To be (psychic) or not to be (psychic)

It was early in the morning. My brother and I had already gotten out of bed but I was going slow. Something didn’t feel right. I dressed, had breakfast, then went back to our room. I wasn’t sick, but I felt ill. The wooden veneer of the bedroom’s 1970’s walls seems glow darkness into my soul. I never would have thought to ask my mom to stay home sick when I knew I wasn’t, but that’s exactly what I found myself doing. I laid down on the couch, wrapped myself in a blanket, turned on the television, and immediately saw the tendrils of an explosion pushing into the heavens. It was the morning of January 28th, 1986. The space shuttle challenger had just disintegrated.

That afternoon I was back home from college, having driven back to the old ranch house as I often did to escape, to return to something familiar, to wrap that warm blanket of childhood memories around my heart and soul. The house was empty. I think my parents were at a church function. Maybe it was a parent-teacher conference. I don’t remember. But I needed to smoke. The walls were closing in on me again so I sat in a deck chair on the small square concrete front porch smoking and gazed blankly at the rimrocks that had been burned into my childhood. The darkness began to push under my skin, permeate my bones, and it made no sense. I realized I was out of smokes so headed into town, stopped at the local 7-11 for refills, then headed up to the viewpoint where I lay in my seat almost catatonic as the cigarette smoke wilted heavily out the window. I turned the radio to 91.3 FM, Oregon Public Broadcasting. NPR immediately blared out a message: Diana, Princess of Wales, had died in a car crash several hours earlier. I glanced up at the dash, noted the time, and made a mental computation: darkness had overcome me at the exact minute of her death.

The morning of September 11th, 2001, I, like so many people in the tech industry, was out of work. The dot com bubble had burst and no one was hiring. I had plenty of time between job applications to stop smoking, I reasoned, so had stopped cold turkey several days before. I was doing good. I turned on the television and the screen immediately filled with an image of the twin towers, one burning, a plane immediately crashing and exploding into the other. I shrugged, walked out the door, headed directly to the nearby 7-11, grabbed a Super Big Gulp and a couple packs of Camels (maybe they were “straights”, I don’t remember, but it was a full nicotine in your goddamn face kinda day), and returned to my apartment. For the following week I would not look for work. I would smoke. I would drink Coke, sometimes mixed with Jack Daniels. I wouldn’t sleep for days and when I finally did a stranger guided me through an office building to his cubicle where he showed me pictures of his family and asked me to call them because he couldn’t and confused by his request I looked out the window and saw the city of New York stretching in every direction and I shot straight out of bed. Sleep did not come easily to me again for many weeks to come.

I’ve been feeling that same way since last Friday. Well, to be more accurate, from the wee hours of Saturday morning. Darkness. Unexplainable darkness. Was this another sign of doom? Was something I cared dearly about, whether the space program, a famous individual, or my country, under imminent attack? Believe it or not, despite many seemingly psychic experiences over my lifetime, I am a skeptic. These are my personal stories which, statistically, could be flukes; as Carl Sagan suggested, we tend to remember the hits, not the misses. But I couldn’t shake the feeling and even if it was admittedly superstitious, knowing if there was something causing the foreboding would at least provide some peace of mind. I checked in with my wife; we’ve had issues but nothing I considered earth shattering, but just to assuage my sense of dread I decided to sit down and write a letter about many things I’d been holding onto for a long time. I felt a massive weight fall off my chest but that was something else, not the source of my dread. So I reached out to my mom on Facebook Messenger. “How’s everything going Down Under?” I waited a day before she answered. Things were great. Then Monday. Morning team meeting canceled. Not completely unusual but yes, atypical. Only one thing to do, focus on my work. Quiet all day. The next day the same. And today, finally, it came to me, the answer.

I’m not going to go into the details. It could be that some magical radio station from the universe was broadcasting an S.O.S. tingling my spidey sense and giving me a sick stomach. Maybe. Or it could have just been I wore myself out physically, mentally, and emotionally last week, that I’d seen something unrelated (but related) on my Facebook feed last week, and this week my overactive proclivity for being hyper sensitive to the world caused me to pick up on those faint alarm bells: Bad Wolf!

Does it matter either way? Psychic? Hyper aware? Life goes on. Eat well, get good sleep, go to the gym, focus on your work, focus on your heart, mind, and soul, and carry on. It too will pass.



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