Universal Dance Party: A short story


Universal Dance Party

Forward by Dr. Gregory Wilson:

My name is Dr. Gregory C. Wilson, I am a licensed psychiatrist. I have been practicing for many years, nearly fifteen, in fact, and have published a number of articles and books dealing with anxiety, mood patterns, and overcoming various emotional fears and triggers. The book you are holding contains a story that I did not write; rather, I received the following story in the mail, from a previous patient of mine that I had not heard from in some time. As it turned out, I found his journey to be quite remarkable, and I transcribed it from his notebook onto my own computer, making sure to maintain the anonymity of the author, as well as the integrity of the original source. As a year or so passed, I found myself more and more taken by the story, and reached out to a friend of mine who is a publisher for a small company in Seattle, Washington. He too found the story strange and intriguing, and was able to pull some strings and have it published in a few small magazines. 

I of course remember this patient very well, and his temporary disappearance certainly put me in a place of unease. His condition was something that I had not quite seen in all my years of practice -- and yet now, as I write this forward upon the insistence of the publisher, I realize that this story involves much more than just myself and my previous patient, who remains nameless throughout. My publisher chose the title, and I approved. The following was taken from the notebook of a previous patient of mine, during and after the course of treatment. There have been minor corrections as to the spelling and some grammatical errors, and that is all. The story has been titled “Universal Dance Party.”

Thank you,

Gregory Wilson, MD.


Universal Dance Party



It all started when I saw a dead crow on the sidewalk in West Hollywood, near the Grove. I was walking along the hot stinky streets in Los Angeles, while traffic blared and busses roared by, and myriads of people moved along past me in all different directions. It smelled like sunlight roasted food garbage. Then I looked down, and I saw the corpse of a crow on the pavement; it had been dead for a while, maybe over a week or so, it’s eyes were maggot infested, writhing in and out and around it’s dead little skull. . . at first, I felt nothing. And then, suddenly, I felt the death, the sickness, the darkness began to expand in my own skull. I could feel an overwhelming drop into another world of wonder - like I was behind the screen of a movie theatre,  and I could feel the maggots in my own eyes, and I was them, too:  squirming hungrily, naturally, without remorse or any question of eating into a dead animal’s brains. I was now again the dead crow, I knew of it’s entire life, my life, flying and eating worms and bread and trash, apples from trees that had fallen into gutters; the dark nights that I spent huddled on the tops of power lines and tree branches, illuminated only by the ugly yellow lights that warmed the smog in the city sky. The mirror-like illusion of my feathers, rainbow colored ashes shining in the sunlight. I recalled the nights I spent alone, my head and beak buried in my chest, thinking of things that only crows and birds think of, the names of trees, telephone poles, all in the language of birds squawking loudly, singing, calling out. And I remembered too, the massive semi truck windshield window that smacked me into oblivion,  like a whale, into my death, with no regard, no notice at all. Had I only been a small child! If only I been a human passerby and not a crow, left alone on the sidewalk to decay and erode, to be eaten by insects in front of thousands of passing pedestrians, I would not have suffered such natural tragedy! I fell into blackness. I couldn’t breathe, I didn’t have to, since I had been dead for over a week. Yet I could still smell the death, lingering and choking in its suffocating darkness, mixed still with the trash, so thick and heavy and warm - enveloped in a whole different world that I had never known, had never wanted to know. I couldn’t look away, and I cried. Somehow, I was pulled away, although I don’t know how, and I woke up in my room and it was night. That was two days ago.

The next time it happened was a day later: I was waiting tables in a restaurant, having not fully recovered from the bird episode. The event of my life falling into synchronization with the dead crow’s death still lay heavy on my mind. It was unexplainable, really. Perhaps a momentary loss of consciousness, a psychotic episode that was brought on by. . . something. I tried to let it go, like a dream that lingers on your flesh for hours after you’ve had it; an unreal and strongly disorienting sensation that is all too real, yet clearly it is not - it cannot be. Now, I was waiting tables, and one of the tables belonged to a couple, a young man and a girl. They stayed for hours: they were ending their relationship. From what I gathered from the other servers, the guy was breaking up with his girlfriend. In the bits and pieces of their conversation, I merely gathered that neither one of them could reach a common ground with the other. This agreement, this realization, however, did little to minimize the pain that the girl had felt. She began to cry, and when I approached the table to clear off some items, our eyes met, they locked only for a brief second. And then, I instantly fell into despair; her pain was now mine. It was like a punch in the stomach; a sudden and violent drop of fear and approaching tragedy, hopelessness. All was lost. Her heartache choked at my own beating heart, speeding up the pumping blood in a never ending cycle of abandonment, losing someone so special, and yet someone so wrong for me. Wrong for her. What the fuck was happening to me? Her thoughts were now mine; her emotions were suddenly transferred entirely to my very being. I was experiencing a transfusion of a different life, of death, and with no comprehension as to why. And I knew of her past, of mine, with this boy, this young man that was once hers: the nights spent together, the afternoons at coffee shops (the coffee shop where they had met), and I was brought on by the sensations and the ever present nausea that took hold of and twisted my stomach into thick knots, it tickled my throat. The rock in my throat that formed, I hadn’t felt since I was a child - I was dying the death of others; I had found a connection into the galaxies of pain and death that surround us all. This was beyond empathy, worlds away from simple understanding, compassion or of pity. I became a connection, unwillingly, forced into another realm of intense comprehension into the windows of other beings. In a wild panic, yet as controlled as I could possibly be, with tears streaming down my cheeks, my breath catching in a sad uncontrollable range of sobs and whimpers and chokes, I excused myself and left the restaurant. I collapsed in a nearby park under a tree, and as soon as I set my back against the heavy tree, all was silent.

I felt the green intricate leaves glinting in the sun and shuddering, shaking, I could feel each leaf shivering from my arms, my branches; the wind moved my upper body, I shook and swayed in an easy graceful motion, so natural and relaxed, my center of balance so stable and strong. I stayed with the tree, in the tree, as the tree, for an indefinite amount of time. When I was able to leave, it was very dark. I’m not sure how long I was there, or if I ever could’ve left on my own. I had the feeling that I could’ve stayed a tree forever, a leaf, a branch or a twig, surviving years and decades and half centuries and centuries and maybe even longer with astonishing grace, gracefulness I had never even known existed. And as I walked home, I began to run, for all the homeless left out to sleep on the street were all around me, and I could read and feel their thoughts, I suddenly knew exactly what it felt like to live on the streets: the hot, blindingly bright concrete in the day, the cold slabs of gray pavement that sucked the heat from your body in the unflinching Los Angeles night. I felt the toll of heavy drug abuse, of lack of family and friends, hopelessness, helplessness - the road traveled by so many. I tasted their unstable mindset, dirty and twitching fervently with a disconnect of rational thought, like a skipping cd, I felt it all. There was a feeling of deep fear, and of a final submission to the great fear that ate away at these people, ate away at me. I began to run, and as I was running through the streets, the things that I was experiencing sped up, like an intricate and emotional kaleidoscope, weaving endless thoughts and feelings that I now felt. I sprinted through the dirty streets that rained down other’s psyches on my brain; the rain that saturated my body, my very being, so overwhelming and unexplainable that I wished I could die, just evaporate, or get splattered by a semi, as I had been before, as the crow. I was scared, sprinting terrified, and when I went home, the walls were breathing slightly from my manic episode, and I could still hear and feel the subtle remnants of emotions coming from those who lived in the apartments around me: I could experience their vivid and confusing dreams, hear their sleeping thoughts ever so quietly whispering into my brain, my body, through the walls and ceiling and floor. I lay under the covers and closed my eyes. I didn’t dream.

The next day, I called a psychiatrist.

I told him that I couldn’t see him, but I paid for an hour session over the phone.

The questions at first were simple. I had been to a shrink when my parents were divorced, when I was in elementary school. “Are you sad?” She’d ask me. . . Anyways, the initial questions were easy: Did I do drugs? Had I ever done drugs? Was I suicidal? If I was, or if I was thinking about hurting myself or others, it was the psychiatrist's decision as to alerting the police. I agreed to everything in the coolness of my quiet apartment. I had found this man through the yellow pages. “Anxiety Attacks,” the add had said.  

“Are you feeling the way that I feel right now, as we talk over the phone?” He asked me. His name was Dr. Gregory Wilson; he had a soothing, warm, deeper voice. I thought for a moment. I had just woken up an hour or so ago: most of the tenants of the apartment had left for work, or were out and about in the hot bright LA sun running errands. I had been left alone, thank god, with only my own thoughts for a change.

“No,” I told him. 

“There seems to be an emotional, psychological, and physical reaction upon making visual connections, or physical connections: physical being the tree in the park, visually being the woman at the restaurant. And yet, the homeless vagrants and the surrounding tenants in your apartment complex, as you described, suggest otherwise, a purely psychological trigger. It appears to me that you’re experiencing extreme out of body hallucinations coupled with overwhelming anxiety. Would you like me to prescribe you any medication?”

“Anything.” I told him. “Only I don’t know if I can bear going out into the world again. I feel like I can only survive in the woods now, as a tree, or a bush, or something.”

“I understand your hesitation,” Dr. Wilson said patiently, calmly, “but you need to remember that this will all be behind you soon. As intense and real as all of this is - and I’m not minimizing anything you’ve told me or anything that you’ve felt - with the proper help, help being the correct medication and therapy, this will soon be over.”

“It’s hard to imagine.” I told him.

“I understand. At this point, I think it’s best that you trust me. I’ve dealt with similar instances of this in the past - not quite as severe, but just the same, there’s medication for you.” He put in a prescription to a nearby pharmacy. I would have to walk there. I didn’t have a car. And taking the bus would kill me. I knew the people who took the bus - it would be overloaded, I would surely die with the amount of people, all thinking and stinking and worrying and riding and talking and some of them homeless and crazy and violent. . . I would walk.

I put headphones on, I turned up some Brahms to nearly ear splitting volume. I put on some heavy dark sunglasses that I had bought long ago (they were once too dark for me, I rarely wore them until now), and I took the short few blocks trip to the CVS pharmacy. I could still feel the thoughts and emotions of others, although it was like music coming in through a heavy brick wall: dissonant and subtle, yet still there, trying to get through to me. It was with deep concentration and heavy determination that I walked into the pharmacy. I got a prescription of klonopin, with a few small sample sized portions of valium and another of xanax. I had never taken these before, but I knew what they were for. I bought a bottle of water, still letting the Brahms blast in my ears, my eyes hidden behind the dark wall of black glass, and went outside to take a few pills. I’m sure that I was only supposed to take one, but I felt as if I hadn’t slept in years. I was drained both emotionally and physically, having felt and experienced the lives and death of anything that I came into contact with, over and over again. 

I stepped outside to the smell of heat and smog and cigarette smoke, litter on the sidewalk, trash cans full, stinking in the hot bright sun. I threw away the small white paper bags that held the pills, tore open bottles and foil and plastic, and finally, I had a small mountain of pills in the palm of my right hand. I had never abused drugs, but I was never so ready to do so. I would take nearly all of it, I decided right then and there; if it didn’t kill me, then I would reevaluate myself when or if I awoke again. Until then, I looked forward to sleep - a deep forced sleep. And the lingering effect that such drugs would have on me, possibly freeing me from everything I’d experienced for even longer than prescribed, residually carrying over until the next dosage, if there ever was ever another, seemed to be my only salvation. I opened the bottle of ice cold water with my other hand, holding the bottle in the nook of my right arm. Without hesitation, I put all the pills in my mouth, and tilted the bottle to my lips. I swallowed them, choked a moment, drank a little more water, and then walked home. Brahms played loudly in my skull.

Floating. Wasted in a sea of pills. Endless waves of pill induced stupor that crash and wash into me, over me, unrelenting. And yet, I don’t feel anything else. No one, nothing is inside of me anymore, so to speak. The multitude of anti-anxiety pills have done their job - I’ve taken far too much, but I can’t even worry about overdosing. I can’t even worry about anything. The room spins and rolls up and down, but I am the only one in it. No voices or thoughts can reach me now. The experiences of the past few days cannot reach me now. They were real - far too real - but now nothing is. Even the waves of prescription medication that rock my body like a church sermon in the south, pulsing through my bloodstream, carried all over my body through my heart, from my toes to my nose, to my brain and all over again - even this feels dull, unreal. And I love it. My vision fades into dots as the room disappears; it then reappears with the opening of my lead heavy eyelids; again and again, I’m shrouded behind the curtains of my eyelids, dots sparkle and move in the space behind the curtains, and I hope that I die. And I don’t really care. What will these pills do to me? How many have I taken? Who the fuck cares? Anything to keep me from feeling what I’ve felt, what I’ve been, the last few days. No more. Ever. Floating, wasted in a sea of pills. . .

I wake up. I woke up. I don’t know how, or for how long I was out. I woke up on the floor, on my stomach, my face in a lake of cold drool on the wood floor; it was daytime, although that meant nothing to me. I felt drugged, I was drugged, I felt stupid and disconnected to my body: my arms and legs were cut off from my brain, my brain which wasn’t really thinking at all; my limbs lazily moved around experimentally. I didn’t get up off of the floor for what felt like a long time. What day was it? Was I fired from work? Still, nothing mattered: the waves of the drug’s effects still pulsed through me, and I cared about nothing. I closed my eyes, and although I didn’t sleep, I remained on the floor, my eyes closed in blackness, for a long, long time.

“You missed our last appointment, I hope everything is all right.” Dr. Wilson’s voice again, via telephone. It had been two days since we had spoken last. I had taken nearly all of the pills he had prescribed me in less than two days; but to tell him that would be foolish - he would take it as a suicide attempt, which it was in a way, and then we’d have to go down that path - the real problem, I thought, was that I was still alive, and scared to death of suffering another episode or attack, whatever the term. 

“I’m sorry,” I told him, making up something on the spot, still reeling from all the pills. I only had a few left. “The pills worked: I took what was prescribed and I slept for what seemed like an eternity. I haven’t been outside in two days, not since I got the prescription and we last spoke.”

“Alright, then. So you managed to get some sleep in, that’s good.” Dr. Wilson said. He seemed glad. “When do you plan on returning to work, on going outside?” 

“I hadn’t planned on it,” I admitted. Truthfully, nothing of the sort had even crossed my mind. To go outside seemed like going into the realms of hell; it was scary beyond words.

“Well, as your psychiatrist, I strongly recommend that you do not lock yourself in your home out of fear of what might be outside. Let us think of a place that you could go to gather your thoughts and analyze what you’ve been dealing with, in a safe controlled environment.”

“Such as?” I asked.

“Perhaps the park again,” Dr. Wilson suggested. “Let us see if your recent emotional history repeats itself - but this time without the overwhelmingness of other people’s thoughts and emotions overtaking your own. At the park, it seemed as though you were mostly alone; you felt safe there. Why don’t you return there and write what you feel, what you’ve felt these past few days, what you feel has happened, and we can go over all of it during our next session.” 

“Mm.” I said. I wasn’t sold. However, I felt he was right. The park was by far the safest place for me, even more so than my apartment; already the thoughts of my neighbors had begun to creep back in ever so slightly, insidiously, into my own mind. Like a cool sharp subtle breeze that overtakes you in the summertime, I felt it all coming on again. “Alright,” I agreed. “I’ll go, and I’ll bring a notebook.”

“Very good. Like I said, this is something that can be worked on, that can be controlled. You need to have courage, and patience. Thank you for trusting me.” Dr. Wilson was good; he seemed sincere, warm. He was a lifeline to me, he had become one almost instantly.

“Thank you, Dr. Wilson.” I said, and hung up. I drank some juice from my fridge, set myself up with an apple, my headphones and shades, I grabbed a notebook and ventured out towards the park.

I have been here at the park for hours now, writing all of this, everything that has happened up to this point. I’m sitting in the cool green grass, under the shade of the same tree that I had become only days prior. Along my walk to the park, I encountered only a few episodes of deep transfusion to other people. At one point, as I walked down the sidewalk, a homeless man had grabbed my arm. Horrified, I pulled away, but not before I sank into his confusion, his anger, his hunger; I felt, remembered how he had been in the army long ago, had become an alcoholic, was married and then divorced, how he had let his drug addiction to crystal meth and crack cocaine, along with his insatiable drinking problem, take over his life, eventually throwing him out on the street. For a moment, I smelled like he did, I felt filthy and in despair from the inside out, poisoned as he was. I ran away, and the intense sensations eventually subsided, like a waning drug. Then there was a tree, a beautiful thin tree in bloom with gorgeous flowers and lush green leaves, ripe, and drinking in the hot sun. I placed my right hand around it’s trunk, and I immediately anthropomorphically dissolved, evolved into it. This tree was new, young - I was new, young - the life emanated from us, free and loved and rich in life and beauty; we were content. It was hard to pull away; only when I heard the blast of a bus horn to a passing car did I resume back to my walk. The beautiful feeling of peace lasted longer, sustaining in my being for a long while, only subsiding when I reached the park.

And now, I sit on the grass, each green blade telling me a story, singing me a song through my shorts, kissing my legs, whispering and laughing, sleeping and waking. What the fuck am I going to do with myself? The library occurred to me at first as a place to rest, and to gain a handle, a grasp on everything that has been happening to me - maybe there was some literature on my condition - but upon thinking of the Los Angeles libraries, and how they’re basically rent free apartments for the so many vagrants, I thought otherwise. There was too much stimulation there; I’ll remain at the park. Hours keep passing. I am safe here.

I’ve made it home again now, and I’m writing more. 

I made a decision there, at the park: I would not kill myself. This strangeness that has overtaken me can be made into more of a gift than a hindrance; this was the realization that my time at the park brought on. And I could always have the pills as an out; a last resort to take me back to nothingness if it all grew to be too much. I had walked on past the park, passing by a couple holding hands, and the pleasure I felt from them was amazing - the intimacy and love and excitement that they felt with each other was shared with me, and I flowed in joy, in the same feelings as they had. That was the secret! Find the pleasures of life, and drink them in, become them, identify and move with them. Where was the best place to take advantage of my new gift, to be freely incorporated into a world of absolute pleasure? That was my new goal, to attain such a state of being, such a sustained feeling of absolute pleasure, a place where pain did not exist, where confusion had no power.

When I told Dr. Wilson of my recent epiphanies the next day, he seemed pleased. He was still insistent, however, that I eventually incorporate myself back into the “real” word, a term that he and I held lightly, almost as an inside joke. In the past few days, I had spoken to no one else besides Dr. Wilson, and I had spent nearly all my time at the park. I had made a to do list for the week:

1. Call Dr. Wilson

2. Go to the park

3. Quit my job (phone)

I had called the restaurant and quit.They understood: after my breakdown a little less than a week ago, they could sense that something was not right with me, and they were right. They would send me my last paycheck in the mail. I told Dr. Wilson, and he seemed a little disappointed. 

“Being able to return to work would have been an excellent way to gauge your recovery,” he said to me over the phone. “And also,” he continued, “I assume that you need to remain financially stable. How do you intend to do that?” He was being practical. I didn’t know anything, only that to return to work was wrong. I was out of pills. I asked for more.

“You’ve taken all of them already?” He asked.

“Well, I threw most of them away one night when I was scared. I thought I was beyond any help.” I lied. Truth be told, I had taken over a month’s worth of head pills in a few days. “Now I understand that I can use them to help me, and use them for balance,” I explained, which was actually true, kind of.

“Very well, then.” Dr. Wilson agreed. “We have to talk about your future. I can tell that it is beneficial for you to visit the park, but you cannot stay there forever. Would you say that your symptoms have gotten worse, better, or remained the same?” 

“The same,” I said, without hesitation. It was true. Although I had experienced a deeply positive sensation that had altered the course of my condition, the symptoms were still just as strong. Once again, it was daytime, a weekday, and no one was around the apartments, so I could think my own thoughts. I felt alright.

“Fine,” Dr. Wilson said. “Once again, you can go to the park to write, and I want you to take special focus on what you plan to do next, now that you have a few tools to control your condition. For one, you know that you can find peace and safety at the park; two, you know that your symptoms can be controlled with proper use of the medication I have prescribed you; three, you have found out by yourself, that this state of being can be utilized in a positive way, not just as an overwhelming and confusing experience.”

“Right.” I agreed.

“So, now that you’ve gained much more control, we need to continue to move forward, so that you can still live and function as others do.” 

It seemed reasonable. Dr. Wilson was very smart, I felt a strong love for him; in all of this confusion and madness, he had helped save me, and by doing that, I had managed to start to save myself. I went to the park.

three weeks later. . . 

Dear Dr. Wilson,

I have not written in a long time. Much has happened since my last entry. I am no longer at my apartment, I have not worked, and I have very little money to my name. My condition has not improved nor worsened, but what has happened in the past three weeks or so has changed me entirely, drastically. I would like to take this opportunity to apologize for falling out of touch with you after our last session. I hope that this letter finds you well, and can give you some closure as to our brief professional relationship.

The day that we last spoke, I went to the park to write and figure out what I was going to do with my future. On the way there, I passed by a small crowd of young people, and I immediately fell into connection with their current state of being. I experienced a heightened sense of awareness: an intense feeling of deep pleasure and excitement, a rushing waveof lasting contentedness and love. I locked eyes with one of the girls; her aura was the strongest out of the whole group, and when she smiled, I was overcome with ecstasy and love for everything. I had to say hello, and when I approached them, the closer I got to her and her group of friends, the deeper I fell into a shared state of complete elation.

“Hello,” I said to the group, but mainly to the one girl.

“Hi, kiddo.” She said. Her eyes were dilated; I noticed that all her friend’s eyes were huge and dark as well. “What’s your name?” She asked me.

I told her my name. 

And then I asked for hers. Her name was Kathy. With every second, the feeling of elation within me grew larger and larger, completely overtaking everything in me.

“What are you doing tonight?” She asked me, clenching her teeth briefly while she smiled. I noticed that, too: everyone in the group was grinding their teeth, smiling, breathing heavily. It was an overwhelming scene. I felt very hot, alive, real; pulsating with the collective consciousness of this whole group of young wild human beings.

“I’m not sure,” I said. “Can I spend some time with you guys?” They agreed that I could walk with them to the warehouse, where there was a party. We walked along, and the feeling that flooded my body only grew with the group’s anticipation of the event. Upon further inspection of the group, I realized that these young people were ravers (dancers, clubbers - the terminology I’m still unsure of); I saw now that they had florescent necklaces that flashed and strobed around their necks, and bright flashing plastic bracelets around their wrists; they carried a large supply of glow sticks, and although they wore sweaters and some of them wore long black pants, I could tell that beneath their initial layer of clothing was an outfit more suitable for dancing all night. They had come prepared: each of them carried bottles of water, pacifiers, vics nose sniffers. . . I was not privy to any of these things - I had never been to a rave before. As we walked on towards the warehouse in Hollywood, the culmination of the group’s excitement grew to a fever pitch. I knew now that they were all on drugs: ecstasy, special k - they had a large supply of MDMA pills mixed with methamphetamineand caffeine and heroin and cocaine: I saw in my mind the multitude of candy apple red pills; round pills with the image of the MTV astronaut on it; a cartoon heart broken in half; stars, glittery and exciting; half stacks, double stacks. . . I had never taken any of these party drugs - had never even thought of it. But now here I was in a group of ravers, and receiving a huge collective contact high unlike any other, without polluting my own body with these chemicals.

Dr. Wilson, what happened next will be hard to describe to you, as I’m also sure that you have never been to a massive rave dance party. The closer we got to our destination, I could feel more and more like I was approaching a wild nirvana, a utopia unlike anything I’d ever felt. When we arrived at the front of the warehouse, as we waited in the line to get it, I felt as if I was at the gates of heaven - I felt the energy - like a brewing storm of paradise was about to be unleashed on me, and I was to drown so deeply in its waves of glorious unfilteredpleasure. And yet, this was all nothing compared to when we entered the large warehouse, where constant repetitive mixes of bass and beats blasted louder than anything I’d ever heard before in my life - I felt it in my chest like a dropping bomb; the explosive pulse took the place of my beating heart, the bass enveloped me in it’s warmth, took me over completely with its endless rapid constant pattern. I lost sight of the group I had come with, and slowly made my way towards the center of the multitude of ravers. The flashing lights, the galaxies of colors, the darkness in between it all, the lasers, the all encompassing bass of the electronic beats, the endless amounts of drugs consumed by everyone there, thousands and thousands of hearts beating hard and fast, pulsing feverishly and uncontrollably with an overwhelming love and energy: rapture, dance, flashing lights, bliss, bodies, elation, drugs, color, high, euphoria, taste, sweat, excitement, strobes of black and white, ecstasy, fountains, adrenaline, life, love, heaven. . . These are all just words, Dr. Wilson, and nothing that I’ve written can adequately describe how I felt in the midst of that moving ocean of dancers, with wave upon wave of better than heaven rushing over me, into me.

And then I died.

I died right then and there, in the middle of the raving dance party. 

I died so many times, and each time I was reborn, I experienced life and death continuously, unrelentingly; the never ending cycle of the world. Seeds grew softly in the soil of the earth and erupted slowly and silently from the ground; the small tree grew and grew, its roots secured in the rich soil, it matured and grew to it’s full height, I felt it all, I saw it all, each second of its life was my own. Seasons passed. And then the tree grew old, it’s branches died, one by one, like a spreading sick cancer that eventually reached deep into its trunk, into its heart and killed it. Then the tree fell; it burned or it corroded and its decaying matter fell onto the surface of the very soil that birthed it. And the remains of the mammoth dead tree dug its way into the rich dark soil, and the cycle repeated itself, an infinite amount of times, never ending. I died and was reborn, the tree in the park, the tree in my soul. All in the middle of this rave - this dance party of sweat bodies jumping breathing fucking, an explosion of amazement - an atom bomb of sex that dropped on us, devouring us all in its tidal wave of indescribable pleasure. I was at the threshold of orgasm, the moment when time stands still, the second before you come, and the moment sustained, sustained, sustained. 

I traveled around the state of California with Kathy and her friends (I found them again later in the night), touring around to rave after rave - these dance parties were everywhere: out in the desert, in old abandoned warehouses. We went on, and I joined them each night taking in this new holy experience that had given me purpose, given me life, allowed me to see and feel that which could never before be attained. We were a part of the circuit of dance parties, a scene that once meant nothing to me, and now had become my very salvation. I did not have to take the drugs that everyone else took; there was no need for me. I had left all my things at my apartment, and when I stopped paying the rent, when I never returned, everything of value would be taken from my place, and I would continue on without it all. I would be forgotten. I still had some money saved, which I shared with the group for travel funds and the cost of the admission into the raves. I had not eaten in over a week. Every night, there was another dance party. Every night, I went to the blissful realm of some place infinitely better than heaven, better than anything. In the days, reeling from the experience of the night before, I slept soundly, desperately, so deeply that I never dreamt, in the hot van that we all traveled in. I would fall into darkness much deeper than sleep. I did not struggle with channeling the thoughts and emotions of the others in the van; although I still felt and thought as they did, their feelings were all my own; that of exhaustion, completeness and peace, topped with the ever present anticipation for the next night of raving.

One night, at a rave in warehouse out in the desert, I witnessed a rape. The girl was unconscious, white spit frothed from her mouth, she sat limp and lifeless in a chair near the wall, her eyes rolling into the back of her head, her black bangs and hair falling across her face. She had clearly taken too much of something. Two young men hovered over her, one began to caress her breasts while the other fondled her bare leg below her short jean shorts; one of them kissed her sloppily, then spit out the frothy saliva he had sucked into his mouth, disgustedly. He pulled her head back by the hair; the young girl did not resist, her eyes were gone, as was her consciousness, he continued to kiss her, shoving his tongue into the girl’s mouth. He then unbuttoned her shorts and shoved his hand down toward her crotch and savagely began to work his hand into her. The other man watched, clearly enthralled, nearly drooling himself.

In the deep wave of intoxicating salvation that I had become accustomed to, in the middle of the sea of throbbing bodies, watching these two men rape this unconscious girl, I suddenly felt an emotion that had alluded me for quite some time, definitely since I had acquired my condition: rage. I felt a sharp sickness of disgust and anger rise in me, and although I wished to look away and continue to relish in the selfishness of my man-made utopia of pure pleasure, I could not turn my eyes away from this graphic scene of molestation. This emotion that I now felt was purer than the weeks spent at these raves; it was unfiltered anger, and it was my own. I shared no one else’s psyche as I bursted and shoved through the throngs of hot bodies towards the two animals and their unconscious victim. 

Images flashed like a strobe light in my mind: the breaking of a neck with my bare hands; the sound of the snapping neck bone; the feeling of a hard packed fist connecting into a jaw, the crumbling and cracking of teeth, molars; heavy dark red blood flowing from a broken nose; my thumbs gooing into an eyeball, gouging greedily, bloody white jelly pouring out of the socket, flowing over my thumbs,  onto my hands; screams of confused pain. I saw flashes of violence and anger beyond words, with such intensity that I have never felt before. As I approached the two men and the unconscious girl, my anger climaxed into an aggression that I had never thought possible. The violent exchange between us lasted very briefly: I grabbed the one with his filthy fucking hands down her pants; grabbed him by his neck, turned him around, and hit him as hard as I could in his face. With the pop of the first strike, the connection of my fist in his nose and mouth, a fire had exploded within me. I flailed and struck at the two men with all my might, with whatever contact I could manage, I fought like a wild animal against his own impending death. The girl was saved. I was knocked unconscious. 

I awoke in the desert, in the hot hot sun, blinding me, my head heavy and hurting, pulsing in unrelenting pain. My knuckles were split open, blood had dried, my ring finger on my right hand felt and looked broken, swollen and blue. There was a bite mark on my shoulder that had broken the skin. I was alone. It took all my strength, strength that I did not have, to get to my feet and walk. The rave was done, the building was now abandoned and locked. Like a freak circus, it had left town. I walked alone, silently, down the desert highway, the sun burning my skin red, blistering my chest and nose. As the sun set slowly on the boundary line of the desert, as the chill crept in all around me, I continued to walk. As the darkness settled in, cooling my body, the darkness itself also permeated my mind. I thought of the tree in the park. How much different that feeling had been, that feeling of true peace. How stupid I had become, in my binging of gluttonous appeal - so selfish, taking in the orgasmic and drug induced pleasures of thousands of others. I had used myself and all those around me in a wild and frivolous attempt to free myself from the strange condition that I had been afflicted with. The “freedom” that I had sought, that I so desperately needed, was falsely attained while I drowned in a superficial orgy of passing pleasure, false salvation, the obsession of excess. I would have no more. Let me die now.

And I remembered then, walking in the darkness of the desert, how before I had lost consciousness in the violent fight the night before, how I had touched the unconscious girl’s head; I grabbed her by her shoulders and tried to shake her awake. I had tried to wake her, to alert her to the injustice being done to her. And as I touched her cold and sweaty forehead, as my hands grabbed and frantically shook her lifeless body, I became her. I felt the darkness: a feeling of sick twisted black fear alone abandonment that I would never wish on anyone. I felt her despair and her unending confusion; she knew nothing, she was helpless, I was helpless. I knew nothing. She was gone. I was gone. And then, the darkness had consumed me too.

Remembering all this as I walked down the desert highway, I knew that I could never return to Los Angeles, nor could I go back to the circuit of raves and dance parties and orgies of drugged pleasure. I could not go on this way. . . 

Dear Dr. Wilson,

As I write this, I am at the Thrangu Sekhar Retreat Centre, near Bhaktapur, Nepal. I have arrived only yesterday afternoon, and plan to stay for a three year retreat, and then go from there. I had just enough money for a flight to a nearby city, where I made my way to to retreat centre via walking. The remainder of my money went entirely to the centre, to ensure a confirmed spot in the three year retreat. On my journey here, upon arriving in Nepal I was taken in by a few kind Nepalese for the night, and found my way to my destination from there the day after.

My condition has not improved nor worsened, in that it is still very prevalent and constant. However, I have been able to show a great amount of self control and restraint while dealing with the symptoms. Upon my walk in the desert, I again was the recipient of yet another epiphany. While I knew that for some reason I had acquired a unique gift, I realized that I can gain more control over it by becoming aware of the symptoms, more mindful of them, and acting as more of a witness to the myriad of emotions that might overtake me. Easier said than done, I’m sure you understand, but it’s a never ending practice for me. The plane flight to Nepal, for example, was a Boeing jet plane that was entirely booked. While I flew, I was of course experiencing the multitude of thoughts and emotions that came with each and every passenger: fear of flying, relaxation, the thoughts of business and pleasure, family, births, deaths, the excitement and anticipation of vacation, seeing a loved one. . . It was overwhelming, especially at first - never had I been in such a highly concentrated, varying situation since my condition had first developed. In the raves, everyone was the same, and the overall feeling was easy to attach to; easy to ride out. On the plane, it was different: there were so many thoughts, so many different levels of consciousness. And yet, I used the flight as a way to gain some insight and clarity into better controlling my condition. As all the thoughts and emotions of all those around enveloped me, I watched and watched, tried to distance myself from all the feelings, watched how I felt as if viewing an intense art film. The end result was an accomplishment, in that I made it through the whole twenty hour trip alive, with a few transfers and layovers as well. By the time I reached Nepal, I had achieved a stronger sense of control, and that felt good.

So, how did I decide on the Thrangu Sekhar Retreat Centre, near Bhaktapur, Nepal? While walking in the desert, I continued to think of the tree in the park, how we agreed that place was safe for me, a sort of haven. I needed to find a place where I could attain the same sort of feeling, yet incorporate that same feeling of safety into a life that included other human beings, other lifestyles; a real world. All at once, an image came to mind, one of a monastery in a cave in the green jungles of Nepal. Suddenly, I recognized a deep and full truth, one that had alluded me for so long: to be at peace with myself and everything around me, in a place of calm tranquility, of self-fulfillment, and of true understanding, that is where I needed to go. I saw a statue of the buddha in my mind, along the backdrop of huge gray stone walls, lush deep hues of green foliage and dark rich brown dirt; I saw pure sunlight dripping through the trees onto the face of the enlightened one, and I knew that this place was where I belonged. Three days later, I was on a plane toward Nepal. My three year retreat begins tomorrow. 

Dr. Wilson, I would very much like to thank you for all that you’ve done for me. Although I’ve never seen you in person, I feel like I know you very well, and I’m sure that things would not have worked out as well for me had I not called you, and trusted you and your judgement. I apologize once again for losing contact with you, and for not being able to continue our sessions; I hope that now you understand why I was unable to stay in touch -- I had much to figure out by myself. I write this to you in my notebook, where I’ve written everything that has happened, and I send it to you now as a gift, as thanks for your help. 

Please take care, Dr. Wilson. Maybe we’ll speak again.

By Casey Wickstrom, July 2013

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