Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Samsara Petalspoke

Dreams of death come regularly, a constant unconscious effort to understand and prepare. At least that's how it has long felt. It pretty much began after my sister Laura died of Reye's syndrome. We shared a bedroom and now I was alone, confused by her absence, too young to really make sense of it all. She appeared to me at least twice, hovering above my bed, smiling, soothing my mind before disappearing into the ceiling. I knew nothing about spirits or visitations at the time, and to this day cannot with any certainty say that it actually happened. Perhaps a movie my brain screened for my benefit. If so, it was a compelling production, especially for a kid my age.

For the longest time, maybe a decade or more, the chief recurring death dream saw me repeatedly shot in a broken elevator in some abandoned building, trash everywhere, insane graffiti covering the cracked walls. I could feel the bullets rip through me, sharp burning stabs of pain that began to ebb as life slipped away, floating just outside my bleeding frame, pleased that it was all finally over. I long thought that this was a premonition, that this was how I would end, which is why whenever I walked past a really shitty building in lower Manhattan, I felt a warm peace. But I eventually moved from the city before that could happen.

Mind you, the above scenario took place during my most godless, atheistic period, when I firmly believed that this is a cold, uncaring universe, and that death is complete annihilation, no post-mortem consciousness on the dance card. (Hell, there's a significant part of me that still thinks -- fears? -- this is the case.) Yet I couldn't shake that spiritual feeling, no matter how much I tried to strangle it. On paper, non-existence is preferable to whatever afterlife one can conceive, simply because pain, misery, and dread are over. With prolonged awareness, who knows what one will feel or encounter? In many cases, it would seem like extended torture, no chance to simply close your fading eyes and drift into nothingness.

Through it all, I've experienced several dreams or dream-like states where I spoke to the dead, or they me, and unlike most dreams which fuzz into each other, nonlinear images jumping across the unconscious stage, these were brightly-lit, up-close, and intimate. I described at the end of "Mr. Mike" my discussions with O'Donoghue's spirit whenever I hit a snag in my research, his advice and tips actually leading me to a portion of his files I didn't know existed, which, to put it mildly, blew my fucking mind. (Some of his friends were convinced that these were visitations, since O'D didn't want me to screw up his story.)

Just after my Uncle Don died, I remained very sad, for he and I were quite close. Then, one morning just before waking, Don appeared to me, standing in his kitchen, which was striking since he spent most of his adulthood in a wheelchair. "I have my legs back!" he exclaimed, the light surrounding him intense but not blinding. I asked him where he was; he said that he couldn't explain it in a way I would understand, but that I shouldn't be sad, for he was surrounded by beauty. He informed me that in time, it would become clear to me, then disappeared. I haven't seen him since.

Maybe it's all hallucination. I'm certainly willing to believe that, and I know a fair number of you reading this already do. But a few years ago, I experienced something that I'm still reluctant to write about, at least until that memoir-ish project fully leaves the ground. I've only confided in a small group of people, and even that's too much, since I still wrestle with the meaning of that tear-soaked morning, when I was on my knees completely drained yet filled with weird energy, unlike anything I've felt before or since. It may well have been a nervous breakdown, or some kind of psychotic episode -- I can't honestly say. But it revealed emotions and thoughts that were completely new to me, and were not tied to any reading or viewing or discussions from that time. A burst from the blue, so to speak. It did inspire this little vaudeville, which I wrote exclusively for Arianna's slave ship, but never posted here until today. For what it's worth.