Have you ever had the feeling something big was going to happen?
And then it did?
And somehow, knowing it was coming was part of its power?
In my case, it was the number 23. I’m not the only one to have a “thing” with this number. Melissa, my sweetheart, had it show up in her life in significant ways. And William S. Burroughs, author of Naked Lunch, thought that all incidents and events were ultimately connected to the number 23. He called it the 23 enigma.
Can you hear the freaky Twilight Zone music in the background?
I could. I was sixteen years old when the number 23 first began to assert its presence in my life. No, it didn’t knock on my door and whisk me off to another dimension. But it might as well have.
Everywhere I turned, there it was. In books, in movies, in conversations. Not only that, the 23rd day of each month began to have increasing significance for me. Important things started to happen on those days.
Sometimes these things were pleasant, sometimes they were not: an unexpected gift, a fight with a friend. This mix of good and bad was baffling to me. Was 23 a positive omen in my life? Or a negative one?
I was still a teenager, and the concept of ambiguity was lost on me. Black or white, good or bad. I wanted a clear delineation of good and evil, and I wasn’t getting it.
At some point, I started to wonder what was going to happen when I actually turned 23. Clearly, this number had a hold on me. What was going to happen when we were merged? Was I going to die?
Technically, I would turn 23 at the end of my 23rd year, but that was beside the point. The number would claim me, and that would be the end of me. I was pretty sure of it.
When the time came for me to submit to the will of the all-powerful 23, several things were going on in my life. For one thing, I’d recently graduated from college and I was, to put it mildly, lost. I was asking questions like Why are we here? What’s the point of existence? If cows have four stomachs, do they get four times as car-sick as people?
Okay, I wasn’t asking that last question, but I could have been.
It wasn’t just questions about the ultimate point of life that were plaguing me. I was lost in day-to-day matters as well. I was working on a farm, which I loved, but I knew I wouldn’t be doing it forever. As for what I would be doing after the farm, I had no idea. Also, I was struggling with my sexuality and gender-orientation, unsure where I fit in the overall scheme of things.
Take all that, and mix in some home-grown marijuana.
Oh yes, my friends, this is where it starts to get really fun.
For the record, I am not a drug taker. Drugs and I do not see eye-to-eye. I’m way too much of a nerd to enjoy handing over my mind and psyche to some synthetic version of a good time.
And yet, at this point in my life, I was trying new things. Livin’ wild, livin’ crazy. Livin’ supposedly free-and-easy, but more like crabby-and confused.
So there I was, one month after my 23rd birthday. It had rained that morning and I couldn’t work on the farm.
So what did I do?
I went to hang out with my stoner buddies.
And what did we do, even though it was only nine in the morning?
Do you even have to ask?
Next thing I knew, I was running down the street and my legs fell off. Okay, they didn’t fall off exactly. It was more like my energy began to leave my body, starting at my legs. So even though there was a body there, no one was home.
In case you’re starting to think that this sounds more like a bad acid trip than a 1980’s home-grown-groove, you’re right. Except I was the only one tripping out. None of the other stoners experienced anything but a mild buzz.
So what was going on?
Did my nerdly, drug-avoiding persona bring on the freaky time? Was the eviction from my body a natural outcome of my existential crisis? Or was my strange reaction due to the mysterious and pernicious influence of the number 23?
I have no idea.
All I know is that it’s almost impossible to describe what happened next. But I will try.
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