Saturday, November 6, 1999

I sit at my computer.

Place my fingers on the keyboard.

And the words, “What were you thinking right before you killed yourself?” come across the screen.

What follows is 11 days of typing 135 words a minute, whereupon I ask questions and receive answers from 17 souls who have committed suicide.

Everything that is written was written in a stream of higher consciousness or whatever the particular term best describes the awesome events that colored my life since I first began writing about the subject of suicide and sanity in the fall of 1998. 

First let me backtrack to where this all began….

…… At the beginning.

March 15, 1995

I am standing at the intersection of Montana Avenue and San Vicente Boulevard in Brentwood, California. I am trying to decide whether to study my French literature in translation at The Coffee Bean or Starbucks.

I choose Coffee Bean.

The reason is immediately apparent.

Soft brown eyes, plump juicy lips, a face like an Adonis. I am in love. In a few moments, I will come to know him as Charley.

Right now, he is God. 

“Would you like some Pepto-Bismol?” the Adonis asks as he peers at the book I am reading -- Nausea by Jean Paul Sartre. He slides past me and disappears into the men’s room.

A man much too old to be working as a coffee clerk leans over to my table and whispers, “He likes you.

I watched his face as he spoke to you. It was red with passion. You and him will be together.”

“That’s impossible,” I reply. “I’m married.”

“My grandfather was a Shaman,” he continues. “He passed along his psychic abilities to me. You and Charley will be together. I’m telling you this because I want you to know that there are no accidents. Everything that is meant to happen - does. You two will be together.”

Charley comes out of the men’s room and stares at me… through me.

I am going to throw up.

We are so connected. It is strong. Intense.

You will be together… My grandfather was a shaman… There are no accidents.

Later that evening, I telephone the Coffee Bean and ask Charley for a date.

“Tonight,” he says. “Let’s go out tonight.”         

“Okay, “ I blurt out. “What time?”

7:00 p.m.

Charley enters my car.

I want to kick him out.

He smells too good.

He looks too good.

He’s acting much too happy to see me.

He’s dangerous.

I have more to lose than he does.

“This looks like a good movie,” he says pointing to the newspaper. “Hideaway,” it’s called.

How Perfect.    

The next day, Charley and I are sitting outside Starbucks on 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica and we see the Shaman guy. I run over to him, thinking he’ll be excited that his prophecy came true. But he just looks at me, with glazed over eyes and a crooked smile. Later I find out he got fired from Coffee Bean and no one knows where he went, where he came from, or even… if he exists.

So Charley and I spend the next six months sharing our dreams, revealing our souls, watching the moonlight from his balcony, pondering the meaning of life and death and I file for divorce.

Charley takes me away to Santa Barbara on a romantic getaway. To lighten up my mood, he covers his head with a white sheet and informs tourists that he is a very rich oil sheik and owns the beach on which they walk.

At night, he plays piano for me at the hotel bar then serenades me to sleep playing his Gordalin.

As my eyes close, he whispers I love you and in that moment, I am transported to another realm of existence; one in which I had never visited before.

I will not go into the details of why I finally broke up with Charley. I will just say that he did not take it lightly. You see, Charley was a tortured soul. Self-tortured. He was brilliant, relentless, passionate, introspective, and mad. One night, he left the number of a funeral home on my pager. I guess it was his twisted way of telling me he needed help. 

Charley lived by his impulses.

I lived by my heart.

He wanted to run from his feelings. 

I wanted to understand mine.

So we parted ways and my life went on.

My life became about integrity and honesty, inspiration and dedication.  It became about reaching, arriving, celebrating, wondering, asking, searching, and understanding that ultimately, we don’t know.

Ultimately, we must trust.

Why am I here? What is it I was born to do?

To be?  To contribute?  To learn?

The answers came in the quiet moments between the dawn of a new day and the darkening of the sky. The moments when I stopped and noticed what was going on around me, inside me, inside of someone else.

My relationship with Charley took me to places I had not visited for a long time. It took me to gut-wrenching pain and indescribable ecstasy, infectious laughter, goofiness, energy, exhilaration, introspection, self-destruction, and love... so much love, and pain... so much pain… and happiness. The kind of happiness that lifted me out of bed in the morning with only a few hours sleep and gave me the motivation and desire to go beyond where I’d ever gone before; to live at a level of intensity that most would find uncomfortable.

September 1998

I am walking along Montana Avenue in Santa Monica and a familiar voice shouts out my name. I see Jonathan, Charley’s father, sitting at a café. He asks me to join him.

“I only have a moment,” I tell him.

He looks uncomfortable in my presence.

I ask him how things are going.

He says they’re going well.

“I drove by your apartment two months ago. Charley was sitting outside smoking a cigarette. I was going to stop by and say hello, but I knew Satori, my husband, would not have liked it.

You know how Charley is. He’s not one to keep his hands off a married woman,” I laugh.

“You couldn’t have seen Charley two months ago,” Jonathan says.

“Well, maybe it was three. But I saw him, sitting on that chaise lounge outside the house.”

“No,” he continues, his face turning white. “CHARLEY’S DEAD.”

“Excuse me?” I ask, understanding precisely what he said.

“He committed suicide a year ago.”

I am speechless.

There is a split second where the lines between what you now know and what you’re about to learn, exist. Once you cross that line, your life is never the same again. You forever refer to it in terms of, “before you found out” and “after you found out.”

I was about to cross that line.

“How did he die?”

“He jumped off the Lincoln Boulevard overpass onto the Santa Monica freeway. He landed onto a Vintage Porsche. Just like Charley, to choose the most expensive car,” he jokes, trying to fend off the pain.

We laugh. A moment of remembrance in Charley’s honor allowed us the freedom to laugh.

And then, we cry.

“I tried to get a hold of you when Charley died, but you weren’t listed.”

“When did it happen?” I ask.

“On November 1, 1996. All Soul’s Day.

His memorial service was November 10th.”

“My birthday,” I reply.

I could not comprehend that Charley was gone. Later that day I returned home to find an envelope on my desk. “I received these photos in the mail today.  I don’t know who they’re of, but he sure is good-looking,” said a note from my mom.

I opened the envelope and gasped when I saw the face — it was Charley.

Two years prior, I had taken a roll of film that contained photos of Charley to the drug store to be developed. For some reason, I never picked them up.

My mother knew Charley. My mother had spent time with Charley during the six months we were virtually inseparable. Yet in these photos, she did not recognize his face. They were modeling photos and he looked quite different.

I felt spooked and curious about what this meant. Photos arrive the same day I find out Charley is dead.  “What do you want me to know?” I ask the photos.

A few days later… 

…the answer comes.

“Write,” a voice tells me.

“Write what?” I ask.

“Just write.”

For the next eight months, for 10-12 hours a day, I wrote, cried, laughed and explored untapped dimensions of my soul, pockets of who I was… pieces of who I was going to be.  It was an incredible, exhilarating, enlightening, painful, and challenging experience, the result of which became my film, Journey From Within. 

During the writing of this film, I had many “mystical” experiences. One night, a transparent image wearing something blue, ran across my mirror.  I felt a spirit beside me. I called my dog over, but she wouldn’t come. Her hair stood up and she growled fiercely.

The next moment, the lights went out. I got them back on and they went out again.

The next evening, I was feeling the presence of Charley and asked him to send me a sign. I asked aloud so my husband could bare witness to anything that occurred. At the time I was reading a book I had never read before and when I turned the page, the first word on top was — Charlie. 

Then, on Saturday, November 6, 1999, the words “What were you thinking right before you killed yourself,” spread across the screen.

This is the story of 17 souls who have something to say.

I am just the vehicle through which they chose to speak. In reading this, you are listening… and allowing them to finally be heard.

Excerpted from Conversations with the Spirit World by Lysa Mateu. Copyright 1998. All rights reserved.


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