By Jesse B. Donahue 2020 ©

For one to pretend… it is what we do. We make things up, make-believe, and make real our pretense of childhood games and the adult world of games around us. I can be a king on a mortal throne of my desired design, for I expose from my imagination a story of what I see or have seen and dream my way into being the character that captures my fancy, but it does catch my fancy, therefore, why I play the game. It is the alluring power of the leader or the visual seduction of the exotic temptress; we fit design to wish fulfillment and step into the realm of our creation. The further deranged the soul, the deeper flamboyancy engulfs the senses to extinguish reality found in our outer world. It is the inner chambers of imagination that lets us dream to become our pretend selves.

I want to be a pilot, says the post-toddler, looking with awe to the jet streams left from the thunderous birds above weaving white-cotton roads to exotic lands of intrigue; unbeknownst to the aspiring pilot, alone and lonely, a magic carpet left earthbound without a child to sit on its pad and activate the invisible controls, senses hope. Along comes little Thurman, finding the discarded mat cast to the yard edge, waiting for destiny to bury it forever. Stunned at the fortuitous find, the little boy joyously carries home what he soon will discover to be nothing less than a grand sultan’s long-lost treasure. Indeed, the rulers prized magic carpet.

Wonder, still remembering the magical quality of childhood: beginnings. Thurman, on one level, is still attuned to the spirit of magic that abounds for us all, or once did. On a particular remembered day in time, there was this creature scampering away from him at a campground his parents took him to. His dad told him it was a ground squirrel… he was in awe, fascinated by this living thing he had never witnessed before. It was magical; it was alien, Thurman’s mind not yet having adapted to the mundane of becoming coldly indifferent to what is known as routine. The newness of another, not yet before ‘felt’ experience of discovery and surprise, his childhood life, forever searching, grasping for another bite at the magic experience… of the unknown.

The fire crackled and popped from the flames burning the dried oak logs his father lumbered into the sitting room most nights. There, Thurman’s family would sit, and no television was allowed, listening to family members tell of their day or stories heard of others in the community. His father’s stories especially rang with a crisp vision of faraway unknown places in that he traveled broadly. It was the stories. Thurman drank the tales into his gullet, his being quenched from an insatiable thirst. Oh, how the wonders of childhood and freedom still pulse vividly in a child’s awe and aliveness of adventures dreamt.

The days ran on in Thurman’s life; Time catapulted forward through the formative years in school, learning the social boundaries and expectations of learning well for the tasks of life to come. It was understood year by year the message to succeed and transcend this school year prepared for the next. Come high school, there wasn’t much time for the games of childhood. Besides, Thurman looked around at the other children growing and reaching with an outward appearance of confidence in their being, and like him, they were living the learned attitude toward expression in roles and behavior. Yet a strong zeal for adulthood too, something he so much longed for. After high school, it was off to college with a mix of dread and anticipation of achieving and being prepared for adult life.

Throughout his years of school taking part in academia, there was a different form of education. Thurman attended church services regularly with his family. From his early years, he would watch carefully the other members attending church, and his family, and he easily molded his behavior to adapt to the environment, just like school.

And the day finally came when he found himself walking up onto the stage at his college Alma Mater’s football stadium. A stage standing sacred for all the up-and-striving adults, like himself who dreamed of achieving that golden ticket for success in their journey to adulthood. He had arrived; he had made it. His parents, along with himself, were proud of him for the accomplishment. A lifetime of dedicated pursuit to fulfill the cultural expectations of achieving adulthood.

Thurman’s goal had been accounting, and his major at college reflected the achievement-oriented vision that he had seen as a ‘logical’ choice for success in adult life. His parents thought he should go for something more interesting, but no, Thurman had a mind of his own, and of the choices presented to him, accounting was it. He landed a job with a large corporation, starting, of course, at the lower rungs of a time-tested hierarchy of climbing the ladder. He started the job, putting his mind to work, learning the ropes of the company, and was well on his way to living the life of success that he saw in the well-dressed, successful around him throughout his life.

Then came dating, where he soon fell in love, and he was married not too long after that. His job was secure, and with this security in mind, a family was begun. The trimmings. Time rolled on as children quickly began populating the large house he and his wife managed to purchase. And again, time moved on. It was some fifteen years after his leaving college and with a ton of debt accumulating that Thurman began suffering from a mysterious ailment. He went to his doctor and was sent to a psychiatrist. Depression and anxiety were the doctor’s pronouncement. Some days, Thurman could barely muster the energy to leave his bed. He looked at the bills piling up, yet with luck, he took well to the anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications and found himself able to get back to work. He managed through his life to where he finds himself today… in his retirement at the age of sixty-eight.

On one bizarre night, what began as a night like any other, Thurman awoke from a dream screaming out in utter terror. He was sweating profusely, breathing heavily, still consumed in the dream’s experience. This was a vivid dream, not just a nightmare. More vivid and real than any he could ever remember. It put him in a dark, dreary, what looked like a cellar or dungeon of an old castle, in that the walls were of an old stonework, covered in moss from a time-worn leaking of water. A table was manifest in this dark room, a large oak, its top seemingly stained with what he now saw as blood. He suddenly turned, startled at the sound of a huge raven squawking loudly and then taking flight from the shadows, landing square on his right shoulder. In a panic, he grabbed the dark, near-invisible bird and held it down to the table in front of him… a loss of reality ensued. Somehow, he had stepped out of his body and stood watching this enraged beast of a man, glaring wide-eyed with a dripping hate and choking the life from this crow. The bird screamed in agony. The screaming was silenced as the deranged man eased his grip on the throat. He stared for the longest time at his deed as a look of confusion consumed him. This is where the old man, Thurman, awoke screaming in terror.

There, he was now retired, with physical ailments limiting what was possible these days. His mind, episodically beginning to fail him, a conviction of dementia brewing, and he saw a sudden cavalcade of repressed truths. In the faintest vision, from a place where lost dreams are stored, he saw his reality. He had told parts of his vivid dream to a neighbor, leaving out the most gruesome aspects. The neighbor smiled and said, “Well, my dear man, what does that huge black raven represent to you? Our dreams are representations of unconscious energies that we do not want to see or face. That is why they come in dreams. Symbolism… it is the poetic nature of our unconscious. I’ll see you, Thurman.” Thurman stood stunned. He suddenly began having involuntary convulsions in his solar plexus. Hurrying to his house, he made his way to his easy chair and sat, bewildered. A sudden explosive wave of gut-wrenching heaving in his abdomen led to a bout of uncontrolled weeping. Thurman wept and wept beyond any toxic inner pain that he could have ever known or imagined.

He realized, after rising for the box of tissues, that the raven was his unconscious inner rage, murdering his childhood dreams of wings and flying. His whole life had been sacrificed onto an altar of conforming to everyone’s expectations. It was so clear to him. There he was, now 68 years old, sitting in a nice house with all the trimmings he could want, but his entire life had been a… pretended life. As if a fable a storyteller had made up. So seductive were the tales told, the commonness of daily life observed in family and others out in the community. He sat now in his retirement, knowing he had sacrificed all that he loved and ‘imagined’ to BELONG to the outer world as it existed. It was too late for him to live that life of love and purpose the young Thurman had once dreamed.

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