i placed the little box in the center of the room, and i waited there, watching the stares and questioning glances as i positioned myself a foot or two from the plain folded cardboard that seemed to draw everyone so. it was in that moment that i realized i could do this, that i could build expectations, an air of mystery, around simple nothings, or, as the case might be, everythings. that was what i kept in my little box, or at least what i would tell any little human curious enough to inquire.

everything, it fit into my little box and i'd whisper it, with that look, the one everyone seemed to recognize now. sometimes, i'd let myself sink and there would be overwhelming hurt in my intent stare. once, i watched a woman lower her eyes, look anything but casually away from mine, perhaps afraid it might be passed on as such, visually, silently.

sometimes, though, if i could see it, hear it.. truth, if there was a sense of compassion in a questioning glance or simple words, i would say that i placed my fear, pain, torment into that little box. and, i'd go on.. i placed it there, in the middle of the floor, because for the brief moments i could let it sit, out of my thoughts and away, i felt so terribly alive. terribly, they'd wonder and some still.. well, they would quickly wander off and i knew they did not want to know anymore. i once entertained questions from an elderly gentleman with a slight limp (at least, it appeared he had some trouble with the order in which one foot would find its way past the other, not so much a limp, i would suppose). he would laugh when i cried and when i could truly smile, the tears flowed from his old tired eyes so beautifully.

i created it for them and not for me, it was never for me.. the peculiar nature of the little box and the placement, always in the center, its hidden secrets. i built it because only in mystery do i find real hope, true interest in this thing that occupies most all of my time, this life.

When I died twenty-one years ago I had a death experience. This experience had several components. In the first act, I was floating down a river on a shitty little raft. It barely floated under my weight but there were people in distress on the shore who wanted me to take them aboard and, I suppose, to safety. I could do nothing for them. Later I vowed to build a bigger boat before the next time I died.

I passed through this bright light. With the light in your eyes it is hard to see. In this light I could see everything at once and it was therefore impossible to comprehend. Then I crossed the most barren desert imaginable to find a man on a crappy folding chair. It was becoming pretty evident that my life and my soul were pretty empty. The man on the chair asked me what I wanted to do. I chose to go back to the life I had left. Which was pretty interesting since I was a suicide. The dude in the chair was an older version of myself with gray hair. I've recently turned completely gray. It actually happened overnight.

Upon my return, after some wacky out of body kind of stuff, I started to have dreams. These dreams were unlike any I had experienced before. I could leave them one night and return to them in the next. I could change the outcome of the dreams and I could alter the experience. They were some very powerful lucid dreams. I'd never had lucid dreams before and I'd done no research or exercises of the kind I am now aware of. They just started happening, very regularly, and while I had control of them and myself within the dreams I could not get them to stop.

The people who appear in the dreams are people I sometimes recognize as the people who were on the shore during my death experience. They are the ones who called out to me to help them when I could not. They have led me on adventures. They have taken me to places far from the places I have called home. They speak in riddles, shrouded in mystery, urging me to unravel their stories and find them in the waking world. And quite often I have.

The longer a particular dream sequence continues, the harder it is for me to ignore it. Those that last only a few nights are often discarded. They feel less urgent, although never less important. Sometimes I just want to put my feet up and rest. Sometimes I need to.

I am now in the midst of a dream sequence that has lasted five months. I'm so puzzled by it that when I lie down to sleep I ask for it to return. I've never done that before. Twenty years ago I had a powerful dream sequence that led me to Orlando, Florida, to find someone who would give me "the answer." I knew her for three years before I figured out what "the answer" was. I had an innate ability and desire to help people. I changed her life. She changed mine. The dream sequence ended.

One of the reasons I chose suicide in 1994 was my feeling that I was no use to anyone. I felt myself a failure and had no idea what I wanted out of life anyway. Everything I tried to do fell apart. I came back with a purpose.

Soon after my death I met a woman named Chris. She would be the first of a series of women named Christina or some variant thereof. The dreams told me that to find my way I would be given guides. They would all have the same name, I was told. Chris was, herself, a suicide survivor. I didn't know this when I met her. In those first few months after my death I was confused. I didn't know who I was. So much about me was different than before. I was inspired. I was driven. And I didn't want anyone to know I had killed myself. Chris was the first person I told my story to. It was then that she rolled up her sleeves to show me the deep scars that ran up them.

"I'll tell you something strange," she said. "Before I decided to kill myself I started writing to all these celebrities. Singers and musicians mostly, but a few actors and writers, and none of them ever wrote me back. It wasn't why I killed myself, I had other reasons, but I started doing a lot of weird shit before I decided to end it all. I was in the hospital for, well, I don't know how long, but when I got out and came home someone had written back. She said I was welcome to write her again and tell her how I was doing. So, I did. We've kind of been pen pals ever since."

It turned out the concert she had taken me to that day featured her pen pal. Suddenly I realized why she had such great seats.

If you tell the same story you've told before from a different perspective, you find things you didn't notice before. In my lucid dreams I will often seek to look at things from a different angle or position in the room. I make different statements. I ask different questions. I think out loud.

"I'm writing a letter to Sarah to thank her for the seats and to apologize for not coming backstage," Chris told me on the way home. "Would you mind if I told her your story?"

"I suppose... wait, you had backstage passes and didn't use them?"

"This seemed more important than that."

"You think my story is that interesting?"

"I don't think you should be quiet about it. Open up about it. You might help someone. And who knows, maybe she'll write a song about you."

"About a guy who kills himself, comes back and had dreams about a blonde in a cabin who wants him to find her? Good luck with that."

"Maybe it sounds better when someone knows you."

"You want to come inside for a drink?"

"I better not. You have this habit of waking up screaming."

"I do not."

"Believe me, you do."

Chris had a friend who was a blacksmith or something of that nature. She had him made this large metal ankh which hung from a leather cord around my neck. It was supposed to represent how she saw me. I wore it for over ten years, then the cord broke. After she gave it to me, she disappeared and I never saw her again.

I sometimes feel a sense of urgency about putting on the ankh again. Too bad the cord broke.

I have told these stories before, but from a different perspective. The passage of time changes perspective. What I have now is a series of closely related dreams that have continued for months. The setting is almost always the same. It is a house party and everyone is drinking except myself and a woman carrying what appears to be a baby wrapped in a blanket. The woman with the baby always tells me her name is Lindsey. The other woman finally told me she is known as "The Raven." If I try to interact with anyone else at the party they are completely unresponsive, as if they cannot see me.

It turns out there was a woman named Lindsey that I met in passing quite a few years ago. A mutual friend had asked her to talk to me. She was going through some difficult times that involved getting pregnant. From everything I can recall, and a brief mention in one of the journals I keep to write down dreams and important things I don't want to forget, I gave her the brush off.

Which seems to indicate these dreams are about someone from the past, not about someone I am yet to meet. This makes them different. It is about someone I brushed off who came to me for help, or advice or whatnot, and I turned away. And for some reason this is important in the present tense.

Over the past twenty years I have only one true regret. I tend to accept things happening for important reasons. I believe the present cannot exist without every building block of the past in place just the way they have fallen. There is one part of my story that plagues me. It bothers me fairly regularly. It is like one of those injuries that starts to really hurt when it rains.

When I followed the dreams that led me to Orlando in 1997, I found myself a regular patron of a certain Chili's there. The blonde woman from my dreams worked there. So did a lot of other people. Quite a few of them became my friends. I told them my story and they warmed to it. They gathered around while I drank and ate and told me their life stories. We went out and played pool. One guy who worked there used to jokingly give me a hard time. Jeremy wanted to know how I had gotten all the girls working there to fawn over me while he kept getting shot down asking them to go out with him.

For three years I sat at that bar, usually once a week, focused on Tina and why she had appeared in my dreams for so long asking me to find her. I began wondering if there was any point. Then a new assistant manager started and the staff told her about me. She came out to the bar and asked Tina, "Is this nut job bothering you? Do you want me to throw him out?" Tina was startled, completely caught off guard, and responded by saying, "Please don't make him leave. I like having him here."

It rather blew my mind. The assistant manager was mostly joking, we became good friends, and she always called me "the nut job" after that. The thing was, I had all but given up. I figured I was jousting with windmills and what the hell was I trying to do, anyway. Later I learned I'd changed Tina's life simply by being there, believing in her, and not pressuring her for anything more. When it comes to Tina I have no regrets.

There was another woman working at the restaurant who was always wanting to talk to me. She was always excited to see me when I came in, would hug me and tell me she missed me. She wanted to read anything I'd written. She wanted me to tell her the same stories over and over again. She took me to a Halloween party. We played pool together. We talked about the meaning of life and my interpretations of death. She was a orphan from New Mexico who had come to Florida after aging out of the system and wanted to make a new life on her own.

I consistently failed to realize she was in love with me even as she all but screamed it in my ear. Her name was Tammy and she was there for me when my life began to fall apart. She saved my life. She was my biggest fan. And then I got involved romantically with Christina, one of her co-workers. Tammy had been waiting for me to stop being fixated on Tina long enough to notice her and then I turned in another direction quite unexpectedly. I didn't even see how devastated she was. It was why she turned to Jeremy, the guy who was trying to get in the pants of every woman who worked there.

She was always sad when I saw her after that. I knew she didn't particularly like Jeremy. She used to tell me how disgusting in was that he would hit on one girl and then immediately turn to another when he got turned down. After things unraveled with Christina, who had told me how Tammy felt about me, I went to see her.

She was sitting in a corner booth crying. I went to the bar and asked the bartender, who I knew well, what was wrong. She told me Tammy had just found out she was pregnant.

I remember going over to talk with her. It was a short conversation, and it involved her having to move to Georgia with a man she didn't really even like because she was struggling as it was and there was no way she could handle a baby on her own. Jeremy's parents lived in Georgia and were willing to take them in.

"I am so stupid," she told me.

"I really wish you wouldn't go," I told her. "I do love you."

"You're too late. I have to get back to work."

I had tears in my eyes. I looked away and looked back. "I love you."

She was holding back tears and staring out the window.

"You're too late."

I hear those three words, in that order, every time it is really quiet or any time I hear certain songs. I hear them whenever I meet someone named Tammy. I hear them whenever someone tells me they're pregnant. I hear them whenever I feel like I've let someone down. I hear them all the time, bouncing around in my hear. I did love her and still do. I valued her in my life more than I ever came close to telling her. She is the one who gave me the name I write under here. When I told her I was writing the story of my adventures in dying and coming back to hang out at Chili's she told me, "You ought to call it A Dead Guy Walks Into a Bar. The name stuck.

She's out there somewhere. She once told me she wished someone would come back from the dead for her. I never was able to tell her someone already did. I hadn't figured that part out yet.

It all connects somehow.

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