‘Ghost dancin’ round the fire is what we used to do as kids. There wudn’t no TV or shit like that back then. We had to play, really play. We would be cowboys and Indians or G.I. Joe men even though…
I laid in bed, my face pointed against the dark corner of the wall. My hair was meshed into the pillow with the heat and sweat of slumber. It was 4 a.m. as it blinked on the alarm. The table on which the alarm sat felt so far from me; the illuminated numbers were the only light in the darkness. The blinking stopped and there was stillness, blackness. I moved my body so that I could feel my skin. I held my hands flat against the bed, and stared. Nothing.
Then there peaked a light from above. Among the shadowy swirls that had formed from the tricks of my eyes and imagination something beyond took notice of me, and it opened what can only be described as a door. Yes, through that door, there was a light and a being. I deeply inhaled; my voice would not release. I wondered if I simply rolled my body if I could fall to the floor, and I could reach the door, which would lead to the safety of the next room – to the safety of the blessed bedroom hall light!
Then, I screamed. No, there was a scream. Hands were shaking, yelling for me to awaken as my teeth ground into my gums. The hideous being was still above me, and it began falling from the luminescence; it grew larger above, arms and legs and eyes.
My body shook, convulsed, I didn’t want to look toward the light and the evil, but, if I turned, I felt pain, gnashing nails at the corners of my arms, at my belly.
It was falling faster and faster – faster and faster. The sweat and the pain and the voices. I wrenched. Faster and faster! No!
And then I awoke, abruptly. My body trembling. My eyes tired. And I heaved from the sensation of weight on my chest. I looked up above.
“You’re okay. We’re almost there. Stay with me.”
Sirens blared. My salvation was there, salvation from it. My escape…a brief, yet welcome, sanctuary from what came toward me in the night, what always comes toward in the dreadful darkness.
I stopped thinking a long time ago about dying. Death was a daydream of my youth. I used to ponder for hours at a time in my twenties about death, what it would be like. I imagined that I would be escorted into a bright light that somehow was also dim, a sort of luminescent twilight, then I would see souls moving around all over the place, floating in some kind of void. Endless space would envelope my body, and then I would notice that I too was floating in this blackness and bumping into other souls as confused as I was. I imagined the goal of death was to maybe go out in the abyss and search for my lost loved ones who had died, and touch them, and become a part of them. I always read books about ghosts, and how some houses were believed to house the souls of dead residents. I always believed that these souls were men and women too afraid to make that leap into the abyss, and their punishment was to always wander, and never love.
I think the day of my thirtieth birthday marked when my thoughts changed. I stopped thinking about death, and began thinking about living. How ironic that I thought my lamenting on death was so horrible. Thinking about living, really worrying about it, can really drive one crazy so much more quickly. I wondered about the mistakes of my youth, and searched for someone to love me. I thought perhaps that was why I hurt so often, because I wasn’t living in the now. I joined club after membership. I spent a year shooting pool with a team of rednecks at a dirty Texas bar. One day I stopped by for a beer in hopes of a new atmosphere, different people to read. The sign on the door said pool tournaments every Thursday night. I thought it would make a difference. I wanted something to fill at least one evening of my weekly routine. The TV started watching me; the beer stopped turning the talking heads and silly sitcoms into companions. Joe was the good pool player. He would lean over and the top half of his torso would become a shooting gun. His head would lean into his arm so close his left ear almost touched, and a little flick from the wrist of his right arm would send the cue ball sailing fast and precisely. He held his stick in a way that made me love it. I imagined old men setting on a porch holding their guitars, maybe one called his guitar, Old Girl, and the other referred to his six-string as My Baby. In that way, Joe held his pool stick. He caressed it, and held it like Old Girl. I wanted something like that. Like Old Girl.
Shooting pool with Joe introduced me to life’s desire and then later my first chapter of regret. That’s where it began. I wonder what happened to old Joe. Corner pocket.
I’ve erased it all. I typed it all in, but I’ve erased it all. It is so cathartic. Every sin that I’ve stayed up nights pondering I have typed in my PC and deleted. I can’t really explain the feeling of release as I look at each and every word that describes my evil, and then to see it vanish before me. My therapist suggested it, and it is really quite wonderful. I’ve kept a mirror beside my chair so that I look at myself as all transgressions are erased, and I am reborn. I am like a child anew, the aging of life is gone from my eyes, and the dry, dead skin on my lips is new. The more I set here and think about it all the more I type. I have begun my list with the horrible acts, such as when I have stolen, ridiculed those who are weak, and cursed God. Now, I find myself typing in the minor infractions such as lying about love, and selfishness. Type; type; type away I do. The unholy act of erasing one’s self. I keep thinking back to all that I’ve done, and I see that I am more disappointed with myself than I had ever supposed. How horrible to have been living life second guessing. Wait! What if I am not so evil? But am I evil, or just a man? The mirror moments ago so beautiful is now ugly to me. I saw a marred face become beautiful as I typed away. Each transgression erased brought perfection closer. I had innocent eyes, but now I don’t know. It is ugly. I see a child’s face in the mirror, but the mirror is broken. All that regret is gone, but I find now…everything else is gone, as well.
‘Ghost dancin’ round the fire is what we used to do as kids. There wudn’t no TV or shit like that back then. We had to play, really play. We would be cowboys and Indians or G.I. Joe men even though we didn’t, couldn’t afford the action figures. But we heard about those guys and saw them on the playground at recess and knew how to play better than any of ‘em. But there was this place we used to go out in the field where we would play with our matches. There’s somethin’ about fire that makes it the coolest toy in the world for a kid. The way it blazes up some quick and that you can control it. I’ve seen on TV where fires have burned down whole buildings and bunches of trees and such, but I was always able to control my fire with a stick. Sometimes I would have to shake the wood with my stick to keep ‘er, get it going. Sometimes I’d have to use that stick to push the wood further in to make sure the fire didn’t spread out too much. We would start those fires when it was the dead of night and tell ghost stories around them. It was Jimmy my little brother that one day got up and started dancing around it. The freest thing I’d ever saw was that, my brother stand up and dancing around like that. He was beautiful so I got up and started dancing around it too and pretty soon everybody was standing up and dancing around it and the light hit our faces from the fire and made us look kinda spooky and cool, like ghosts. Pretty soon I didn’t think we were who we are at all, but somebody else. Somebody different and we did that all the time lighting those fires with Daddy’s matches. I still remember. I still remember it like it was just yesterday ghost dancing around those fires and prayin’ way down deep inside that it wouldn’t stop and I wouldn’t have to put it out. Pretty soon…pretty soon I guess we gotta put out every fire that we start don’t we?’