I remember a winter night in Brooklyn long ago. On one hand it was a great night. I raised a cup of Belvedere with Mase from De La Soul. I danced with a very tall girl whose legs could have choked the life out of me. And I got drunk for free in a crowded room full of entertainment media’s finest.
There was a good hour and half towards the end that was kind of foggy. I found myself wandering the room with a point-and-shoot, snapping pics of whatever and whoever caught my fancy. Someone who I thought of as a little sister was there, as was my best friend, as were half the people I knew. But when I exited the party early on a winter Sunday morning, staggering the multiple blocks to my lodge, I felt like I was missing something. As a matter of fact, it almost felt like I wasn’t there at all.
The morning after, while recovering from a category two hangover, I ended up at a brunch where I introduced myself to a woman who I had already met the night before. Before I could apologize she told me that it was ok. I was drunk, but I was cool, just doing my own thing.
But it bothered me.
When I made the physical assessment of my life everything seemed to be in place. Sure I had less money than I’d had in the years before, but I was making my rent. I was still going out nights. And I’d occasionally meet a woman who interested me.
But I wasn’t happy.
This wasn’t some out loud declaration. But it was something I knew. I just didn’t know what to do about it.
So I retreated from the world, hiding in clouds of smoke between mirrors. Once cable went out I did the piracy thing at a local coffee shop. I wrote two books under a pseudonym. I got a 9 to 5 hoping that I’d get promoted so I could hide behind a desk. But my boss refused to give me a desk slot.
“I don’t want you to stop writing,” she said. But that, however foolish, was exactly what I was trying to do.
Being God, he was onto my plan before it was fully executed. I went out for orange juice and Excedrin and fell into an abyss.
The days and months ran together. I woke up in different places, as chauffeur and nanny, as dejected and betrayed friend, as healer and the afflicted. Each room was coated with kerosene. Each step I took was the spark from a match. It all burned, and kept burning.
I couldn’t stay in any house long enough to pick up the remote and get comfy. The Hail Marys that used to win games made a habit of falling short. I’d stopped drinking long before. But the problems continued. I prayed and I meditated and I changed it up, but I kept ending up covered in ashes.
I kept dying, like a cat who couldn’t count. But just when it seemed like I was about to flatline, lightning came down from the heavens and jumped me back into Purgatory. I just didn’t get it.
Then one day I found myself under the rubble of myself, bound and gagged and sedated by hidden enemies who no longer cast a reflection. I fell into that lifeless vessel. And then his eyes opened. What I saw was a world I had never seen before, but one that had been there all along.
I walked miles upon miles soaked in soot. Then I came to a river. The boy I expected to see in the water’s reflection was gone. What I saw was the man I had always wanted to phone me from the future, to tell me that everything was going to be ok.
I used to be afraid of the fire underneath my cool surface. I was scared that it would scar me if I ever let it rage out of control. Then someone dropped a live grenade into the furnace within my chest. But after it went off I stood there, still in one piece, without a single burn.
I had tried to incinerate every trace of myself. And yet I still was. When I turned back to the road I found a fork in it. I could go where I’d be done. Or I could go back the way I came and see if it led me to the same place where I started.
I never got back to the brownstone doorstep I had pined for. Instead I found a village of those who had walked the same trail. Time is a mystery wrapped in a riddle of self. I guess I figured it out when I was supposed to and found my way…home.