The Imposition of Darkness

There was a day that I sat down with whom I would consider one of my best friends. This friend of mine was always pretty cavalier about recreational drug use, but kept it light. Then there came a time when I noticed his casual drug intake was trending upward. It was around this time that I got to sit down and have a heart-to-heart with him. Just the two of us.

The conversation began slow. He and I were sitting in such a way that I could only see the side of his face; his profile. He would only turn to face me when he was talking about something that was particularly pertinent.

So at one point, he turned to me and said, “I think I saw the devil.” After asking incredulous and rhetorical questions, I just let him speak.

“It was about a month ago. I was passed out on the couch and woke up in the middle of the night. As soon as I opened my eyes, I knew I was being watched. I didn’t think, I knew. I looked around the room. It was dark but then I saw something darker than the normal nighttime darkness of my living room. It was about the size and shape of a man. I just lay there, staring back at it. I mean, it didn’t have eyes, but I was just staring into it.” He paused here. “It scared me a lot. I mean I know I had a lot to drink, but I’m telling you, I was certain in that moment that what I was seeing wasn’t just my imagination or some hallucination.”

“So I’m staring back at him and then it starts to move closer to me. I don’t know how, but I knew it would do no good for me to try to move or run away from it. I just sort of let it get closer to me. It’s getting closer and it’s just…expanding. It’s darkness I mean, it just starts enveloping the whole room. Then, just before all I can see is the darkness of this thing, it stops so that from the fringes of my sight, I could still see some of the wall and the ceiling and shit. He-he, it, if there is an omniscient being like the devil, I doubt it has a gender-anyway he just stays there so that he is almost all I could see. It doesn’t move any closer. And I can do nothing but lie there and stare at his darkness.

“It never moved again. It just stood there over me as I’m splayed out on the couch. After a while it becomes apparent that nothing is going to happen and there was nothing to do but lay my head down, close my eyes and go back to sleep. And that’s what I did.”

“Jesus, I’m surprised you were even able to go back to sleep. I would have been scared shitless.”

“That’s the weird thing,” he started again, “I was scared but somehow I knew that the only thing to do in that situation was go back to sleep.”

“And you’re positive it wasn’t just a dream?” I asked.

He turned his face away from mine and explained, “I wasn’t so sure at first, but I’ve only told you the half of it. I would have been able to shrug it off as a dream if I weren’t still seeing him.” I stayed silent. “The next morning I woke up and the blackness was gone. Everything in the room was normal. But then I started noticing something: if ever I let my eyes focus on anything for a little while, any time I am at rest, left to my own devices and the silence of my mind, I see him. A blackness not so imposing or large as that night but it’s surely there. A spot of darkness behind everything I see. If I sit and stare long enough, he gets bigger.”

He turned his face back toward me and gazed in my direction intently for a few seconds. I couldn’t resist to ask the obvious question, even though I was frightened to hear the answer and I’m sure he was hesitant to tell me, “Do you see him now?” He maintained eye contact with me and said, “Yes.”

“What does he look like?”

“Like nothing. Like blackness; shapeless but deep blackness.” He broke eye contact with me and looked back in the direction he was sitting, perpendicular to me. “Sometimes I can’t even say that I physically see him, but his impression is there and I’m certain of it. I actually wish I saw him every time because it’s when I can’t see him that is most distressing. I know he’s there whether I can see him or not.”

A better man might know what to say to a loved one that just told him that he sees the devil on a regular basis, but I was at a loss. I’ve heard ghost stories before but nothing like this coming from someone I would consider a very reasonable man, someone that I trusted and frankly, loved.

Indeed, what is there to say? But this is what I ventured: “I can’t imagine how you’ve been dealing with that. But I gotta say, I’ve noticed you’ve kicked it up a notch with the pills and booze.”

He looked back at me and said, “If I focus on anything for too long, in other words, if I’m not distracted, he gets bigger. So, I keep myself distracted.”

“And that helps?” I inquired.

“It does,” he said calmly, “but it use to help me a lot more than it does now. It’s getting worse. It’s getting closer to me. I don’t just see him, he’s in my mind and I can almost feel his weight bearing down on my body. I know I’m not going to be hurt but I know something else, I can just feel it.”

“What?” I asked.

He called me by name and answered, “Somehow, some way, he’s coming for me.”

To this day I couldn’t say with any certainty what he meant by that. All I knew was that I was scared and worried for him. And, as it turns out, I had cause to be. Eight months after we had this conversation, my friend stopped his heart with a lethal mixture of codeine and oxycodone. It wasn’t determined whether it was accidental or intentional. I wept a great deal for my friend but, like he must have, I saw it coming.

 

Interpreting Dreams

“So I’m in a field and I come upon a single tree. It’s not big. The canopy of the thing is maybe seven or eight feet high and it doesn’t cover a whole lot of ground. Anyway, I kneel down underneath it and I start noticing glimmers in the dirt at it’s base. I guess somewhere around this time it starts to rain pretty hard. But the canopy of the tree is guarding me from it like an umbrella so I’m not getting drenched and I’m not paying the rain much attention anyway. Instead, I’m intent on these glimmers I’m seeing in the dirt at the base of this tree and I begin to scrape at it.”

“Well, I’m digging through the dirt with my hands at this thing that is partially covered up and I pull it up to see it’s a coin. A nickle or quarter or dime or something. Then I notice more. Some are partially buried with only their centers exposed and some are just lying there atop the ground, plain as day.”

“The more I look, the more of them I see. All silvery coins just lying there in the dirt under this tree. Anyway, I start digging and picking up these silver coins–they were all silver, mostly nickels and dimes but some quarters too, I guess the important thing though was that they were all silver coins–all the while the rain is falling and I am staying relatively dry under the canopy of the tree. There are a few drops here and there that make it through but nothing that draws my attention away from excavating these coins. They are covered in dirt obviously and I’m gathering them up in my hands one by one.”

“Then the idea occurs to me to wash them off in the rain. So to give you an idea of how small this tree that I was kneeling under was, all I had to do was take them in my hand and reach out so that they caught the rain that was falling outside of it’s canopy. And this may have been the most vivid and impressing part of the dream: after washing them in the rain and bringing them back under the canopy, I held them in my hands and they were the most vibrant and clean shade of silver I could imagine.”

“They were beautiful, really. Like freshly minted coins. Then I gathered more and rinsed them in the rain by simply reaching my hand out. I did this until I had more crisp, clean, silver coins in my hand than I could carry. They were spilling out of my cupped hands in fact, but I wanted to take them all. I couldn’t though. And it ends with me trying, almost desperately, to corral all of these coins. And failing.”

“Some are spilling out of my hands. I don’t know though, for some reason, the way the rain was so effective in making the coins so clean, and the amazing silvery sheen of the coins after they had been rinsed in the rain, stand out the most to me about the dream. I’ve been thinking about it for days because the imagery has just stuck with me. But I have no clue what it could or might mean. What do you think?”

“Sounds pretty cool. There was nothing that happened after trying to gather all the coins?” Brian asked.

“Nope. Well yeah, there was, but it was kind of that weird segue into another dream that always happens. At any rate, I knew it wasn’t important, you know? The significance of the dream was definitely contained in the scene I just described to you.” Answered Paul.

There was a long silent pause as Brian contemplated the dreamscape that Paul just described. It was obviously important enough for Paul to share with him so Brian didn’t want to have nothing to say. Brian thought hard about the images described to him. Then something occurred to him.”You were finding coins–money–in the dirt?” He probed.

“Yeah. Cleaning them off in the rain that fell just outside the canopy of this tree I was under.”

Brian grasped on to the first inclination that came to him, “Well it sounds like maybe you are finding wealth, or riches of some kind, in humble places. Like maybe you’re pulling something from nothing. Diamonds in the rough kind of thing, ya know? How long have you been dating Melissa?”

“A year and a half or so. You saying she came from the dirt?” Paul responded.

“No, no man, just trying to piece things together.”

“Yeah, that was one of the first things I thought about too. Doesn’t seem quite satisfactory though. There was just something about how silver the coins became after washing them off in the rain.” There was another extended pause between the two, then Paul continued, “definitely something about how…unnaturally silver they became.”

That night as Paul was making his way through the streets on his drive towards his girlfriend’s house, the images he dreamt came to his mind again. He turned the stereo down so that all he heard was the working of his engine and other cars passing by. At a red light, the vividness of the coins came back to him. He became convinced that this was the crux of his dream. But there was still so much more to consider. He decided to take a detour.

“Hey, I thought you were going to be here sooner. I already started eating.” Melissa said as she welcomed her boyfriend into her apartment.

He kissed her and said, “It’s ok, I’m not really hungry. More tired than anything. I kinda just want to lay down, maybe sleep early.”

“Is everything ok?” Melissa asked.

“Yeah, work is just kicking my ass.” He embraced her warmly and gave her a reassuring kiss. Then he headed for the bedroom. As he lay awake in Melissa’s bed, she was doing dishes and cleaning up the kitchen. He was flat on his back and staring up at the ceiling. Then, very quickly, he sprung out of bed and reached into his day bag that he had placed next to the bed on the ground. He took out a small nylon pouch, a lighter, and a small plastic bag then stole away to the master bathroom.

He flushed the toilet but didn’t care enough to put up anything more in terms of a smoke screen. When he emerged Melissa was already changed and settling herself into the bed. Paul turned the lights off and joined her in bed.

Melissa drew close to him after they made love. “What did you have for dinner?” she asked him as she nestled her cheek against his chest.

“I didn’t have any dinner.” He answered in a drawl.

“You said you had already eaten.” She volleyed back.

He took a few beats to respond. “I said I wasn’t hungry. Never said I ate.” He was answering with few words and slurring his speech pretty badly.

She looked up at his face but he had his eyes closed and his expression was so blank that it all but gave him away. It seemed to Melissa like the standard template of a face before god puts any features on it. “Are you ok?” she investigated, leering ever more intently on his face.

He kept his face pointed toward the ceiling, his eyes closed, and answered shortly, “I’m tired.”

She reached across his body and switched on the lamp set atop her nightstand. Now he had to open his eyes. What she saw was a pair of glassy eyes in the dim light of the lamp. She hesitated for a moment, then spoke, “Don’t tell me–goddammit Paul, are you using again?!”

He didn’t answer–just shut his eyes up again, lying on his back.

“What the fuck Paul, did you just shoot up here in my room?!”

Still no answer or movement. Then Melissa climbed over him and reached into his day bag.

Paul snapped to life. “Hey! That’s not yours is it?!” It was like a comatose person being stabbed in the heart with a syringe of pure adrenaline.

That was all she needed to know. She stood over him beside the bed and he propped himself up on his elbows. “Goddammit Paul, when did you start using again?” She demanded.

“Not that it’s any of your business but tonight was the first time in over a year.” he answered coolly.

“Not that it’s any of my business?!” She echoed, most appalled.

He began puling himself out of bed and gathering his clothes that were strewn all over the bed. “Well, I figure it’s my body, and so long as what I do with my body doesn’t effect you in any negative way, you don’t need to know about it.” He responded as he pulled his shirt over his head and down his lean torso.

“Jesus, you’re a fucking asshole when you’re on that shit!” Melissa gasped out.

He began puling his pants up and cinching his belt. “And you’re a potty mouth when you’re sober so I guess we’re even.” He flung his day bag over his shoulder and made for the door.

“Where are you going?” Melissa demanded.

“Home.” Paul answered. He walked out of her bedroom and she heard the front door open and close quietly.

Once Paul was home, he shot up one more time. That night, there was a full moon and Paul could see it from his bedroom window as he sat, smacked out, on the edge of his bed. His high put him in a daze and he stayed staring at the bright, full moon as the thoughts passed from one edge of his brain to the other, and finally on to oblivion.

The moon shone a pale, milky white and while striking to behold, ‘nothing like the coins’ Paul thought. He could sit erect no longer and fell backwards on his bed.

Almost a week passed before he heard anything from Melissa. As he saw her name flash suddenly on the screen of his phone, he became aware just how much time had passed since the night he left her apartment. He was surprised at how long she was able to wait. He answered her call, “Hello.”

“Jesus you even sound high again,” was her greeting.

“That’s funny because I’m not.” He replied in a flat tone that made it clear that he had no interest in arguing her assumption.

“Yeah right, so–” before Melissa could continue any further, Paul stopped her. “If you called to scold me, I don’t want to hear it. In fact, whatever the reason you called me, you’re probably going to be disappointed.”

“I’m already disappointed. You’re using again.” her voice was still fiery after the handful of days since Paul heard it last. At this last statement of hers, Paul remembered her nature as it really was underneath all her layers of insincere kindness and civility; self-serving, and at it’s core, completely uninterested in the concerns of others.

He was getting angry and he didn’t want to grow angry from this exchange. “Melissa, I don’t want you to call me again. I don’t want you to text me, I do’;t want you to email me, and I definitely don’t want you coming to my apartment anymore. I don’t want to see you anymore–at all, in any sense.”

He could hear her huff incredulously, a pause, and then, “I can’t believe what a scumbag you must have always been–and how apparently good you were at hiding it for so long. I can’t believe your choosing fucking heroin over me.”

He put an end to her ranting right there, “Whoa whoa whoa…let’s make this clear. I’m not choosing heroin or anything over you. I’m just not choosing you.”

A week passed since Paul’s phone conversation with Melissa and he had scarcely left his apartment. He was deliberately putting himself through a hellish cycle–using to excess one day then letting a couple days pass while he suffered self-imposed withdrawals.

On his table were half-eaten meals that he couldn’t choke down. His bed was a mass of clothes. Sweaters that he would squirm into when his withdrawal made him steely cold, and shed when he began to sweat uncontrollably.

There were a dozen quarter-empty to half-empty plastic water bottles scattered across the floor of his bedroom. His fridge was empty but his kitchen was sloppy with haphazardly slapped together and abandoned meals that were starting to give the whole place a rounded, rancid smell.

Of course, during this period, he had not been to work at all which is what prompted all the calls from Brian that went missed or unanswered. Paul had let his phone battery die and only ever charged it and looked at it when he needed to re-up. In fact, as far as Paul could remember, he hadn’t left his apartment at all except for the sole purpose of scoring.

And that is what prompted Paul to plug his phone in and look at it on this day. This was an “on” day so he allowed himself to shoot up but he was almost completely out. It was time to pick up and this is when he saw all the missed calls from his boss–these were wholeheartedly expected–but almost as many calls from his co-worker, friend of 6 years, and the only person Paul had described his dream to. Brian.

This triggered a new train of thought in Paul’s brain that was, in it’s current state, having plenty of trouble communicating effectively between lobes. He scrolled through all the missed calls and figured that this was a chore that should be handled in person.

Paul and Brian arranged to meet at a cafe that was close to their office. Brian was already there and seated at the outside table under an awning where they almost always had lunch together. Paul sauntered up to the cafe and spotted Brian quickly. As he walked toward him, he thought about how long he had known this man and how little he really knew him.

Brian sat back in his chair and just stared at Paul while he walked over. “Christ, I didn’t want to believe it, I didn’t even want to consider it. Fuck man, what happened?”

“Nothing.” Paul replied and sat down. He hated that his heroin use was always the first thing anyone mentioned. Which was, in part, why he secluded himself for a week. He hated even more that he couldn’t hide when he was high. Brian had actually told him once that he walks a certain way when he’s smacked up.

“Something must’ve happened man. You were doing so well.” Brian commented.

Paul was getting incredibly tired of hearing how well he was doing and that “well” equaled “clean.” Brian had known Paul when he was completely lost in addiction, and when he got clean and started living a life that most people would call normal; a job, a girlfriend, and lack of a swallowing addiction.

Paul was already getting frustrated with Brian’s words and began regretting his decision to meet him in person. But he closed his eyes and refocused as well as he could in his current state. “Like I said, nothing happened. Anyway I’m not here to talk about that.”

Just then, a waitress walked up and interjected. Brian ordered a latte and Denver omelette. Paul didn’t order anything.

“Really. What are you here to talk about? You know Melissa called me crying, saying that you broke up with her.”

At this last statement, Paul’s focus sharpened to a needlepoint. He didn’t say anything for a few seconds; just stared into Brian’s eyes. “Why do you suppose she called you?”

“Because we’re friends, and she was distraught.” Brian answered.

Paul let it go. “Do you remember that dream I told you about? The one with the coins and the rain?” Paul asked.

Brian moved the pupils of his eyes in an upward arc; thinking. “Yeah, I think so. Why?”

“I think I’ve finally realized what it means.” Paul said calmly.

“What’s that?” Brian inquired.

“Well you suggested that it meant that I would find something or somethings of value in humble places. Or unexpected places or whatever. And to be honest, I’ve been wondering about this dream–what it meant–until this moment. I know now that we both looked at the images all out of order. The coins don’t represent something outside of me. They actually represent me. My life. In the dream I rinsed them in the rain that fell outside the shelter of the canopy of the tree I was under until they were so beautifully, vividly, silver. Now I know that I have to cleanse myself, my life, of all the dirt that I’ve sunk it into over the years for it to be truly beautiful. I have to shed the dirt.”

“I agree,” commented Brian in a tone of relief. He continued, “You could start with that shit,” pointing at the crook of Paul’s arm.

“Nah” replied Paul. “That’s not it. There’s real dirt in my life. There was a pause between them and then Paul continued. “I met you here because I wanted to let you know that we’re not friends. I’m not going to see you anymore after this. I’m going to lose your number and I suggest you do the same.”

“Wow, where is this coming from?” Brian asked but Paul didn’t answer. Instead, he stood up, got ready to walk away and asked, “Do you remember my housewarming party? After I stopped using, had been working full-time for a long time, hooked up with Melissa, and leased my apartment?”

Brian answered suspiciously, “Yeah…”

“I saw you. I saw you and Melissa.”

Like a boxer on the ropes, Brian replied, “You saw us? That’s great, we saw you too. We saw Tim, Lindsey, Jared, Sam…Mike. We all saw each other that night. What’s your point?”

“You grabbed her ass. You grabbed her ass and she laughed. You whispered something in her ear and then you guys proceeded to exchange numbers.” Paul answered.

“Paul, nothing came of that. We were drunk, ok? I’m sorry. Anyway that was years ago man, and you’re just bringing it up now?” Brian contended.

“Goodbye Brian,” Paul said and walked away.

A few nights later Paul gathered up the last few hundred dollars he had left in his bank account, called his connect, and bought as much smack as he could. Then he drove out to Santa Monica and parked about a half mile away from the pier.

He took from his car a heavy sweater that he immediately flung on, a flannel shirt, and a pre-prepped syringe filled with all the junk he just bought. It was late and all the patrons had vacated the cold windy beach hours ago but the lights of the pier were still blazing.

‘It’s nice’ Paul thought to himself as he trekked to where the sand begins to slope down and the foam sizzles out on the shore. He put the flannel down on the sand and sat on it. And with the cornucopia of unnatural light coming from the ferris wheel flashing and rotating off in the distance, the sound of the ocean threatening to soak or sweep him away, and a silvery moon shining in the sky, he shot up everything in the syringe.

He immediately fell flat on his back atop his flannel and saw the planes taking off from the airport low in the night sky. His hope was that he will have shed the last specks of dirt from himself.

 

 

A Summer of Dreams

Just have to start being happy again. For the first time in a long time, I had a truly happy dream that I did not want to wake up from this morning. The previous day (the 23rd); swam, read, ate (a good hearty meal, and not too much), had a fun night, went to sleep happy, had happy dreams, woke up feeling great-happy. I like this feeling more. As different from how I woke up the previous morning as night and day. It was a good day that started off so horribly- little sleep and NO happiness. I am only now operating on a few more hours of sleep than yesterday but with much more happiness. Seems as though those few extra hours made a noticeable difference even though I didn’t want to wake up and I had to drag myself out of bed. I had missed that feeling. Yesterday was just what I needed. Although I don’t believe that I was never supposed to go through a period of hard grieving. Though that period may not be over (it is absurd to think that one night could compensate for the loss of three years and a broken heart) last night was just what I needed.

It is amazing to think of the effects that dreams have on the waking hours. Today I am happier than I have been in a long time and I believe a big reason for that were the intensely happy dreams I had as I slept in the wee hours of the morning. Hate is easy to galvanize, and so is despair. When I was having dreams of death, destruction, bodily-harm, and despair, my waking hours reflected that. Perhaps I have been made to think more of the effects that dreams have on me only because I have recently read Kerouac’s Book of Dreams. At any rate, this truly has been a summer of dreams.