*SONG* “Without You” by Mariah Carey
In the air, In the breath, In the time.
The hours align to match the stars
The reason and sense was lost then
Years ago, maybe before it ever had a
Chance to begin. It was to be shared,
It was always meant to be…
The light was a gift…
I chased a dream, denied and fought
Reality and any and everything that
Cast a shadow. Because the only thing
That ever mattered I found in a dream,
The eyes and ears read this and say
He has got some great imagination…
Because if by chance it’s real at all
Then it’s scary as hell. Be scared.
They said no one would ever believe it,
No publisher would dare publish it.
God forbid it challenged conventional
Thought and shed light on a secret
That might crack the world.
So let the world crack then.
Of course I can’t share every detail…
Those little bits left are crucial for the
Ones that know, I’m sorry but it has to be
That way. It’s not withheld to be cruel,
But for their privacy. Because it was
Always for them, I wanted someone,
Somewhere a memory of them to survive
Because it was more than just a dream…
So if what you read scares you I
Apologize, but I wasn’t about to just
Walk away and forgot…
In August of 2001 I was made an offer,
A very comfortable offer…to live in NYC…
I might have been there…could have…
But instead I held to a dream…and painted.
The Circle of Light came quick upon
The pen to shower down all around…
Varence and Ceres stood waiting…calmly,
Quietly…There was no conversation, just
Sad faces and gentle sympathy because
The words came fast and intensely…
Can’t you tell?
Varence simply said one thing, politely…as he
Pointed to the notebook. “Just write…” And
The words came.
So I write and read them at the same
Time, without thinking, just letting it flow.
I can feel this is not something I
Want to write, yet I have to know. The words
Come anyway by pen and paper endlessly.
The memory of a dream…
It was late August, just before Labor Day…
By chance a dream of a gathering of
Familiar strangers…You know the group,
The names of the Great Hall…They were
All there, at least mostly.
It was a sunny place, a sanctuary
Safe to meet…It appeared to be like
Some big garden. Birds were chirping,
There were the sounds of running water. And
Everywhere there were these people in their
It’s strange to note that on those rare nights
Of these dreams, everyone seemed to wear
Their favorite pajamas…because they were
Neatly dressed, not in their underwear or
Naked for bed…Aside from Joe, who always
Appeared in boxers and a T-shirt, his
Trademark pajamas. It was as if they knew…
I remember sitting on a bench…near the roses
When she sat down, Jennifer…The beautiful
Red-haired girl with the long curly hair. I had seen
Her before in that place. I had known so many
Jennifers, but this one…she was unlike any,
She was unlike most girls I knew. She was
Always sweet and soft spoken, kind and
Understanding…A listener, not a talker…and she
Didn’t go on and on about meaningless things…No,
This Jennifer was so nice. She was so kind
I assumed she had to be fake…but she was
So charming, with a gentle way about her
And pretty…She just was not like other girls.
She sat down next to me and smiled. “I
Remember you, I’ve seen you before.” She said.
“You do?” I asked. I was often scatter-brained
There…in a state of wonder than aware. “I
Think I’ve seen you before…”
“It’s Bill right?” She asked smiling.
“Yes, that’s right.” These people always knew me…
Boy, I felt drunk.
“You look good, you’ve changed a lot.” She said.
“Every time I see you here you’ve changed.”
“Everyone always says that.” I answered. “How
Do you always remember me so much?”
“I just do.” She said. The more she sat there,
The more familiar she felt. “Boy, I wish
I knew Jennifers like you…the ones I
“What?” She asked.
“Not so nice.” Was all I could say.
“I think I know what you mean.” She said.
“My friends are the same way.”
“So is the point of this here?” I asked her
As I looked around at all the people making
Small talk. “That we…meet different kinds of
She looked around. “I don’t know, I don’t
Think so. It feels different somehow…There’s
More going on here…but I’m not really sure
“Yeah, yes I think I know what you
“What’s wrong, you look confused?” She
Asked studying me.
“I am.” I answered fast. “How did you
Know that? It’s like you know me, and
I know you…but I don’t, not really…not
When I’m awake…But I do. I make no
“No, I know what you mean.” Jennifer replied
Straightening out her pajama pants…She was
Wearing a pink T-shirt and white sweat pants.
“This place is…it’s like a gift I think.”
“Yeah, from what we have.” She said looking
At me kindly. “Don’t you think?”
She was so nice. “I wish I knew someone
Like you when I was awake…God, my friends,
My life…I hate it.”
She nodded. “So do I.”
“So what’s making you sad then?” I asked.
She looked at me with a laugh. “Now whose
“I don’t know you,” I laughed, “But I do.”
“I wish I knew someone like you too.”
Jennifer said looking away into the scenery.
“The guys I know…”
“Drive you nuts?” I asked.
She turned to me. “They drive me nuts, yes.”
She laughed. “See you know…so try then?”
“Look at me and tell me what I’m thinking.”
She said looking into my eyes.
No thinking, no thoughts, just senses, then
I said it. “You’re getting married?”
She nodded. “Next month. I’m engaged, yes.”
“Well that’s good, isn’t it?”
“Is it?” She asked straining to think, she
Looked as if she might cry.
“You don’t want to?” I asked…There was
A pause, she just looked at me. “Why?”
“I’m 30.” She answered. “I turned 30 this year.
What else is there?”
“Huh?” I was confused. “You turned 30, so
You think you have to get married? That’s
“My mother wants it, my sister wants it, my
Friends want it.” She said staring off at nothing.
“What else am I supposed to do? Wait? For
What…This? What is this? Is it a dream?
Is it real? I’ve been haunted by this for years.
I’ve never met anyone from here.”
“Me either.” I had to agree, now I knew
What she meant. ‘But I think everyone
Has that…That doomed sense when they
Turn 30…like if some magic moment doesn’t
Come their life will end…That their youth is
Over and their dreams die just because they
“You don’t feel that way?” She asked.
I laughed. “Hey my teens were a nightmare.
My 20’s sucked. Everyone I knew and know
Acts better than they are…If that’s the
Glory of youth, then that sounds more like
Hell…The 30’s sound more like a chance of
Hope to try and make it better.”
“You really believe that?” She asked with
A laugh. “I’ve NEVER heard anyone
Say that before. That’s all anyone talks
About is being afraid of life after 30.”
“Don’t get me wrong.” I told her, “I feel that
Too…But also it’s like…who has ever given
Really good advice? Do they really listen
Or care or are they just repeating the same
“True.” She agreed. “You make me feel
Better just sitting with you.”
“So what’s bothering you?” She asked.
“I was offered a chance to go to NYC…to live
“But?” She asked, then found the answer
In the senses she felt. “It doesn’t feel right?
It bothers you?”
“Yeah.” I told her. “I hate this…strange,
She thought for a minute, then seemed to
Find some kind of psychic response. “Don’t do it.
Don’t go there.”
“Why?” I asked.
“I feel it, I know you do.” She told me
With absolute certainty. “Don’t do it. Just
I studied her for a moment, and the feeling
That reacted to her words. Somehow words
From the right person really do have a
Powerful impact. Maybe that’s what the dreams
Were all about. “I won’t go…I won’t go.”
Her face had this haunting quality, a picturesque
Beauty framed with red flowing curls and glass
Blue eyes that saw right through you…far
Unlike the girls I knew. She didn’t whine or lecture,
She was calm and spoke softly…She listened and
Spoke with her heart. She cared. “Are we ever
Going to meet? Is this ever going to mean
Anything…to be real?”
“I—“ before I could speak, the glimmer of
This dreamy ether world began to fade…It
Was crumbling as always before any sense could
Be made. Any talk of meeting for real
Always seemed to shatter it, whatever it
Was, that place. Then it was over…And I, we,
They would wake up and only fragments
Would remain in the real world. And life
Would go on…
Jennifer awoke to her ordinary day…She
Was in between jobs, so her schedule was
Relatively free. She had quit her job at the mall
To pursue a more appropriate adult job…either
A bank, a library, or an accountant…She
Hadn’t decided just yet. All her current
Focus was on the wedding, as was everyone
Else’s. That’s all anyone ever talked about
Was her wedding…
Oh how lucky she was. How perfect. The pretty
Girl from high school, who was still beautiful…
Was marrying the hot, handsome guy from
School, finally…After years of friendship
And “growing up” through their twenties
Through college and work and the mistrials
Of awkward dating…Jennifer had finally
Made the clandestine connection to the
Most good looking popular boy that always
Brian was perfect, he could have been a
Model or a movie star…but for some reason
No one ever discovered him. He was always
Popular wherever he went…From high school
Into college…then into work right afterwards.
His looks always got him the best opportunities,
He was never alone on a Friday night. Everyone
Worshipped Brian, men and women alike…
The girls all wanted him, as secretly did
Their mothers; and some secretly had him as
Well. The boys all envied him, and every
Father wished he was their son…Brian was
A true miracle, for every man saw the
Handsome reflection of themselves in him.
Egos thrive this way…Men are made this
Way, that’s how the best rise…reflections
And wishful thinking…He must be successful
Because he’s hot…and life rewards them
This way, at least the sly boys learn that
Trick…and pass it on.
But Jennifer saw this in Brian
And always cringed. Because for all
Brian’s physical attributes he lacked one
Thing…a heart for conversation, something
She yearned for so much. No one ever really
Talked from the heart about anything, it was
A shallow materialistic gossipy life…was there
Anyone out there who talked about anything
More? Only in dreams!
Jennifer lingered in bed when she awoke that
Day, she just sat up and stared at the
Window and the morning light, numb. She
Had one of those dreams again of those people.
Always when she as at her lowest of
Loneliest feelings…those dreams would come,
Thank God. Oh, how she hated her life.
Then her sister was there, they both still lived
At home…But Charlotte had just graduated
College so it was different circumstances. They
Were both red heads, both beautiful…Both
Had been cheerleaders…Though Charlotte went
The route of the bossy snob while Jennifer was
The milder, quieter beauty queen. The other
Strange difference, Jennifer’s hair was curly
While Charlotte’s was straight…but then
It was a family legacy of red heads so that
“You’re still in bed?” Charlotte asked as she
Stood in her doorway putting on her earrings,
Already sharply dressed like a magazine
Model ready to go out. “I thought we were
Going shopping early, you still need to
Find shoes for your dress?”
“I guess.” Jennifer mumbled numbly.
“You said you hated the ones you had.”
Charlotte said finishing with her earrings
And walking in her room looking around.
“You said the heels were too high?
Where’s your outfit? You’re not even ready?
What did you just wake up?”
“No, I’m just sitting here.” Jennifer half
Charlotte studied her sister’s face. “What’s
Wrong, are you sick?”
“No.” Jennifer answered.
Charlotte shook her head, “Then what is it?
Charlotte rolled her eyes. “Nothing’s wrong?
And you’re just sitting here.” She turned
Around walked over and opened the drapes
To let the full morning light in. Her
Frustration was growing as she turned to
Face her sister. “What is wrong with
You?” She slapped her hands against
Her legs. “The wedding is a few weeks
Away and you act like someone just died…
Or is going to die.”
Those were poignant words! Jennifer’s eyes
Charlotte shook her head. “Maybe what?”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?” Charlotte’s frustration was
Growing. “Jennifer what is wrong with you?
Please! For God’s sake, what do you have
To worry about? Unless there’s some secret
Life you’re hiding?”
“Don’t you ever just…feel things?”
“Like what?” Charlotte asked. “Like smacking
“Something more…that there’s more.”
“More than what?” Charlotte snapped. “My
God what is wrong with you? The weather
Is beautiful today, you look great…when
You’re not moping around…You’re getting married!
My God, you’re marrying Brian! He’s gorgeous!
He’s making money! The wedding’s going to
Be gorgeous! You and Brian are going to look
Fantastic! You’re going on an awesome
Honeymoon! He’s giving you a gorgeous new
Home! Everything is terrific, everyone is
Jealous of you. My God, he’s so prefect
“Then you marry him.”
“What?” Charlotte couldn’t believe her ears.
“What? What are you saying? What?”
“I don’t know.”
Charlotte curled her lip at a loss of what
To say. But she knew her sister…They
Did on rare occasions share those sisterly
Moments…When the moods were calmer,
And the truth was more sincere and they
Could discuss anything…fantasy…intuition…
Strange things…the stars…magic…aliens.
And it stuck her. “Are you still having
“Those dreams,” Charlotte went on, “About
Those strange people, in that strange place?”
“We talked about that?” Jennifer couldn’t
Remember, she was numb.
Charlotte sat beside her on the bed. “Jennifer,
Listen to me. As your sister, please listen to
Me, alright? They’re dreams…Everyone has
Them…That’s all they are.”
Jennifer didn’t want to answer. “I know.”
“What more are you looking for? A wish?
A dream, what?” Charlotte asked. “Some kind
Of fantasy friends you found in a dream? They
Jennifer looked at her angrily. “They do.”
“What?” Charlotte asked. “Jennifer this is
Crazy! You’re getting married, you’re just
Having those nerve things or whatever
“Maybe?” Charlotte grew more annoyed.
“What is so wrong with Brian? What is
So wrong with marrying Brian? After all
This time, you—“
“Everything.” Jennifer simply snapped, as if
Her insides reached through her mouth.
“Everything is wrong with Brian. Everything.”
Charlotte could not believe her ears. “What
Is wrong with you?”
Jennifer shook it off. “Never mind,” she said
Getting out of bed and grabbing at the bed
Spread to make the bed. “You’re right, let’s just
Go shopping, get the shoes and I will forget
All about it.”
But she couldn’t forget about it. She went
Out with her sister shopping for the day and
Put on a fake smile, and had some fake laughs
And just kept laughing and pretending her
Feelings away. They had a wonderful fake
Day just like always. But at least she
Bought some good shoes and was all ready
For the wedding now.
The days went by the same way. Each day
A little heavier, a little worse. By night she
Prayed for dreams that didn’t come. By day
She did her standard chores and errands,
And her exercises and jogging…The music
That she played fueling her to go on…
Sweet songs, fun songs and love songs…
Songs that ached for a different life…A
Braver life, where she dared to have the
Strength to disappear and leave Brian
And her friends and family and start
Over somewhere completely new. And
Maybe by some magic miracle to meet
Someone that had the spark of a
Dream within them too. Someone alive, who
Wasn’t fake and could really talk…
Someone who could listen as well as hear
And not talk endlessly about nothing.
And the days kept passing this way…
Until that morning, that Tuesday
Morning when her girlfriends Kate and
Beth had come over early so they
Could go out and talk about the wedding.
Their futures and husbands and wonderful
Sugar-coated fake lives with shopping
And fancy lunches and mixed drinks; alcohol
Made it easier to laugh at least.
But that Tuesday morning in September
Was different…The news was blasting and
Buzzing with disaster in New York City
Of a terrorist attack…The World Trade
Center. It was horrific, impossible. Everyone
Was in shock and in disbelief, yet glued
To their television sets and radios. Life
Froze across the country, then across the
Globe as one of the worst terrorist attacks
In history was broadcast live on the news.
Suddenly the world had stopped, and life
Changed in just one day…in just a few hours.
Lives stopped, working stopped, no one laughed
They only cried and looked around in fear.
Where was next? Would it happen again?
Could it happen again? Fear gripped
A nation and the world as everyone
Wondered what they hell had happened.
What did it mean?
It was the nonstop topic of conversation
Everywhere. Faces were pale, only children
Too young to understand still laughed while
Everyone else lived with paranoia, panic
And looked over their shoulder constantly.
Stories poured through the airwaves
Of anything and anyone connected to
The tragedy…Did you know someone there?
A friend, a family member? God forbid
The connection was too close to home, then
It became even worse and grim…Suddenly
September was the worst month of the
And Jennifer only found further terror in it
All. Plagued by fears and nightmares that
Made no sense…Her family was from upstate
New York but now lived in California…
It was an early day of hell for them
There when it happened. But what truly
Shook her was some terrible, mysterious
Fear…of those dreams, those people. There
Was something she could not explain about
It to anyone…Those buildings, that place…a
Dream…New Jersey…someone was there, or
Might have been or could have been or
Something. There was a connection she
Could only scarcely remember.
She tried telling her sister one day about it.
About some guy she dreamt of from New
Jersey who was supposed to be in NYC then,
That she told not go there. Her strange
Dreams and intuition. Jennifer and her
Sister did agree on that, their odd sense
Of knowing things…premonitions, knowing
Things before they happened. Was there
Someone she was connected to on the other
Side of the country that could have been
In that terrible hell? Was it possible?
Even Charlotte shook at the thought.
“You just have to let this go,” Charlotte
Kept telling her, “Or it will drive you nuts.”
But she couldn’t let it go, and it did keep
Driving her crazy. Those dreams! Those
Strange dreams with those people! It ate
Away at her night and day until any and
Every thought of the wedding later on in the
Month made her absolutely cringe.
And Brian was no help. He weakly offered,
“Do you think we should postpone the
Wedding?” But he didn’t really care, he only
Said that for sympathy for others, or
Rather to get sympathy. The poor handsome
Guy’s wedding plans tainted. But then
Many celebrations were ruined that month.
How could they not.
But even worse each day Jennifer was raked
With some awful dread. She couldn’t look at
Brian, they rarely spoke and never touched.
When they were together it grew increasingly
Uncomfortable. The whole thing felt like some
Bad omen. You made a mistake, it was all
A mistake…don’t do it. Stop the wedding and
RUN! Her insides were making her nuts.
And the Darkness came…
Worse each day and night. She did
Have dreams but not of those people. No,
Something sick and twisted began tormenting
Her with a sinister voice…causing her to
Have terrible nightmares of a bittersweet
Life with Brian of nonstop pretending and
Emptiness…She felt a coldness and a loneliness
That grew worse. And there was no light
On the horizon, only the constant growing
Darkness, a bad storm.
But it was the paranoia, right? A dream?
No…The Darkness spoke and whispered
Things to her constantly to make her feel
Worse. “They’re dead!” It would say. “They’re
All dead! Those people were secretly meeting
In those buildings…The World Trade Center
Was to be a secret meeting place…That’s
Where they met in dreams.”
The Dark Voice deliberately tormented her
To make her sick, to believe it… “That was
The end of it all, they all died there. Your
Drams are over Jennifer. Give up and give in.
Marry Brian and be a good little wife. There’s
No dream waiting for you. This is as good as
It will ever get.”
The Dark Voice seemed to find some sick delight
In tormenting her. It never stopped. She heard
Whispers in the shadows, whispers in the light…
Over voices on the television…in songs on the
Radio…It was everywhere, it tainted everything.
She never smiled, she never laughed anymore,
She only had this awful feeling that grew
Worse and worse that built each and every
Day…until she cried. As though every day
Was a nightmare relived. She cried. And she
Couldn’t talk to anyone. No one had anything
To say. And all advice was empty and
Emotionless. It was as of everyone read the
Same sympathy manual of things to say
In a crisis. No independent caring thought,
Only lame excuses and words of support
That had all the strength of Jello. Nothing
Helped, there was no forgiving moment
And no hope. Instead of the wedding
Bringing her and Brian closer together
It drove them further apart until
She hated thinking about it, hated
The dress…She couldn’t even look at it…
And as the day itself grew closer she
Felt sicker and sicker. There was no
Joy, no hope…nothing to give her a
Spark. Was this what growing older was
Going to be like?
No friend, no family member offered any
Support. Even her mother was cold about it.
She kept telling her she had a better chance
For a future than a lot of other people
And should be grateful.
Grateful? For what? For pretending and
Surrendering hope and dreams to settle for
What everyone else said was the right
Thing. People really give insensitive advice.
Real friends always listen…When it
Takes more courage to stand up to your
Friends to defend or explain yourself
That really says too much of what is
Missing in your life.
The Dark Voice grew stronger…The whispers
Deafening, until her tears were endless and
Her strength was gone. The music sang no
Songs of happiness and she couldn’t dream
And the night before the wedding came,
And the Dark Whispers kept taunting
Her ears with fears and awful words.
“They’re gone, Jennifer. They’re dead. Just
Give up. Give in…And it gave them names…
Bill’s gone…John is gone…and Julie, and
Joe and Jacob…and all the others. They
Were all there waiting for you…And they
Died together and left you behind…And
Now you’re all alone. You’re all alone Jennifer.
And you always will be.”
So that night in the darkness, when
Everyone was asleep…She had made
Them all believe everything was alright
So they never knew…She pretended
Like always that everything was okay.
Then she went into her bathroom in
The middle of the night and stood before
The mirror, pretty as a picture in white…
Tears streaming down her face…She swallowed
A fistful of pills…Then took the razors
From the shower…And slashed at the
Dark Voices by ripping her arms apart…
Then finally…a peaceful silence fell.
The words are cold and cruel…to write,
To think, to feel.
“So now you know what happened to her.”
Varence said numbly.
No chance to let him speak, nor willingness
To write his words. They said enough, told
Enough. I wasn’t there that day! But
That Dark Thing made her believe! The
Darkness always makes people believe
The worst and give up hope. It feeds
The Darkness antagonizes people to fight
For no reason, to kill dreams and hope.
God forbid anyone should be happy. And
If, when, it grants but brief moments
Of happiness it makes them pay for it.
In Darkness brews a cruelty that kills
Dreams and hope, but relishes fear.
To steal someone’s dream by lies and
Taunting whispers. I’ve had enough of
Things being taken from me. Send it
Back at them then. Send the Darkness
Back its torment. For if I have to rise
To have my dream, then I will open
The Box all the way…