There was a very cold night in Chicago in the winter of ’81. The fraternity I was pledging was exacting a toll called Hell Week. The Pledges had to clean the entire place top to bottom with getting stoned or drunk before, during, or after we did it. To make matters worse, the heat was rationed. So much for background.
I was in a falling dream. And I knew it. Except I made a conscious decision to not wake up. I had been swinging Tarzan style across a network of steel girders and tree branches, cables, and vines. I had missed a vine and sailed into the unknown.
End over end I fell. And fell. I fell a long time. And I wanted to keep right on falling. Part of me asked, “Had enough?” No, keep falling.
And then I saw the bottom approach. “Wake up!” part of me cried. No, I kept going.
I was looking down at my body as I hovered above it. There was chest sized rock sticking out of my back. There was no pain.
And I could feel fluid trickling from my body. “Please wake up…” the voice pleaded. No, keep bleeding.
The sense of calm was peace and complete. I felt at one. No fear. No anger. No sadness. Just happiness and content. And part of me shouted, “This is the last warning! After the last drop of blood, you will be at peace forever!”
I watched as my fluids were down to just under a half pint. Parts of the boulder weren’t even stained. Parts even where my body had passed around. My body was more than a wreck; I was well into dead.
The beauty and dreaminess at that time is hard to describe. I savored each moment between every precious drop. Each draining tear led to a more satisfying feeling of constant and infinitely cold perfection.
I watched as the last few drops fell and I started to see a geometric cross shape of fantastic light. Was that heaven? Before the absolute last drop was collecting I summoned every ounce of strength and will – and climbed back into consciousness.
Waking up, I surveyed the situation. It was freezing cold in the room. My chest was tight; it felt like pneumonia or asthma (I have been familiar with both). I figured it would pass once I warmed up some.
I got up and got dressed in sweats, socks, a heavy cotton frat shirt. Crawled back into bed and fell into a warm sleep.
That morning at breakfast we all learned that night had been one of the coldest in Chicago ever. This was no surprise because when I woke up earlier, the windows were opaque from frozen condensation; the ice inside the room had spread down the pane, past the ledge, and extended several feet to the painted surface of the cinder blocks.