“Hello my love” was how I greeted her every single time. Every single malt scotch placed before me. The fellow drinkers at my sides, whether they were my fellows or not, I could feel their glances, their gazes and stares as I said the words. As if I was crazy. I didn’t have many fellows left in my life, so perhaps I was crazy. Crazy for the drink I was. She was crazy for me, too.
I found myself at bars alone, where I spent most of my hours during the days that passed. Days that always felt the same, because well, they were. If I drown my depression with mind-altering substances like her, my drink, I felt free for a moment. Free to be someone else and not who I was. Free from loneliness, and I was lonely, until I felt the glass touch my cracked, parched lips.
Usually I drank myself to a blackout, which I thoroughly enjoyed because I didn’t have to endure the restlessness while attempting to fall asleep. I fidgeted. I suppose that was my body’s way of dealing with anxiety. My sleeps were dreamless, which I didn’t mind, as I forgot what dreams were like. There came a day though, after every day blurred into one and while the constant repetition became a solid habit in action: when a dream existed. My instincts were to lift, gulp, and swallow after a steady, predictable flow of self-hateful words that echoed through my consciousness, until I woke from that dream. One dream I will never forget.
I saw myself from the third-person, standing in the moonlight in a redwood forest, and I stared directly back at myself. The Moon was bright through the trees, beaming brightly upon the forest floor. I clearly saw the redness in the tree bark, the green moss that scoured, and the dark, moist soil, which I felt beneath my feet somehow. The man ahead was me, yet it was someone completely different, for he smiled. In a sense, I saw some sort of peace within that person. I felt it.
I remember that I dwelled upon the anomaly of even having a dream that night. For the moments I laid in my raggedy bed, I wondered in awe, not craving my drink. Was it truly me who I saw? How was it even possible to feel such serenity when no serenity was ever felt, at least not in my adulthood. Whoever it was, I wanted it, I craved it at that very instant. The decision marked a pivotal moment in my life. A decision that came from somewhere, somehow, from within at some deeper level that I could not fully understand — at least not at that time.
Though, in my broken state, my body had other decisions that were already set in place. For when I realized that I couldn’t have that peace and serenity that very instant, the mechanisms within swirled, my mouth watered, and instinctively I moved towards her, my drink, my “happiness”. The bar welcomed me again, at least that one bar did.
However, that day I didn’t greet her the way I normally had. I simply dwelled on the dream that remained etched, as I sipped the glass, which was unusually odder than typical odd. Yet, I ordered further because my mind said to, since I couldn’t be in that forest at that moment anyway, so what the hell. I ordered, feeling more and more lonesome, until I was booted from the bar after blacking-out. The dream that night returned, yet stayed the same. Why? I wanted to see what else would happen. I was intrigued for the first time in who knows how long.
The intrigue continued through the following months, as well as the drinking pattern. It felt as if I lived the same day, without efforts towards the decision I made. Except, I only fell deeper into depression, because I wanted to put forth effort, but had no motivation. I desired the desire to follow through, for once, but I lacked the power.
While sitting upon the bar stool one evening, and as I dwelled upon the dreams further, some sensation washed over me, a sudden ache, and not the normal aches I achieved with addiction. I felt an urge, a sense of wanting, something more than what was currently present. What happened afterwards was not what I expected, but you know what? I got up from the stool, threw cash upon the bar, and walked out.
By the time I reached home, I had sobered, which I usually hated and would normally take a detour towards the liquor market. Though I didn’t that time, I simply retrieved my keys from my pocket, lifted my hands towards the keyhole, shaking from tremors. That was the last memory of that night, and I woke in a foreign place, a foreign room, dark, but not my own dark cave of a room. I wasn’t sure where I was, but one thing was clear, that I had the dream again, but it altered slightly.
I stood gazing upon, well, me, straight ahead, and slowly I turned away. Where then my eyes closed, feeling in a sense, disappointed. Disappointed in what? Perhaps in what I saw? Was it who I was? The serene-state I felt in previous dreams the last few months faded in that one. I didn’t like it. I hated it. I wanted to turn back around, to face me again, but I was already awake.
The beeping entered my realizations, and for the first time that night I glanced around the foreign room, noticing the curtain around me. I knew where I was: the hospital. It was somewhat familiar in that moment then, as I paid the hospital many visits in the past. However, I wasn’t quite certain why I was there that day. I reached around myself for the remote attached to the bed to call the nurse. When I found it, and before I pressed the call button, a sensation came over me, much like the one in the bar. I needed to be free. I wanted to be. Free, and not by the influence of alcohol, but free in my heart, in my mind, and it hit me in that instant when I said “soul” within my mind. My soul was sending me a message with those dreams, with that hospital visit, for I, “am dying…” I whispered aloud to myself. Or rather, my soul whispered to me.
I inhaled deeply, instinctively, knowing it completely that I was near death. The nurse popped in, “Jacob, everything is alright. You are safe. I will get the doctor.” I nodded unconsciously as I stared blankly at the wall ahead of me. The button wasn’t even pressed, but I soon realized that my heart rate was elevated, which must have triggered the nurse’s desk. I turned my head towards the window after a moment, and absorbed what I already knew, not needing the doctor to inform me. How did I know? How was I so attuned to my soul so suddenly? If that was the case anyway. I ached, and immediately knew it was the truth.
The dream flooded my mind then, the imagery of myself turning away from me, and I paid attention. What else could I do? My eyes shut as the eyes of myself within the dream shut, and I hated how it caused me to feel. I had to go back! I had to go there. “I have to go there…” I whispered to the window. The decision made months ago when the dream began, to the urge I felt the night before, to the words I expressed to the stale hospital air, meant I was free. In a sense. My eyes opened, and somehow, I felt so very light, and my eyes seemed to be able to see more than before, widened, and everything was bright. Was I having a spiritual experience? No doubt about it. Then the light turned on in the room, blinding me.
The doctor spoke to me, saying how my liver was failing, that I had a seizure, and basically that I wasn’t going to live long if I continued my habit. My habit! My drink, my love, and I thought about how much I wanted one at that instant. But did I? Did I truly? Me, not my body, but me, my soul: no. I made the decision. I was to go to the forest, to see what I was meant to see, and to feel what I was meant to feel. Peace I hoped.
I found myself in my desolate apartment five days later, packed with clothes, a few gear, and a tent, and realizing that something was completely different. My life seemed completely altered. Not a single drop of my true love, and I felt amazing. In a way, I was excited to have an adventure. What a foreign word! I never journeyed anywhere. My phone vibrated and I supposed Uber arrived, so I headed downstairs.
It took me across the Golden Gate Bridge, up north through the woodlands, and dropped me in Point Reyes. I thanked the driver, which was unnatural for me, grabbed my backpack, and headed along the first trail I saw. The trees were magnificent, monsters that towered as high as some of the buildings back home. I was thoroughly impressed, as I hadn’t remembered how giant and grand they truly were.
I picked a spot off trail to set up camp, near a stream, feeling I was where I needed to be. I unpacked, and ate a granola bar, waiting until dusk. The music from my phone kept me busy, and I wandered a bit in the surrounding wood. Everything was peaceful there. No wonder I felt that way in my dream. I examined everything, from living to dry, from green to brown, to anything I could see. It was beautiful. Life seemed drastically different there, and for once my depression was left at bay, and the repetition in my head was silent.
Nightfall came along, and I was back in my tent, reading a book of all things. I was so thrilled by what I read that I nearly missed sunset. I hurried out of the tent, grabbing my flashlight before exiting, and walked away from the light in the tent so I could clearly gaze up at the stars through the trees. The realization of the vastness was remarkable, a sensation I never felt before. It surprised me.
The Moon was bright, and when I lowered my head eye-level again, I clearly saw someone ahead, just as it was in the dream. I was in the dream. However, something was different. I didn’t see me ahead. Of course not. I saw a woman, who seemed lost. She looked at me, stopping in her step, and smiled at me with worrisome eyes. I gazed at her, smiled back. I realized in that moment I felt peace, for it was the dream, but I was on the other side of it. I gazed through her eyes in the dream.
The realization shook me, and I said, “hello,” to her. She was lost, and in need of guidance. We spent every moment together following that day, and she became my love, and I never spoke to or affiliated myself with the other “her”, my drink, ever again. That moment, in the forest, under the moonlight, I fell in love with Autumn.
Time passed, as I healed. I survived, and with that, the original greeting for my previous love, my habit, became one for Autumn. Loving her became my new habit without effort from the deepest part of my soul. Me, loving truly. I was no longer alone. I felt serenity, felt peace, and I was happy.