I was glad to get back to my regular schedule at school, but found that I missed the quiet of the retreat house. After spending two days in almost total silence, except for time spent in the services, ordinary noise seemed to be not only louder than usual, but I noticed yet again how filled my life was with noise. There were almost no beats of silence, and I found myself longing for it.
Monday was exhausting, though it felt good to be back at work. By the end of the day, my bag was weighted down with papers, and I was glad to toss it onto the couch and flop down next to it. I lay there for a while, staring up at the ceiling, and enjoyin the relative quiet, though I could hear the sound of children playing in the courtyard of the apartment complex. Stefan would be home soon, and I wanted to have something for dinner, but wasn’t quite ready to get up off the sofa. I closed my eyes, and the warm still air soon put me to sleep.
It wasn’t one of my strange dreams, but felt like a normal one. I was walking down the stairway to the labyrinth again, and the sun was directly overhead. When I reached the bottom of the stairway, there was no lower level, but a wide sea. The waves lapped at the very lowest step, but dropped off immediately into endless green depths. I looked up, and a small raft came sailing over the waters, and the young monk, Brother Andrey was sailing it, steering with a large spoon. He paddled the raft up to the brink of the sea, and motioned as if to beckon me aboard. I tried to protest, but found myself stepping on to the raft, feeling the wood splinter under my feet. The wind caught the sail and sent the craft skimming across the surface of the sea. I laughed as the spray hit my face, and lifted my face up to the sun, enjying the warmth of its light.
I heard a jingling noise, and opened my eyes to see Stefan walking into the apartment, balancing several sketchbooks and a tackle box full of paint as he unlocked the door. “Hey James. How’d it go today?”
I got to my feet, and grabbed the sketchbooks as they slid from under his arm, and managed to snag them before they hit the floor, though a few loose papers fluttered to the floor. “Yeah, it was ok. Yours? Still trying to knock some sense into the freshmen heads?”
He laughed, and set the tackle box by the door; his hands were covered with swathes of deep green, yellow ochre, and jet black. “Trying. Not really succeeding, I’m afraid. A few seem to be interested in the world around them, but mostly they just want to be cool. Oh well. You do what you can.”
I set the sketchbooks on the table, but held onto a smaller one that I recognized as his personal sketchbook, one that he always carried but never used for any of his classes. “Hey, I haven’t seen any of your work in a while, mind if I take a look?” Stefan shook his head, and turned down the hallway. I could hear the water running through the pipes as he scrubbed his hands, trying to remove as much of the paint as possible.
I settled back on the couch with the little book, and began thumbing through it. Stefan usually carried, amongst his many art supplies, a small bag with a pencil, eraser, pen, and a handful of colored pencils. This sketchbook was his record of ideas, thoughts, impressionjs, quickly captured. He took his inspirations from the world around him, but you might never know it from the things he drew.
Red feathers, white roses, and crawling vines adorned most of the work, arranged in differeing structures. Some drawings featured city skylines, aflame with incandescent tongues of fire. Every picture seemed to explode with energy, yet drew the viewer inward to the very heart of the painting.
I had always liked Stefan’s work, but his senior show had been my favorite. Almost cartoonish in style, it had been the first time I had wondered if it was possible to love a city that was as ugly as Los Angeles. He thought so, and indeed, spent as much time as possible in the city, watching it in different lights, in different weather, and in different moods. He was convinved that the city had a soul, a soul that could be saved or lost, and was determined to capture the essence of that soul in his work.
I closed the book, and set it back carefully on the table as I made my way into the kitchen.
Tuesday I met with the psychiatrist. She was a lovely African-American woman with long braids. I sat down cautiously in the armchair in her office as she quickly scanned over the forms I’d just filled out.
“Alright, Mr. Peyton, this is definitely something I’d like to look into. Now, you say you have no history of mental illness, and none in your family, correct?”
“Yes ma’em, that’s correct. We’ve never had anything like this happen as far as I’m aware.” I shifted nervously in my seat, and adjusted my tie. “I feel fine, I’m not overly imaginative or overly tired. Everything seems normal, except what I’ve described there.”
She flipped a few pages over to re-read the description of symptoms that I’d written and raiserd an eyebrow. “Yes, well, that’s certainly unusual, and I’d like to see what we can do about that.” She turned toward me, and placed her hands palm down on the surface. “Mr. Peyton, it’s obvious that something is wrong, since you are seeing things that do not exist. However, you seem to be fine in all toher regards—something rare in and of itself in this sort of case, I’ll add—and I cannot force you to follow any of the advice I give you. However, I will strongly advise that you do exactly as I say.”
She began scribbling on a pad of paper. “I’m going to prescribe a sedative, and we’ll see where we go froim there. Please take note of any adverse side effects, anything out of the ordinary. It may be that you would profit more from a psychologist’s help than from any drugs I can prescribe.” She tore the prescription slip off and handed it to me. “Follow this, and make an applointment for two weeks from now.”
As I went back out to my car, I couldn’t help but wonder if I should fill the prescription. I had one other person’s confirmation that things I was seeing were real, but…I didn’t really trust that person. Scott had said that the members of his group were all required to get complete psychological testing before he would let them join, surely one of them had tried drugs to get rid of the visions…
I paused, drumming my fingers on the steering wheel. I didn’t want to contact Scott, or see him again in any forum, but I needed to know. I closed the door, and started up the car. By the time I arrived back at the apartment, I had made up my mind.
I looked on the counter where I’d tossed Scott’s contact information. I hadn’t cleaned there in a week, and the slip of paper was still where it had landed. I dialed the number, and got a voicemail service. “Hello, this is James Peyton, I’m trying to reach Scott ? about a group he’d mentioned. Ah, I’d like to go ahead and get some more information, so if you’d please call me back at this number, that would be great. Um…ok, thanks.”
I let out a deep breath as I hung up. What was I getting myself into?