under submission, 5/20/19
Brian RB Wilcox
Much has been made and written about the benefits of finding your purpose in life. I have never had to struggle with this until now.
You see, I have known my purpose in life since I remember knowing anything; I am a witness. That’s all, really, just a witness. The two real skills I was born with have been blessings as well as curses. I am a natural empath and a prolific lucid dreamer and I use these skills every day for good or ill. Good for those I serve, often ill for me.
I have been a prison psychiatrist for the state of New Jersey for many years. It was always at the New Jersey State Prison at Trenton. It is a nightmare of a place, made worse by the fact that it is the oldest prison in New Jersey. Its halls and policies are as draconian as they ever have been, even now at the end of the twentieth century.
Within any psychosocial work, there are multiple realities. Shades of experience, genetic memory, and brain function all serve to us different realities. For example, I will ask you this question: When you have a dream, is it real?
No, you say? Did you say it from reflex, without thinking it through? You would be in the majority.
Most people would, and do, say it’s just a dream, that it isn’t real. Isn’t that what you were told as a child when you woke up shaking and crying from a night terror? The shaking and crying were certainly real, were they not?
The experience of having a dream is very real and measurable. The content and affective reaction to the content is subjective, but the phenomenon of having a dream experience is objective and quite real. The distinction I want to make clear to you right now is that there are indeed different realities. People have known this and operated within this paradigm since there have been people on this earth.
The distinction I work with in my practice of psychiatry is that of ordinary reality and non-ordinary reality. Both are valid, and the impacts both have on the human psyche are very real.
So, enough psychobabble for now. This is a remembrance. It is a memoir of sorts. You see, I am at the end of my career and I need to tell you about the intensely disturbing and intensely fulfilling experience I have had with my final patient in this hellhole of a prison, the final patient I will have anywhere, I believe.
My name is Acacia Patel. I am half Indian and half Greek. My father imparted the myths and stories of his heritage as did my mother. In the tradition of my role model in psychology, C.G. Jung, I have used these archetypes, symbols, and guidelines in my case formulations. But never so deeply embedded as I have used them with inmate 4970-6E, Demetrios Hellas, also known as Trio.
I have been relieved of my position as a result of accusations of unprofessional conduct. Was it? You can make your own decisions as I describe the work with Trio and the methods that I relied upon to get into his head and mollify the effects of his traumatic history. What I know about this man is extensive. What I witnessed from him, and through cognitive regression and my own lucid dream incubation, put him in my head as much or more than I got into his. There are so many ghosts in my head, and I cannot please them all. All I can do is try to reset by gathering other witnesses: you.
The story I am going to tell you is about tortured souls. The story of Trio is simply a contemporary Greek tragedy; the difference is that it is not told by the poets, but by a clinician, albeit a very unorthodox one. The story to be witnessed in its fullness must move across time and across realities. I am undaunted by this, as was Trio. We invite you to be as well.
Let’s begin with the first day inmate 4970-6E and I met.
The obnoxious buzzer went off on my intercom, and the guards were at my door with my 1 p.m. appointment. He stood between the two guards, head down, cuffed.
“Uncuff him,” I said.
“Can’t do it, Doc, against regs. Besides, this one’s violent, too dangerous.”
“Oh gentlemen, I’m so sorry you’re afraid! Well, I’m not. Uncuff him or I won’t work with him. You’ll remember that the warden’s policy is that you comply with doctor’s orders. Uncuff him.”
I was quite surprised, as was my new client, when they did.
“Have a seat,” I told him.
He was silent, no eye contact, sullen like a dark horizon. We sat like that for some time.
“You men don’t get much news in here, do you?” I gave him the folded, unread copy of the day’s paper. He took it and flipped through, stopped briefly at the sports section, then folded it back up and handed it to me.
“We got what? An hour?”
“More or less, it’s up to us.”
“First time anybody’s said that to me in here.”
Now we had a little eye contact. Progress!
He asked me why he had to see a shrink. I told him that since he had been prescribed Doxepin in the county lock-up, to manage his mood and behavior, it had to be managed here. He had a history of landing himself in Administrative Segregation due to fighting.
“You have a reputation of being hot-tempered and jumping into a fight quickly, sometimes with little provocation.”
He laughed at that and said, “There’s always a provocation. Look around.”
I had to smile, and I agreed with him but pointed out that it might be possible to not act on urges and feelings. He wasn’t buying it, though, so I moved to another gambit.
“I’m not that interested in your behavior here, as long as you are appropriate in session with me. I don’t sense danger from you; so far we’re on solid ground.”
“I do want to know everything that led up to your arrest.”
“Maybe to help you out from under a dark cloud.”
“Ok, history fine; now not so fine.”
He was circuitous, but I was able to draw him out some with innocent, seemingly inconsequential questions.
He told me he grew up in Greece, on Rhodes. I have been there many times and knew some of the places he described. It went easy for a while: he seemed to enjoy his description of Lindos, where he grew up on the island of Rhodes, Greece. Still pretty superficial, though, so I upped the ante a little bit.
“What got you here, Mr. Hellas?”
“My name is Trio. If we’re gonna be friends, you call me Trio.”
“Who said anything about friends? I’m your doctor.”
“I operate better with somebody who is a friend.”
The problem was, and is, that I do too. You’ll see later. As I said, you be the judge.
“What did get you here, Mr. Hellas?” I put it out there again, and he seemed agitated.
“Manslaughter, I killed a guy. You already know that.”
“I know. That’s not what I meant. Go way back, as far as you can. Begin at the beginning.”
He was silent for a full minute. He looked up at the dirty, bile-green walls of my office, looked toward the filthy window, and rubbed his face in his hands.
“It was a vase, a fucking vase.”
I did not ask any further questions and just allowed us to sit in silence after his cryptic mention of a vase. He had shown some willingness and after a period of silence, during which there was no eye contact, I asked him if he would like to be finished for the day.
“Yeah, enough, I got things to do and if I don’t get ’em done … well, you know what kind of place this is.”
“That’s fine for today. I’ll see you the day after tomorrow.”
I sat in reflection longer than usual after a session, trying to parse out the significance of a vase to this inmate. My case notes were sparse for that day: I said only that he engaged satisfactorily in the first session.
You may be questioning why I would share information from a psychiatric interview in a non-private format. In the professional community in general, this just is not done. People have rights. But this is a prison full of felons, and the same rights do not apply. That is the professionally correct answer, but the real answer is that the sessions with Trio Hellas impacted me and as I said, my head is full of ghosts and I must process to be able to reset through my gathering of witnesses: you.
The following session, Trio was a little more forthcoming. He initiated small talk and, to my surprise, he was willing to engage when I brought up the vase.
“The damn vase! That thing was supposed to be the answer to my family’s future. It brought money alright but it turned out to be a real dream crusher.”
“Talk more about that.”
Trio told me that his father had found a golden vase and that it caused chaos for his parents, then others, and eventually himself. I began with cognitive regression techniques: I asked him his earliest memory of the vase, where he was, what was around him and tried to take him back into recessive memory as much as he would tolerate. He was able to tell me that his father died and that he thought it was because of the vase, and that his mother abandoned him in Lindos to go to London and sell the vase. He would not go further.
That night after I arrived home, I decided to incubate a dream to amplify what he had disclosed. I went through my normal relaxation with gamma-wave-enhanced meditation and the mnemonic drills I have learned to use.
I am a witness, as I have said. When I dream, I am aware of dreaming, but I do not interact with any entities in my dreamscape. Again, I ask you to ponder: Is it real? I want to encourage you to try to stay in the zone between ordinary and non-ordinary reality. When I go through the veil into non-ordinary reality, it is as real to me as this computer I am communicating with. Press a button, and I have the world’s knowledge at my disposal—I can be with you across great gulfs of distance and time. How real is that, now, literally? But it is so, and that is the trust I have learned in my dream process.
I am a flyer in my dream body and a dissolver without the constraints of barriers. I go where I need to go, where the dream takes me, and I witness.
After my preparations, I allow sleep to take me and I leave my ordinary body and soar straight up until I pierce the veil.
I am above an ancient city on an ocean shore. I see a man who I know is Avenedes, the healer.
Avenedes walked briskly from the house of his patroness Euthalia, the widow, to the stone dock and the waiting ship. He held a sealed papyrus scroll. Avenedes had been petitioning the widow all month for permission and sponsorship to bring his mentor Hippocrates from Symi for a series of lectures over three weeks at the Odeon of Knidos. Hippocrates would be coming from Karpathos, after a similar series there, to Symi, where he was now resting and writing. The cost would be tremendous, but for that cost, Avenedes had assured the widow Euthalia that this series would be the crowning event of the decade in the sciences. She found the cost of three golden vases to be immoderate, but her pursuit of rising in social class outside the city was more rapacious and so she relented. To offset the cost, she would, in turn, petition some wealthy retainers to assist with the acquisition of the many drachma weights of gold it would take to make the vases in a suitable manner befitting Hippocrates.
The invitational scroll in hand, Avenedes reached the ship and gave the purser his instructions for delivery. He was assured it would reach Hippocrates late the next day. Confident of a positive response from his mentor, Avenedes then went to the foundry to instruct the goldsmiths in the particulars of the vases to be made.
Within the month, Hippocrates arrived in Knidos with his two sons from Kos—Thessalus and Draco—along with his son-in-law, Polybus. His sons and Polybus were there to assist with the planning of the lectures and to accompany Hippocrates on his foraging east of the city. There, they would gather herbs, certain minerals, wild honey, and other elements of the healing methodology of Hippocrates. A dwelling at the high end of the city had been vacated and set aside for the healer and his retinue. Personal servants and cooks attended to their comfort, the younger men being supplied with willing young women from the nearby brothel. In the days leading up to the lecture series, the honored guests, along with Avenedes, made several trips up the peninsula where Knidos sat at the terminus on the two small natural harbors. They loaded the donkeys with wild lavender, oregano, fennel, fenugreek, the stems of wild grape, wild honey, marjoram, plantain, and a wide assortment of flowers, seeds, and roots that Hippocrates would use to make a form of vermouth that he applied to treat jaundice and rheumatism. The seeds of the wild flax were much sought-after and were gathered in abundance.
On their return from one such forage, the party stopped at an ancient olive grove to rest in the shade. They spoke about the gift of olives, both the fruits and the indispensable oil, and as they ate their meal of cured olives, flatbread, and the marinated almond fruit called çağla, they thanked the bees in song and toasted them roundly with the wine brought in the goatskin bags that were sun warmed and rocked by the motion of the donkeys.
Hippocrates, leaning his back against the bole of a patriarch tree in the grove, pointed to a very young tree on the edge of the copse, one the girth of his own wrist, and said to the others, “This is a fine little tree. I can see by the vibrancy of its leaves that it will live a long life and feed many after we are long turned to dust!”
“Long life to the young tree,” they began to chant, all in good spirits in the clear airs of the Aegean.
The lecture topics were at last chosen. For the first week, Hippocrates gave a series of exhaustive treatises he named “On Airs, Waters, Places; Prognostics, and Prorrhetics.” The series of the second week dealt thoroughly with the uses, preparations, and applications of herbs, seeds, barks, flowers, minerals, honey, tinctures, and precious and semiprecious stones. The series of the third week, Hippocrates’ personal favorite, he entitled “The Places in Man,” which he delivered passionately and exhaustively, expounding at length on very detailed anatomy and spending half the week discussing the seat of the soul and its purposes. These discourses were met with lauds and the odeum was filled to capacity for each lecture. Hundreds lined the streets above, standing all day in the hot sun as Hippocrates held forth.
In the days following the lectures, the influential citizens of Knidos vied for the healer’s attendance at various feasts and drinking fetes, often with lavish entertainment by musicians, acrobats, and dancers. As the time grew near for his departure, Avenedes and Euthalia prepared and hosted an award ceremony for Hippocrates. On the morning of the occasion, Hippocrates was led blindfolded to the great stoa in the heart of the city and was then seated on a dais draped in purple flaxen linen dyed by the expensive murex shell. The ceremony was public with the entire city invited, and the turnout again was immense. The influential members of the city gave speech after speech extolling his virtues, thanking him with much respect and reverence. The food had been days in preparation, and the victuals and viands were impeccable. The wine flowed, the dancers whirled, the flutes, drums, and lyres played on into the evening.
As the warm Aegean breezes washed over the exuberant crowd, Euthalia signaled for a servant to ring the massive bronze bell that had been hung at the entrance of the stoa. As silence replaced the tolling of the bell, Euthalia and Avenedes went to Hippocrates. Each taking a hand, they helped him to his feet as a small palanquin was marched to the dais with a cadre of drummers following. The palanquin was gilt and its curtains were of purple velvet. The carriers stopped and placed it gently on two carved wooden bolsters that had been brought out.
“As great as the wind, as sure as the sun, as solid as our great stone city of Knidos, you, Hippocrates, have graced us beyond honor with your science, with your presence and with your priceless time. Our gratitude for your gift of this most marvelous trio of lectures must befit such greatness, though, alas, we could only come up with one thing that will endure.”
As Euthalia became still, Avenedes stepped down from the dais and, clapping his hands, summoned three servants. He drew the violet-colored curtains apart and shouted, “Behold our enduring gratitude symbolized here for you!”
The servants each withdrew from the palanquin a golden vase, one after the other, and placed them at the healer’s feet.
Hippocrates was taken aback. Always a humble man, such a display was hard for him to accept. He backed up and sat again in the chair, motioning for the servants to bring the vases closer.
“This is too much … I merely shared dialogue with you. I deserve none of this!”
“You deserve this and more,” his son Draco said to him softly. “And look, Father, they are inscribed.”
“Bring it closer that old eyes may see,” he said, and Draco lifted a heavy vase to his father.
Hippocrates read slowly, “Tau, Rho, Iota, Omicron … It appears to say ‘TRIO,’” and looked at Euthalia with questioning eyes.
“It says TRIO, indeed, and on each one to commemorate the most outstanding trio of lectures ever given in Knidos, or even Athens or Sparta. These vases are three of a kind and there are no others like them, as your lectures. Take these with our deepest gratitude, honorable Hippocrates.”
And as his sons clapped him roundly on the back, the old healer wiped a tear from his eye and beamed at the crowd.
The following day, a ship returned to Karpathos, bearing the vases and Polybus, along with a cargo of trade goods. Draco and Thessalus stayed behind with their father, concerned about coming bad weather, enjoying the last of Euthalia’s hospitality before putting out to Kos for pending business there with scribes. Two months hence, his business completed, Hippocrates arrived back at Karpathos.
On the granite quay, as he stepped off the gangway, his wife Doriana met him with bad news. She told him that the ship that Polybus had taken to Karpathos had been ill-fated and had gone down somewhere off Knidos in a sudden squall. All were lost, she told him, and their daughter was in grief. She told him to be in mourning with her and would not say more.
It is the hubris of all that useless gold, he thought and said nothing further about the incident or the gold vases …
That last thought of Hippocrates rang in my heads for days afterward.
Hubris: let the word linger in your mind. It has proved the downfall of countless people across time, societies, and distances. I fear it greatly. Let us watch for it.
I did not process the content of that dream with Trio, nor would I ever process the dream content with him. I use this information to inform and enhance my ability to deliver what is needed to a suffering client. They are all suffering. Some much more than others, and, believe it or not, they are the most amenable to treatment. They often give the impression that they are sealed over. But they are not, if I remember how to see.
He came to the next session looking jumpy and ill at ease.
“What’s going on?” I asked him. “You seem anxious.”
“I am. I’m anxious every day. Shit happens, ya know.”
“The inevitability of life, right?”
“Be good if it lightened up once in a while.”
“Sounds like a good time to get out of today and go back a bit more. Are you willing to come with me, help me to understand your experiences? Maybe we can begin to make some sense of things.”
“As I said, shit happens. That’s what I understand.”
I pushed a little more and got him to describe his family, everything he could remember about his parents. The family history according to Trio Hellas. He told me some. Both his mother and father were twins. Each’s twin sibling had died. He wasn’t sure; he thought maybe it was the war. It happened before he was born, in 1942, he told me.
I could not drive home fast enough at the end of the day. The lethargy of impending sleep was descending fast upon me. I got home without having an accident, somehow, and went directly into the house and flopped onto the couch. My cat came and curled herself between me and the back of the couch and began her loud purring. I soared up in no time and eased through the veil and onto what seemed a tranquil scene …
I was on the island of Rhodes, in Trio’s home village of Lindos. I hovered and witnessed, receiving indirect knowing from those I observed. What I saw on this journey gave me even more insight into what could amount to deeply embedded cellular trauma for Trio.
I see history within history and things that happen play out before me as in a film while I hover, not interacting, just a third-person witness. The problem is that I am also in their heads and feeling what they are feeling, knowing what they know. It is as though I live many lives at once, and it can be exhausting. As I witness, I remain acutely aware that there is an unending foam of realities at work behind the scenes. I believe, as many physicists do, that many states of so-called reality exist at once …
Hovering above in my dream state, I watched as the sun glinted off the splash as Martas cut the blue water in a tidy arc from the prow of the little sponge-divers boat. Lying on the smooth, warm pebble beach, Kostas Hellas and his brother Evangelous were cheering enthusiastically.
Evangelous took a deep drink of his retsina, and called out, “Now you, Melina, let’s see you do better than your little sister!”
The brothers laughed, and as Martas came out of the water, shaking her dark curls, she turned to watch her big sister give two tight skips and a leap into the Aegean cove. She twisted as she went and landed on her side in an ungainly crash, setting the small boat rocking and the three on the beach howling with glee. Martas plopped down next to Evangelous, and again shaking her curls, she hugged him tight to her wet bathing suit. He protested the cold water on his hot, sun-bronzed skin but was glad for the affection. He grabbed her around the shoulders and turning her under him onto the warm pebbles, he kissed her with a lingering sweetness.
“You are such a beautiful little sea goddess! I love watching you in the water and seeing you so happy.” He kissed her again before she got up and ran to her sister Melina, who was emerging after her dive.
“Well, big sister,” she giggled, “I’ve outdone you again.”
“Only because I let you again, little sister,” Melina countered.
Kostas finished his retsina and opened another two bottles for himself and Melina. “Little big, big little … What is this talk? You were born only two minutes apart! And so alike you are, who can tell which came first? Half the time, I don’t know if each is who they say they are. At least Evangelous and I can be easily identified!”
Martas took a long drink of Evangelous’s retsina and turning to her sister Melina said, “He’s right, you know. We’re so alike sometimes I don’t know where you end and I begin.”
Melina laughed, hands on hips, throwing her head back in the bright sunlight. “It keeps everyone guessing, sister, keeps us ahead of the game, eh?”
Identical twins Melina and Martas Farakritis were proud, beautiful lovers of life and lovers of the mirror twins Kostas and Evangelous Hellas. The men were bakers and owned a small bread hearth in the village of Lindos on Rhodes. To make ends meet, along with baking they both earned a little extra money sponge diving with their small boat. The girls were able to tell them apart due to their “mirror” style, with Kostas parting his hair on the left and Evangelous the right. Evangelous being left-handed and Kostas favoring his right further identified them. Kostas was the more assertive of the two, often taking the role of leader, but Evangelous, at times seeming aloof, was artistic and imaginative, given to deep thinking and not the brash, happy-go-lucky style of Kostas.
The girls, too, had their differences, although subtler. Melina was more loving of danger than her sister, while Martas was more domestic, tender, and introspective. Both were beautiful and, at twenty years old, were a bit older than the average age of marriage for the village and were much admired and sought-after by single men from Lindos, and even the village across the bay. Melina and Martas had agreed long ago, in childhood, that they would marry no one but the Hellas boys. The four were inseparable and had been since childhood, in the same class for school and catechism, attending the same church, even living in the same alley snaking up from the donkey stables. As kids, they would often sneak out and climb up to the acropolis, pretending the Knights of St. John’s Castle, really barracks long since abandoned, was their impregnable home and where they would speak their dreams, be themselves with no village demands, and laugh and sing in the full moon high above Lindos. There, it was easy to forget the mounting cares of the small village as the rest of the world slid closer and closer to war.
In this hot August of 1942, it was very clear that Greece would not be left out of this accelerating world conflict. Already, the Italians had taken and were occupying Symi, a small island just to the north of Rhodes. Its and Rhodes’s proximity to Anatolia did not bode well either due to the increasing animosity between the Greeks and the Turks, thanks to the fomentation of ever-more fierce nationalism by the Turkish leader Ataturk. Just in the past week, there had been an armed fracas between two boats of sponge divers, one Greek from Symi and one Anatolian from Marmaris. Only four people, only four poor men trying to make a living for their families, had clashed over sponge-gathering rights, and shots were fired, killing one Anatolian man, a father of seven. The talk in Lindos was increasingly dour, concerning governmental decisions and the economic outlook for Rhodes. These thoughts were present for the foursome on the beach, “the Quartet,” as they called themselves. But today, on this hot, clear August day, in this deserted cerulean blue cove under a flawless sky, the girls thought only of the togetherness of the moment, while the boys thought only of what all young men think of when with beautiful and loving young women. This moment would last them forever, no matter what.
Perhaps it would have to.
Kostas jumped up and handed Melina the only towel, a very old and threadbare rug from under the saddle of the Hellas family donkey, and hugged her tight as she patted herself dry. As he held her, and as Evangelous ran and dove into the little bay, he exchanged a longing and knowing glance with Martas. She sighed and turning quickly to look for Evangelous, she blew a surreptitious kiss at Kostas behind her sister and her lover while they were unaware. Martas loved her sister and loved Evangelous, but those feelings paled in comparison to the passion and lust she felt for Kostas. It had been a secret they had both struggled against and kept for some two years now, since they had shared a stolen kiss one Easter morning when they both ran late to church to catch their families. The rightness of it troubled Martas much more than Kostas, but neither did anything to keep their feelings from growing. The best they had managed since that kiss was to keep the act of love at bay. On the hot pebble beach with the warm Aegean breeze caressing them, each while holding another knew it could not be denied forever, or even much longer. Martas felt a pang of sorrow as Evangelous came from the water, but it was quickly overwhelmed as he grabbed her from behind and began kissing her neck. She sighed and lay back into his arms, imagining it was Kostas.
“Evangelous, my brother, we have to go; it is past time we began the dough for the morning bread. And we need more wood for the oven that I have to get from old Khiriastos. Let’s get ourselves onto the boat and motor back to the village.”
Kostas began to pick up the retsina bottles and wade toward the boat. He pulled the anchor—such as it was: a rock with a hole worn through it—and motored the small craft up to the beach where the other three boarded. The cruise back to the village was uneventful, with each feeling the hot sun on their faces and drinking in the feast of blue that sang of the sea and sky. Motoring into the small perfect harbor at St Paul’s cove, Evangelous readied the docking lines as Kostas throttled down in preparation for docking. As they pulled up to the old wooden dock, the girls jumped lightly off and waving, ran down the dock toward home, leaving the boys with the boat and their bag of retsina.
“Evangelous, go and start the fire in the oven; I’ll finish the docking and secure the boat. I’ll be along after I talk to Khiriastos about the wood for tonight.”
Evangelous grinned and snapped a comical salute toward his brother and ran off to catch up with the girls.
As he approached, Martas turned abruptly and kissed him on the cheek. She said hurriedly, “I forgot my sunhat in the boat!” and before anyone could say anything, she ran back down to the dock as fast as she could.
Back at the boat, with Kostas on the dock coiling the lines, she blurted out, “Kostas! I can’t wait any longer … We have so much to speak of, so much to plan.”
“I know it only too well.” Looking at the coil of dock line at his feet, he said softly, “I want you too, Martas.”
Feeling an urgency she had never before experienced, she said quickly, “You know the old tomb on the headland? The one of old Kleoboulos? Tomorrow is the full moon … Meet me there after midnight. Melina will be helping our cousin making dolma for her daughter’s birthday dinner. She’ll stay the night … Meet me there, Kostas. Be sure to … Swear it.”
Kostas squinted hard at the setting sun and taking a deep breath he whispered, “I swear it.”
She turned and ran as fast as she could to her sister and Evangelous, no sunhat in hand …
From my vantage points, hovering above and floating inside heads and emotions, I see not only what each of the four sees, I see not only a turn and a run, but four fates entwining with markedly different strands.