This is a story about the day I died.
The old vet, the retired spy with a lump on his head like a handball-sized third eye, who sits at the bar with teeth worse than broken branches on a dead tree. He sits at the bar for hours, but only drinks when somebody is buying and otherwise sips on soda water with a lemon wedge. He has a frightening genuine quality that is betrayed by tall tales and yarns spun of material that may or may not exist. Sometimes, when I sit inside his mind, I see that in a sadly fractured sense, he perceives himself as some sort of James Bond or Jason Bourne.
He doesn’t drink, but he watches me soak myself in beer and whiskey like a janitor trying to remove a stain. He tells me I’m a genuine article human being.
I tell the vet, the retired spy, about moments when I reach polar extremes of emotion and slide into a completely un-emotive character. I go calm like a sociopath hiding in the open. At the brink of total, chaotic, fractal reproduction of a moment of vehement anger or orgasmic joy, my expression, my affect, makes glaciers look as though they are racing.
He says, with all the confidence of someone lost in their own architecture, “You know what they call that?”
“Meditative?” I had never understood it fully myself. That place that anchors the storm to the sea, keeping it from spinning out of control, had always felt as though I had sheared myself away from myself. Corporeal existence lacked import. The mind was the all-seeing of the universe; with all at ease and at war simultaneously.
“Mystic Transport is what that is.”
The vet, the retired spy, looks at me and speaks a level of envy; not many people can get to that place.
It happens with remarkable frequency when I am riding my bike. That entheogenic pedaling rhythm that Albert Hofmann must have felt.
Without the acid, mind you. The last time, I was watching an urban aerial dogfight between 30 or 40 crows and a hawk. The crows, with bravado, would dive and swoop at the hawk, usually with little effect or even contact. But their attack was seemingly endless; an enemy escort through occupied airspace. They pestered the hawk with a viciousness. When I realized I had begun Mystic Transport, I was concerned solely with the resolve and persistence with which the hawk flew its course and ignored the crows, other than to make minor adjustments in flight pattern, so as not to smack into one of the flailing younger crows joining the battle. I had lost connection to my body’s steady command of the bike. I was privileged with wings and the ultimate peace of a bird of prey.
That’s peace: seamless, endless existence with none of the worry.
It can also occur in moments beyond the capacity of the word duress to describe.
The first time anybody ever put a gun to my head, I was 13.
He was still a child, too. Maybe 16 or 17. Sure, he was nearly double my size, but he was no man. He was a goon with a loaded revolver in his hand; every other chamber in the cylinder was full. The air sucked in around me like black mud you could barely breathe. The two piranhas in the fish tank were about to get a show that would delight their tastes.
The unwieldy nature of the waterbed’s surface made it easier for him to pin me down, regardless of his giggling girth. He was enjoying this with a zeal most minds seem unprepared to understand. Mine didn’t at the time; maybe it can now.
Screams could not pierce the bubbled-in air where safety existed. The kneecaps felt almost as if slicing my biceps. He laughed even harder at my feeble attempts to escape his dominance and I soon gave up to the indignity of him pressing my face into my own snot, saliva and tears. I went quiet not long after pissing myself, just after the third whirling-click sound of the cylinder rotating and stopping on his command.
The way I see it, in the movie theater of my mind now, is almost more from the perspective of the piranhas; the angle, at least. Except for the fat kid with the gun on top of my back, we were all waiting for a conclusion of the feast. Or is that merely the setting of the table? The most salivary moment of the feast is when it arrives.
In my silence, I glided through a nothingness of concern for the slowly-warming steel at my temple. I don’t even recall hearing the last hammer strike. I know it came without a blink or flinch from me.
Moments later, or an eternity that enveloped creation, the .357 shells lay empty, as they had been all along, sinking into the shit brown shag carpet. The fat kid with the gun’s laughing was more maniacal and self-pleased than ever, yet it sounded further away than a dead relative. He was titillated with his joke. A prankster enjoying that which is equivalent to post-coital glow.
And with a sudden halt he, too, went quiet and left the room full of a type of death that never reaches the stench of decomposition.
I did say this was a story about the day I died.
And now we know why they call them a murder of crows. The old vet, the retired spy, he knows this, even if he’s full of untruths and fantasies that bury reality to minimize the pain.
He sees that quiet, that mystic transport, and acknowledges the death in it. It is the very reason he laughs a small, odd little laugh when he tells me I’m a genuine article human being. It’s a joke we can both laugh at; the lie we both can appreciate with the same smirky zeal the fat kid with the gun felt.
I offer to buy him a drink.