Scott Collins was not the first person I knew who died. The first was Jesus. How could it not be? As a regular church-going family, I was regularly exposed as a small child to this thing called death, but in the context that Jesus had overcome it, and that’s why we celebrated Easter: because we no longer had to die for good if we didn’t want to. While this represents a semi-accurately generalized distillation of the Gospel, imagine that concept in a young child’s very literal terms.
Here’s the other thing I knew about death – Jesus died on a cross. And not just him, but two other men besides. So I knew that it wasn’t a death reserved just for special people. In my mind, I thought this was how it was for everyone. You live, and live, and live your life until some point where you piss off so many people that they decide to get rid of you by coming together to nail you to a tree. If you were a bad person, you might not make it too long. If you were kind, perhaps you could live to be six hundred years old like Noah.
So as I’ve said, Scott Collins was not the first person I knew who died, but he was the first one I wanted to come back. Not bodily, perhaps, although a full resurrection would have been the ultimate form. I felt it more realistic that his spirit was still at work. I was convinced that my vision concerning Scott’s death was not my doing, but his. Scott was so intuitive, so insightful at times that I believed he could be magic. It was one of the things he wanted to be, a magician, although he eschewed tricks of deception to give full focus on attempting to honestly perceive which card you’d picked. When he died, I felt certain that he still existed, somewhere, and I talked to him almost daily for a while, waiting for some response so profound that I knew it would be him. I thought about the whirlwinds of leaves and would ask him to stir one up on command. It never happened. I asked him to speak to me in my dreams if that was easier, but that never happened either.
I read a lot of books about ghosts, both fiction and non-fiction. A particular favorite was a series called The Ghost Squad, which started up about the same time. It was about a group of ghosts and living people who worked together to solve mysteries. The group communicated in text via a special computer that had a keyboard attuned to the “micro energy” that ghosts give off. Scott and I liked to play detective, and thought we might have a shot at it yet if we could just figure out a way to communicate.
It was right after elementary school that I started seeing “THE COLORS.” At first I thought it was just a side effect of my high-prescription lenses because I couldn’t look at them directly very well. They seemed bound to my peripheral vision. I’ve always struggled with how to describe them to people, although I usually never bothered. I was weird enough without bringing this into the picture. But, I will attempt to give the best explanation I can using things people can see. First imagine, if you will, the way tiny prismatic colors swirl about on the surface of a soap bubble, or in an oily pool. Now picture that bubble as a primarily clear two-dimensional surface, almost like a window, drifting out inches in front of everyone you meet, and instead of orderly, angstrom-sorted rainbow colors you get occasional shimmers or squiggles of one or two colors appearing in the clear like a dragonfly barely skimming the surface as people talk to you, colors that are always muted and wrapped in a sheath of dull silver. For a time, I thought maybe it was Scott writing with his finger in the air over the surface of a person’s aura. You can see why I might not have wanted to say stuff like that out loud. So I kept silent until college, when I started being more open about it.
SPOILER ALERT! Did you know there is an condition whereby stimuli for one sense triggers a reaction in another sense as well? I didn’t until I met someone else with it. It’s called synesthesia, and people who have this condition often become artists or crazy or both. For the longest time I believed that it was supernatural. To some degree I still do, but that’s hard to cling to seeing as how being on antidepressants can so easily mute it or turn it off, suggesting a strong neurological element.
Everyone knows that junior high is hell on earth. As an overweight nerd-geek with huge glasses and no social graces or athletic ability, I knew that well enough. Now layer on top of that the knowledge that I also had experienced visions of the future, saw flitting colors around a person’s head and shoulders that tended to nudge me into a direction on how I should feel about them, and in the meantime I was holding onto the possibility that I might make contact with my dead friend. And I had no one I could talk about it with. I thought my parents would commit me to an asylum, the abuse I took at school would get worse if I told anyone there, and — oh yeah — the sacred text of the religion I took part in mentions numerous times that psychics and mediums should be stoned to death, so I wasn’t about to bring it up at church either.
But it was in the back of my mind all the time. When I was a seventh grader, a classmate died. I have no idea who he was. I don’t think I’d ever met him. Maybe his name was Jonathan. I don’t even remember how he died. But I learned about it while we were in school. It might have been an announcement over the loudspeaker. Someone’s going to have to fill in those blanks for me or I’ll have to see if I have a John Adams 1987-88 yearbook. The only thing I remember is that when I heard about it, I started crying and I could. not. stop. I had to go to the counselor’s office, and then my parents had to come get me from school.
“This is about Scott, isn’t it?” my Mom asked.
It always was.