They told me the room was haunted when I rented it. But it was the last room they had and the other places were full so I decided to take it after they said it was a friendly spirit. Plus, I was exhausted and just wanted to eat and crash. And I didn’t even know if they were just messing with me.
The next day started like most others. With a wake-and-bake ritual. The ceremony featured beautifully pungent hash I scored the night before from Moroccans at Milano Centrale. Usually I don’t have hash so this ritual was special. Sort of an internationalization of the process.
My internal clock was screwed up so I was waking up at 5:30 pm after sixteen hours of so-called sleep. My drunken state precluded deep, restful sleep but I managed to get some strange species of slumber under my belt… which I still had on because I passed out in my clothes. Boots, belt and all.
Images of cat walk models in scary makeup and fresh, colorful clothes dominate the TV screen in my room. A tragically hip MTV Europe fashion special with two comely blonde VJs is all I can seem to focus on… unlike hours earlier when some kind of duck outside my first floor shuttered window was very loudly and violently quaking at a cat that screeched back as if its life depended on it. All I could think was that this was one big, mean, mighty duck. It infected my dreams with strange visions of wonderfully misshapen birds that towered over me and quacked and jerked in unison.
These disturbing duck dreams still bothered me as the scary looking fashion victims paraded behind a veil of smoke. I’m not sure if I realized it at the time, but looking back at it, the bizarre duck dreams definitely shook me up.
Suddenly I remember reality the way some people remember a dream. It just popped into my head. A missing link of sorts. A piece of a biochemical puzzle that turns out to be the rate-determining step. A glimpse into another world that rewards the senses with a calibrating perspective.
I puked my brains out the night before and it was a particularly dramatic purge. My vomit flew parallel to the ground out the window of a speeding taxi. It hung in the air like a slow motion video of a Michael Jordan slam dunk. Majestically disgusting. Little pieces of ham floated through the air like that woman on the bike in the sky during the Wizard of Oz tornado scene. At first, I didn’t realize it was ham because it went down pink but came up white after spending a few hours with my stomach juices.
Remembering this episode had a calming, comedic relief-like effect on me. Then I grew nervous. That nasty anxiety disorder decided it was time to pay an ugly visit. Why not? I’d been involved in unhealthful, high risk activities. I deserved to be punished, right? Isn’t that how it works?
Soon, I’m out of my mind. A full blown panic attack crushes me. It’s like looking up and seeing a speeding train coming at you from ten feet away. You know you’re dead. Frozen in shock-based horror, I’m now curled up on the cold marble floor of my room. It’s fight or flight but there’s no one to fight and nowhere to flee.
Eventually, like Elvis, I grab a bag of resplendent pills and, one by one, chuck them down my quivering throat. Golden Vitamin E, Bright White Vitamin C, Candy Apple Red Vitamin B, Beige St. John’s Wort, a Pink Multivitamin, and a shiny Green Prozac. Green is my favorite color so I eat the green pill last.
Most of the time, I’m high functioning but a nervous, depressed mess on the inside. Today, I’m paralyzed by internal and external demons. Dysfunctional to the pathological core.
All of a sudden, a black cat with a shiny coat comes out of nowhere. It calmly looks at me and says “I think it was Leo Tolstoy who said ‘Everyone wants to change the world but no one wants to change themself’”.
“What the fuck are you talking about?” I ask as I’m pulled into his oceanic, green eyes.
“Well, do you like your earthly experience?” he answered with a question.
“No!” I scream. “God’s cruel world is too much for me! I’ve never been happy! I’m just trying to be content… but the best I can do is get into a lover’s quarrel with life!”
“Everyone sees life happening in a different way.” said the cat. “So changing the world will take time. You’ll need to begin a journey to self-change. Change starts at home. One nail at a time.”
“I try to be a good, decent person!” I angrily yell. “I try to be the best man I can be! I’ve always tried to maximize my God-given potential! And I’m open-minded so I change the way I think and act as I learn things!”
“Maybe you’re not learning the right things” he said in such a soothing tone that I immediately felt my adrenaline rush fade… my heart stopped pounding, my palms dried up and my bowel tightened.
“The art of living is all about the ability to free your mind of the traumatic past, to free your mind of future fears… and to be able to play with every situation that is in front of you.”
“Easier said than done” I mumble.
“If you really want to master the art of living – and maybe even help change the world – then you’ll have to get to know yourself better. The meaning of life and the art of living are unlocked by self-awareness.”
“For example, do you realize that you’re in a very special minority? People differ significantly in how much their nervous system is aroused. It’s in your DNA. In fact, this is true for all higher animals – dogs, monkeys, humans, cats. About 15-20 percent of us are very sensitive to stimulation. Just as some of us are a little bigger than others, some of us are a little more sensitive. Don’t confuse arousal with fear.”
“O…K…” I think out loud.
“So your sensitivity – your subtle processing of information – is something you’ll have to recognize”, advised the cat. “Your mind works differently from most.”
“I’m guessing you’re a night person since you were sleeping all day. So not only do you have to cope with being a night owl in an early bird world… but you’ll have to cope with being a highly sensitive person in a highly un-sensitive world.”
I look into the cat’s eyes and believe what he’s saying.
“I bet you have a rich, complex inner life” he says. “And you’re very aware of subtleties in your environment… and you’re deeply moved by art… and you think of yourself as conscientious… and other people’s moods affect you… and changes in your life shake you up…”
“All true” I blurt out.
“Is this why high-priced career councilors have told me I should be a Monk?” I ask.
“Yes!” exclaims the cat. “People like you often pursue a spiritual path.”
“Is this why I’ve punched so many people in the face?” I ask.
“Probably” replies the cat.
“Is this why I’m banned from Iceland?” I ask with squinted eyes.
“I’m not sure about that one” said the cat. “But tell me more.”
I break into rap and the cat quickly becomes a feline beatbox…
Remember that time I was a bad Christian on Christmas? I smashed a dude in the head with a bottle, he needed like forty stitches I felt so bad I wanted to make him a cup of swiss miss But he would have no part of a possible nexus I drank too much, my brain got dehydrated My sinuses were fucked and my pupils were dilated Back at the club it all started real nice But before too long, I sensed maggots and mice Punk ass bitch dug his own ditch Vitriol rich, wicked wicca witch Played my rap jam, signaled to his man Start the mad plan, wave the hate fan Bottle to the head, Hater lookin’ dead Mad stitches later from the hospital bed He knows the Headcase… They say they’re comin’ to get me but you know I don’t care I got a pocket full of poetry and love in the air And if they’re thinkin’ about a trip to try and make me despair I got a casket with my demons in it right over there
“You’re on the right path” said the black cat. “Know yourself and you will have a whole new vision of what you can be.” As I sit in a hand-carved, wooden, byzantine-stylechair, the cat is purring softly and the sun’s dwindling rays are dissolving some of my tension that the years have not. I look up and confidently proclaim “I twist from the pain of the plight in the night, then rise from the lies with my eyes to the light.”
“Very nice” my feline mentor assures me. “You will find the rhythm of this life that sets you free. Now I have to go deal with that big, nasty bird.”
As I checked out, I realized nothing would ever be the same again.
"The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it."