Threshold Markers

Soon after graduating from college, I came face to face with two important facts. The first was that I was a drunk, and the second was that, despite my education, I had no marketable abilities or particular skills at all. I didn’t know how to address the latter condition, but had been given, along the way, some idea as regards the former, so checked myself into in-patient rehab for the month of October, 1989, and promptly got involved with one of the networks of support available* upon my release. It was nearing Christmas when this next thing happened, and it was such a subtle thing that it may very well be no thing at all. It is tempting to dismiss it outright, as it seems almost entirely owing to my state of mind at the time and was very likely a misperception of something quite ordinary. I was in a very jittery and not-sane frame of mind in those early months of sobriety. If you can imagine the psychological equivalent to having your entire body covered in scabs, and then the scabs all suddenly torn away, leaving only burning nerve-endings and raw, bleeding flesh, yet for all this still being infused with a giddy sort of blind optimism and near-infantile level of self-absorption, then you might appreciate the state of mind I inhabited. I was at the very least capable of interpreting things in a skewed sort of way.

But what I saw, while looking out the back window of my parent’s two-storey house, overlooking the neighborhood hills perhaps a quarter mile away, in addition to the seasonally-appropriate festooning of colored Christmas lights, tucked in amongst the other houses in the densely-packed and tree-lined suburbs, was a wall of red-orange light. The area of light itself was about the size of a house, though it did not appear to have any roof or any adjoining walls to form a regular structure. There wasn’t anything to it except for a large, flat rectangle which glowed evenly throughout, though not intensely, and with that same glowing orange-red that I recalled the glyphic L-shaped object having, from my sighting at age fourteen, as well as the (then) more recent Madeleine-cookie airship. This is a very particular shade of orange – richly luminous, seemingly alive – and if it is possible for a color to indicate by its shade, its saturation and intensity, that it is somehow itself intelligent, then that is what this shade of orange-red does and did. This wall of light wasn’t up to anything; it was simply planted there, amongst all the other lights. Except that it seemed way too big and way too even. Seeing this put me into a particularly anxious state. I called my mentor in the “program”**, telling him what I thought I was looking at; that I felt that if I went to it – which for some reason it seemed like I was supposed to do – I would be made to drink (since that was my greatest, and genuine, fear at the time – that something beyond my control would make me drink, which maybe sounds ludicrous, but actually kind of isn’t). I expect my friend thought I was ordinarily newly-sober insane, but he was able to talk me down from my state of near-panic, and convinced me that I didn’t have to do any such thing. And though it was still several days until the holiday, and the neighborhood lights otherwise remained until Christmas and New Years, I know that by either that next evening or soon after, the large rectangle of orange light was gone and did not reappear.

Some few years later, I had another, very subtle kind of sighting that occurred in a similar context. I’d been afraid to go to a small meeting*** at a hospital in Ballard (a neighborhood in north Seattle), one that I knew would be sparsely attended by those in alcohol and drug treatment at the hospital, and even more sparsely attended by other, sober members from the community at large. So basically, I expected I would be on my own if I went, and if I went, it was expressly to be helpful, if I could, to an unreceptive and resentful room of people who were more or less held captive. I did not want to do this. In fact I unreservedly did not want to do this. I battled against my sense of obligation all the way. But in going, as I approached the Ballard neighborhood, the hospital, and my increasing dread, I remember noticing in the sky overhead, hanging at what seemed a really high altitude, a small silver shape, bluntly cylindrical. It was so high, and so far off, that it was hard to see it as more than just a smudge, but it hung there, and for the duration that I watched it (several minutes) it stayed pretty much in the same place. At the time, I thought it must be a blimp or balloon – although I’d never seen a blimp or a balloon up that high before. This was at many thousands of feet into the hazy sky. I checked its position often as I drove through and eventually found a parking space alongside the hospital. In some corner of myself, I imagined that seeing this thing was an acknowledgement that I was crossing an important threshold, in being willing to confront my fears and work, ostensibly, for others’ benefit, even though I didn’t really believe that the object was anything all that extraordinary at the time. And as I sat in the meeting, which itself was quite unremarkable (what the hell had I been so afraid of?) I looked sometimes out the window toward the grayish sky, and was still able to see the object overhead. It’s position was just such that from where I sat, I could look straight at it. The funny thing about this memory is that I have the impression that the sky was simply crammed full of objects at the time… This was a regular fantasy of mine from that period, that objects – seemingly ordinary objects: helicopters, airplanes, blimps, whatever – were just about everywhere in the sky above the city, that it was almost more crowded up there than it was down in the busy streets. I don’t know what it was about the sky on that day that gave me that impression. Maybe it really was crowded with airplanes and helicopters and blimps and balloons. Except that how crowded could it actually get?

*Forgive the cagey wording of this statement. The “network of support” is one that everybody knows, and that I, frankly, have no trouble with naming and associating myself with. The network itself however contains within its literature of very strongly suggested traditional practices, as regards its public relations philosophy, the imperative that members not publicly identify themselves specifically as such in media like for instance this sort right here. This is as much for the good of the network as it is for that of the member.

**See above. Trying to describe this very specific state of mind and context puts me into a position of playing perhaps somewhat loosely with the concept while keeping to its letter. Yet to describe events without this context renders them almost entirely meaningless. I.e. "I saw a dot up in the sky" – and, yeah, and, so what?