Something a little more personal tonight. Some thoughts about what went into writing Will's Red Coat and how we got where we are today.
In my sleep, I often return to a night from last April.
The dream comes for me now and then, and I am transported.
In my dream, I am sleeping. Sleeping so deeply it feels like I am floating in a pool of death, black and still. Everything is calm. Then something changes and I'm propelled out of the depths, and I wake up not knowing where I am.
Again, this all takes place in my dream. And while I am still sleeping, I feel like I am opening my eyes.
Where am I?
There is something on my face. I feel like I cannot breathe. I panic and try to pull it off. A nurse appears and takes hold of my hands.
"Tom, it's okay."
Her voice is kindness itself. It is understanding.
I search her face. I have never seen her before. She can tell I am confused.
"You are okay. You have been under for hours."
I try to talk, but there is something over my mouth. I want to breathe.
Again, she holds my hands. "You have to leave it on. You cannot breathe without it."
"Where am I?" Although it doesn't come out like that. It comes out like a moan. The angel nurse understands, though.
"You were moved to ICU."
"I thought I was dead."
After three tries by me, she understands.
"We won't let that happen, but for a little while, we thought you were, too. Something tells me you won't let that happen either, Tom."
That's when I wake up. Always at the same point.
I often find myself back in that dream, in that bright room.
I remember a little more of it each time.
I was fighting for breath and rushed from dialysis when I passed, I'm told. I was out for a very long time, some of it induced by the doctors.
I don't know why I go back there. When I do, I travel across fields of emotions. There are tears and smiles. There is acceptance.
When I learned I had a monstrous breathing machine on to help me; I asked the nurse for my phone.
"You can't call anyone right now, Tom. You need to keep the mask on. It is how you are breathing."
"I don't want to call anyone."
I had to repeat it so she could understand me.
"Then why do you want your phone?"
"I want you to take my picture so I can send it to my friends, so they can see I am okay... and handsome as ever. They worry about me."
She laughed, and I smiled and gave her the thumbs up, but you can't tell from the photo she took.
I don't know why my dreams take me back to this night, but it happens about once a month. They don't frighten me. It's just the opposite. I find a curious comfort when I return. The quiet. The starkness with all that flooding light as I emerge from the depths. There is an understanding that I am alive when maybe I shouldn't be.
I think perhaps I return to that place when asleep because there is no way to comprehend it all when I am awake. In slumber, I can float through it all and pick up a lost piece here and there.
I know there are no answers, although some pretend to know what they cannot possibly. It is all part of a mystery.
The other night, after I finished reading the opening of Will's Red Coat, I pointed out that I wrote it as two different people. The first draft before my extended hospital stay; the second draft much later, when I could finally think straight again.
When considering that strange night when I woke up, and they were emptying my lungs of fluid that was drowning me with a needle longer than any I had ever seen, it felt like I owned all I had ever known but was also starting from an entirely new place.
I would leave the hospital a month after that night and Atticus would leave me twelve days after my return. That's when the dream, or memory, came most often.
When I think of everything that has changed since that May Day when Will arrived, all that living, all that work, the struggle, the growth and joy and surrender, and then the parting, and my almost leaving, followed by Atti's leaving, I realize I'm changed from who I was before it all.
There is much that went into writing Will's Red Coat. There was the old me and the renewed me.
In the moments before we go on stage or in front of a crowded bookstore during each event of our upcoming tour, I will revisit all of this. I'll carry it with me when I stand before everyone. I will think of dear Will, resolute Atticus, and that night I go back to.
I am a charmed man to have experienced so much. I feel wealthy to be able to carry it with me.
In the next few days, our tour will be announced, and it will become even more real. After each event, after all that excitement, when we get back to our hotel room, and I turn out the light, I get the feeling I will say my prayers, and when they are sent off, I'll whisper to Atticus and Will, we did well tonight, my friends. We did well.
I look forward to seeing many of you out on tour during the few weeks we are on the road.
Onward, by all means.