We met over hot beverages. Accidentally. A crowded coffee house with too few tables. I pulled an empty chair into no man’s land trying to balance my drink with my reading material, no surface for support. A guy with bleached-out hair and the coolest fountain pen offers to share his table. I say thank you and slide over. He’s scribbling in a spiral notepad and I’m lusting over his pen.
“Cool pen,” I say with all the suave in the room. I flash my drugstore variety Sheaffer at him and say, “I love fountain pens.”
“Me, too,” he replies, and he starts sharing the history of his pen while demonstrating the way it moves across the page and pointing out the fine crafting of its nib.
Five months later he vanishes without warning, without a word, and takes my heart with him.
The in between part from pens and coffee to disappearance are messy and involve shared living quarters (mine), loaned money (mine), and the destruction of trust (also mine.) He resurfaced two years after his departure to apologize and repay his debt. By then I was accustomed to living without a heart, so after the initial jolt of hearing his voice, talking to him had little effect on my pulse.
But seeing him today oddly did.
I alter my direction and exit the coffee house via the side door leaving the thought of food inside. And now, with an empty stomach, I’m digesting. That man sitting with his coffee was the first person to sit me down and tell me that I must write. As he said the words handing me back my pages of a meandering novel/memoir-type concoction, I smiled and shyly shrugged off his praise. And then he upped his level of seriousness to stern and said, “I mean it. You Must Write.”
Without offering me a roadmap, he insisted on my taking the journey. His adamance got my attention and along with my own desire pushed me to abandon the working life I’d been living. Over time I concluded that this was the purpose of his entering my life, for after the blow of his disappearance that left me paralyzed for months, I needed to find positive meaning. I’d been certain that he was my reward for the hard work of healing after a troubled marriage, but then he was gone.
Seeing the ghost reminds me of the good he brought out in me, how I was lighter and funnier, risky and playful. I was kind to myself then, more tolerant, more accepting. To lose that when he left stung, but I finally believe that he had no intent of hurting me, that his abrupt departure was simply a dramatic display of his own problems.
And suddenly I feel forgiving. I consider other hurts of my life and I recognize how I could have minimized the pain, how I could have stood up for myself better. Receiving hurt in silence is wrong. If we’re not willing to stand up for our needs and wants, how can we expect others to honor them?
So, seeing the ghost has pushed me through forgiveness and made me stand up straighter. My rescuing days are over unless it involves my child, my dog, or strangers who fall onto subway tracks (hey, I, too, can aspire to greatness.) I feel a smile that can’t be squelched. And I can’t wait to see who shows up next, spooky or fleshlike.