Rule number four: Do the things that scare you the most.
By the end of November I had traveled out of my body six times. I would have done it every night if I could but I hardly had the time or the ideal conditions to do so. I was, however, beginning to have a better control of it. Not only regarding how often but also control over the way I moved, the way I acted and the way I felt. I learned to use my time wisely because being woken up while traveling was not only unpleasant but also painful, and the further away you were, the worse it hurt.
I noticed that time could slip away just as easily as it was for me to leave my body, and that sometimes after what seemed like only a few minutes of wandering, the dawn would begin to break. I also noticed that animals made me feel completely alive; at times I would almost forget I was nothing but a soul. I discovered that they could see me or at least feel me. From street cats to a couple of foxes I encountered up the mountains, they all seemed to acknowledge me, stared at me or ran away as I approached them.
However, most of the times I was alone. In the suburban area where I had grown up there was rarely any activity and at night the streets were empty, silence blared over bedtime conversations and t.v channels. Whatever lives were being lived inside each house, not a single sound escaped to the coldness of what then felt like mine, my world, my nights. The few times I faced people, they saw right through me. I was amazed at how humans were so unable to recognize a soul just like their own. Some of them walked right by me and not one stopped for a moment to give a second look to where I was standing, paralyzed by fear. Not even when those dogs, left in the yards, free from any sleeping schedule, would bark at me and sniff around as I stood motionless between them and night walkers. They made me a little nervous, the humans. I would still try avoid them even though I knew they were unable to see me, let alone hurt me. I tried to avoid them as much as I could, until that night.
The afternoon before I traveled out for the seventh time I finished my first painting. It wasn’t good but I was somehow proud of it. I worked hard on it for hours since the day that I saw the lights for the first time. The very next morning I used the little money I was saving and bought a couple of brushes and some paint. It took me four pieces of canvas to create something I didn’t hate, and although it was far from the image on my mind, it did remind me a little of that night, and most importantly, it made me happy. Painting made me happy, and having painted made me happy. I had experienced more happiness that last month than I had in the two previous years.
On that seventh night –the seventh night I left home, anyway- I decided to go somewhere different. My painting was done and there was so much world, so much possible inspiration and so little time. I drifted toward that intersection where I waited the first night and continued down the main road. I moved relatively slowly but in less than an hour I was already downtown, and unlike me, it was fully awake. It wasn’t a big city compared to most other capitals, but it was big enough to have people walking decisively in an unknown direction and windows lit up with Christmas lights. It was not even December yet but the air was cold and people didn’t stay in one place for long, they tucked their hands in the pockets of their coats and walked swiftly, rushed by the wind. I walked among them and followed some for a couple of blocks, trying to imagine what they were afraid of, what they loved and what they missed. I had a habit of doing that. I think that is what defines a person, mostly. We all are afraid of something, we all love something and we all miss something or someone. Even when we think we don’t.
Being able to move unnoticed between the people allowed me to observe them more carefully without scaring them, looking at their faces that seemed emotionless and tired but hid excitement or sorrow or love. I felt a little bad about invading their privacy like that, after all, they had their masks for a reason, but I couldn’t help it. They fascinated me. I wanted to understand them, understand how people can be so much by showing so little. Every single one of them was different, with a different combination of fears and wounds and reasons to smile, but they tried so hard to look the same. We tried so hard.
Between the groups of girls in short dresses and guys smoking as they took a break from the lights and the blasting music inside the clubs, between the homeless people begging for money and those who walked by them, paying no more attention to their pleas than they did to me, I felt anxious again. I began to feel like the lights were getting brighter and the stars dimmer and the people moved faster and like I just wanted to go home. I turned around and took the same road that had led me there. As soon as I stopped hearing the people walking and talking to each other, when the lampposts were again the only illumination of the streets and the buildings were quiet houses instead of noisy clubs and restaurants, I felt better.