The Wolf’s Tooth Chapter Six
Of course this is just another illusion, she was my first adult love. She was my first sexual partner. Who can forget their first true love or their first time?
I never saw Sally again.
And this although things had started off so positively. We wrote each other weekly; unbelievably long and passionate letters flew back and forth until she graduated from Army vocational school and disappeared over the vast pond to Europe. She never forwarded her new military address and her parents moved away to Florida.
I lost her and my innocence, but the memory of both remains. Sally understood there was no understanding life. I understood nothing.
Sally inspired me to write- for better or worse- an activity I have indulged in off and on ever since she went away so long ago. In this new age of the internet; I dream that someday she might Google me and find me here on Medium, and actually read what she had inspired so many years ago.
We all need hope. We all need inspiration.
With her departure Sally added one final lesson to the sizable stack of lessons she had already taught me.
Change is the only constant in a world of constant change. Nothing remains the same.
A BAD TRIP TO THE OTHER SIDE
Helga moaned softly in her sleep. She was stirring; soon she would be awake. I rolled away from her and faced the wall. As if on clue, she started snoring.
Time had caught up with me again.
Now I was lying here in my childhood home with a woman I had not known all that long, thinking about a woman I had not known very long either, and despite the lost decades that lie between us, I sadly realized that I still missed the latter of the two.
Do we only miss what we cannot have? I had not thought about Sally in years.
My mind was racing backwards again. Childhood had been- in retrospect- fucking amazing. I suspect that I know why all these wonderful things had happened to me too.
It was because we were always outside, playing various games or sports, out exploring, socializing or to sum it up in one extremely important word- “LIVING”.
We were experiencing life “LIVE”, not indirectly through various TV screens sitting in an enclosed room indoors. Ok, maybe our graphics weren’t as great as High Definition Grand Theft Auto but; they were real 3D.
The first generation of couch potato children has come and gone, and these kids have no idea what they have missed hanging around in the middle of four walls laboring with their talented fingers in their incredible make believe worlds.
They had been passive Watchers in their childhoods, and in direct contrast, we had been active Doers.
I now realize how lucky I was to have been a baby boomer. Yes, we experienced the overwhelming onslaught of the television, but that was nothing compared to all the things distracting these kids today.
In retrospect, I was a member of a dying breed. We were the VERY LAST generation of kids to grow up as children have grown up for generations and generations before William Windows and Mario and Luigi Nintendo and Sony Station the 4th and the high speed internet and ultra thin smartphones changed the very nature of childhood and growing up forever.
Modern technology was moving along at an incredible pace. This worried me at times; yet I remember that our parents were also worried about the future of the planet after the hippie movement came into being.
Now I felt stupid to even be thinking about it at all. I did not want to think. And I was getting sleepy again. Helga turned over and the snoring stopped. In the ensuing silence things began getting murky, and my eyes closed. Sleep returned, and so did my dreaming.
I have had enough experience with dream perception to realize that in our dreams everything continually changes; yet in our recollections we create the continuity.
This concept was not that far apart from our precious time spent awake. The continuous flux that makes up our daily lives is often invisible to the naked eye. (It helps to keep them open.)
A dream is defined as a succession of images, thoughts, emotions, and sensations that usually occur involuntarily in the mind during certain stages of sleep.
The content and purpose of dreams are still not fully understood, though they have been a topic of scientific speculation, as well as a subject of philosophical and religious interest, throughout recorded history. They awoke my curiosity too.
Dreams are literally an endless series of rapidly moving pictures, (Like MTV once was and the other video worlds that require an attention span of five seconds.) and over the years I had learned to skim the surface of choosing what ancient gallery I would visit.
I found myself in a field, the field behind the cemetery at Marches Hill. I became excited, realizing that I was now dreaming, and I was aware if it.
Dreams have varying natures, such as being frightening, exciting, magical, melancholic, adventurous, or even sexual. The events in dreams are generally outside the control of the dreamer, with the exception of lucid dreaming, where the dreamer is self-aware.
The recollection of dreams is usually unreliable, though it is a skill that can be trained. You can become aware of yourself as you dream.
Remembering Carlos Castaneda’s vague “Dreaming” instructions, I quickly held up my left hand and stared at it. Then I looked away. I saw a large stone in front of me poking out of the grass. I concentrated intensely on the form in front of me. The stone had indeed changed its shape. It had elongated. Damn.
I held up my hand again and looked at it. The theory was simple, but extremely difficult to achieve. To actively remain in the dream, you had to constantly reaffirm your position, by gazing at a body part, because you are always the dreamer, you are literally there, even if you are not actively participating in what’s going on.
Believe me, you have never actually seen yourself in a dream, like you were watching a movie about yourself. (Unless you can find a mirror.) You are always there, right smack dab in the middle.
Then I gazed from my hand back to the stone again. As I concentrated on this its new form suddenly became crystal clear. I blinked in obvious disbelief. This additional shape shook me. It was a tombstone.
It was a miniaturization of a familiar gravestone. Oh shit. I knew I should get up now, try to get out of bed and stop this madness, but it was already too late.
I was certain that I knew this gravestone. My flesh began to crawl. I could read the inscription. Again the truth set in and it sickened me. It was my grandfather’s gravestone.
JOE BUTCH LACHOWICZ
It was a perfect replica of Grampie Butches’ gravestone. I felt repulsion and wanted to look away, but rereading the inscription froze the sight in my line of vision. I felt queerly nauseous. Then I realized that a woman’s voice was calling me.
Oh-oh. I should have known better. That’s the bottom line with obsessions; the worst was always yet to come. Sigmund Freud explained dreams as manifestations of one’s deepest desires and anxieties, often relating to repressed childhood memories or obsessions. Sometimes I agreed with this.
I knew that lucid dreaming is the conscious perception of one’s state while dreaming. I strived to learn this, inspired by Carlos Castaneda in the Seventies. In this state the dreamer may often have some degree of control over their own actions within the dream or even the characters and the environment of the dream. Or he may not.
I wanted out of this dream, but this was no longer possible. I had nearly mastered dream control with years of practiced deliberate lucid dreaming, but eventually discovered that the ability to control aspects of the dream is not necessary for a dream to qualify as “lucid.”
I discovered that a lucid dream is any dream during which the dreamer knows they are dreaming. It did not help me any to also discover that the occurrence of lucid dreaming has been scientifically verified. Once you are dreaming, you are basically on your own.
It was at precisely that point that I realized the old woman’s voice had now changed too. It was now a familiar voice taunting me, much too familiar.
I needed to wake up. I was as helpless as a lost child. I felt I had once again ventured into a situation that no normal person would be stupid or foolish enough to enter into. I quickly became disorientated.
Yet I was stubborn, well trained, and so, I tried to gaze at my left hand again, but I could not raise it. The upsetting dream continued. And thus, no longer able to deliberately control my physical movements, I was delivered to the “Other Side”.
I had an incredible amount of respect for the “Other Side”. I always woke up horrified when I erroneously managed to break through.
The Doors even wrote a song about it, suitably named- “Break On Through”. Carlos Castaneda’s descriptions of the other side were spot on. And it was the only thing he warned against in his books.
In fact, the “Other side” was the only reason I had “retired” from my attempts at “organized dreaming” years ago. The few times I had broken through to the other side had nearly killed me. Seriously.
I used to wake up with my heart pounding in my head; I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I felt there was something there that my body or perhaps even my mind could not handle knowing about. Perhaps I was getting too close to the flame.
The biggest difference in here was that I could no longer control my passage in any form or way; but- I was still wide-awake and fully conscious. Thus the petrifying anxiety during the dream was very real, similar to the ensuing fright I felt in the end-phase of my successful “Dreaming” attempts upon awakening. And try as I would, I could never escape of my own will or logically explain any of it later on.
The other side was beyond rational definition. All I could see in front of me was the impenetrable mist. I always felt it was comparable to a dense wall of fog that was always directly in front of you, regardless of which way you turned. And then there was the ongoing storm.
The wind raged fiercely here, no metaphor. And the winds were deafening. To me they carried with them the desperate voices of the lost. Forlorn and dismal, it was a repulsive, horrible sound.
Inwardly I feared someday my voice would join them.
The average person has three to five dreams per night, and some may have up to seven. Dreams tend to last longer as the night progresses. Most dreams occur in the typical two hours of REM. Now, with the jet lag, I was having very long dreams.
The voice I was now hearing was also lost. It should have soothed me, as I finally became aware of who it belonged to. And she did not belong here. She was one of my all time favorite people on the planet.
Yet she had never sounded like this before. She sounded like she was suffering. She sounded like she was dying. And she was calling me. The voice belonged to Nana.
Then I realized the gravestone now had another inscription on it, a second name, complete with the date of death engraved on it. I caught the name, but as I tried to focus in on the second date, the numbers seemed to move off to the side and squiggle like caterpillars along the surface of the granite stone.
ZELMA SCHREMPF HAWKES
1912 — }}}}
The engraved name and date remained in place, but the departure numbers quickly disappeared over the edge of the stone and out of my sight. Now my head droned as my stomach did another revolting series of daredevil somersaults.
I had to get out of here. Yet movement was still not possible. The winds seemingly held me firmly in place. I dropped to my hands and knees, frozen in fear as my hair blew wildly around my face.
I finally risked a glance to the source of the voice, definitely afraid of what I would see there, and yet, I looked anyway. My heart leaped as I quickly exhaled and then my facial expression froze in place with my mouth left wide open as my spit instantly dried up.
The name on the monument. The date on the monument. I had seen it.
My grandmother was sitting in front of me in a wall of fog.
Nana was sitting on a faded wooden chair. The field was hidden from view. The chair she sat on was seemingly hanging in the gloomy vapor. The dense fog surrounded her, totally engulfing her. She looked terrible, frail, and her features were badly distorted.
Yet she was wearing a bright ruby red dress, like the ones she wore in the square dancing days long ago when I was a kid, and for a split second I pictured her rapidly standing up and twirling like a ballerina on the chair as the dress arose and openly bloomed like a Tulip turned upside down.
Her snow-white hair was wild, being blown by the winds in every direction, her teeth were pitch black, or perhaps even missing, and her face twisted and contorted as she sneered viciously at me.
Her voice was so powerful, and she was firmly commanding me to reach out and touch the truth. I began to shiver uncontrollably.
It doesn’t get better than this.
“Touch the truth Blaine, get closer to the truth, you gave up much too easily back then with your dreaming, but of course Darling, you always give up too easily.” she taunted, and repeated this statement over and over.
My eyes were riveted on her, and her eyes were blazing. They were blood red, and the raw power in her normally feeble voice was wearing me out.
Nana appeared to be getting angrier. I could not see through the fog as my eyes were glued to the woman in the chair, as if I was in a trance. Maybe I could touch her. Maybe I should touch her. Maybe that was what she meant with touch the truth. I reached out again into the void.
Nothing. The weight of this nothingness suddenly got to me. I could no longer keep my head up, and I fell into a prone position with my face down. Let the fog take me back home. Please.
Touch the truth? This truth was a myth, suddenly I was sure of it. It was unattainable. Dreaming was also a myth. Dreams allow the repressed parts of the mind to be satisfied through fantasy while keeping the conscious mind from thoughts that would suddenly cause us to awaken from shock. Like right now.
Dreaming. Carlos Castaneda had lied, and made a mint with his ingenious lying too. I was chasing rainbows again, as I had been doing all my life. It was just a fucking myth.
I remembered being fascinated with Castaneda’s famous Shaman “Don Juan” accounts of Indian Dreaming. All of my life I had felt there was more to life than met the eye. I felt our busy lives kept us from ever coming close to glimpsing the truth. Then I read this paragraph.
“Dreaming is the vehicle that brings dreamers to this world,” the emissary said, “and everything shamans know about dreaming was taught to them by us. Our world is connected to yours by a door called dreams. We know how to go through that door, but men don’t. They have to learn it.”
Carlos Castaneda gave me a way to find out for myself. I followed the vague steps, kept a dream journal, and after years of doing so, things began to happen. And then I walked away, scared out of my wits.
A myth. Or was it? Nana didn’t seem to think so. She continued to taunt me ruthlessly. I managed to open my eyes again, but now she was hidden in the fog. I was grateful for the fact that I could no longer see her looking like “this”.
But, I could definitely still hear her. Her words tore deeply into my flesh like a cracking bullwhip. I was bleeding all over from unseen wounds. Her words easily rose above the steady droning of the raging winds as the tears rolled down my cheeks.
The words cut right through me, awakening painful memories that had been laid to rest long ago, simply to save my sanity from the sadistic human condition of allowing ancient memories to literally eat you alive and destroy your soul.
“Darling Blaine is trying to touch the truth again. Big boys don’t cry Blaine, didn’t your father tell you that? Didn’t he really give you something to cry about if you did? Bah, stop your whining, you’re still a sissy. Do you want to know why you cannot touch the truth? It is here, right in front of you, but ever so slightly out of your reach little boy.”
She paused, but not for long. “You are a weakling Blaine, you will always be too weak for this world. You were never as tough as Teddy. You were too scared to touch the truth when you had the chance. Remember that, you did have the chance. Not everyone gets a chance, but you did. You had the chance and blew it.”
I wanted to protest, but apparently she just was just warming up. “Now you have been running away from all of your problems ever since. It begin early little boy. You went from all “A’s” in school to grades just good enough to pass your courses. It was easier to feign laziness then to risk total failure. You father didn’t like failure very much, did he? ”
I could not find my voice. I could not wake up. Then I recalled the “safe word.” I had chosen music. I had to concentrate on a song, any song, but I had to stick with it, regardless of what happened. The music had to play in my head. I stopped crying. I can do this.
“Day after day, alone on a hill.”
“Remember how you avoided any serious relationships with girls? Too risky, one might break your heart. So you went from one girl to the next. Good enough for a trip to the woods, but other than that, well Blaine doesn’t have the time. Then you finally fell in love against your will. A girl named Shirley actually broke through your stonewall. You saw unadorned devotion in her eyes. And what did you do?” she paused.
“The man with the foolish grin is keeping perfectly still.”
“I know what you did. Do you remember how you broke poor Shirley’s heart? Remember how happy you were that you had finally found someone who believed in you? She sure was good to you. But, you walked away. Remember how you went away to the Army to save money for your dream house and to marry her? Funny thing though, you broke your promise, you never returned. You never came back. And you never apologized.”
“But nobody wants to know him.”
“Do you remember what rejection does to the soul? Didn’t Sally teach you that? And what did it bring you? Your kids don’t even live with you anymore. Your German wife left you for a goddamn biker. So you partied. You sobered up, and then your party friends left you too. So you partied some more. What does it take to get through to you?”
“They can see he’s just a fool.”
“What the Hell are you doing over there in Germany anyhow? A land of guilt-ridden sociopaths, is that where you choose to call your home? Is that where YOU fit in? What excuse for staying are you using this year? Did you get somebody pregnant again? Did the damn car break down and eat up your fictional savings? Another hundred thousand miles between you and the days that used to be.”
“And he never gives an answer.”
“Funny little man, when your father had that dangerous, life-threatening blood clot in his leg, I saw your brother Ted there, he came in all the way from the west. I saw Lara there, Becky, Larry. But I did not see you Blaine. I don’t recall ever seeing you there at Milk Street when you are needed.”
“But the fool on the hill, sees the sun going down.”
“Then your father had his congested heart diagnosed. Christ almighty, now he had a death sentence hanging over his head, and still- no Blaine. Where were you when my son Earl died? Your cousin Kathy needed you like never before. Were you at a dope party that night smoking with the boys? I didn’t see you at her side consoling her as only you could have done in that space in time. She believed in you, Lord knows why.”
“And the eyes in his head, see the world spinning round.”
“Where were you when my daughter Barbara died? Can’t recall seeing you mourning with us all at the wake. Your cousin Paige lost her Nana; she even knew her Nan’s Story. Darling, Paige thought you were the cool, older cousin, but not a word of condolence came from you. Where were you when Mary Flynn died? Your best friend Billy cried in Robbie Adams arms. Robbie is a real, calculating individual, at times an ice-cold businessman, but he was there Blaine. He was there.”
“Well on the way, head in a cloud.”
“And you little man? Where were you? Let me guess. Blaine horny. Blaine need woman. You were cheating on your wife in the woods that night with a girl who had beautiful green eyes. Eyes like an alley cat, this mysterious woman, and when she went into heat, you ran blindly into her arms, panting like an animal, forgetting your sacred vows.”
“The man of a thousand voices talking perfectly loud.”
“And where the hell were you when my husband died? It was not a secret you know, Grampie Butch did not get hit by a goddamn bus. He suffered miserably with his cancer for months. Everyone managed to get back to Salisbury and see him, they even came back from California, but you didn’t even bother to come by to say your goodbyes. Named your boy Joseph did you, named him after Butch you said, but Butch never even saw him. He sure wanted to meet him.”
“But nobody ever hears him.”
“Silly boy, and still searching for the touching stone to find the truth in a dream world. Do you want some truth? Where will you be when I die? Let me guess, not here! We needed you- you selfish bastard, we all needed you. You have always been hiding in your imagination, ignoring the real world. You even called it a separate reality, how clever, another thing you obviously stole from Carlos Castaneda, but your detached reality was not connected to anything remotely real.”
“Or the sound he appears to make.”
“How enlightening your life has been, smoking finger thick hashish joints and talking to German trees instead of your inner circle. Bloody marvelous, you’ll have some awesome stories to tell YOUR grandchildren someday.”
“And he never seems to notice.”
“Coward. Fool. Selfish Bastard. And just what is it about this dreaming crap? You kept a notebook next to your bed and wrote down dreams in the middle of the night? Seriously? No wonder your wife thought you were losing it. You were more interested in your stupid dreams than in the broken dreams of your own family. Dreaming zeeming, where are you going tonight little man? You deserted us all you coward. You deserted your own family.”
“But the fool on the hill sees the sun going down.”
“You slipped away in your cushy world, cushy, cushy. You even took drugs to escape, but you can’t escape Blaine. There is no escape. Do you want to know why little boy? I’ll tell you why, the truth that no one ever bothered to tell you.”
“And the eyes in his head, sees the world spinning round.”
“No one ever told you Darling. Not your mother, not your father, not your hero of a big brother Ted, not your farmer guru Ray, not even the trillionaire cocaine addict Paul McCartney clued you in with silly love songs and hidden backward lyrics.”
“And nobody seems to like him.”
“Read my lips little boy, don’t miss this, cause you’re gonna love it. It is our genes Blaine, our shitty genes. We have incredibly bad genes. BAD GENES. Ha-ha-ha.”
“They can tell what he wants to do”
Her voice boomed over the roar of the other voices in the wind. I firmly pressed my hands over my ears, to no avail. Her laughter was deafening.
“We have bad genes. You have bad genes. You cannot escape your genes. You cannot escape your life. You cannot escape your fate. You’re going to get addicted to so many things; you’re going to be constantly depressed, about everything you think about because- you think too much.”
“And he never shows his feelings.”
“And guess what little darling boy, you’re going to die a slow, painful death, its all pre-programmed, a malicious cell just waiting for the signal from your bad genes to split, and split again and then run amok, eat out your insides, ruin what’s left of your pitiful life, and its all because you did not touch the truth when you had the chance, and you did not touch the truth because you possess bad genes.”
“He never listens to them.”
“Why are you crying now Darling? You ought to appreciate this delicious information like you used to appreciate your dealer’s efforts to keep your lungs green week after week after week. No, wait a minute, didn’t you screw his wife?”
“He knows they’re the fools.”
“Hey, you love words, right? Words create worlds, right? Isn’t that how this bullshit works? Well little man, let me tell you what no one dares to tell you, your world sucks! Your words suck. The truth has finally been spoken. Now, THOSE are words finally worth printing.” she shouted victoriously and then she laughed horribly.
I had had more than enough for one night.
The winds raged on, and became unbearably loud. I had to open my eyes again as I felt sudden motion. Nana was still seated on the strange chair floating in the fog. I felt I was about to be carried away.
Nana continued chastising me, now clinically listing my mistakes with eerie accuracy, but her commanding voice was fading away. I rolled over on my back and felt my body effortlessly rise. I began to slowly spin, as I flew out of the yard through the turbulent air currents and the thick fog. I experienced a mild vertigo.
“And the eyes in his head, see the world spinning round, spinning round and round, spinning round.”
It had come to this.
This was what I dreaded the most about the nights ending up in the other side. The “Other Side” never just let you wake up; no, it literally threw you out.
“See the world spinning round, spinning round and round, spinning round.”
Naturally that is just a way of talking, using inadequate words to create surreal worlds. In the world of the “Other Side” you were always awake. You were always terrified. To me it was often realer than the half-asleep world of our day-to-day working class lives, and not an imitation created by my disturbed mind.
I felt instinctively that it was very possible that I would never wake up again, which would be the horrible equivalent of falling into a coma. My body would lie useless in some hospital while in another dimension my soul faced the dreadfulness of dealing with the wall of fog indefinitely.
“See the world spinning round, spinning round and round, spinning round.”
I slowly rose higher. Then I began rocketing, which further nauseated me. My vision blurred, the gray day turned to black night and I wildly plummeted through the inky darkness riding the transcendental winds in sheer terror.
With God and Nana as my only witness, I screamed and screamed.
Thankfully for the occupants of 29 Milk Street- I screamed silently.
I woke up sitting upright in bed, mouth open, still trying to scream, but no sound escaped. My head throbbed, my chest hurt, and my heart was pounding. I crawled out of bed.
I barely made it to the bathroom. I rushed down the hall clasping my hand against my lips before finally arriving at the throne where I violently vomited the remains of Mom’s tuna salad.
I stayed on my hands and knees for a while before I slowly stood and reached the tiny sink. I washed out my mouth again and again. I finished off half a bottle of green mouthwash. Then I splashed water on my face.
I tiptoed back to our room. “I’m getting too old for this shit,” I whispered.
Helga was still asleep. I was sweating, literally dripping wet, and I could plainly hear my pulse pounding in my forehead. And I thought I could still hear my grandmother’s voice too, loud and clear, calling me from the other side, although I was obviously awake. I was truly a natural.
I slowly slipped back into the bed. I fell back against my pillow and softly sighed in the darkness as Helga snored. I stared blankly at the ceiling. I was too weak to do anything else.
Nana’s voice joined the voices of the lost in a dreadful chorus, chastising my degenerate genes and me. Slowly they became muted, barely distinguishable from the real New England winds blowing outside my window.
I could really understand the strange talk you hear from suicidal people about hearing voices. I was an accomplished Dreamer.
And I understood, some nightmares did not stop when you woke up.
“See the world spinning round, spinning round and round, spinning round.”
The winds finally faded and I heard the real breeze caressing the leaves in the trees outside the bedroom window. I had not visited the “Other Side” in years, and I hadn’t missed it.
I couldn’t decide which had been worse, Nana’s haunting words or seeing Nana’s date of death on her and Butches gravestone.
I let the argument rage in my head as I became drowsy. I felt it was safe to close my eyes again. I did so as I softly cursed Carlos Castaneda.
I certainly did not fall back asleep after this nightmare. I didn’t ever want to fall asleep again, like the pitiful characters in the “Nightmare On Elm Street” movies. Hell, I would have actually preferred pizza-faced “Freddie” to a satanic grandmother.
Physical pain was so much easier to handle in the long run. Physical pain eventually went away. Then Helga turned again and faced me, and this time she opened her eyes.
I must have looked pretty bad, as she instantly said, “My God, what happened to you? Did you have a wet dream?”
Oh yes, Freud also believed that virtually every dream topic, regardless of its content, represented the release of sexual tension.
She took me in her arms and I laid my head on her magnificent breasts. We lie there in peaceful silence until Mike finally had to open his eyes. I smiled knowingly. I was going to see my grandmother.
There was one extremely positive thing I had taken from my dreaming experiences. I believed that dream control was indeed possible. What if I was actually waking up every morning- into another dream? I had total control over my actions in this dream. I could focus my attention on everything I saw, smelled, touched, heard and felt.
That sounded really enticing.
Carlos Castaneda said that if you broke through to the other side, you would come to a weird place and the self would then be faced with the question of just who is dreaming whom?
I smiled. A new day had begun.
April 29, 2017
A LIFE AFFIRMING CONVERSATION WITH NANA ABOUT DEATH
(Nobody forgets the last conversation they had with their grandmother.)