Living with the Echo

The echo Ė as I call it Ė can be felt at any time, and is often so profound, I look into the eyes of whoeverís around, expecting them to share in its wonder. At best Iím met with polite, confused smiles. Undaunted I ride out this secret frequency until it ebbs, leaving me with an aching nostalgia for mere seconds ago.

So what is this sensation? Letís start here: Iím eleven pedaling my dirtbike through the soon-to-be-developed wooded area near my house. The path is slick with mud and fallen leaves. I race both against the clock (dinner is soon) and a shallow stream that runs parallel, about six-feet below to my right.

This is before digital. My playlist is clouds, trees, and water. I am attuned to nature Ė with the exception of a fallen, gnarled branch that demolishes my front rim and sends me screaming headfirst over the side.

IMPACT. Everything goes gray.

Colors resume as I reorient on a bed of grit and stone, shallow water coursing over my sweater and jeans. Nothing feels broken and Iím not alarmed. I remain still, oddly at peace. The stream feels otherworldly, beyond water, a place of belonging. I gaze at the dense blue sky, framed by a canopy of thrashing branches. Rainwater gushes by my ears, roaring like applause. Inexplicably this dirty, wet place offers a sort of warmth and protection. Iím a clumsy kid who found a womb in the woods.

Itís later I learn that I fractured the base of my skull and lost a lot of blood. That I remained in the stream for two hours, which contracted (in my mind) to five ecstatic minutes. The doctors say I was in shock with a mild brain injury. Months of physical rehab and cognitive tests got me back on my bike, though I wouldnít experience the world as I briefly had, alone and bleeding to death Ė until the echo, which began a year ago.

The echo comes on like a vibration of pure bliss, and I suddenly remember how free and alive I felt in the stream. Colors dance. Sound takes on added dimension. Imagine a seizure that heightens your senses and drops the veil of the ordinary world to reveal iridescence and pure harmony everywhere. It. Is. Beautiful.

Then it goes away and you feel haunted by a fantastic party that ended too early.

Friends worry when the echo causes me to adopt the look of a grinning madman, my eyes alive. Sometimes I drool, but whatís a funny face when youíve entered the divine?

I donít want anyone to worry so I joke that my brain just experienced a sort of 404/error. My code is messed up ha ha. Iím ok. Iím ok. Iím ok.

Iím not ok. Because I live for that interruption.

I only exist in 404/error. I am no one any other time.

I donít dream anymore. Sleep is now a pitch-black advertisement for death. Guess my brain has plenty to do, staging short plays of the impossible, during waking hours.