The light was dim coming through the old crooked blinds, but still Bear could not sleep. Something always rattled around in his mind waking him up early in the morning with passion and purpose. Maybe it was years of voices in his mind telling him that he was going to be a big success or maybe it was his destiny. In any case, there was a force larger than him that inspired him to rise from his slumber at 8 am on the morning after Christmas and walk the streets of New Orleans.
The french quarter was buzzing as usual with its typical brand of melting pot misfits and miscreants. Speed still surged through some kids poor soul as he spoke incoherently to the sky, disintegrating clothes falling of his shrunken shoulders. A few gentle men walked delicately and silently carrying Starbucks to their sleeping and hungover brides holed up their hotel rooms. Everyone carried around their complex stories like burdens on their backs. It was hard to tell exactly what was going on with anyone. One guy just stared blankly at this stone wall, and as Bear walked by, he imagined that this man truly believed that there used to be a entrance to some hidden domain here and that if he stared long enough, the way would be magically revealed.
He walked across the street to the Coffee House on Royal Street and nestled himself into a corner of with a small soy cappuccino and a bottle of water. All around the newspapers whispered of brooding danger. The health of the millions of creatures on the coast line balanced precariously on the whim of some judges in a court case involving BP Oil. The New Orleans Advocator laughed nervously that Louisiana has an inevitable receding coastline, so the problem was “getting smaller”. Bear found a silent corner to sit in and write.
He wasn’t even a writer or a speaker or much of anything really. He was a child of earth. Years ago a magician had taught him to simply breathe and feel the energy surge through him. That was all he did these days. He was like a force of unbridled electricity with no direction or purpose. He breathed now as he wrote, whimsical words were the thrown like bricks on his path moments before his feet landed on them. His destination was uncertain.
Two kids stumbled into the Coffee House, their problems drooled off their tongues and their pain clung to their clothes like a stench that was impossible to shower off. They spoke in poetic tones of fear and revolution as if their lives were intrinsically woven into the fabric of everyone’s life, as if their choices right now would determine the course of history. One of them was drawn over to Bear.
“Hey man, what are you writing,” the kid said to him. Something rippled through his darting eyes, a chemically induced high or a recent trauma. From a distance his words blurred into a melancholy hum of drug induced madness, the kind that inhabits the brains those lost souls sleeping on the footsteps of St Louis Cathedral on Christmas morning. But, up close, it was clear that he still had many of his faculties in tact. In fact, his words were borderline prophetic.
“I’m writing about you,” Bear responded, glancing into his eyes and firing a surge of his electricity into his brain. He didn’t know why or how he did this, but periodically he would fire these shots of healing lightning into peoples minds and hope that the energy fried all the fear neurons and woke up all the inspired ones.
The kid stared back at him blankly for a second and then started to tell him this crazy story. “Last night my friend got jumped because his girlfriend’s mom is stupid and nuts. She lives in an attic a couple blocks up the street and tortures people with voodoo magic. I think they are all junked out on heroine. She hired some guys to jump my friend, just because.”
Bear immediately found many illogical and incongruent problems in the story, but began to entertain the idea that maybe there was some crazy gang of magical voodoo heroine junkies living on Royal Street in New Orleans. He imagined a dingy musty candlelit room with red fabric strung from old cedar rafters. He imagined a powerful and diabolical fortune teller sitting at a table with tarot cards, a crystal ball, an eagle claw, a lizards tail and tiny little stuffed dolls with puffy white faces and black eyes. He imagined that she had sores all over her face and spoke with a smoke infested voice that rattled through years of creole mysticism and crooned painfully through her missing teeth.
“Oh my god, here she comes right now,” he pointed towards the door of the Coffee Corner. For a moment, Bear readied himself for battle, half-expecting to see a ragamuffin voodoo lady come around the corner and fling some sort of head shrinking pixie dust at him. But when he looked, he saw this white lady with straight blond hair wearing a baby blue JCrew sweater and looking a little out of place, as if she just flew in from the suburbs of Omaha, Nebraska and never saw a black man before.
“Did you get my soy latte?” she said with a nice gentle southern lilt and a slight, very subtle, tinge of doubt and fear. He just shook his head in response. She walked swiftly away and headed towards the counter to order her drink.
The kid glanced back at Bear, terror in his eyes. “See what I mean?” he said shaking his head. “Crazy.”
It was in that moment that Bear realized something profound.
Everyone has a story. For the most part, we are small, we are silent while the world clamors out its schizophrenic symphony of voices trapped inside our minds. Many of us may never find our homes. We may never find a place to lay our heads and an ear to hear our pain or our triumph. Some of us may decide that the world is boring and stale and walk sheepishly towards death, motivated only by the next episode of our favorite mini-series. Some of us may take a bunch of drugs and wander the streets aimlessly believing that our fingertips are magic wands and our best friend’s girlfriend’s mother is a powerful demon witch with the ability to turn people into rodents. Some of us may see just a flower, but others will see a universe of lights and color and tears and joy being born out of the death of an old one. This morning, some of us may sleep a few more hours, clinging to the warmth of our sheets and reluctant to face the bright and cold world. Some of us may bottle all of our tears and dread and surge ahead to invent new patterns of thought and thereby create new realities. We are all a bit schizophrenic, half hazardously creating our realities with thoughts that have no basis in real truth. But eventually, a time will come when we realize that we are creating each moment with each thought, that we are in fact and very precisely living the lives that we think we are.
As Bear had this revelation, he felt that surge of electricity within him warm his kidneys and tingle up his spine and through his heart. Even though he didn’t know where he was going next or what he was doing now, he knew that he had a great purpose in this life. He had been given a gift of pure magic. He could feel the electricity in every moment and with every breath. He closed his eyes and imagined all his family and friends. In their ears he whispered, “Merry Christmas, from New Orleans.”