Sunday, April 25, 2010
I know it may sound ridiculous, but this is how I feel, and have felt, for much of my adult life: as if I've been cast away. And while the famous movie of the same name doesn't form a perfect metaphor, somehow it touches this most sore characteristic of my soul. You see, twice as a young man (once when 18 and once when 23) I had a girlfriend who I planned to marry, although things actually never got to the "engagement" period, technically. In each case, our love seemed strong and mutual, and in each case the girl was pretty and brainy. And then, again in each case, as our love seemed at its highest, and my imagination full of bliss, the end came with a simple conversation. Each girl gently and abruptly ended the entire thing, in a moment's flash. Stunning and devastating, in a moment's flash. Stunning and devastating, for my entire life.
After the second break-up, I feel ill FOR SIX WEEKS. It started within an hour of the break-up conversation, with vomiting and deep congestion, like the flu. And I was so weak I could barely stand or walk for several days, and I kept weeping involuntarily, over and over... ... I calculated, afterward, that I would not survive, physically, another such experience.
And so commenced a quarter century of haunted living. And I use that word carefully, HAUNTED. Unable to sleep, often, until the light of day reveals itself. Unable to communicate, or terrified to do so, and terrified to consider ANY friendship worthy of the risk. ... I even have a haunted home in my dreams, and when I say "home" I mean an actual structure, like someone's family home, except this one is completely fictional, or, that is, fictional in the sense that dreams are fictional. In my dreams, however, it seems utterly convincing, real. And what does this home look like? It looks like an immense old hotel, built snugly in some hills and at the edge of a busy little town. The hotel appears to be built in disjointed stages, over decades of time, with multiple-storied sections, and some sections following the steep edge of a hill. And the structure is so immense that it disappears upward around a hilly corner, into a blue-black mist. I have yet to explore the whole thing. In fact, most if it is a mystery to me. I've had many dreams in which I find myself back in the old thing, living there usually, finding more and more rooms and closets and stairways, hallways, all semi-lit, all semi-maintained, all completely frightful. These dreams are nightmares usually, and, usually, I REALIZE that it's a dream, that I'm back at the old hotel, my own personal family home, haunted and rotten and teeming with ghosts. And how do know there are ghosts? I SEE them, I hear them, feel them. ...Occasionally I find "real" people living there, and I wish them well as I hurriedly leave, or try to. Last year, I discovered that all my old friends from Orlando (in the real world) had moved into my dreamland haunted hotel. "What are you doing here?" I asked. "We've all moved in." "But it's haunted!" "Oh, don't be silly." A few months later, they all seemed to have left. I discovered this while I was walking in yet another dream, walking along a sidewalk, and came upon the old hotel. I walked around to the back, fascinated. I hadn't visited in a while. In the back, there's an old park-like area, with big trees and freely-living weeds, and then a forest and hills, all disappearing into that dark mist, and all virtually connected to the hotel, having grown into each other, I'd guess you'd say... the hotel crumbling, literally, plank by plank, out into the weeds and forest and up the hill, and the vegetation sprawling forcefully up, into, and over the structure. An old grain mill is back there too, attached by a breezeway to the hotel. Everything is abandoned. ... Then, in this dream, I look around, and I see three girls going into the back of the hotel, near the ruined mill. I follow them, and find that much of the hotel back there is ripped-out and torn-up. I ask the girls what they're doing here, and they said that they're college students and that they're renting a room. How comical! I laugh. I follow the girls to their room, but since the stairs have collapsed, and even some of the walls, we must CLIMB up along the edge. Basically, we're crawling over rubble, but then we're inside, me and the 3 girls, and we climb some more, this time up a few ladders, higher and deeper into the hotel. The sun glints through busted walls and roof sections, here and there, and I feel completely unafraid. When we arrive, I tell the girls, "Oh yes, this is my old room." "You used to live here?" "Of course. I own this whole place.... But I advise you to not go into the other rooms. I mean, I think everyone has left now, but, I'd hate for you to have a bad experience. It's hard to explain." "But we've already been through that one door, and out into that one long hallway." "Oh, my, I'd advise you to not do that, and to lock that door, and all other doors. I'm afraid to say it, but spirits live here." "Yes, we know." ... The girls moved-out the next day I think, to join everyone else who has abandoned my heart.
... I haven't visited in a while, but that old place, that old haunted hotel, still exists. It exists, and I can never really leave, because it is ME, my SOUL, and I suppose I should open the darkened doors and follow the long halls and climb the stairs and ladders, and explore the wretched thing. I do find it interesting.
Of course, other events and people have managed to further scar my heart over the years. My mother, while still supremely disappointed with me and my free-thinking ways and my troubled demeanor, died unexpectedly of heart failure when I was 27. I thought I had plenty of time to make her happy and proud, but no. Oddly, today, she might have become somewhat proud of me. She always wanted me to become an artist. At the time she died, I couldn't even draw... And I remember vividly, standing in the hospital room, with my weeping father and siblings behind me, and closing her eyes at the bequest of the ER doctor. "I'll do it," I said, with bizarre eagerness. I closed her eyes, her dry, cold eyes, as my eyes were dry and cold as well. Two weeks later, I left work, walked to my car, sat down into the seat, and found myself weeping for 15 minutes or so. I knew it was for her, and that was the one and only time, something I'm ashamed to admit, but something which is interesting to me as I view myself from afar. There's a key to my interior there.
And now it's April 2010. Remarkable. I'm still breathing. Still foolish. Still haunted. ...Terrified.
But back to Cast Away. I wrote down part of the epilogue speech, for it sums my thoughts right now:
"...So I made a rope, and I went up to the summit to hang myself...but I had to test it, you know, of course..."you know me'...And the weight of the log snapped the limb of the tree... I couldn't even kill myself, the way I wanted. I had power over nothing.
"...That's when this feeling came over me like a warm blanket. I knew, somehow, that I had to stay alive...somehow...I had to keep breathing...even though there was no reason to hope. And all my logic said that I would never see this place again."
"...So that's what I did. I stayed alive. I kept breathing...
"...And one day that logic was proven all wrong, because the tide came in, and gave me a sail... And now here I am. I'm back. In Memphis. Talking to you. I have ice in my glass...And I've lost her all over again... I'm so sad that I don't have Kelly, but I'm so grateful that she was with me on that island...
"...And I know what I have to do now... I gotta keep breathing. ...Because tomorrow the sun will rise... Who knows what the tide could bring."