Monday, April 20, 2009


They are back.

It has been nearly a year since I last heard them. Nearly a year since I sent them unwillingly away. I didn't want to admit that they would ever return, but after this morning I think maybe they have. At first it was just a passing thought, the quick snap of dread that comes from nowhere and vanishes just as quickly. A few days roll by without incident, and then the sensation of needing air hits without warning. It is a suffocating sensation that I believe folks with asthma or respiratory disease must endure constantly. But for me it is a harbinger. It is a warning that they are near, and that they have come to talk. This morning started as most mornings start. The daily routine of rolling out of bed, showering, making coffee, eating a bit of breakfast and going to work went off without a hitch. It is the same everyday, and I believe I could walk the steps in my sleep. As I drove my 25.6 miles in the morning dark, I slowly came to the realization that I was no longer alone.I've seen the signs this time, but it still caught me off guard when they invaded my thoughts.

The last time I heard them they would tell me the secret places where my car would crash most spectacularly. They would whisper as I came upon the bridge where the state crew has negligently left out a guardrail. "It's just a little shift of the hand, and the car will drift off the road and smash head on into the stone wall. Everyone will think you fell asleep. The lane is clear. do it. veer right. do it. now. go. now."I could see the wall approaching. I could feel the peace of finality. I could feel the flames and hear the sirens. I could see my wife weep as I lay in a sweet restful coma. And then the wall would pass as I drove home.

The last time the voices spoke, it took me months to quiet them.This time I think they are pissed that I have held them in exile. They are furious that I have built up the walls to hold them back, one small white pill at a time. I thought it would hold, and have been lulled into the false security of a father who has grown the hedges tall to avoid the neighbor's unsightly backyard, muddy and dug up in a round bare rut by a vicious drooling pitbull tethered to a stake. Out of sight, out of mind.....until the day the father turns his back on his toddler at the same moment the rusty stake breaks free from the ground.Yes, while I have been believing they were gone, they have been pacing back and forth just on the other side of the wall. They have been looking for weak spots to chip away at while I blissfully have gone about my business. They have been scratching and clawing to reach the top, and have been digging deep to tunnel underneath. This morning their efforts to breach the drug-induced seal paid off, as they gleefully swirled in my consciousness, the fortress broken.

"pathetic. weak. hopeless."

they laugh at me

"worthless no good piece of shit."

they mock my very existence as they press in on my lungs and blur my vision. I have feigned activity all day, trying to appear as if nothing is wrong. I have shuffled the same stack of papers and walked the same hallways while I have secretly battled the whispers. And now, as I prepare to make my 25.6 mile drive home, I know that at exactly 9.3 miles from where I start I will pass the place where the road crew has negligently left out a guardrail.

I wonder if the voices will notice.


  1. I, too, have heard a variation of these voices... What would it be like to just keep driving? Not to take that off ramp, but just keep going? To the mountains, the desert. And when the gas runs out, wherever it runs out, just get out and walk. Until you can't anymore. And then you won't need to.
    No pills. Just iron will developed over a painful life.
    I tell the voices to bloody well piss off.
    Sometimes it even works. For awhile.

  2. I would imagine most artistic souls hear the whispers from time to time.

  3. OH Wow... been there.. often... still there most times..

  4. I think ALL artists are given blessings & curses. We see the world more intensely it its joy, but feel the deeper pull of despair almost unbearingly so. There is no room for this in our culture.In other times& cultures, we would have been a shaman & could go off into our huts and chant, write in the dirt, go unbathed. Now, we are given meds and therapists.