The Prince of the Invisible

The door had been bolted and barred longer than anyone could remember. It seemed better to go in through the side anyway. Long-ago one insistent person had begun the slow process of removing the plaster and stones, chipping away at the mortar with a spoon as if he was a prisoner breaking out. And yet he was free, he was outside. It made no sense to the passers-by, what he was doing, but he wasn’t in their way so they let him be, free to scratch and scrape as he pleased.

The ownership of the building had passed into public domain by this point so not even the police or the insurance company felt the need to get involved. So he scraped away day by day, but only when the shadows protected him. His skin was too fair to risk being out in the Guadal sun for very long.

He thought he’d be through in a week, tops. But the builders had done their job well so it took nearly 2 months to make a hole big enough for him to crawl through. And what treasure did he find on the other side! You would have thought he was Howard Carter in his excitement. He could barely keep his joy to himself. The neighboring shopkeepers hurried over for the whoops and chortles. They’d long gotten used to this strange visitor but this was something else. They stooped down and peered in – and saw nothing, nothing save the unusual prospector with his spoon, sitting in the middle of the empty room, talking up a storm to the air.

And that was that. Nothing to see here. Move along. The town, collectively but silently, agreed to let him stay there.

Who cared if he was a little weird? Who minded if he saw things that weren’t there? They left him to himself the same as they left people who didn’t see what was there. Maybe he was more advanced than they were. Maybe it wasn’t time for them to see the treasures yet. Who could say? So they left him be, but they contracted to have a window built in the gap he made. It wouldn’t do to have people coming in to bother him. Only those who were persistent (and particular) enough to go in via the window were worthy of an audience with the Prince of the Invisible anyway.

Because that is who he had become. Or maybe he’d always been? Maybe this was who he truly was, underneath the mask of normalcy he’d always put on when he was around everyone else. Maybe he’d always seen the spirits the same as solid people. Or maybe the potential had only been unlocked on that day when he’d finally crossed the threshold, especially on such an unusual way. Perhaps the spirits took note of his persistence.

Perhaps it was none of that and it was just finally time for the talent to be revealed to the town, like he was at a debutante ball. Now he was fully himself, out in the open, at large. Now he was multidimensional and could openly use all of his senses.

He held court with the spirits in that room for days at a time, seemingly unaware that time was passing. He didn’t grow tired or hungry while he was with them either. It is as if he took on some of their characteristics while he was with them. When he would leave the room, he would return to the world of the physical and require all the usual things and be subject to all the usual limitations. No wonder he seemed to prefer his time inside, where the spirits acknowledged and even respected him. It was much better among them than with regular people.

For the spirits were people too, no doubt about it. They were just as real, just as present as the visible ones. Many were quite powerful and opinionated, just as they had been in life. Some were the spirits of those who had lived before. Some had yet to incarnate. Some had been around the wheel of reincarnation so many times it was difficult to say whether they were coming or going.

All that mattered now was that they’d found each other, this unusual sort of kinship, a family cobbled together out of people who were unexpectedly able to interact with each other. And wasn’t that better anyway, better than the usual family where the usual people could barely stand to be in the same city with each other, much less in the same home.

Lost. Talking with ghosts in the kitchen.

I talk with dead people while I make bread. It started with my Mom, and then expanded out to all my relatives. Yesterday it included my recently deceased coworker.

I wasn’t planning on talking with him. I thought that making bread was my time to spend with my female ancestors, all the ones I met and all the ones I didn’t. Making bread and cooking in general is something that women do. The kitchen is the place where you cook. Thus, to talk to them, I go where they were.

Now, they never spent time in my kitchen, but that doesn’t matter. It is the heart of the place, the rituals and the motions, that matter. This is why you can find God in any sacred place. It isn’t the building that matters – it is what goes on inside the building.

Making bread has become my special time to talk with my relatives, but I’d been thinking a lot about Jeff. He died suddenly and unexpectedly, and that is the problem. He had sort of quit living. For over a month he pined for his wife who had died. He kept talking about how it wasn’t fair that they had just found each other and now they were separated. He wanted to be with her again.

Death isn’t preferable to life. In death, you can’t experience the world like you can with a body. In death, you are free of the limitations of the body. You no longer experience the pains that the body has, or the cravings. But you also can’t experience the good things either.

I was talking to him while I was mixing the ingredients for the bread, while I was thinking about how we need rituals and practices to “shape” our feelings. We need order so we know how to feel. We need a graduation ceremony to let us know that we are no longer in high school. We need a funeral ceremony to know that our friend or relative is no longer with us. We use ceremony and ritual to mark our days and our lives. They are like gateways, or doors. They mark a change from “here” and “there”.

I was talking with him, telling him how much he is going to miss since he has died. He can’t eat the bread that I make anymore. He can’t drink a Yoo-Hoo (it is a whey-based chocolate drink, and very tasty). He can’t touch, smell, or taste. Spirits can see, but they can’t interact with the world. He chose to withdraw from the world. By yearning for his wife who had passed over to the other side, he left this side.

Sort of.

Because he died peacefully in his sleep, because he died young, he doesn’t know he has died. He thinks he is still stuck in his dreams and is having a hard time waking up.

I told him to seek Amy, (his wife) to go to her. She is what he wants. But she can’t be with him if his spirit is still mostly here. He has no body for his spirit to reside in, so he’s stuck.

I had a dream with him in it last night. He was joking with another coworker like they always do. I was sitting at my desk and the coworker was at his. Jeff was sitting right next to him, huddled up close. I couldn’t see either of them at first because the computer monitor was in the way. Then I heard Jeff joking like always after lunch. I scooted my chair over and saw him.

I said “You’re alive?!” and he smiled sheepishly. “Why would you do this to me?” Why would they make me think he had died? He had no answer. I reached for his hand, to hold it, to prove to me that he was real. I held his hand across the desk for a while and we talked. Then he said it was a patient of his who had died, that there was a misunderstanding. It wasn’t him.

I said he doesn’t have patients. He isn’t a doctor. Then he looked confused, and the dream ended.