There was no prison. There were no guard towers. There were no fields. There was no fence. There were no dogs. There was no spotlights.
Just a city, like the cities I had always seen as a kid. Like the cities that had always been presented to me as the places I needed to go.
Skyscrapers. Cars. Houses. Employees. And the promise of more. The promise wasn’t explicit but it was there, because it was always there. The more glowed, attractive, and enchanting compared to the momentarily dull forest.
I noticed the men and women walking toward the city. If Dixon hadn't grabbed hold of me I would have been taken away like a leaf in a stream back from where I had just come from.
“Whoa,” he said. “You don’t want to go back there.” His gripped me stronger. “Glad you made it though.” His smile was as wide as my confusion.
“I’ll be home soon babe,” Someone said next to me.
“It’ll pay off someday.” Someone else.
“I’ll eventually be back." Someone else.
“We’ve got to try.” Someone else.
“I know it’s hard but that’s where our dreams are.” Another voice.
“What,” I managed. “Wait. What?”
I stared again at where I had just come from. Or thought I had. And wondered why it wasn’t there.
“Where are you going?” I asked. “Wait, that’s not what you think…”
They ignored me, just as I always had ignored the similar voices.
“I know man. I know,” he said calmly as more people continued to walk toward the city on all the sides of us. “Well I suppose I don’t know, actually. I only know they’re seeing something different than we are.”
“I know. I've been sitting here since I left, waiting for you and trying to figure it out."
“We’ve got to tell them.”
“There’s no use in that,” he answered. "I've tried."
“No,” I yelled. “Our friends. The ones celebrating right now. They can do it! It’s not what we thought. It’s easier. I mean.” I stopped and looked around at the woods, the trees, the flowers. The air was warmer and covering me. I had barely noticed. I fell to my knees and began to laugh and cry and wave my hands in the sweet freedom all around me.
“Would you have listened?” he asked.
“Well I might have.”
“Nah,” he let go of me and turned his back. “They need that prison for now. Eventually it’ll get so bad, they’ll leave too. Until then, my friend…” he waited for me to turn around. “Until then, we’ve got things to do. People to see. We’ll be here for the ones that come, just like I was for you. But, until then, well… remember you have a family. And friends. And something to finally do.”
Years earlier, when the addictions were as young as I was, I had been on vacation with my family to Maui. We were all body surfing and having a good time in the sand, in the foam, in the sun. Until that one wave got me. It was all going according to plan until that thing took my feet and sent them over my head in all the ways that our bodies are not supposed to bend. (Well, unless you've been in yoga for a while.) I'll never forget the sound of my back cracking, amplified by the water and my fear, that my picture was going to be in the newspaper the following day: father, husband, paralyzed on vacation with his family.
Needless to say I made it.