The Allegory of the Cave

We drive up this cratered and furrowed path. It can’t be called a road, really. Aliens must have dug long thin trenches. Only wandering gypsies and displaced refugees must make their way over this. He’s brave- not afraid of bottoming out the car. Were it my car, I would chicken out.

A paltry white blanket of snow has been laid over Owl’s Head, enough to make our ascent treacherous and slick. I live northwest of this mountain, only an hour away and we haven’t seen snow yet. Suddenly the spell of winter is cast and I find myself happy to be in this trance.

But this… This mountain is exhilarating and maybe a bit of a bad idea. The first winter’s hike in the crisp cold air will hopefully not be the last.

Subdued hues because shades of grey and shades of white are vague. Purified air saturated with oxygen. Those inhabitants of earth will remember how they could breath an icy river, how they could hold it in their lungs.

The beauty is the understatement. Winter makes no assumption of me, except the deepest one. Do not speak unless your words are measured with years of space between them. Better yet, stand on the back porch alone. Drag off a joint. Stare and soak a white field whose forest line asks nothing. Know that you can wait the rest of your life for a lone bird to fly over. Once it happens, let it go forever into the universe. Tell yourself that I cannot hold it. Tell yourself that only time can hold it and the moment has passed. There is “nothing” in winter. There is a mutual respect between us. Only winter possesses a grand expanse to run the jagged edges of my mind against and a patience that I crave, a patience that I have been denied.

Neither one of us have the proper footwear for this mountain, but I am zealous and he is a good sport.

Without preamble, I start to tell him of the time I crouched in the bathtub praying for all of the lines of electric yellow light to stop. I could see them everywhere like string theory connecting everything. My mind had opened too wide.

He tells me of this woman 10 years his senior who once excused herself politely from conversation, took up a shotgun and began to blast inanimate objects across the back lawn. I can tell by the gleam in his eye that was fun to watch. He loves crazy. He loves crazy women.

Approaching the summit, there is a cave drilled into the side of this mountain. He shines his cell phone so we can pick our way across the litter raising off the wet floor. He says the cave makes him angry. The cave is not more than thirty-feet deep. “Why begin to drill a cave if you are only going to give up?” he wonders.

Still moonshine can be stowed. Slaves can be harbored as they make way toward Canada, forced to push even further from their home.

The definition of an allegory is a story, a poem or a picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning. It was Plato who wrote “The Allegory of the Cave.” The captives of the cave are left to misinterpret the shadows that move across their only plane of vision. The game becomes guessing the next shadow to approach. A clever captive may be deemed a master of nature but it’s just a guess, just a shadow. A captive that escapes to come back to tell the truth of the shadows will be ostracized. The guessing game was useless and the truth inexplicable and misunderstood.

But it wasn’t some glimpse to the other side that sent me to a psych ward. It was a grueling bout of depression, an impossible situation, and an impervious doctor who eyed me like a lab rat, upping my dose of anti-depressants.

He has been there, too. He has done his time but he doesn’t want to elaborate. How can I judge when they have already placed us into so many boxes?

In this dream we are younger. I am sixteen. My sister is maybe five. It is daytime. She doesn’t have a real bed but there are blankets and pillows made up for her in the corner of a room on the floor. I see an enormous boa constrictor rustling through this bed. It rattles it’s tail. It is a boa-rattler hybrid. I tell my little sister to stay far away, very concerned for her safety. I grab the snake by the throat and start to squeeze violently. I feel it crush in two separate snaps. With each break, I feel a new wave of venom entering through my skin. I think I have killed the snake and I throw it to the floor. I lose sight of the snake. It’s mangled carcass may be tossed in my sister’s pink polyester comforter, but I’m not positive that it is dead. My mom is working at an office and I call to tell her what has happened. I tell her that the veins in my arm are hardening. They are protruding and my blood is caught by a seizure of stone. I tell her I think I need a rescue squad but she keeps asking me questions about what happened. Her tone is conversational.

The girl who tries to kill a snake is the girl who is afraid of change. The moral of this dream parable is that in trying to kill the change the venom went into her system just the same. The crushing contact of the girls bare hand against the reptile scales provokes the same transforming poison as the snake bite. All attempts toward the serpent, the harbinger of change – futile.

And what do we learn from the cave? We learn all attempts toward knowledge are futile. We learn to examine nothing. We learn to accept nothing.

When you just lose yourself in this expanse of life for a while, this is the time when you write something that is really good. When you start to no longer believe in the fairy tale of success, then you can write something good… something true.

The first night I sleep beside him I dream we are together on a tiny army cot pushed up into a corner of a room with abrasive dark paint and these blaring white lights… the type of room in big old creepy houses made into creepier quarters for college fraternities. He is on the bed but before my eyes his features are changing. First, subtly through what I believe to be tricks of light. Then, more terrifyingly through obvious morphing. It is revealed he is a wounded wretch of a girl, not unattractive but upset she has been exposed. She tells me to back away. I tell her that I am not displeased that this is what she really is. I sit at the other end of the bed b/c she doesn’t want me near her face. She tells me that I too am not what I seem. I don’t think I have morphed so I wonder what it is exactly that she means. I wonder what I could morph into. I try to form the sentence, “what did we take that fucked us up so?” because I feel like I’m on acid… or something. But I cannot form the d sound. I cannot say “did”. My brain and my mouth struggle and struggle to say the sentence. It is even worse than a stutter. I finally find that I can get the sentence out nearly comprehensible with only minor jumble if I whisper it quickly. The girl answers me that it was the tea that is fucking us up. I know it can’t be the tea.

I’m taking my time with this one. I tell him the dream when I am ready. He reveals he dreamed me before we had ever met. He was astounded the first time he saw me because he had three nights of successive dreams featuring me.

The first dream is where we meet at a party and have a one night stand and from this one night we procreate a daughter. On the next night, he is the one taking care of her, trying to get her to stop crying and I am nowhere to be found. In the third night, there is a disaster. He is losing. He is going down so he sends the daughter off with a friend of ours, hoping that he will look out for her.

He dreams me a negligent mother before we ever meet. He avoided pursing me for months because of this dream.

Examine nothing. Let the jagged lines of our minds (conscious and un) run against the flat expanses of winter. Let the grey air hush and release time like a stretched wingspan.

The void. The void is the point of transition where you feel suspended in the air with tires spinning out under you with nothing to pull traction from. The void.

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