The morning dew. It glistens as if the yard were a sea of tiny white pearls; challenged to grasp each blade of grass and struggle against evaporation or the unavoidable pull of the Earth’s gravity below. Doses of sunlight emerge through the shadows invoking an eerie haze; the cackling of inconspicuous birds resonating throughout, ricocheting back and forth between the decrepit fences before echoing off into a vast nothingness. A hollowed out tree towers above and has managed to produce one lone flower. It’s deep, bursting yellow pierces through the fog as beams of light successfully touch down on its pedals; an integral sign of fragile hope in such a disheartening existence. It rests, peaceful and vibrant, on a drooping branch that transfers life into its roots. Silently, it’s witnessed a community form around it; watched generations grow old, enjoying its shelter and company over the years. It’s weathered the storms that brewed far above; fiercely holding firm against heavy rains, raging bolts of lightning and the weight of snow and ice wrapped around it so firmly, like a serpent squeezes the life out of its prey hunting in the night. Crisp, cool winds filter through the air; a tidal wave of fresh-starts and new beginnings, the distinct sense of nature’s reincarnation after a long winters hiatus; a phoenix rising from the ashes.
Through the mist a woman, angelic – glowing with a heavenly natural beauty. Her crystal blue eyes are soul piercing, trance inducing; a single deep stare breeds a lustful life sentence. Draped against olive skin are long locks of golden blonde hair, gently dancing in the breeze; perfectly choreographed to an eager beating heart. Slowly, seemingly without effort she gets closer, floating on air and moving steadily through an erupting surge of passionate energy; it’s intoxicating, paralyzing – playfully she nibbles her bottom lip; pheromone’s saturate the atmosphere forming a tornado of salacious desire that even the gods couldn’t dissolve. It’s getting stronger now; eyes ever locking; deep, steady panting persists as the signal for final approach is confirmed and then…
The excruciating reality of my eyes opening wide to a life alone in this tiny twin bed, which is not even really mine and sits opposite another tiny twin bed; occupied by a different dude. Lucky for him, he appears to remain traveling through dreamland at the moment, but his rude awakening is coming and that gives me a debaucherously strange sense of satisfaction – this is getting old. For some reason, my brain likes to kick back into consciousness at the exact moment the payoff is about to take place; dreams are such a tease. I subconsciously torture myself; creating perfect and beautiful model-like angels inside my thick skull; the type of woman that doesn’t exist – at least not to guys like me; like they can sense the sunken, shell of a man that walks around all disconnected and zombie-like – I can be the real walking dead sometimes; seriously searching out Daryl and his crossbow – but I’ll be real; it’s not like I’m ever going to find him so, fuck it – time to start another day in paradise.
I say a quick prayer; a prayer which mostly involves asking for guidance on how to be accepting of whatever I walk into once I enter the shared, common area – the area I refer to in my head as, “The Serengeti” – this is where other creatures like myself freely roam, mingle, and occasionally prey on each other – living examples that prove the nature of human development is also still a work in progress. The important part is – we mostly get each other, understand the struggle, and are all okay with it; actively looking into ourselves and working to be better people – quite possibly we’ll leave our former “creature” selves behind and merge back into society refreshed and renewed – ready to contribute, and be useful – pay our taxes – maybe. There are supposed to be two guarantees in life – death and taxes – I can assure you that paying the IRS is no guarantee for an addict or alcoholic active in the lifestyle – at least not willingly. Death, on the other hand, we’re all too familiar with.
One of the exceptions to the unity I’ve come across in the pursuit of my new life is Braden. He is sitting at the computer in the hallway outside my bedroom. I know this because he sits there from sunrise to sunset every day without fail – he has ever since I moved into the residential treatment house. I’m curious as to how he gets away with missing group therapy all day, but that’s really none of my business and I remember to maintain focus on myself. Plus, it’s apparent there is more wrong with him than just substance abuse; he oozes that serial killer, psycho type of vibe – which is further confirmed as I exit my room and get immediately stopped to watch a video on YouTube. There’s a cold, empty look in his eyes and a huge grin plastered across his face; he’s overly excited for me to see what he finds so amusingly hysterical – and honestly, I was intrigued – until – he pressed play. What took over the screen was the dash-cam view from a police car facing a vehicle, pulled over on the side of the freeway; the night vision recording made it a little blurry, but certainly added to the horrifying tone of what would happen next.
As the officer is approaching the vehicle, a man steps out and in an impulsive act of sheer violence, murders him in cold blood; one shot to the chest before leaving the scene and the officer to die. As all this is transpiring in front of us, Braden joyfully points and laughs, screaming “fuck the cops”; creating his own deranged and twisted form of celebration, basking in the injustice that has occurred and for a split second, the emptiness in his eyes suddenly ignite into flames, becoming alive with a demonic lifeform before dying back down into the cold, emptiness once again. I was startled, to say the least, and my anxiety levels escalated immensely. What I imagined doing to Braden right then was far worse than the fate suffered by that police officer, but I managed to keep my composure, appear like I wasn’t bothered, and slowly walk away as his sick laughter resonated behind me, growing further in the distance. No prayer would ever prepare me for an encounter like that.
The literal space between my titillating encounter with pure beauty and this realness of the ugly, repulsive side of human nature was a mere few paces. It’s a reminder of what’s ever surrounding me and toying with my head; why I self-medicated to deal with it all. There’s so much hate that we’re forced to dodge and weave through on a daily basis; so much out of our control. Flip on the news and get a glimpse of what the human mind is attracted to. Death and despair – murders, rapes, kid-touchers, mass shootings; the list goes on – and it’s all evil. A good excuse; a portion of why I could justify and entertain the desire not to be present in this life; drown in the bottle until my time is up; until I check out of this hedonistic place. Maybe I like to drown in it because there are certain facets of that negativity I see in myself; characteristics I wish weren’t there – the parts that continuously break the hearts of people around me as I let them down once more; the parts where I let myself down. Or maybe by working through this process, not running or hiding, and getting to know myself without a drink or a drug, I can learn how to see through the fog and the mist; try to focus on that lone flower, bursting and vibrant in its yellow magnificence, and see the true beauty in all things wicked and cruel. Or maybe I’ll die trying – but I’ll never give up.