go dark.

For a brief moment in time, I went dark-silent-protected-contemplative-introvert-hermit.

No method of escapism was good enough. No matter what I drank, I couldn’t quench my thirst. My mind was racing 24-7 and my thoughts were erratic. I’d indulge in escapes I was accustomed to, but had a hunger I couldn’t feed. Because I couldn’t find answers where they didn’t exist, I decided to go to the source of the problem; instead of focusing on the results. I needed to dig for my answers and to this day, I still dig in the same holes from time to time. I could not longer exist on the surface of my personal issues in life, I needed to find the reasons to “why” I was having my experiences. There has to be more to it.

And it all derived from a central point. I know the source of the problem.

That problem is, me.

I used to carry a sledgehammer. A heavy tool to break down obstacles and obliterate impassible walls. Now I carry a shovel in it’s place. I traded one laborious tool for another, but today I dig, search, and look for personal discoveries that are applicable to me. Instead of smashing through the wall and moving on to the next, I try and figure out who built the wall, what it’s made of, why is it here? Why am I facing it? Why today?

Of course, no answer will be found, but through that search I believe I’ve come to be a better person then who I was in the Old Life. And to me, that’s all that really matters. I exchanged my negative experiences for positive ones. I transformed the bad, into something I like to think is, good. If not good, then better than what I was the day before.

Quite possibly the biggest hurdle thus far, the largest of the walls I’ve ever seen, was constructed in early summer of 2012. I couldn’t see the wall, until I was standing toe-to-toe with it. On the other side of the barrier I could hear the screaming of the enemy and all its minions and monsters. Mocking, taunting and yelling obscenities. Telling me to walk away. Instructing me to try the other paths instead. This one wasn’t for me.

I had to find a way to silence the screams. I couldn’t retreat. The path behind me wasn’t for me anymore. I had to keep moving forward. I had to continue to pursue something away from the darkness.

I needed to undertake a journey I wasn’t prepared for.

The journey involved a place between places. A location conjured in my mind. Somewhere I needed to reside temporarily, in order to get through it all. My little trips into the fantasy world were my coping mechanisms. My escapes. My methods to quell the madness. The subtle clues and hidden secrets were starting to appear in locations I didn’t expect. My subconscious mind took control and I gave in allowing it to take me elsewhere. I latched onto the snippets of information I was provided and I taught myself to put the pieces together accordingly, to create a scene I somehow needed to see, even if the picture was hazy and vague.

I had to make sense of it all. Why is this happening? Why me? Why us? What’s my bigger picture here?

I still don’t know. I’ve lumped it into the category of, “life happens.”

It’s what I do with the provided data, that makes the difference to me. I have to look for a potentially bigger picture, and continue to place the pieces. Transform the bad into something good.

Something that makes sense to me.

My brief time as a hermit, that dark path I walked before deciding it wasn’t for me, came to be an asset. I was able to latch onto that experience again and it guided me to where I needed to be. I didn’t want to relive that moment in time. I had to.

“You have to do what needs to be done.”

“What is it?”

To continue being honest, I still don’t know. I don’t know what needs to be done. All I know is what I can do and what I try and accomplish within my parameters. Nothing more, nothing less. To continue being myself.

If not for the journey, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I dig who I am. I like me.

The wall was high and wide and I walked head first into it. It was invisible at first. Subtle, easily ignored, and overlooked. Maybe a lozenge would help. A little non drowsy medication before work. Go see the doctors when you’re ready, or it lasts longer than a week or becomes something that needs to be looked into.

It all started with a cough.

Thank you for reading and joining me on 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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The Stars and the Sea

“Stuck. In the muck. Down on my luck. My mind has been hit by a speeding dump truck. Feet firm on the ground, brain running amok. I see the sea and the sky and behold I’m awestruck. -JSM-

 

In 2009, I spent some time in Bermuda. The only real vacation I’ve ever had. Three slow moving days at sea. Two days docked at King’s Landing at the island, and two days returning to Boston.

The ship was an adult playground. Event rooms on each deck. Dance floors and a bar in each corner. The best food I’ve ever eaten, with twenty-four hour eateries. Five star restaurants and the meals were delivered on demand and as much as you could stuff in your face. On deck nine was a twenty-four hour arcade. Tennis courts top side. Running track. Batting cages. A swimming pool and water slides on the main deck, with more lawn chairs than can be counted, and a handful of hot tubs.

The staff preformed improv routines. Cirque du Soleil made an appearance. They had magician acts and stand up comedians in large theaters. Bartender contests. Karaoke and Bingo halls. Back rubs and pedicures…

A little bit of everything.

A little bit of everything that really didn’t pertain to my interests.

Near the bridge, where the captain and his crew manned the ship on the other side of bullet proof glass, was a library and attached to the library was a cigar lounge. Cigars were purchased in a mall area on the lobby floor and smoked in the ventilated room along with cigarettes, if a visitor so preferred. The lounge had high-back leather seats and thick dark carpet. It was a dimly lit room with internet access ($15 for five minutes), and magazines draped over end tables.

I’ll give you three guesses how I spent my time on the ship.

When I wasn’t swimming in the pool, soaking in the tub, or eating a meal, I was in the arcade. Now and then, I’d spend some time in the library.

I kept to the itinerary designed for the day. You gotta get what you pay for. I went to the bars and played Bingo in the event room. I watched the magicians, I played the games and participated in the contests. I smoked a cigar or two. But the arcade brought me back to my childhood. A room crammed with nostalgia. Since most people see me as a big kid at heart, it was fitting I spent most of my time in a place that suited me.

The library had an air of mystique and mystery. It’s own separate draw. The shelves were jammed with old leather bound books and trinkets.

Between the two locations, I knew where I wanted to be.

The island was a different experience altogether. With the ship docked at the nearest port, the tourists could come and go freely. During the day, my vacation escape was the arcade and the library. On the island it was experiencing the rich history and seeing the local sites, tasting their home brews and filling up my bottomless gut on popular cuisine.

Dusk and dark was my favorite time during my stint at sea.

Off my cabin was a narrow balcony. With the glass door closed behind me, the only noises of the night were the waves crashing against the hull far below and the whispers and giggles of lovers on the balconies to either side.

The night sky was something out of a sci-fi movie. Purple and green clusters of pulsing color. It appeared as though every star in the universe was congested and gathered right above my head. I couldn’t get enough of it. The light pollution was non-existent and what was visible was breathtaking. The stars flickered and fluttered and seemed as if they were speaking in Morse Code to each other.

It was indeed a surreal experience. As though I didn’t belong there. I was an impostor. Like I was intruding on something greater than me. I was provided special permission and full access to see the secrets of the galaxy. My own personal light show.

The ocean at night, far far away from land, is a powerful sight. I can’t wait to see it again.

In the meantime, that sight exists only in my memories. For now, it’s confined to the dream world. My conjured fantasy land. The only place in the universe where I exist as a different person. A place in the universe I visit when my eyes are closed.

***

It’s all yours. Every grain of sand. Every air molecule. Every drop of blood and water. It’s yours. Your inheritance. You are the ruler of this world. 

“I want to talk to Joseph.”

Oh, now you want to speak to him? Joseph isn’t here right now. You’ll have to leave a message. He’s just a middle man. A gatekeeper. When the time is right, he’ll say hello.

“Where am I heading?”

It appears the southern most tip of the continent. The furthest south one can walk. You’ll get there in a minute. 

A minute was forever. He lied.

I did arrive eventually, but was winded and tired. I was thirsty and without my canteen. The sun was rising in a cloudless sky ahead, and when I thought the walk would never end, it did abruptly where the ocean met the sand.

My bare toes wiggled in the still water and I stared off to the horizon.

I was finally home.

Thank you for reading and joining me on 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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A Hard Fall From a High Wagon

“I’m on the front line, don’t worry I’ll be fine, the story is just beginning.
I say goodbye to my weakness, so long to the regret, and now I see the world through diamond eyes.”  
-Shinedown-

As winter approaches, I’ve felt fatigued, sluggish, and slightly grumpy. Winter in Maine, while beautiful and magical, can also be looooong and gray. The things I enjoy, are now the sources of great stress. What should feel easy, is exceedingly difficult. I can’t even finish reading a book by a favorite author for some reason. I get to the good parts, the slow burn is paying off, and I shelve it. The things I love to do, (no matter what it is) feels more like a chore than a positive experience. Recently thinking of a new hobby to mix in with the others.

I am indeed the creator of my own misery.

Falling off the wagon, sucks. It’s a tall wagon I’ve been riding for quite some time. A custom made vehicle built with layers of impenetrable protection from all outsiders and made for one rider. When I fall off, however, those few moments where the wagon hits a rut in the road, I make an impact crater when I land which takes forever to climb out.

I try not not gripe about it. Griping will get no one, nowhere,… real fast. I try and suck it up and make due with what I’ve been given. Make lemonade from rotten lemons and no sugar. I don’t communicate much to those around me about the things that stress me out, or piss me off. Instead, I come here and vent.

Weirdo.

I become a recluse. I revert back to a hermit mentality. I ignore social media unless tagged or mentioned. I sit in my chair, daydream, ponder, think, and ignore everything around me.

Since disconnecting cable from the television, the methods for escape have diminished substantially. Sure–The internet, the gaming system, YouTube, Netflix, Hulu and CBS All Access have filled in a few spaces here and there, but when an app crashes or the connection is interrupted… it stresses me out to no end. Like a big frigging baby who isn’t getting his way.

And yes, that’s all on me.

I have so many unfinished projects strewn around, I wonder why I even started them in the first place. Incomplete crossword puzzles. Starship models half done. Household chores waved off and ignored for another time. Partially written emails and some waiting to be sent. Writing projects now collecting dust high up on the digital bookshelf waiting for me to get off my fat keister and do something productive about it.

Hell… I haven’t even started winterizing yet, and the first snow fall happened today.

You have to get on that. That shit’s supposed to be done in September.

Losing power for six days, after the last storm, really put a dampener on my way of life and I’m not sure why… and I haven’t climbed back on my wagon yet. It’s been easier to just turn on YouTube down in my hole and watch mindless videos or research topics I will probably do nothing with in the future. Simpler to just stare off into the distance and hope the time passes. It’s not a depressive state of mind. I know that. Been there, done that, and no plans to repeat. I know I’m not in any depressed state.

I think I get bored and don’t want to admit it. I shouldn’t feel that way. I’ve always told my children, “Boredom is a lack of a creative mind,” and I feel as though I should practice what I preach. But my interests are so varied and unorthodox and outside all of mainstream, I feel as though I engage in these activities, as a solo entity. That can be tiresome.

Which, (now that I think about it) might be a good thing. I don’t know many people who I can chat with about Thoth’s emerald tablet, or why… if the land masses and continents continue to drift a certain distance each year, and always have… why certain stars can still be seen through holes in stonework, designed and carved to watch those specific stars, constructed thousands of years ago.

Einstein once said, “The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.” I believe this to be true. But the places my mind leads me into… I have difficulties sharing with others. So… I keep that stuff to myself. Then I get bored.

I suppose when you don’t pay attention to politics, the news, war, sports, the media, trendy topics, popular music, Insta-Snap, and now mainstream entertainment, the topics for conversation stay mostly within the confines of the mind.

I guess it is what it is.

With that said, I want to take a moment and thank everyone: My Twitter followers, subscribers and Facebook friends who continue to read this madness called, Tales of the Chronicles. This crazy project is something I thoroughly enjoy and without you guys, I wouldn’t do it. So thank you. I never believed it would have gotten to this point.

I’d also like to take a moment to thank the few of you who’ve really helped me over some hurdles in this journey of life. Especially the current leg of the race. You’ve helped me in ways I can’t explain. The road may still be long, and winding, but it’s getting easier to navigate.

Some paths just take a little longer to walk. Some wagon’s are taller than others.

In the beginning, all I had was figments of my imagination to show me what I enjoyed. Conjured specters appearing from the mist pointing towards a path. Quick visits. Brief glimpses. Knowing they weren’t real, but just as real as anyone else, made the experiences more difficult at first. Ray McKay said, “you need to let go. Give into it,” and those words of inspiration made no sense to me.

How am I supposed to let go of something when I don’t know what it is?

Are you supposed to cry again? Let the emotions go? What does that even mean?… Let it all go…

I still struggle with what it all might mean. When provided cryptic replies and answers, one can’t help but to speculate on the interpretation.

Just like with anything else, we make due with what we’re given.

The dreams stopped for a time. I estimate two, perhaps three weeks passed before experiencing another vivid, jumble of weirdness. Life moved on.

I ignored Pastor McKay’s words of wisdom, and his puzzle metaphor, and sallied forth.

Maybe that’s what I was supposed to do.

Because the next time I visited the dream realm, I bypassed the Rillian Sea completely and landed on the beach where I met the strangers in the storm. Joe was nowhere to be seen and never once made his presence known. I wouldn’t see him for another five nights. The strangers were gone, and the fire was a smoldering coal pile in a shallow pit.

Barefoot, I walked the beach’s coastline towards the rising sun.

Thank you for reading and joining me on 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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Pastor McKay

The following morning I returned to my old stomping grounds. A small town I had invested much spare time in my youth. A place where I spent many years after high school trying to find myself. The early days of failed self discovery. Some invisible force, an inner tug–an urge–was telling me to revisit my roots. To this day, I can’t describe that pull.

I parked downtown and wandered the mostly empty streets, browsing the shops, and was there for a good couple hours. I window shopped and sat in corner cafes sipping coffee and nodded to strangers when they looked my way. When I was hungry, I ordered from my favorite childhood pizza joint and mostly kept to myself.

Pacing, I kept my hands stuffed deep in my pockets and my focus on the cracks between the sidewalk bricks below me. I had no idea what I was doing there. Despite the pull to return to the old homestead, I was clueless to the reasons why.

A temporary escape to reflect, and remember my ancient memories, perhaps?

There has to be a reason for all of this.

But what if there isn’t?

Just go home…

On my way back to Nancy, I drove slowly by the old apartments and housing complexes I used to “party” at, where friends and family once resided. I sat on the side of the road in my car and reminisced on the old days. Every now and again a small smile would inch it’s way across my face and I became lost in old forgotten memories. The moment I felt as though I had overstayed my welcome, or when I felt like I was being watched, my foot would find the accelerator and I sped away to the next location. I didn’t wish to raise any red flags in the neighborhood or become the center of negative attention.

At the south end of town, where the homes transformed into fields and farms surrounded by barb wire fences, I felt compelled to stop at the driveway of a church I once attended in my teen age years. Strangely enough, the church reminded me of the refuge I experienced often in the dream world. The same color building, same lay out, same parking-lot. The same pillars and wooden doors. Rows of trees on three sides.

Coincidence?

Maybe.

I wonder if Pastor Shepherd remembers me? Since you’re here, might as well say hi.

I exited the car and stood on the fringes of the property and casually glanced around the open area.

The lot was empty, except for one red mini van in the far corner of the parking area. The licence plate had “Saved3” etched into the thin white metal, and the roof of the vehicle was covered with fallen leaves. Attached to the church was an outbuilding apartment and on the second floor of the home a figure stood in a window looking down at me.

Knowing I was being watched, I decided to re-enter the car, ignore my impulses, and leave. As I opened the door, a man exited the apartment and stood at the threshold. He hollered across the open space between us, “Can I help you?!”

I closed the car door and approached him with slow hesitant steps. My hands never left my pockets. “Sorry. I’m looking for, Pastor Shepherd. Is he still around?”

The man was wearing a white dress shirt and black pants. While I remembered Pastor Shepherd as an elderly man, the new pastor had a youthful look to him. His hair was short, his sleeves were rolled up and he was wearing white sneakers. He closed the distance, “Pastor Shepherd moved to Portland about three years ago. Is there something I can help you with?”

The answer eluded me. I knew I was there for some reason, but I couldn’t place my finger on it. “I really don’t know.” I chuckled. “I may be beyond help at this point. Sorry to have wasted your time. Have a good day.”

“Nonsense. Please, come inside. It’s cold out here. You want some coffee?”

I do love coffee… Why not?

“I’d love some. Thank you.”

He led me through a side door and we walked down a long hallway in silence. The nostalgia was almost overwhelming. The art on the walls were the same. The smell was familiar. The kitchen hadn’t changed, and the community areas where we had potluck meals and group gatherings were identical to what I remembered. Perhaps the rooms and corridors were a little smaller than what I recalled. The building was silent and other than us, it was empty.

He opened the door to his office and his wife was pushing coffee through a large urn into a tall cup, and before she turned around, the pastor cleared his throat and said, “We have company.”

She turned to the door and smiled, “Well, how are you today?”

“Not bad. I’m, Jeremy.”

“I’m, Jennifer.” She extended her hand and shook mine. “This is my husband, Ray.” She pointed to the pastor. “Cream and sugar?”

“Please.”

The pastor gripped my hand and squeezed, “Ray. Ray McKay.”

I looked around his office, “It’s exactly the same as I remember it. The desk was over here before. I’m really sorry for showing up announced. I was just driving around checking out the old stomping grounds and happened across you on my way back through.”

He sipped from the cup. “Was this your place of worship?”

“A long time ago.” I replied, removing the cup from Jennifer’s hand.

I sat slowly in a leather chair he gestured to at his desk. “Some of the art in here’s different. More books, but other than that, it hasn’t changed a bit.”

“You say you came here by accident? Just happened to come by?” He leaned back in his seat and furrowed his brow.

“It feels like that. But over the last year, I’ve come to a conclusion that nothing really happens by accident.”

Smiling, Jennifer held the cup under the urn and when the coffee touched the rim of her mug, she left the room and closed the door.

Pastor McKay draped one leg over the other. “I agree, Jeremy. Nothing happens by accident. Outside you said, ‘I may be beyond help at this point’, what exactly did you mean by that? Are you in trouble?”

I pondered his question and looked into the cup for my answer. “Not in trouble in the conventional sense, I don’t think. But something doesn’t…”

“… Something doesn’t feel quite right, does it?” He replied with a half smile and tore a sheet of paper off a tablet on his desk. He reached into a top drawer and removed a pair of scissors from inside the clutter.

He cut the sheet down the middle. He set half to the side and the other half, he cut up into small pieces. The sections fell to his desktop and scattered across the surface. Triangles, circles, corner edges, strange shapes and long thin strips. Once the remainder of the paper was diced up, he turned to a shredder and ran the untouched half sheet into the machine and when the paper was pulverized to powder he picked up the shredder from the floor and gave it an aggressive shake.

“Join me.” He said and pointed to the pieces on the tabletop. “Help me put these back together. It’ll only take a minute or two.”

I scooted the chair forward and between the two of us, we rearranged the pieces into their rightful places. We organized the paper in silence, only pausing to drink our coffee.

“There, it’s all done.” He sat back in the chair, satisfied, and smiled at the finished product. “That was easy.”

“No, it’s not done.” I replied.

“Looks done to me.” He shrugged and gave the puzzle a look over.

I eyeballed the shredder on the floor.

“What? You want to empty it and look for all the pieces? Sift through all that confetti? We could be here for awhile. In fact, we may be here forever.”

“It’s the confetti I’m looking for. The big puzzle seems mostly done. I feel like I have all the right pieces, but the other half is missing. I’m seeking the crumbs. I don’t need the big pieces anymore.”

“Sometimes we have to deal with what we have. Make due with what’s provided to us. Sometimes the confetti pieces are impossible to find.”

I shook my head. “I don’t believe that. I can’t believe that. Not anymore.”

“Tell me about it.”

I relaxed and said, “My dreams are now as real to me as this conversation is. Sometimes they seem more real… than dreams. They can be quite intense some nights. Not every night though. Something is telling me something, but I don’t know what to do with it. It literally makes no sense. But at the same time, it’s all so real.”

“And you don’t like the way it makes you feel and it’s frustrating and you can’t tell anyone cause they’ll think you’re off your rocker, am I in the ballpark?”

“Right on the money.”

“Let me tell you something. When I turned twenty one, my buddies took me out for a night on the town. I don’t remember anything after the first three hours. They pretty much dragged me place to place and brought me home after I couldn’t stand up anymore. Later they told me I made an ass of myself.

“But at some point through that night, I experienced a series of events that I have never spoken about. Not even to Jen. Today seems like a good day to share with somebody.

“Through the course of that night, I heard voices, and saw glowing animals. Crazy right? I was blinking in and out of sleep and I saw people that were’t there. I heard an accordion I haven’t heard played since my father used to practice in our living room when I was a child. I always chalked it up to alcohol poisoning, and intermittent blackouts, but it was those things I witnessed and remembered that helped make me who I am today. What I experienced is for me, and me alone, what I did with the information is what’s important.”

He refilled his cup and approached the window. “I still can’t explain what I saw, not completely. But I knew I had to make sense with what I was given.”

“What I’ve been given, doesn’t make any sense. and doesn’t feel like it will any time soon.” I looked to a painting on the wall.

“So, make the nonsense, make sense.”

“How do I do that?”

“You’re on a quest. A journey. Your own personal trail of tears. It may never make sense, but you have to stop fighting and you need to try and get through this adventure. You’re seeking answers that can’t be found the easy way.

“Inside of you is a safe and you’ve forgotten the combination. You’re at the point now where you have a stethoscope against the door, alone in a small silent room and hoping for the sound of a click. Next week you’ll be ready to use a drill or dynamite. It’s when you stop trying to force it, will the combination be remembered.”

I leaned forward. “So… just ignore it and it will come to me? Make it make sense by leaving it alone and hoping for the best?”

“Quite the opposite, Jeremy. Let yourself go. Explore every corner of what your given. Turn over every stone. Turn on every light in every room. The more you look, the better you’ll see. You’ll never see it, unless you let yourself go. At least that’s what I had to do.

“Jeremy, I have a theory. You claim to have all the big pieces together and the puzzle seems complete, but I don’t believe that to be true.” He waggled a finger at me and closed one eye. “You might be missing the bigger pieces and only a fragment of the smaller puzzle seems done. It just looks complete and feels right.” He tore off a chunk of papers from the tablet and positioned them around the half sheet. “Perhaps it’s not the confetti you seek, perhaps is the large unseen pieces that slip you by. Stop following the crumbs. Ignore the microscopic pieces in the shredder. Find the large pieces and then maybe you’ll find you can finally unlock that vault.”

My stomach lurched into my throat. A million images screamed through my mind. Pastor Ray was speaking, but the words were in one ear and out the other.

I’m missing something. Something I haven’t seen yet. 

Of course, I wouldn’t look for those pieces right away. That would be easy.

And we all know, nothing is ever easy.

Thank you for reading and joining me on 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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Strangers in the Storm

“In restless dreams I walked alone. Narrow streets of cobblestone. ‘Neath the halo of a street lamp, I turned my collar to the cold and damp. When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light, that split the night, and touched the sound of silence.”

-Simon and Garfunkel-

Her voice droned into a muffled whisper and I felt my eyes fluttering closed. My finger tips tingled, the tension in my neck ebbed away, and the feverish heat disappeared. I felt a shiver at the base of my skull that sent a vibration into my toes and in that moment, I was finally relaxed.

Finally.

Despite the elderly specter sitting behind me staring at the back of my head, I was at peace.

My first real taste of meditation.

If you’ve never tried it… I highly recommend it. It feels pretty good.

At that time in my life, I’d never practiced meditation before. Too many variations, routines, and practices to keep track of. I had read about it and watched a handful of videos, but never once indulged. Sometimes when I stare at the back of my eyelids, lying in my bed, slowly falling asleep, I see small images floating and moving around within the darkness and if I focus on those little animated pictures my mind produces, I feel more comfortable and falling asleep is easier.

It helps when all thoughts are purged from the mind. Having only one thing to focus on.

Sometimes what I see are small, pulsing, colored balls of light. I pull my attention to the moving orbs, and if I stare and keep my concentration on one spot, it becomes all I see and all I think on. My thoughts drift away elsewhere.

In the car, while Nancy drove us towards ice cream, I allowed my thoughts and memories to vanish from my mind. Like smoke drifting away on a breeze.

I was aware of my surroundings. I knew we were driving somewhere, but didn’t care about the destination. My head was heavy and felt as though it was sinking into my shoulders. My chin lowered to my chest and for a moment in time, I was removed from the vehicle and transported elsewhere.

I never actually fell asleep. I was wide awake and dreaming.

After a flash of brilliant white light behind my eyelids, the ocean returned. The Rillian Sea, as it had come to be named, materialized below me. Surrounded by the shimmering blue, my small island with a singular palm tree growing from it’s center reappeared, and I felt my bare feet once again touch the warm sand. Joseph was nearby dressed in his three piece suit and he was unraveling a rope from a hitching post sticking out of the beach. Riding the waves behind him bobbing among the foam was a small rowboat. Attached to rusty metal clamps, built into the frame, were the paddles, and the weathered oars floated on the surface of the water. Sitting on a bench inside the craft was a canteen and a silver compass.

He waved me over to the coastline. I felt my body moving toward him and he tossed the rope into the small one person boat.

This is where you start.

Why here?

We all need a starting point. This is yours. 

Where am I going?

You’ll know it when you get there. Follow the compass north. Stay on track. You’ll be out there for awhile, so I provided you some water. It’s delicious and ice cold.

Joe… none of this makes any sense. Can I ask you a question?

No. No more questions. Just leave. The answers are coming.

I lowered one foot into the unsteady, rocking boat, and whipped my head around. Joe had vanished from the beach and I was all alone.

“What the hell? Great. This is just great.” I muttered, crawling into the craft. I adjusted my backside on the center of the crumbling wooden seat and sighed.

I sat like a statue and felt the waves undulating beneath me and I dared not move a muscle. The ocean was endless, the sun was blazing hot, and I had no point of reference. My arms hung to my side and when I decided I had no other choice, I snatched up the compass.

“Might as well get this over with.” I shoved off from the shore, oriented my ship north, and began paddling.

Joe was right. I was out there for what seemed like forever. Hours had passed and when I felt as if my arms couldn’t propel the boat any further, I allowed it to ride the current for a minute or two and I took the opportunity to swig from the canteen. Once the cool water touched my insides, my strength returned, and I was able to continue pushing the paddles through the waves.

The endeavor was exhausting. I was frustrated and angry. “How could I allow him to talk me into this madness? Just wait until I see him again. Give him a piece of my mind. Rotten prick.”

Then, as if on cue, the sky opened up. Rain poured with a force that stung my skin.

I panicked. The boat was filling with water. I cupped my hands and scooped the rain from the floor as fast as I could move. Between paddling into the unknown and bailing out my boat, I was losing all concentration and focus. Everything was happening so fast and I couldn’t keep up.

Lightening shot down from the sky along the horizon and the sky darkened into a thick oppressive blanket which slowly engulfed me. I couldn’t see the compass anymore and my canteen was gone. The remainder of the sun had been swallowed by the gathering darkness, and my hands slid across the wet wood while scrambling for the paddles.

I was sinking.

Lost and alone in an endless void. The only illumination of the night was the streaks of blue and orange bolts firing down from the black clouds.

Knowing I was either going to sink or swim, and all my options had been exhausted, I gritted my teeth and dove headfirst from the bow into the Rillian Sea.

The rain continued to fall and the waves rose above my partially submerged head. I rode the towering waves, fighting to stay above water. Thunder crashed and boomed in the sky and I knew I wasn’t going to survive the journey across the expansive sea.

At the tip of a tall swell, I squinted my eyes and a blinking light appeared in the distance. Seeing a possible beacon of safety, at least a point of reference, I swam as fast as my arms and legs could move me over the ocean’s surface. The light brightened and continued it’s rhythmic pulsing and as I closed the distance, I could see five figures standing on the shore of a long beach to either side of a blazing fire.

One of the shadows sprinted across the sand and dove into the Rillian Sea. I could see the figure swimming at it’s top speed towards me and just when I felt the last of my strength leave my body, a squeeze clamped around my wrist and I was pulled above water.

A muscular arm wrapped around my torso and I was dragged out of the ocean and lowered to the beach sand.

A woman approached me. She was covered in a tattered brown dress. Her hair was the color of mud, and covered one half of her face.

The others remained out of sight, hovering in the outskirts of the shadows.

“You’re here.” She said.

“Barely.”

“Yes. The sea is a dangerous place. Especially at night.” She looked to the waves and my boat was deposited onto the shore in splintered pieces.

“What am I doing here? What is this place?”

“That doesn’t matter right now. What matters, is that we’re here. We’re here.”

Then I heard the music. A familiar song. A song I knew by heart. I looked around the beach for the source of the sound and felt my body spinning. I glanced to the four shadows beyond the firelight and the music grew louder.

Then the words of the song were more audible and drowned out the woman’s voice. She kept trying to tell me something, her hands cupped around her mouth yelling incoherently, but the melody escalated and soon was all I could hear.

The beach and the daydream was yanked away from me. I was pulled from it. My eyes snapped open to the sound of Led Zeppelin on the radio and Nancy saying, “Jere, we’re here. Honey, we’re here. You want a chocolate milkshake, right? This time it’s my treat.”

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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