By Jessica Robbins
There are certain occasions my emotions are indescribable, not that I feel nothing, but my feelings borderline between anger and peace and stamping a myspace mood on my forehead simply won't suffice or bring the emotion to descriptive justice. Then there are certain days where I know exactly how I feel and can sum all my my feelings up in one word: Layne. I was never overly intrigued with Staley as a child, probably more terrified of him than anything, but as a grown woman, I began to wonder about his life. Why would a man that seemingly had the world within his grasp virtually demolish everything he'd built from the ground up? Did he seek an ally in addiction or was it just an venomous vice that enabled him to flee life itself? Outwardly Layne's masculine beauty wasn't merely a box of the most decorated kind, it was always the treasure inside, the lightning that was Layne, that struck so many people and left burning impressions on each soul he influenced. In spite of inescapable self-destruction, his voice remains unsurpassed, his poetic personality immortalized within the landscape of what has proven to be timeless music. 20 years later and Man in the Box is still being played in regular rotation on alternative stations across the world, right next to recently released songs. In addition to his charismatic and commanding voice, his hair and demeanor also served as unconventionally unique trademarks that further set him apart from imitators. In healthier years, before the untidiness of heroin haunted him, his billowing blond hair was so long that it framed his statuesque face like a lion's mane. His face alone was comparable to a Roman warrior, Constantine perhaps, both spiritual missionaries in a sense, sent on very different missions. The eyes God gave Layne to see with were lividly luminous, like some kind of blue mercury, a vision more poisonous in the dark when what little light there was seemed to be concentrated in his hazardously piercing stare. I saw it a few times in a series of dreams, unconfirmable visions that grew more romantic, intimate, and sacred with each meeting. Sometimes it hurt to look at him, at his heroin scared soul, but consequently neither could I look away and deny how he made me feel or how I longed for him to feel about me.
It was a flawless, crisp night in October and I was out flying again with no real specific destination other than the relative destiny in a prayer to escape my confining flesh for a few hours. I floated into a large party of the sophisticated sort, wine bottles were open and humming chatter already underway. People of all shapes and sizes were strewn causally within a large conference room, neatly seated on large sofas or propped up against textured walls, walls that appeared more like three dimensional carpet surfaced than plain wallpaper. By the line of guests beginning to form to speak to me, I began to suspect the party was being thrown in my honor, honoring what I still don't know. A rusty haired woman wearing a long flowing green skit and a white tunic was in front of me asking questions as though I had conquered a city. Up to this point the only thing I had accomplished was weaving my way into someones creative process and even that wasn't being recognized out loud or under conscious conditions, so I consented to her line of inquiry and politely responded. Secretly I feared the corners of a dream were the only place I would have an opportunity to be asked such things. Going to sleep is a victorious art for me, but waking triumphantly to a life to match the dreams isn't a luxury I have ever tasted.
I stood there humbly in the midst of the party, somewhat overwhelmed by the amount of attention I was receiving from total strangers, when suddenly a silky angelic voice flowed all around me. "It's time." He said gently. "Are you ready to go see him now?"
The familiar voice was so serenely corded in beauty and grace that I was intimidated to turn and peek at the owner, even though my instincts told me it was Gabriel. Or Gabriel was the instinct. The other knowing thought that bellowed in my soul was that Gabriel was taking me to meet Layne. On the right side of my body, I could feel the angel's radiance emanating over me. It was overpowering, yet I still managed to glance over my shoulder and steal a glimpse of the legendary archangel; the same angel that came to rally Joan of Arc, the angel that dictated the Koran to Mohammad, and the very angel that came to Mary and told her she would give birth to Christ. What could such an important messenger possibly want with me? Why had he come to personally deliver me to see Staley? Was it to provide more evidence of life after death? And who would even believe me? I didn't ask these questions until long after as was awake. In the core of the dream Gabriel's aura appeared to have hundreds of radiant stars orbiting the length of his impressive height and magnificent purple laced wingspan. As motionless as he was, the tiny stars rapidly pulsated and danced within a some kind of invisible cylinder that wrapped around his celestial sphere, nice and snug. His eyes were made of tumbled amethyst, a shade of purple I had never seen reflecting from human irises before. In a peaceful trance, I stepped towards him and reached for his hand. As the distance closed between us, I could feel his scent all over my face. He smelled like heaven, an understated, yet comforting smell, the way it smells just before the rain falls over the ocean when the moisture reaches its highest point of back building. His fingers met my hand in the air and I could feel every element at the same time bottled in his touch. He felt crisp, cool, like the chill of being in an airplane 30,000 feet above the earth. The subtle frost infiltrated the surface of my skin but I didn't pull away, reaching further in was the natural reflex I followed, in the same manner a baby duck hatches and follows every trail its mother takes until it can fly away. Just past the surface of the swirling auric stars, Gabriel was pure fire, the kind of Godly fire that doesn't burn to the touch, just glows in heavenly love.
He guided me from the crowd and directly to the outside of a white door. We were standing on a stoop overlooking a well-lit city, underneath a tiny slice of moonlight. It felt like we weren't very far from the party, but in dreaming, distance is irrelevant really. A friendly guide opened the door and briefly greeted us. Gabriel lifted his arms out and motioned me to walk inside. He would not be accompanying me past the threshold. The guide was stationary, standing in the entry way talking to Gabriel in a serious tone, a tone of concern more than urgency. As I walked further and further down the long corridor their voices slowly faded behind me.
Pictures and objects hanging on the walls began to come into focus. A few traditional paintings of Jesus were staring back at me as well as crosses and various abstract pieces, most of which contained spiritual themes or some sort of religious imagery. An apparition of a young man began to flash very quickly in three different rooms surrounding me. Intuitively I knew it was the same person, a person with a very scattered soul. I could feel the fragments of the man all around me, rushing in a restless circle. In the kitchen I witnesses the man with his legs curled up in a ball, rocking and crying on a wooden table, his blond hair flowing out of his long fingers, gripping his head and smothering his face. The sound of his moaning and weeping was the most agonizing sound I have ever heard, it was as though acid was eating through his organs. I was frozen, more in confusion than fear, I didn't know what to do. It felt almost voyeuristic and intrusive that I would be allowed to see him in that condition at all. That happens more often in my dreams than I should admit; seeing people doing or saying hurtful things they shouldn't.
I took a few more paces forward, completely absorbed in the moment of where or whenever in time I was. To my left was a room that appeared to be a cozy den. An older model TV sitting on the floor,it was one of the heavy dinosaur TV's from the Early '80 s that didn't require an entertainment unit or a base. Cautiously I moved my gaze from the TV to the man sitting an an old couch. It was Layne, I recognized his very distinctive tattoos instantly before I even saw his face. He was transfixed on the screen, moments of his life were replaying flash by flash, scene by scene. He was watching himself singing at a show, he glared at the monitor in an absent daze as if he wasn't there, but was actually inside the box. He was in a place known as the "scanner," a safe house most souls go after they die to review their lives. The dwelling was recreated to look identical to Layne's condo. Not wanting to alarm him, I slowly walked behind the old couch to the other side of the room, stood just past Layne's right shoulder and put my hands neatly at my side. He didn't flinch, not even to smell the air as I moved through the room. My lips were heavy and felt stitched together in uncertainty of what the hell I was even doing there. Putting aside my fear, I assured myself he couldn't hurt me and softly called out to him, "Layne, Layne..." He snapped his head around and his eyes widened in dilation when he saw me. I took a short breath and asked the question everyone wanted to know, "Layne why are you doing this to yourself?"
(To be cont)