Alt Journey-Atonement

Part 9

Free stock image
Ouroboros and the All-Seeing Eye

Sha’s trite confession hung in the air and multi-hued stars holding space for her form recessed into inky shame she’d secreted away in a secured heart chamber. An imaginative 11 year old constructed an almost impenetrable locked space for memories incomprehensible to her young spirit-beginning with a plastic picnic table stained with blood not her own, her father’s voice bitching about Bertie’s fee while she yelled he would pay or she’d call the cops on his perverted ass. He said she could at least knock 10 bucks off for disposal; the girl would bury it herself. A single snake stirred from her soul’s essence and slithered out from between her legs. A hiss boasted of soul ownership, “She belongs to meeee. Master Nidhug promised me the next light being turned murderesss.”

Saint Joan materialized between Sha’s essence and Nidhug’s Collector serpent, who grew fatter by the second with smugness as his potential mate refused to lay her soul bare. His forked tongue tried to move around her to kiss its’ prize. Joan’s copper form swirled, flames of orange and blue green ignited in her center as she whispered, “You have no claim”, and deflected it’s aim with holy fire. Mary the Maiden, still connected to Sha with thorny vines, pulsed sacred light energy toward her form. “She will bear me thousands. You cannot shield a murderesss without sacrificesss.” Archangel Auriel’s wings beat furiously and emitted ten phosphorescent orbs which floated into place around the Divine Sister circle then raised it above the temple, through Archangel Haniel’s opened wing, it’s feathers of silver fluff a blessed tickle on the serpent’s underbelly as it followed. Sha heard her parent’s dealer, “Tell ‘im it’s uncut, Baby, a lil’ thanks for taking care of your situation”, and felt familiar disgust swell in her locked heart chamber as she envisioned his gold-toothed grin and felt his filthy hand pat her aching belly under her mother’s Coca-Cola t-shirt. Blood had run down one of her legs in a rapid trickle and stained her new Converse high tops as she returned to her parents at the condemned flop house that was her nightmare. The circle hummed with combined harmonies from Mary the Maid, Saint Teresa, Saint Brigid, and Archangel Auriel. As the serpent coiled and snapped its’ jaws in irritation they sang, “I am loved, I am forgiven, I am whole, I am healed” in lilting and low voices layered onto Sha like silky warm blankets around her shoulders and over her head. Meanwhile, her form’s legs, one white and one black, fused together in a single grey slimy appendage as Sha’s stubborn unwillingness divided her soul between Nidhug’s guilt and Divine acceptance-her birthright. “She called me a baby killer and he made me bury it in the alley”, Sha sobbed as her form steadfastly gripped a memory of her human self as a girl knelt over a hump in gravel, blood and dirt under her fingernails. She further devolved into a grey serpent and the Collector hissed in happy anticipation of its’ progeny of snakelets in Nidhug’s pit below the Tree of Life on earth. They will eat her roots faster than she grows them, he fantasized. Archangel Haniel enveloped the circle of Saints and angelic belonging, Sha’s soul in it’s center. Haniel’s impenetrable massive wings of protection closed the Collector outside and infused the space inside with El’s loving Sun energy. Darkness often celebrated prematurely. Sha’s essence stated plainly, “I wanted them to die. I hated them.” Her skull painfully changed into a Dragon’s head and circled around to swallow her own scaly tail.

In childhood, the injuries to her soul could’ve been healed enough for an allowance of her and Phoebe’s soul contract, but none of Shana’s helper humans knew. She’d almost told her first counselor, Holly, a no-nonsense Grandmother who hugged her at the end of sessions and said it was a shame her parents didn’t teach her Spanish. But, Holly moved to Sedona after only three months of therapy, and Shana vowed to never reveal what was an even bigger shame. Instead, she excelled in school and resolutely did her best to appear “normal” and happy living with Phoebe and her Mom. And she was happy quite often, as long as she didn’t allow herself to think about, let alone emotionally process her rape, abortion by Bertie, and her parents’ betrayals and overdoses. How would a twelve, or sixteen, or twenty-year-old even begin to heal from that? In reality, almost everyone preferred to believe that whatever horrors she survived at other human’s hands were in the past, hurdles she’d jumped with ease thanks to the solicitous care she received. Until she met Doyle, who sensed she was not nearly as contained and content as she looked at first meeting and set out to pry her open for a closer look inside.

Classic, vintage engraving of Joan of Arc in battle. She is a symbol of beauty, strength, feminism. This authentic engraving shows its age in style and slight grunge. Published in 1840 it is now in the public domain. Digital restoration by Steven Wynn Photography.
1840 Engraving of Joan of Arc

Saint Joan let out a warrior cry born of her earthly mission at Orleans, France, when she helped restore the earth’s balance of power with Archangel Michael’s, Archangel Margaret’s, and Archangel Catherine’s help. Sha felt Joan’s tremendous faith surround her serpent/dragon form with motivational wisdom as she devoured her own shadow essence. Round and round the Saintly circle, their song grew deeper, resounding clashes and thunderous groans echoed throughout the universe as Sha released lies about her own culpability and accepted unconditional love on offer to staunch a flow of exposed agony. Fully dragon, Sha’s soul embraced herself as a survivor and fire from her nostrils blazed across the ethereal realms. In the same instant, Nidhug’s Collector returned to his place in the pit below the tree to wait for his murderess bride. Perhaps her Anam Chara, her soul friend, if Kazmir’s boasts proved true.

Sunrise on an island

Phoebe screamed as a snake swallowed her feet and ominously advanced up her legs, each movement accompanied by a loud crunch she felt as well as heard. “Wake up, Phoebe. It’s ok, I’m here.” Awakened for the third night in a row, Doyle wondered if her release from the hospital was a mistake as he called out to her from a futon in the open-concept loft she shared with Shana, or rather Shana’s ghost. The first night she’d gifted him a black eye when he shook her awake, and intrigue for his advanced psych seminar students who all knew about Shana’s suicide. “Ahhhhh!” Phoebe howled as if being eaten alive as the snake swallowed the rest of her and said, “Since she’sss not here, you will have to do.”

Alt Journey-Stars

Part 5

“A great portent appeared in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of 12 stars.”

Revelation 12:1, The Bible

As energy within a healing tetrahedron saturated Phoebe and Shana’s souls they became thoughtless, closer to original than either had been since the first few years of their friendship, when they were new to womanhood, tried on relational influences and found safety with one another. Two green stiches closed the fissure between them, forgiveness barely begun, but Anam Chara remembrance enough to satisfy Tri-Eloh for now. The Tri, having realized a quickly escalating danger to Phoebe’s physical being, gently moved the pair from Mary’s constellation and handed them off to escorts from Michael’s Divine Army for transport to their in-between place. Emboldened by El’s interference, the Tri assumed survival of this Anam Chara link warranted favors from even the most high. The higher the angel or spirit, however, the busier the angel or spirit, as Archangel Michael reminded the Tri of their lengthening line of souls who awaited healing during this deviation from routine cosmic life. Mary’s blessing, however brief, accomplished what would have taken longer than Phoebe’s lifetime and justified the choice even if it did not entirely eradicate Shana’s shame. Tri-Eloh rushed toward their purpose with gratitude that flowed behind them in wide swaths of golden starlight and touched every ethereal being they passed. Visible in the final hour of dark before dawn, a thirty-three-minute meteor shower built upon a Spring Triangle created by the stars Regulus, Spica and Arcturus. Intimate mysteries often revealed themselves to solo audiences on earth.

NASA image

First they heard “shooosh (pause) shooosh”, then they felt sand beneath their feet at the same time the water came into view, waves shining and dark with frothy remnants when the tide receded. While it possessed key elements of thousands of their summer days, the air was different, shimmering and energetic as if alive and moving on the edge of vision. Shana reached for Phoebe’s hand as a fishy breeze cooled their faces wet with tears. “I am”, they said, “I am you”. “I’ll see you again”, Shana’s whisper landed as Phoebe opened her eyes in a dim cold room. Dry prickly hands rubbed her calves irritatingly, an unidentifiable acrid smell filled her nostrils as she shook her head back and forth on a thin sheet over a plastic mattress that crackled beneath her. “Where am I?”, Phoebe snatched one foot away and kicked at the air. She wanted to go back, to go back to… damn it! She rubbed her nose and noticed the IV in her left hand. “What is going on?” Her heart began to race even as she closed her eyes tight and took a deep breath. Formaldehyde and ammonia overlaid with something worse stung her nostrils and throat and made her stomach lurch. Dry Hands let his other hand descend to her foot before she heard, “You are safe under my care at Resting Pines Hospital, Miss Monteer. You’ve been catatonic for a couple days now, so I’m helping the circulation in your legs so you don’t get bed sores.” Back to my beach dream, back to Shana, Phoebe thought, but the ambulance ride, flashes of her dead friend’s neck, questions about heroin and drug dealers crowded her mind instead. Her breath came faster as she remembered it all and wondered if she’d lost her mind, if her mother’s weakness had finally showed up to claim her intelligence and grip on reality. “Water peese”. Dr. Cooper desperately needed composure, but his body betrayed him. It was as though he watched himself rub her foot against his khakis in slow motion. Engrossed, he was blindsided when his dentures clapped loudly as Phoebe’s foot jerked away and met his chin with force. Kazmir bid the Doctor, “Make her pay. Hurt her NOW.” “You will be restrained if you can’t control yourself, Miss Monteer!” “Wow! didn’t think this one was going to come around without ECT, Doc”, a new voice echoed and startled Dr. Cooper out of what he assumed were his own deviant thoughts. “Want me to get the restraints?” Why were they turning off more lights? “Water”, Phoebe croaked. “Yes, good idea at least until she calms down. I don’t know how I would’ve managed if you didn’t come in when you did, Farwin. You are truly indispensable!” The orderly blushed with the doctor’s approval. Dry Hands roughly grabbed Phoebe’s ankles. Hard plastic straps snapped over them at the corners of the bed. She struggled in silence as Kazmir planted images of archaic electroshock methods, biteplate in her mouth, her eyes rolled back in her head. “Give me your hand and I’ll help you with a drink in a second.” Phoebe tried hard not to panic as her arms were restrained. “Go ahead and finish your rounds, Farwin. I’ll take her vitals and give her some water.” “I’m only a little behind, but thanks, Doc. Kinda surprised after that kick, but she’s lucky to have your firm expertise. I’ll check back and make some notes on her status this afternoon. Please page me if you need any assistance before then.” Minutes passed with no sound but breathing from the end of the bed, out of range of sight. A tall thin man in a white coat approached her without a word and pressed a button on the wall behind her. While the bed raised slightly, he clamped his fingers over her nose. “Open your mouth and tilt your head back”, he instructed as he held a cup of water before her face and smiled, thin lips stretched into obvious pleasure as Phoebe opened her mouth. “Further!” he snapped. The doctor let go of her nose and held her head by the hair at her nape as he poured the water. Her nose gurgled then spewed like a fountain as she struggled and the doctor pulled her hair painfully. “Let’s get those vitals now”, he said cheerily as he let her go, brushing her hair from his hands onto the floor. “You really do smell, Miss Monteer. Since your attendant is occupied with other patients now, I know just the man for the job.” Phoebe sputtered and swallowed air as her throat spasmed and her lungs emptied. I have to get out of here, she thought as Dry Hands explained how he might have to take her temperature several times to get an accurate read, but not to worry-he would insure her records were detailed. Regret that he couldn’t report catatonia for a while longer frustrated the doctor. Kazmir plotted out the next few hours for his fully-compliant gadget Dr. Cooper, another fool who’s guilt and unworthiness birthed virgin evil. The doctor opened a drawer on the table next to her where Phoebe saw syringes and a horseshoe-shaped apparatus that he removed and shoved in her mouth before she knew what was happening. She tried to free her tongue to push against it, but it was pinned. “You’ll drool, but we don’t want you to injure yourself during therapy, young lady”, his face moved close enough for her to see flakes of white in bushy brows of grey and black like dirty snow banks in early spring. The doctor moved a machine with gauges next the the bed and flipped a small red switch. He widened her eyelids with his long course fingers, thrilled as his other hand flung the sheet back and exposed her trembling body, bikini underwear her only cover. Both Dr. Cooper and Kazmir delighted at the pure terror evident in her expanded pupils before he blinded her with a tactical light he’d purchased just last week with the demon’s persuasion. Wait a sec. A shiny speck grew in three directions in her left pupil. Surprised and worried he’d damaged her visibly, Dr. Cooper’s breathing quickened and his erection fled. He could lose everything, and all because of one plain girl who hadn’t cooperated, who he’d barely treated yet. A neon green triangle pulsed and cast a glow into the dim room as Phoebe’s body stilled and her soul found itself back on the beach with Shana.

In holographic embodiments of their most recent vessels, the Anam Chara sat cross-legged and sunk into warm sand within a clear crystalline cube open to a sky bleached innocent by scorchingly bright sun rays. “There’s something I have for you”, Shana said as she took her hand and pressed their palms together. Like most of their peers, in high school Shana and Phoebe experimented with alcohol, boys, and marijuana at house parties of classmates with vacationing parents. Phoebe’s mom’s heart-to-heart talks with the girls about dangerous situations and people made little impact. Then, she hit pay dirt when she restricted them to their respective rooms for a month with a threat of additional time if they spoke to one another. Although the friends lived together, went to school and church together, and even sneaked letters to one another, loneliness for their connection far outweighed any popularity they’d gained. If anything, they yearned for their previous invisibility, rather than being known as stupid freshman who could not hold their alcohol. Cautiously optimistic about the girl’s future afterwards, Phoebe’s mother even gave them a later curfew after improved grades proved their seriousness and they talked openly about everything at dinner-time, often seeming to forget she was even there. They were able to launch their plans in earnest with Phoebe’s talent for planning and foresight and Shana’s boundless imagination. Their futures outlined, hard copies reviewed and agreed on, Shana produced a jack knife from her backpack, opened it and swiftly cut her palm to Phoebe’s astonishment. Phoebe put her hand out with her eyes closed and head turned away. Their blood mingled as they joined hands and vowed to never betray one another, just as she dreamed during their separation. In her dream they wore long cotton nightgowns, and she could not make out the details of their features, but she recognized herself and her best friend in a floral wall-papered room with a high ceiling and tall leaded windows, tree branches and a night sky wavy through thick glass, a bed with four posts she knew they shared. A dagger rather than a kitchen knife sliced their flesh and in the dream they also vowed to protect one another.

Shana’s soul recovered a soul memory of this promise shortly after they departed the in-between. Death howled with outrage at her scrap of redemption.

In this moment, sitting on the sand with Shana, a lake lapping the shore on the other side of the cube, Phoebe felt a calm strength fill her mind as her Anam Chara’s soul energy met with reciprocity, light making their joined hands glow. “See you on the flipside”, Shana smiled.

Phoebe opened her eyes to find herself on the plastic mattress again with a low pillow beneath her head and daylight filling a sterile white room. “Great! You’re awake!”, sang a sunny voice. A youngish woman with smooth skin and golden eyes approached her bedside, poured water from a plastic pitcher into a paper cup and announced, “My name is Carrie I’m going to raise the bed slowly, then help you take a tiny sip of water so you don’t spill, ok Miss Monteer?” Phoebe nodded her head. Cool water trickled down her throat and she smiled a little in appreciation. “There you go. Now you just relax while I go get Dr. Pressman. She will assess if you need any more inpatient help. You’ll like her.” The nurse stopped at the door to turn and smile with the last part before leaving. Phoebe picked up the paper cup from the tray table over her bed and sipped while she took in her surroundings. Outside the window an apple tree budded, white scrolls yet to unwind and blossom. She opened the tray table to find a comb, a toothbrush in cellophane, the smallest tube of toothpaste she’d ever seen, and an attached mirror that slid out and angled back to reflect her tangle of red hair and Shana’s golden eyes, a green speck in the left. “What the… ok, ok, Shana.” Phoebe closed her eyes and made herself take a deep breath. Had it all been a nightmare when she awoke before? As she opened her eyes and stared once again into the golden eyes she’d loved, she realized she needed a new outline for a new future. Tears welled as a sob caught in her throat.

Alt Journey-To Dream

Trust in dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity. – Kahlil Gibran

Part 3

Tea infusers, filled and ready, sat expectedly in dainty chipped teacups, another dagger of “never again”. As she poured the water, she muttered, “alone again… you promised… you more than promised…”

When Phoebe closed her eyes she heard Shana’s giggle, a drawn out “Gurrrrrl”, a standard intro before she recounted another meet-cute on campus turned weird. Shana coyly promised a reward to admirers who proved they were not “dull”, with hilarious results for the retelling. Phoebe, who shied away from a hormonal trickle of admirers, accused her friend of using people for stories, entertainment purposes only. Shana justified their degradation with a reminder to Phoebe that most of her dates aspired to motorboat her boobs, probably dreamed about it, their “weakness” as Phoebe’s mother would say. For her part, Phoebe failed at Shana’s mockingly serious introductions, one long-fingered hand involuntarily flying up to cover her mouth, but not her repressed laughter, as she envisioned Brad, Kylie, Geri, or whoever barking like a dog. If they were exceptionally fit and handsome, Shana asked them to meow like a pussy cat for the price of a kiss. Merely “placeholders” is how Phoebe thought of them until someone, THE one, arrived and fell madly in love with Shana’s expansive vitality: her corny anecdotes related with sound effects and body movements, her talent for creating poems and sketches in the moment whether they were on a hike or in the grocery store, her insatiable curiosity about large families, her pride of uncombable dark curls that covered her face when she studied. Pale, slight, and often invisible, with Shana by her side Phoebe felt stronger, more capable, even witty at times. Despite Death’s earlier intrusions, THEIR bond was supposed to endure anything. They’d dreamed together since 7th grade, their friendship fertilized with wounds, apologies, manicures, stories, meals, academics, long hugs, gossip, and Phoebe’s mom’s peanut butter cookies. She let herself believe a tale they wove of a city/country life, with fertile gardens and edgy gallery openings, a book shop or small market where Shana could have poetry readings and Phoebe might curate curious treasures, for sale when they needed an adventure to stir their blood/imaginations. Or, they’d travel, be vagabonds for a year, soak up sunny ocean breezes down south while it was freezing in Detroit, meet characters and write their stories. The friends had plenty of time before graduation to figure out their next steps, or so they’d said. Then Shana met Doyle with his deep-set eyes fringed in white blonde like spider legs and wide smile. Doyle with his ambitious load of pre-med courses and enough natural intelligence to render bioengineering “fascinating and fun”. He set himself apart and made her curious when he set a cup of peppermint tea down next to her textbook. “Take a break. I promise I won’t bother you very long”. And he hadn’t bothered her, only staying long enough to tell Shana how he noticed her before in the busy coffee shop, watched her as she studied at one of the small tables outside. “And how did you know I like this?” “I smelled it last Thursday when I walked by. Wanted to catch your eye, but you are always so engrossed”, he’d said before he told her his name and asked for hers. All the while, Doyle’s eyes never wandered from her face, and this detail she repeatedly told Phoebe several times that evening, who thought she should be more concerned about being watched. “Jealous?”, is all her friend replied. Kinda, is what Phoebe thought. A week later, he came over for dinner. A bottle of Shana’s favorite zinfandel and a petite jade tree in a green ceramic pot presented with a memorable line, “A symbol of you and Shana’s friendship that I hope will grow to include me, Phoebe.” Like a dude in a cheesy rom-com, Phoebe thought, although she did appreciate the lucky plant, if not the accompanying sentiment. “How thoughtful. Doyle, right?” When she put her hand out, he beamed at her and gave it a soft shake in his. She hoped Shana made him meow later. “Thank you for inviting me in, Ladies.” Although perfectly charming on the surface, there was something slightly off, too sure, a tiny bit spooky, about him. While the girlfriends typically cooked (and danced) together when they entertained, Shana had eggplant parmesan in the oven and the loft tidied up before Phoebe got home stinky and soaked from a spinning class Shana swore would tone her ass before it killed her. Phoebe wasn’t convinced, but admitted the release had improved her concentration. Even their notebooks, sketch pads, books and plethora of writing tools normally littering the coffee table had disappeared, bean bags thrown behind their respective bedroom screens. She remembered how unusually nervous and quiet Shana had been, how she’d paced between the single tall window that looked out on the street and the loft’s kitchen, peeked in the oven window each time she made a pass. “Why don’t we have a tablecloth, Phoebe?”. Long before, their overexuberance frosting Valentine cookies had left pink stains on the uncovered edges of her mother’s old Formica table that she held on to purely for good memories. “Next time we go to the Salvation Army we’ll get a vintage one, maybe with lace or embroidery if we’re lucky”, she’d yelled as she begrudgingly slipped on her loosest jeans rather than pajamas. Phoebe thrived on predictability and preferred Shana’s detours on weekends, when she felt she’d earned some fun. But, her curiosity didn’t want to wait in this instance. How lit up Shana was as soon as Doyle arrived, her rare insecurities gone right up to the moment her parents were exhumed. His faded black t-shirt, well-worn jeans, and scuffed biker boots belied his piercing after dinner conversation, “How old were you, Shana, when your folks OD’d?” and “Did you ever see them shoot up?” Normally, Shana’s dates were intimidated, but not Doyle. After a half hour of squirming through Shana’s stammered descriptions of a past she rarely spoke of, and never with such detail, Phoebe interrupted, “Sorry, but I have some reading tonight; that last chapter when Anna left Alexei again… I want to understand it better. Professor Fayed stresses me out before I’m even awake”. Despite her earlier promise, she awkwardly excused herself before Doyle’s curiosity turned to her. Looking back, she thought maybe her friend was the one intimidated and she had been too self-involved to notice. Why did she leave her in the middle of that brutal questioning? Did her withdrawal help him create a trauma bond? At the time, she didn’t expect to see Doyle again, didn’t expect life to change because of him. He’d left by nine, and hadn’t called Shana for a week.

They’ve promised dreams can come true. But forgot to mention that nightmares are dreams, too.
– Oscar Wilde

Belladonna slowed Phoebe’s racing thoughts, picked up and tucked away her memories, and kicked blame out of her head temporarily. Phoebe thought she heard boots on hardwood in the hallway and wondered if Mom would yell at Daddy; late again. As she tumbled loosely into her underworld, she let go of everything except a prayer, “Hail Mary full of grace…”.

Bare feet cool on smoothly worn stairs carved into the sides of the tree, she climbed round, her eyes trained and face tilted back in search of tell-tale lightening, until one foot met only air. She’d run out of stairs. Although she’d hoped to step out in the forest, a soft peat pathway underfoot, admittedly she’d be sorrowful company for her flying friends. Exhausted was any peace she’d discovered in a stream of liquid crystals meandering around mossy boulders and emptying into a pool lit from below. They’d floated for hours the last time they drank Belladonna tea together, she and Shana; no need for words. It’d happened once before, dozens of stairs not advancing to the top, twice if she counted her initial trip to what she imagined as a base, perhaps HER base, within a cedar tree. In the months following her daddy’s heart attack in his corner office on the 23rd floor, she and her mother lit a candle for him 9 a.m. every Saturday at St. Josephs’ Parish, then prayed for his soul until Father Daniel began readying for Noon mass. Her mother, who’d had to take a front desk job at the Marriot, seemed to find solace during those hours, so Phoebe kept her sore knees and desire to join classmates at the skating rink, or the mall, or the movies, or anywhere other than church, to herself. She often wondered why her daddy’s soul required so many rosaries for so many Saturdays. Deep in the earth at the base of the tree’s unique stairs, is where she found herself one Saturday morning, mesmerized not only by an expansive interior of this mammoth cedar tree, but also by a signature of characters burned black into its’ honey-hued walls. As she did then, Phoebe trailed her fingers over these symbols now, some of which she’d encountered in her studies, most still unrecognizable. A pulsing yellow Sun the size of a dinner plate interrupted the chain and radiated an enveloping warmth, comfort she absorbed for a few seconds before unworthiness prodded her onward. More unknown charry characters passed under her fingers until she reached an infinity symbol, one of five, this one streaming oceanic shades of blue and black. It was the first symbol she’d recognized, and researched it only to find finite understanding by even George Cantor, the famous Set Theory mathematician who classified “absolute infinity equal only to God’s realms”. Unlimited, endless, a brush of her fingertips and she no longer embodied a human, but a sparkling star in the constellation Lyra, not far from Vega the Harp Star, and neighbor of Hercules, Cygnus, and Draco. Eternity was perplexing with Earth’s limited lens, but from here Phoebe remembered Shana could never be entirely erased. An enormous azure and orange ring nebula caught her attention in the distance, neon green twinkling in it’s heart. As she reached for it with her will, a steely vise pulled her forcefully by her head and dumped her naked on an amber resin floor, flat on her back. Just as her breath expelled in a huff, a silver pregnant moon fell from above to pin her motionless. Phoebe sipped the air frantically, unable to expand her lungs as the moon cooled her flattened frame. A frequency emanated from a newly inserted needle at the top of her skull. Hyperventilated and panicked, she stilled finally, spent and empty. Proof of her vileness, her ugliness, played on the moon’s surface like a bad movie, times she made fun of other kids, times she lied, times she wished people dead, like Shana’s parents. I AM vile, she thought, to which Death replied, “Vile, jealous, and ugly. Take whatever love you can because you won’t get much, especially after your ultimate failure as a friend”. A smoky cloud filled the space around her and she felt long hard pinches simultaneously on the sides of her thighs that punctuated every word. “Now repeat it back, you worthless bitch, and I might let you go”. Phoebe repeated the words in her head, over and over. The cloud dissipated, as did the moon, and her breath came easier, just as promised. When she tried to sit up, however, a band encircled her brow and lowered her back to the floor as laughing and attractive faces appeared above her, most unknown, but very familiar. They appeared to make bets with one another, their voices muffled.

Trembling, Phoebe came to with a crowd of paramedics, firemen, and police around her bed, an IV in her arm, an empty syringe on her nightstand. “Wha’ss goin’ on?” “It’s going to be ok, Phoebe. I called them when you didn’t answer the door or your phone. We’re all here to help you.” Doyle stood by the jade tree in the window. The streetlight at his back cast his shadow over her and she thought his platinum hair glowed. “Is thisss a dream?”, Phoebe slurred. “Transporting to the state hospital, repeat, transporting female, age 20, name Phoebe Monteer, to state hospital for evaluation following her self-termination attempt.” In the ambulance when she explained she drank Belladonna tea to meet her friend in her dreams, and that she certainly did not need to be restrained, the paramedic looked at her with a smirk and said, “You’ll get a chance to explain all that, Honey. Don’t worry.” He turned toward the front. “She’s getting agitated. I’m going to give her clozapine. Always easier that way and we get home for dinner”.

Final Goodbyes

Although how we say goodbye to the dead has evolved and varies from culture to culture, the need is as old as time, as is the belief that there is an afterlife.  Even Neanderthals placed flowers in the hands of the dead before they sealed the bodies in caves 300,000 years ago.  Memories rush in, clouded by love and grief, and although it is past too late, we appreciate them more when they are out of our reach forever.  Honoring the ones we’ve lost cauterizes our wound, and we accept that the ceremony is for us, the living.  It sets us on the path to healing, our cries resembling a release valve on an overflowing well of hurt.  Living there for a few hours reminds us that death is the great equalizer and for a time we hold our living loves closer, sometimes afraid of the randomness of death, oftentimes aware of how brief even a long life is.

The days of public displays of the dead are waning, thank God, replaced by memorial services and “celebrations of life”.  We turn to God, even if it is the only time we do so, for comfort and hope that our loved ones live on.  You may shy away from reading this, grief being among the hardest emotions and certainly one we want to avoid.  It is also common ground for every person that was ever born.  January is to me what April was to T.S. Elliot.  Time dulls the edges, but I hold tight to my deepest grief because it is all I have left of my son.  It is mine and this public declaration is unusual to say the least.  I know death makes people uncomfortable and talk of it is to be avoided, especially when we are years away from a tragedy.  One of the changes I’ve experienced in this decade is that I am becoming increasingly transparent and immune to other’s expectations.

We attended a memorial service last week for Dale, an uncommon character and dear friend of my parents’.  I was moved when the preacher said that Dale loved to tease, or as his wife Sue put it, “agitate”.  It seems more respectful to remember him as he was.  Dale’s agitation came with rewards, however, such as his outlandish stories about inventing the computer, the internet, and a multitude of other modern conveniences.  He was a Navy Seal deep diver (for real) when decompression was unheard of and his heart paid the price.  Only Dale would consider his chainsaw as a remedy for the dozens of  situations he employed it for.  He made us laugh and was an overly generous man.  We received a thank-you card from his wife yesterday that asked us to remember our good times with Dale.  We will.