By John Thomas Tuft

In memory of Aaron…

Before him rises a steep, black wall, treacherous to the point that some say it is unclimbable. So many times, he has wondered if this is what he was born for; is this his fate, his reason for being? People look at him and call him different, unreachable, because he is always chasing his pain, pursuing the challenge of accepting that perhaps nobody really does care and if he doesn’t understand it himself, how can anyone else? The wheel goes round and round in his head until all that helps is the needle in his arm pushing blessed relief, escape, the swirling sensation of falling away from anything…and everything…because…nothing…matters…at all…nothing. He is the alien.

Transitions can be the most challenging times in life. From childhood to adulthood, dependent to independent and back again. It brings him pain. The very act of living brings him pain. And if it breaks your heart, God knows, you don’t let it show. He does his crying in the rain so no one can see. This transition before him is the most challenging one yet, the most difficult, the most fearful. Yes, there is a light at the top of the black wall, one unlike he has ever seen before, but he still has to climb to reach it. And then what? It is the question that has dominated his life. And then what? What if the world up there is the same as the one down here? Will he still be the alien?

He has demolished more cars than he can remember. When you are chasing something inside of yourself, what’s one more wreck? At times if feels like even his own body hates him. So, he inhales the crushed hope, shoots up the promise, hoping yet fearing, that this may be the time it works. His body will be satisfied, his mind find solace, the dreaded sickness of not having them inside of him pushed away. For now. And just for now. But somehow, for him the time is always now. The alien lives above time, always aware that he is from some other place, some other time.

He lies on the floor now, staring up at the steep, black wall. A memory passes before him, clear yet haunting. His parents are sitting in the living room. Across from them sits a grizzled survivor of the inner battles, the seductive demon of fear, that leads so many to apparently trade conscience for medication to the strangled cry of, “I don’t want to be this way.” The veteran of this inner war holds up his hand. “You have to remember three things. One, you did not cause this. Two, you cannot fix this. And three, the only way out for anyone is to make a commitment every day—every, single day–commit to himself.” The alien retreats from this unvarnished truth.

He is getting cold. He becomes aware of someone beside him. “The light is waiting,” she says. “But it is dark, and the climb makes me afraid,” he responds. “You can do it. I will be with you,” she reassures. “And then what?” he asks. She points to the light.   The darkness chills him to the bones. He climbs. It is difficult. He tries to focus on the  ‘then what.’ Finally, he emerges into the light, bright but causing no pain. He is in an orchard, apples. The strange thing is there are both fruit and blossoms on the trees. In the distance is a red barn, and a dog romping about in the trees. Is this the place for aliens?

She touches him on the shoulder and points toward the barn. He starts to walk. He sees two figures emerge from the light, seated at a well-worn picnic table. Before them are brightly painted tea cups. They stop their chatting when they spot him. They are familiar—the visages of his grandmother and one of her daughters, his aunt. They invite him to join them at the tea party. The dog comes over and sniffs his hand in welcome. Through the open doors he sees his mother lying on her bed crying. His father is in his chair in the living room, alone in the dark listening to music.  “Comfort your mother,” says his grandmother. “Forgive your dad,” says his aunt. The alien walks among the trees, the dog bounding at his heels. He knows the answer now to “and then what?” Love. It is always love. And playing with dogs.

Fear is a liar. Plain and simple. The biggest lie it tells is that you will never be enough. Always the alien. Rather than a revelation. The revelation that is you. For help with addiction you can call: 1-800-662-4357

Words are magic and writers are wizards.