The Lady in White Light
Fast forward to the present.
I was startled awake in a cold sweat despite the warmth of the sun on my face. I always woke this way when I dreamt about the day my father left. It was not one I could easily escape, try as I might. In fact, it was a memory that haunted me almost every night. It was a dream I had when I felt restless, when I could no longer ignore the feeling inside of me that I tried to repress: the “purpose” my father tried to instill in me that day. It would build up in me until it manifested itself in my night-time dreams, forcing me to acknowledge its presence. I still refused to accept it fully. And so it was a cycle: I would repress what I felt, it would resurface, giving me nightmares of that last memory, and then I would repress it once again. I wasn’t ready to accept anything my father left me with that day. Despite my desire to pull the covers over my face and block out the light of the morning sun, I forced myself out of bed.
Next to my bed were papers strewn about as if a miniature tornado had wreaked havoc in my bedroom while I slept the night away. Remnants of last night’s activities. Though I knew what I would see on the papers, I looked at them anyway, hoping to be intrigued. My mind recalled the titles, the words of each song; some were of my own creation, some were not. I looked around at the wreckage before me, trying to wake up fully, until my eyes fixed onto one particular page:
I had a thought that made me fall,
Back to the heart with concrete walls.
And it silences my loudest calls.
And now, I can’t be free.
A twinge of regret and sorrow panged in my heart for seeking reminders to those thoughts I tried so hard to ignore. Was I being too dramatic? Or was I regretting facing the truth? I sighed and brushed the thoughts away before I had too much time to analyze, something I did way too much. It had more to do with what I would be forced to analyze, but I’d had years of practice ignoring even this recognition. I pushed each revelation back to its proper place in the back chambers of my mind where it belonged. The cycle beginning once again. I wondered how long it would take to resurface this time, shuddering at the thought. How long could I go on living this way? This was something I couldn’t beat on my own. Something big would have to happen before I could accept what I kept hiding from myself.
I pulled myself out of bed, ready to create a new task for the day. As I passed my desk, I recognized more evidence of the previous night’s activities. Books, notes, all of my marked attempts at keeping my mind inundated. This time around it was a look into religion. It was one of my many attempts to waken what was buried in me long ago. But no matter how much I studied, I still ended up with the same feeling: a restlessness to settle into a purpose. Surely, there was one for me. But why did nothing satisfy me?
Mind check. I caught myself before I ran away with this question. I had to be careful about what I chose to think; giving over to logic, I remembered, would help me cope with the intangible, the inner understanding that, like everyone, I existed for a reason. I just hadn’t found it yet, or, rather, had it simply not found me? How could I possibly answer that without acknowledging what I was trying to ignore? Once again, I reminded myself that I wasn’t ready to think about it. I wasn’t ready to find the purpose my father tried to leave with me. In any case, my inner thoughts were certainly not a big enough catalyst to motivate me to find whatever it was he wanted me to find.
It was too early to think this much. So I pushed myself to other, “healthier” musings. First at bat: what did I do last night? I remembered having dinner with some of my friends. I was so distracted last night, more so than usual.
At times, I can be a rather taciturn companion, and, last night, I was more quiet than usual. I generally like to keep most of my thoughts to myself and only speak when necessary. The friends I have don’t seem to mind. They are usually garrulous enough for an army of people, and I get along well enough. A little sarcasm here and there to lighten the mood or some small observation is usually the role I play in whatever group I happen to find myself in at the time. It’s my little place in any dynamic. Close enough for comfort but never too close. It’s the way I like to keep things.
But back to the question: what did I do? I was unusually reticent last night.
Sometimes I have these moments, when those questions I shut out with logic gnaw at me in different ways. They play on my emotions: I want to discover, but I don’t know where to go: I want to think, but I don’t know what of: I want to do something, but I don’t know which part of myself to put into action. And I’m too afraid to find the solution to these urges.
Feeling this way is like being submerged in an infinite ocean, equally surrounded by water on all sides. I want to go up, but I haven’t the slightest clue which way that is. The vibrations in the water tell me that “up,” wherever that might be, is reachable. I can feel creatures moving all around me in the water, but I can’t tell if they’re swimming up or down or across or diagonally; even more, one is not near enough for me to grasp in hopes of reaching up. And I’m running out of air.
After swimming in these thoughts throughout dinner that night, I decided to end my evening with the girls early. They were a little sad to see me go, but I knew they would be better off if they didn’t have to witness my brooding. They were used to these mood swings, so much so that they didn’t argue with me any more when I chose to go home from a night out with them. Sad, but true. I hated that they were so accustomed to my being that way, but at the same time, I knew there was nothing I could do to change that part of myself. It was a double-edged sword. Thankfully, one that they were willing to put up with.
I thought I had gotten back home around nine o’clock that night. I opened the door to my one bedroom, one bath apartment in hopes that this physical sanctuary would lead me to a mental one. I surveyed the living room and connecting dining room. Cluttered but neat. Clean. Colorfully eccentric. With deep blues and purples, mint greens, mustard yellows, fire oranges, blood reds, teals and wonderful textures and patterns; not one thing matched another, yet it all fit, somehow perfectly, together. I had achieved outwardly what I could not yet achieve inwardly. I remember it being so comforting to decorate and to furnish, and for a while, this home felt peaceful and serene. It felt like me.
I took off my shoes and threw them haphazardly on the floor, dropped on the couch and reached for the remote. I could lose my thoughts for a few hours in front of the tube. Innocent enough. I needed a break. As I lay on my side and pulled a nearby blanket over me, I began to flip through the stations. News? No, thanks. Comedy? Nothing on. Romance? I wasn’t in the cheesy mood. Cartoons? The need for nostalgia was not in me. After about fifteen minutes of perusing, I turned the television off, defeated.
I decided it was probably time for bed, or at least time to attempt to go to bed; I knew it wouldn’t be that simple for me this night. I sat at my desk and looked over the latest ideas I had decided to study. It was all interesting enough, but not exactly what I had a taste for doing on this night, so I simply looked over the notes I had made with vague concentration and flipped through a few books I had lying on the desk. I took a glance at the many notes to myself I’d jotted in the margins of these books. Not tonight. I didn’t have that kind of focus.
Eventually, I made it over to my bed. I picked up my Ovation: light colored wood glossed over with carvings in darker brown and red wood at the bottom part of the guitar that rested on my knee. I started to pick a little, playing familiar songs, some old and some new. I pulled out some tabs and score sheets of songs that I liked or songs that I had written. Last night, I stuck with the songs that were a little sad and contemplative.
Somewhere in that span of time, I fell asleep, finally free from the inner workings of my mind. Until I was rudely interrupted by my usual nightmare. How did I not see it coming this time around? After recollecting last night’s endeavors, I started to think again. How did I end up here?
When I asked myself this ever pressing question, I instinctively touched the charm on the necklace that rested on my chest. Remembering. I delicately traced my fingers over its smooth surface, and finally, unable to fight it, I looked at the charm, turned and bent it so that the light could catch it at each of its angles that made it shine in gold, blue and deep red. I looked over the writings and symbols. IRE; the blue face; the heart enclosed by the borders of some foreign country. I was no nearer to understanding why my father gave this necklace to me in the present moment than I was when it was given to me. I recalled what he said to me that day, and, like clockwork, pushed it away as best as I could into the far corners of my mind. Whatever the purpose behind this necklace was, it hadn’t happened, and I was beginning to think that it was just some fanciful story he told me to help me deal with losing him. If it did have a purpose, I wasn’t ready for it, and, since nothing had happened, I didn’t think it was coming anyway.
Back to the present. Saturday. What was there for me to do? I was sure I’d think of something. I walked to the kitchen to make something to eat for breakfast. I opened the refrigerator to take a look at what I had, but there wasn’t much to choose from. No eggs. That ruled out a lot of things I could eat for breakfast. There was bacon, but what was the use without eggs? I looked over to the fruit bowl, and there were only two, well aged bananas. I took one, peeled it and started to eat while looking through the rest of my kitchen for something more to eat. I looked in my freezer in hopes that I might have a lone frozen waffle or pastry to heat in the toaster; no luck. In fact, there wasn’t much of anything in the freezer at all. To the cupboards I thought to myself. Also bare.
So I concluded what was obviously to be number one on my agenda today: grocery shopping. I threw the banana peel away and tore into the last one that was left. At least I was eating a healthy breakfast. While finishing off the second banana, I began to make a list of the things I needed from the store: milk, eggs, fruits, vegetables, meats, cheese…
My focus was broken by the telephone.
“Hello?” I answered.
“Oh, hey Amanda! What’s up?” I said, relaxing. Why did I feel so on edge just before?
“Did you forget?” she asked placidly.
“Forget what?” I replied, confused.
“We have a show tonight, remember? You’re singing at seven o’clock tonight at La Ideal. We need to do a quick run through in about an hour,” she said, sounding a little more irritated.
“Why so early? Is there something wrong?” I responded, still confused.
“Wrong? No, we’re good to go. And it’s not too early. It’s almost five o’clock.”
Now she sounded really incensed. How did time get away from me so fast? So much for grocery shopping. I was glad that I hadn’t planned anything else to get done today.
“Grey, you there?” she asked, now sounding more worried than angry.
“Yeah. I’ll see you soon,” I said, distracted.
“Yeah, I’m fine…the time just got away from me today…can you pick me up on your way?” I asked, trying to sound more composed.
“Yeah, I’ll see you in an hour.”
The phone cut off before I could say anything more. I was relieved that I didn’t have to keep faking, convincing her that I was fine when I wasn’t because I didn’t want the conversation to lead into anything deeper than how we left it. Amanda was a questioner at times; she was one of the few people I knew who could read me so well, and I didn’t like it. My thoughts were exactly that: mine. And after a night like last night, I’m sure Amanda would be full of questions and probing if I gave anything away.
Where did the time go? I didn’t lay in bed that long. At least, I didn’t think I did. I tried to recount last night’s events to waking up in the present moment, and the time didn’t add up. Odd. I had this strange feeling that what was awakening within me was not like all the other times. I couldn’t distract these thoughts and feelings with the things I normally did, the things I loved doing. Singing tonight at La Ideal being an example of one of those distractions.
I couldn’t help but touch the necklace again.
I went to the bathroom and turned on the shower. As I lathered my hair, I started to hum. The humming soon turned into full fledged singing, practice for tonight’s gig. Suddenly, I remembered what was missing from last night’s restless activities.
Usually on nights like last night, I would see her: this silhouette of a woman covered in white light. They started coming to me after my father left. At first, I was terrified, too afraid to talk about her with anyone, not even my mother. Eventually, as I got used to these visions, I just brushed it off as best I could as some weird way of coping with losing my father and nothing more. Still, it bothered me that they continued happening to me. This woman I would see in my dreams would catch me in the moments between consciousness and unconsciousness. But they weren’t exactly dreams; they were more closely related to visions. In dreams you can move, interact. You can do fantastic things like flying or running at the speed of light. In these dreams, for lack of a better description, I could only do two things: see and hear. She appeared to me, usually by my bed, in the form of a great white light. She was always very still, and her thoughts seemed to bore into my own like there was some sort of wavelength our minds shared so that our thoughts were interchangeable; she never spoke to me in words. In these moments, I felt connected and whole. I felt like I had a purpose or like I was on the verge of finding one. With each encounter, I would wish to hold onto the vision of her long enough to know what that purpose was, but I never could. They disappeared too quickly.
I sometimes think she is trying to speak to me, but all I can hear is wind. In my heart, however, I know she’s trying to tell me something I need to hear, something important to my very being. Possibly about the reason behind my restlessness. Possibly about my father. I haven’t figured it out yet. All I know is that the more restless I’ve gotten over the years, the more intense these “visions” have become; and whenever I do feel restless, as my father had once predicted, she comes to me. Which brings me to this thought: why didn’t I see her last night?
Suddenly, my eyes felt a haze wash over them. It wasn’t the steam from the shower. I knew that much. My body felt stiff, almost like the feeling you get when one of your limbs falls asleep, but it wasn’t painful. It was numbing, yet relaxing. My head buzzed like an old computer screen in a quiet room, and although I knew the water from the shower head still rained down hot water on my back, my skin felt cold and clammy. I knew this feeling.
It was the feeling I had every time I saw her, but it couldn’t possibly be that. It never happened to me in my waking life. But then…I heard the wind. It blew gently against my shower curtain, moving it slowly, surreally. It was her. My vision. Even more, I could move. With all the same feelings that normally paralyze my body, I discovered that this time, I had full control over my physical self. How was this happening?
I turned off the shower and covered my body with a towel. Looking out of my bathroom into my bedroom, I saw the light. I saw her in all of her magnificent luminosity. The wind was blowing more strongly in my room, shaking the blankets on my bed. I blinked. It was still there, wind and all. I blinked harder. Still there. I rubbed my eyes. Still there! I slapped my arm. Pain. I wasn’t dreaming. I could almost hear the wind translate to a whisper, but it was very faint. There were distinct words, incomprehensible though to me…I knew she was speaking. Was she speaking to me? I caught a word.
“Tonight? What about tonight?” I asked, managing to quiver out the words. My heart was racing.
What’s soon? Words could no longer travel from my thoughts to my lips. Now I was frozen in place. Only this time by choice. I dared not move another inch.
Who’s coming? Man? Woman? Good or bad? I had nothing to draw from.
The haze in my eyes lifted, and when I blinked, she was gone. I shook with fear, with unintelligible thoughts. I couldn’t react. I couldn’t even breathe. The sound of my doorbell pulled me back into reality. Amanda. Oh, no. I had to pull myself together. There was no way she could see me like this; she’d ask too many questions, and this was one thing I refused to let her in on. She’d think I was a lunatic. By this point, I was already questioning my sanity; I didn’t need anyone else to point an accusatory finger at me. My own was enough.
The bell rang again, twice in rapid succession. I could tell Amanda was getting irritated. I threw on the first clothes I could find and pulled my hair back out of my face with a red headband. A quick glance in the mirror brought me back to reality. Aside from the obvious traces of fear still left in my eyes, I still looked like me. Plain, but not maniac material. I opened the door with my best game face, but nothing could escape Amanda’s intuitive nature. She looked at me questioningly. I smiled back weakly in response.
“Ready?” I asked quickly to keep her from analyzing me any longer, quickly averting my eyes from her stare.
“You okay? I’ve been ringing this bell for about ten minutes.”
Ten minutes? Why was the time escaping me so much today? I swore she rang my doorbell only twice. The first broke me out of my frightened stupor; the second got me to the door. Remembering my timing had been a little off this whole day, including last night, I refrained from questioning it further.
“Oh, really?” I said as smoothly as possible, “Sorry about that. I guess I got distracted in the shower. Sometimes it’s hard to hear anything when I’m in there.”
“I’m sure that’s what it was,” she said, unconvinced.
By the way she looked at me, I knew she could tell something was off. But was it really? Maybe it was just my imagination getting away with me. I mean, she had appeared right when I thought about her, something that had never happened in my life. I probably just got lost in a daydream, imagining what it would be like to see her in a different way. I had a tendency to let my daydreams run away from me. That seemed rational enough.
So I shrugged it off as nothing which helped me to relax back into my normal ease. This change seemed to relax Amanda too, and that meant, she wouldn’t pay as much attention to my mood. Danger averted. I grabbed my guitar case and headed out the door. By the time we walked down the stairs to her car in the parking lot, I was almost back to normal. At least the normal level I was at when I got out of bed. I felt like I was pulling myself back together more completely as we drove away from my apartment complex. I leaned my head against the head rest, closed my eyes and relaxed.
Yet I couldn’t fight this new, intense feeling that something was on the horizon. The picture of that light, fixed by my bed flashed fresh in my mind. I kept my eyes from popping open in surprise. My heart fluttered at the recollection of seeing her. I lifted my hand, gingerly rubbed my arm and felt a dull throbbing in the spot I had slapped earlier; there was still a sting of pain left. Enough pain to remind me that what happened was real. It wasn’t a dream. I had seen the lady in white light in a new setting, and I heard her. She was finally trying to speak to me, possibly warn me. I tried hard to remember what she said:
Could this be connected to the intuitive feeling I had earlier, the feeling that told me that this time I wouldn’t be able to ignore the reality of what my father tried to leave with me so long ago? For some reason, I knew that I was going to have to finally face whatever it was that was coming. My days of repressing and ignoring what I tried not to understand were numbered. And according to my vision, someone was going to be the reason I had to face this purpose.
But was this person going to be good or bad? Certainly anyone mentioned in a sentence with the same word as escape could not be good. Or perhaps this person was coming to help me escape? Whoever it was, there was going to be someone or something that I eventually had to evade. But who could that be? I didn’t have any enemies, at least not ones that I was aware of. I lived a simple life and mostly kept to myself. Who could possibly be coming for me? There were too many questions left open ended and no one to make any clarifications for me.
Amanda looked over at me, sensing that I had a lot on my mind. If she even saw the tip of the iceberg of these countless inquiries, she would certainly think I was crazy and overly paranoid. I tried to breathe as evenly as possible, once again keeping my eyes from meeting hers. I didn’t need to look into the side view mirror to know that every emotion I felt was definitely not hidden. At least not yet. I couldn’t compose myself.
“Seriously, Grey, what’s up?” she demanded more than inquired.
“I’m just off today, that’s all. Overslept. That’s why I didn’t realize how late it was until you called,” I explained away as evenly as possible. At least I had enough energy to make up a legitimate story off the cuff. She seemed to buy it for the most part.
“You sure that’s all? What’d you do last night?” She needed further convincing.
“I don’t remember exactly. Studied. Played some guitar. That’s about all. It was pretty boring. I guess I just stayed up later than I thought I did,” I explained, trying to sound nonchalant.
She left it at that, realizing that I wasn’t in the mood to talk about me. I turned my head to look out the window, laying my head back on the seat. I closed my eyes again and tried to focus on the atmosphere. The wind rushing in the car, blowing gently against my hair. My eyes popped open again in fear, as I was quickly reminded of my recent vision. I steadied my breathing and tried again to loosen up. I breathed in and out with more deliberation, counting as I took air in and as I expelled it from my body. I focused this time on the sun as my skin soaked in its rays. I tried to focus on each part of my body that could feel its heat, picturing each ray melting into my skin.
Despite the warmth of this summer day in Florida, I couldn’t help but shudder.