In the past, I only noticed the ravens in the fall. But it was spring, and they were everywhere. Cawing overhead, yelling some unknown warning of something I had no understanding of. It would only be in time that told me what they wanted to warn me about, but even then, I didn’t quite understand what that danger truly was. Only they knew, and as hard as they tried to make me understand, I always felt just on the edge of figuring it out. I didn’t know then that the only way I’d find out what they meant was to walk into the fire of my fear and let it burn me to the ground.
It was the early morning of April 30th, just as the sun began to warm the ground, me still in my bed with a hangover from the night before. The wine I drank was the only way I could find any sleep at all. My eyes didn’t want to open, even if I knew I should. Facing another day without cigarettes seeming a monumental task and sleeping away the withdrawal seemed more appealing than to fight through another day of refrain. The spring days had warmed early this year, and my bedroom window I had left open for the night. The cool breeze somehow easing the anxiety that pumped through me with every pounding of my pulse. I was caught between life and wanting to exist, not here, yet not gone. A strange place of unrelenting limbo that made life an unbearable need to pass through or give up, even though the choice never truly felt like mine.
What now? Where do I go from here? Why are those damn crows screaming at me from the air? What do they know? Why should I care? Why won’t they leave me alone? The questions haunted me, but then again, it seemed those same questions kept me from letting it all go. And even if I could let it go, where would that be? Then again would I even care? Something inside of me must, for I still fight through each day as if on some unknown quest that my insides simply would not let rest. I wanted to run. Get away from the stress, but there seemed no escape no matter how much I drank. I thought I’d go back to smoking cannabis again, even though I had left that over forty-year obsession go just a short six years before. At least that way I’d sleep, the haunting nightmares would go away, and there’d be some peace in my head. The price though, was still higher than I wanted to pay. The fog over my thoughts like a wet, wool blanket over me, heavy and relentless to seek out relief, the need to smoke more to keep my feet from ever feeling the ground. I couldn’t go back, I couldn’t move forward. Stuck in this place of stress that I no longer had any understanding of how to escape.
And still, the damn crows screamed at me from the trees. Outside my window, they yelled at me. I knew they were trying to tell me something I just didn’t understand. All I knew was the madness that came from their screeching was my only friend, and if I didn’t decipher what they command, I’d be stuck here in this limbo forever, trying to make sense of their plan. Maybe that was the point. Maybe it was all just for that? Maybe the searching to understand was the only reason to get up? But I’m tired, not sure if I can go on. Even though the thought of ending without the answer seemed more unbearable than the fight to press on, why were the crows so adamant about cawing at me to figure out what they wanted me to know and what I should be? What difference would it make, I wondered. What if what they wanted me to know was no help at all, but still, I wondered why they constantly were yelling at me.
The curtains blew in as the spring wind grew stronger. I laid in my bed, trying not to wonder. Why can’t I let go? Why can’t I ignore the damn calls and move on with my life? I knew there was an answer if I could just figure it out. All I knew for certain was they wanted me to know. They cawed at me in relentless attempts, making it impossible to ignore. I wanted to run, to escape their taunts, leave my past behind like a long-lost ghost. But then a large crow landed on the windowsill and screeched even louder still, frantic to make me listen to the message I so did not want to hear. I closed my eyes, trying not to listen to the big fellow, but he only screamed louder, so there was no way to shut it out. “What do you want?” I screamed back at it, but its cries kept going, filled with relentless intent. “Leave me be! Let me alone! Why do you taunt me?” But the great black bird kept up its scrawling, flapping its wings in distress, and kept going. My frustration reaching its limit, I grabbed my diary from the nightstand and threw it at the window in hopes the damn bird would fly off into the future, but the diary only hit the wall, and the bird became angrier and screamed all the more.
I closed my eyes and pulled my blankets up high, covering my head, and praying to die. But death did not come, that peace wasn’t yet for me, and without trying, I slipped off into a dream. In the dream, the bastard who had hurt me, entered my room, refusing to leave no matter how much I yelled at him to be gone. The more he refused my request, the more agitated I became until I finally reached for my phone, in need of the police. I’d have them come and finally run him off and let me be free of his persistent disrespect of me. But my fingers would not work, and the phone would not dial. I reached for the phone book, in frantic need to find the right number to call for someone to intercede, but the book fell to the floor, and nothing I did would work at all. Damn this man for crushing my pride and haunting my dreams. Why won’t he leave no matter how much I scream? He stood in the room now covered in black and blue bruises and said he was sick to break down my defenses. My heart ached, wanting to help him even though I knew he was only trying to break me. He lied all the time, and this was just one more. He wanted me to let go of my resolve no matter how much I fought for control. I picked up the phone book that had fallen to the floor and threw it at him in hopes he would finally go. The book hit him dead on, and he vanished into thin air, and the crow at my window cawed all the more.
I woke with a start and sat up straight, the blanket at my chin, and my heart did race. For now, the bastard was gone, but the next time I slept, I knew he’d be back as well as the crows with their mournful cries. I knew the cycle would continue until I could understand what the crows were trying to tell me to let go of this man. Easier said than done since this man had been with me for way too long. As hard as I try to run or make him leave my dreams once and for all, I struggled to make it all undone. I understood that there was nowhere to run, but to cover my ears from what the crows continued to scream at me that the bastard man was only inside of my head. That was when I understood that running would do no good. I’d have to stand and fight if I ever hoped to have a peaceful night. Trying to make him leave would do no good, but not letting him in was the only thing that would. As soon as I understood this thought, the crow from my window did depart. Quiet was the room around me, and the answer to the crows’ caws came to me with this harsh reality: to never allow a man to padlock your soul, for no one is that gifted at all unless I give him the key. That was when I understood what the crows wanted me to know, that the power over it all rested in me, and the only way out was not to fight it at all, but rather to give in and not to run at all.