My second episode began with a voice: “Jonathan, why are you denying your God?” Of course, it freaked me out and as I looked around the street in front of Shenzhen Foreign Languages School, I felt a strong wind and everything became surreal. One of my students approached me with a question about a poem. It was a Wagner opera telling the story of a Viking who goes to sea for seven years and has one week or year on land to decide to stay or go back to sea and repeat the journey . My student focused on one particular: “What does Thee mean?” Thee with a capital ‘T’. Well, I thought, that is often how we refer to ‘you’ but in this case it can also refer to God. I felt wrong telling him this directly, so I threw some pebbles in my student’s path to help him on his search for God as he was helping me with mine. I walked back to my room and laid in my bed thinking. I was confused. I was overwhelmed. I was waiting.
Deliberately, my door opened. A young Chinese boy stood there. No one else would let him into their room, because he annoyed them. My girlfriend and I adopted him for parts of our days. He would pound on the door because he could not open it himself and he would blaze into the room picking up everything and asking, “Zhege shi shenme?, What is this?” Cathy would tell him in Chinese, and I would answer in English. As soon as I saw the door open, I knew something else was present in the room, some spirit or something and it was affecting the way this child acted. The boy gently closed the door and walked directly to me paying no attention to the rest of the room. Under a lamp and beside my bed lay an old pillow box. The ancient Chinese used to keep these boxes to hold their most sacred possession and would sleep with them under their heads. So, the pillow box was intricately locked with an old key.
Beside the box lay an unopened condom. I meekly watched in profound silence as the boy stood over me and opened the condom. He proceeded to blow it up like a balloon. Laughter made me cry grateful tears. He then rushed off, and I heard the faucet running. He walked back and stood over me like a priest before dumping the water over my body centering on my private parts, where I felt I had sinned greatly. As I looked up, I saw the boy open the pillow box. He did not struggle in the slightest. From the box, he took: sunglasses, which he put on; a lighter, without fuel; a string of pearls that he put on his head like a crown and looked at me as if the crown were mine. He put everything back into the box and locked it back up. Well, almost everything. He then touched his eyes, his ears and his mouth and then touched mine in the same order putting his hands over me. As he touched my eyes, I saw the veil lifted and witnessed an electron screen of eternity flashing before my eyes. My other senses felt cleansed. I looked to the side of my bed and saw the cross I had been neglecting to wear. I silently watched the boy exit the room.
Although the boy had left, the spiritual presence in the room had not. I rose out of my bed and sat down on a light green armchair. As I breathed, I felt my entire body fill with breathe. It was deeper than any breathe I could have imagined. My body stretched outward and upward being completely imbued with something, some spirit, some presence, some bliss. Had I had received an anointing from the Holy Spirit?
That night I had dinner with two female friends of mine. Either spiritually in tune or bio-chemically out of whack, I was supersensitive to my environment. It became important to me that Easter was near. I recognized Rachel as a Jew and Cassie as a soul the two of us were fighting for. Each movement at dinner was symbolic especially in offering the dishes to one another and sharing food with each other. I ate little compared with my normal voracious appetite. I had Cassie wrap up our food to bring home. On the way out, I met a young girl, a lost soul in a wasteland. I offered her the food. When I turned back to see her, she was gone. I thought I was traveling through the underworld or purgatory, and I had just saved her through a simple gift.
Again I was affected by the spiritual significance of the night, and I felt a weight that slowed me down behind the two girls. One of the girls turned around and asked if I needed anything. I was practically crying. Rachel offered a hug, and we were joined completely. I felt some life force exchange between our bodies, and I had a vision of couples, male and female, united forever in heavenly bliss, the lone souls that never find the perfect mate and those that choose to be alone to bring the rest together. I saw that I had chosen the last path. Without any words, Rachel and I walked up to my room leaning on one another.
“Welcome to my castle,” I said as we crossed the threshold. It was time to live up to the law, and I asked for help. I asked Rachel to clean my room with me. It was my sanctuary turned asylum, and I was reclaiming some sacred space. As we cleaned, we talked and I opened myself up to her as she did to me. She told me about her schizophrenic boyfriend, the cheating and the lies. As we shed ourselves to one another, I was caught into the spirit again. I no longer saw just Rachel, but one woman with many faces. Here was She and I saw a celebration being prepared for a wedding feast. Here was the Whore and all other women I had passed through and left behind. Had I made a mistake? Had I passed by my eternal mate? The revelations escalated in intensity and speed until I was lost in a labyrinth of my own life, my own creation. Was I back in high school when I had devised a great puzzle to baffle my calculus teacher? Was I inside that puzzle I had created? I had bit my own head off, chewed it up and spit it back upon my face. I was horrified and ecstatic all at once. Rachel came to me and I hugged her about the waist resting my head on her womb. Never in my life have I experienced such a thing. I felt her belly grow with me inside. I felt myself grow over nine months, the water break and my coming back into myself. I know what is meant by ‘born again’ experiences.
“Holy shit, oh my fucking God are you fucking kidding me?” I repeated over and over as I saw visions of planes rerouting through eternity and the long wait of those who guard the sacred cup of life. I was drinking from a vessel I was not ready for and it almost destroyed me. As the noise protruded into the neighboring cells, my friends joined the clamor, and I pointed at all of the significance in their clothes, shoes, face and hair. I must have looked like a madman. I fled into the bathroom to confront these thoughts alone.
All I had left was my cross. This was a test and I was hanging on by a thread. I had visions of orgiastic ecstasy with many wives or the perfect wife, most beautiful and high, but I denied them all, as I was waiting for The One. I was waiting for God through Christ, my betrothed. I clung to that cross not in remembrance of him but in faith of Him to come to me. Decades and centuries, millennia and epochs of time passed as I sat alone holding on to my heart until there was nothing left. I was petrified in horror that if I were to open the door, nothing would greet me. I ardently believed that everything outside of that door had ceased to exist or had never existed at all. Yet some other thread bound my heart. I was tied to the world. I was in hell but some golden thread was guiding me back to the world. I was being called from my loneliness. This call I could not deny. My loneliness was too great. I just wanted to exist, to see, to feel acknowledged in life and presence. I burst open the door and ran to find someone to cling to, some shred of life to hold on to. I saw my good friend Pete at the door. The look in his eyes terrified me, as I recognized one who is truly seeing the terror of my eyes, which did not recognize the Pete in him. All I knew in him was gone, and I did not trust him. I went past him to Rachel, who I frantically clung to about the waist. They must have been afraid I was going to hurt someone. She screamed and tried to get away, but I clung to her and never let go for a moment. We made it to Cassie’s room.
The next thing I remember, I was on the ground clinging to my hand. Was I back at the fraternity house? The cars outside sounded as if they were passing over me. “Wouldn’t it be funny if I just sucked his dick right now,” I said. Again, I was lost in the labyrinthine pit of my own mind.
“Your hand is the only thing important right now, Jon. Look at your hand. Your hand is the only thing important right now, Jon. Look at your hand,” Jeremy brought me back down like a Buddhist master who knew how to temper the mind from ecstatic revelry. Next thing I knew, I was in a Shenzhen hospital musing on a tree or the sound of the leaking gutter while we waited for a doctor. The hospital was simple with wooden benches stained by blood and specked with hair, but there was a serenity added from the natural growth and beauty. Soon, I was getting my hand stitched over a piece of bloody newspaper trusting Pete to be my reason and protector. He watched each stitch, as I writhed on the bench like a woman giving birth. And that was how I felt. I was giving birth to myself, and the doctor was closing the wound.
After the surgery, I walked outside to talk to the flowers on the doorstep. An ancient Chinese woman shared my insight and we smiled knowingly at one another. For the first time, I saw the beautiful seaside garden city of Shenzhen. Yet, something was wrong. There was a great deal of fear in the air. I noticed it in the subtle language of the Chinese. How had I not noticed it before? Every move, every block, every gesture was significant to these people who would not ‘lose face’. Of course, it was the same with my friends and all people present in the state I was in. We passed books about, underlining significant lines. It was a Living Word being passed amongst man not just from the books but with every move and sigh of our bodies. We are all the living vehicles of God, and I was beginning to see this presence everywhere.
At this time, millions of Chinese people were in the streets wearing thin masks to protect themselves from a virus. Reportedly, at least two people had died from carbon monoxide poisoning for following the government’s instructions: They had been boiling vinegar and left their stoves on all night long. Of course, vinegar could not stop SARS, nor could the masks. In fact, I was convinced that all diseases like SARS were induced by fear. I was convinced of a conspiracy. There was no SARS, only our fear of it, which could manifest itself into symptoms of disease and even death. It was the drip bag, the prescribed medicine that introduced the disease. Nothing was as it seems, yet everything seemed itself to me.
For three days, I too was in the tomb. I had a bed in what seemed to be the geriatric psychiatry ward at a hospital in Hong Kong. Dr. Wu told me to follow the yellow brick road. Little did he know that was how I would escape the hospital. In the meantime, I had to contend with The Unbearable Lightness of Being. The book cover frightened me so much, I needed Cassie to telephone me and tell me to put the book in a drawer. My friends visited me and brought me food from the outside. I had my appetite back and enjoyed every bit of the burrito Meghan brought me. It took some coaxing from the old man next to me to eat my rice and greens. His loving encouragement enabled me to enjoy my meal and even share some of his.
At one point I lost control and attempted to remove the intravenous drip from a patient. Fortunately, there was a nurse there to stop me. Still, I managed to spit a baptism onto the man. At this point, I heard a sound come from my body that made me know it was not mine at the time. It sounded like Satan had belched words of such incomprehension that it could have been no other demon in my body. Security had already been called. Following the signs, I performed the instructions on the bottom of a nearby bed and released myself by lying on the ground. Soon my dad was on the telephone and another crisis had been averted. After the medication set in, I calmed down.
When I needed release from the over-stimulation, I put on my sunglasses and my headphones, laid in bed and listened to Louis Armstrong and Norah Jones. I felt welcomed amongst the artists who were busy trying to wake up the rest of the world. I watched cars and trucks pass by in rainbows outside the window. But, it was not all sunshine and lollipops. Some of the geriatrics suffered. I longed to take some of their suffering away. In fact, I prayed for it. Soon I was listening to all the beeps and watching all of the flashing lights in the hospital. Every color, every sound, every movement had a meaning. We were in a spiritual battlefield, and I was on the front line. I trusted the nurses when I heard the sound of paper crumpling but not the sound of plastic. Yet, even this perception could flip upside down. There was little to navigate by but everything was a sign. I tried to be obedient to the right signs. Soon I was walking out of the ward after shuffling between a few yellow curtains and I found myself next to a desk outside an elevator. I pulled the drawer open and found a plastic container, which I filled to the brim with feces. As I thought of the old man, I knew my prayer had been answered. Once, I ventured so far that I walked down a corridor and hearing the birds singing, I went outside. I found myself in front of the hospital beside a taxi with the door hanging open.
As before, I would return to my bed and wash my hands like a surgeon, yet I was cleansing the spirit. I spent a great deal of time in the bathroom. When I showered, I shat on my towels or the floor depending upon how much I trusted the nurse. I cleaned after myself meticulously. The world seemed to be held in balance when I caught some light in my glasses and proceeded to hold an image in them for hours. I was looking at a red dragon trying to consume a dark spot, the earth, and I held it at bay but kept the threat imminent, for there was no way to destroy the dragon without destroying the dark spot. Pairs of objects became important, and gifts were a blessing. I put two granola bars inside of my slippers for the night to bless a recent wedding of my brother’s friend. I poured out warm water for other patients on the ward. Finally, I began to see the patients as ancestors and brethren of a universal language that I was learning amongst them. When I began to rip up pieces of newspaper and write new poetry, they applauded my efforts as if watching a boy tying his own shoes. I was on my way. When my brother arrived, I had been writing for hours on tissue paper. Together, we had one last glimpse of Hong Kong from the summit of Victoria’s Peak.
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