It was November 8, 2015. I will always remember the date.
It was that day I was taught to differentiate all of the numerous nicks and scratches that my natural haphazard gait and clumsiness had caused throughout my life with marks and tracks that now remain as badges of pain and shame painted in scars across my arms and legs. No one put a gun to my head and said, “try this or die.” I was never forced to do anything other than satiate my own devious desires and temptations. Rather, it was a sweet smile and what I now understand and have reconciled to be a lonely whisper disguised and paraded before me in poisonous promises of a good time that coaxed me out of what had been a decade of declining to take that plunge. Smoking and snorting drugs were child’s play with which I had engaged habitually over the course of my life and I knew that injecting would be my own end game. I continue to combat the urge to fall prisoner to all of my pointy preoccupations, and I know I will until my last breath. As time has passed since my last stab wound, I am fortunate to have been granted the gift of perspective and insight. After allowing myself time to reflect upon those concepts, I find that I am now left with a year and a half of dark memories I have aptly and ominously labeled ‘death.’
I am obviously still physically alive, I know that I am breathing so I must be alive, though most of the time it does not feel as such. So I use the word ‘death’ as an analogy to define the all encompassing finality that first plunger pushed set into motion with respect to my life. The death of my self-respect and dignity. The death of my self-control. The death I sat atop pleading with and pounded upon after it crept into the chest of the owner who had first given me a taste of death’s sharp sting. Two of my own intimate caresses with death during subsequent overdoses, both occurring on the island where I had come to make death’s acquaintance. The death of friendships, both false and real. The death of trust in me by family and friends. The death of hope. The death of my own sanity during the month’s I spent skipping stones across the dark placid pools in my own mind labeled logic and reality. Death and its unwavering chokehold has strangled me for the last year and a half, and I now find myself searching for air amongst the rotting and putrid pieces of myself and all those associated with death I now choose to leave behind in my wake.
I skim through the annals containing my blood splattered pages of pain each moment I find myself tempted to surrender to that sharp needle tip just one more time. I often frequent the lustful feeling of succumbing to just one more fleeting foxtrot with that numbing sensation the needle brings with its efficiency at silencing the world around me. The trade off is its instantaneous ability to swallow me in despair following that moment of serendipitous silence. At this time this desire still happens frequently in every other passing moment of each day. I am told my pangs for tasting that destruction will slowly dissipate, I scream often for this sanctuary, though I have yet to find it or any solace there as of yet. What distinguishes my current plight for salvation from my countless prior failed caresses with sobriety is the presence of hope that now pulsates through me. That subtle glimmering light is but a flicker in my eyes fostering if only seconds of passing positivity and I can feel it as it permeates outward from my lungs as I gasp for air during my darkest moments. I can feel hope struggle with and push against the gravitational pull of each form of death I have experienced. All that I know to be death has lost its power over my future life and as such has begun collapsing back into the universe like a burnt out star. Without reprieve death screams at me, beckoning me back into its now brewing pit of destruction or future as a black hole trapping all matter, energy and light from which I would be forever imprisoned if not for the promise of hope I now carry.
The beginning of the end began with a search for relief. I sought refuge on an island in the middle of the Pacific, thousands of miles away from the anguish that had bound me in an immobilizing and stagnating grip for so long. I went to work searching Oahu for such a reprieve. What better place to rest my head and search for my own self satisfaction than this parenthetical paradise far from the reach of my daily debacles back home? I started my journey in a rental car watching the sun rise each day over the small offshore islands and sandbars on the picturesque beaches that met a ravenously beautiful jungle on the east side of the island. At the end of each day I would drive up to gates of surfer heaven on the north shore to then watch the sun set serenely into the ocean next to Kaena Point. To this day, despite all of my enduring endeavors and bitterness with Oahu, I stay firm in my resolve that when asked to visualize my “happy place,” my thoughts turn to Kaena Point.
I guess it was appropriate that I came to know Kaena Point as such a space when my thoughts go to dark places. In ancient Hawaiian mythology and culture it is said that Kaena Point is sacred land and it is known as leaping place for souls into the afterlife. It is located on the westernmost tip of the island, which gives weight to the analogy Hawaiians use for one’s journey to the afterlife with the phrase to “travel west.” Hawaiian culture recognizes a separation between the spirit and the human body, much like that of Catholicism, which I sometimes still call upon in times of turmoil as it is the only spirituality I have ever known or was taught. It is told that the human spirit has the ability to exit the body and wander from it leaving the physical qualities of an individual asleep or weary. These souls normally travel west to the leaping place into the afterlife found at Kaena Point, though some are not ready to pass and therefore not permitted entry. Those souls must then return or wander back to their original body. A wandering soul is considered hazardous however as it is susceptible to being captured or blocked from finding its physical presence once more. Forever destined to wander between actually living and the finality of death.
I was a wandering soul. I had traveled west to the Hawaiian islands searching for my soul and found my death. In the time I spent at Kanea Point, I mostly sat in silence on the picturesque white sand shores that swallowed the high and lengthy mountain face of the point that lay steeped with cracks and bordered by boulders that looked as though they were originally meant to roll off the abrupt edges of the point’s face and into the expansive ocean at its feet. During my most trying times, when death would unexpectedly make a decisive debut, I went out to this fairly isolated space to be alone so that I could just sit and cry. I remember telling myself once that I would be okay as long as I could feel my tears run down in streams across my cheeks and taste their salt once they pooled around the corners of my lips. I knew during these introspective interludes I required from the fracturing state of my reality that I was consumed with evil, I just needed to make sure I was still alive. Whenever I was confronted with that looming toxic cloud I now scream out at as death, and it should be said that it was frequently, I drove out to Kaena Point.
I had fallen short in my life in so many ways. I was usually out at Kaena Point alone with my thoughts. I realize now, that my incessant resolve to retreat to those shores was my subconcious reaching out for a connection to anything. I had no resolve to maintain a connection with my family whom for years had loved me dearly all the while I spent that time pushing and cursing the outpouring of love that they gave me away. I hated them for it. How could they love something so evil, selfish and broken as me without fail? All I had ever done was lap at their ears with sweet lies undulating in waves before crashing onto sands that were hesitantly soaked up by the shores of their love and redirected into the vein of their hope for peace for the daughter and older sister they loved. My friends were fleeting and as time passed I found fewer and fewer instances or excuses to spend time cultivating relationships with them. I had lost my job, my boyfriend and my apartment due to my mental instability and inability to find happiness in the cookie cutter future I had been repelling against but appeared fated and forced to ascribe until my breakdown.
I had been teasing and flirting with death even before that first needle prick, but it was not until that moment it pierced my skin that I was finally ready to be consumed. After learning the history Kaena Point, I began to spend time there pleading with the gods to be released. I must have looked insane to the few explorers that ventured out to the point and happened to witness me talking and screaming at the ocean while walking alone along those empty shores, always relenting to permit the wind to play with each strand of my wild hair. A autonomous reminder that I still could feel. I begged the Gods for the strength to let go of the earthly realm so as to commence my welcoming party that certainly must be patiently waiting for me at the gates of Hell. My soul lusted for the depths of those turbid dark blue waters that are told to hold the souls of all the ancient Hawaiian ancestors whom have crossed over and what must also contain all those others, like me, whom had been ready to pass into the afterlife.
But as it is said in the stories and the mythological writings of cultural tales within Hawaiian history, the spirits of loved ones and friends whom have already passed on come to meet the arriving soul in question with the wisdom to differentiate between those individuals ready to proceed to the afterlife with others that have arrived earlier than their fated time of departure. Though I tried to convince a sea of souls that my time had come, I know now my soul had arrived prematurely. My soul required a guiding presence back to my body that it had been tirelessly wandering in search of for a decade. I needed helping hands to renounce death and embrace salvation. I believe the journey back to my self began with the arrival of my ancestral spirits sent to assist me back into my own sleeping, weary and fatigued body. I like to think they were accompanied by the souls of my parents and brother, compelled to wander because they could feel the depths of my pain and were pulled them from their bodies by my ancestors knowing that I danced with death too many times to be dissuaded just by the spirits of those whom already called death home. My ancestor’s must have known that I required courage and strength to pull me from the depths of my anguish and despair. Such relief could only be provided through the breath of life, which came in the form of a life preserver cast out and within reach just as the water surrounding me began to fill my lungs.