Seeing Ghosts

Packing up to leave a coffee house on my circuit, I decide to purchase a delicacy before departure when I glance right and see my old boyfriend sitting at the counter. He’s not supposed to be here – he lives nowhere near this locale – and I’m not supposed to care because we broke up five years ago. Only seeing him casually sitting there is like seeing a ghost sunbathing. You can’t help but be startled.

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.


littlepurplecow said...

Enjoyed finding you today via V-Grrrl. He's right. You must continue to write.

Emily said...

This is beautiful, beautiful. I love the image of the ghost. It works so perfectly. This was a little melancholy...the loss of this person...but so hopeful. I'm glad he encouraged you to write.

QT said...

Whoa- I know the jolt of which you speak, and I have a lot of "ghosts" wandering around...

It *is* a wonderful feeling to get past someone. I am glad that you got something so positive out of it. While a little jerky, he does have a nose for talent - I'll give him that.

Girlplustwo said...

sister, you've put a lot out into the universe lately - the will to write for example...and given how connected i see your spirit to the planet, this doesnt' surprise me one bit. in fact, it's kind of cool.

fringes said...

No way am I jumping after some kid on the subway tracks. If my own kid falls, I'm pushing a stranger down there to get him.

Anonymous said...

There's something so satisfying about discovering the positive side of a very painful experience, having a moment when you can see it in a different light, and recognize a larger truth.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful post this is. You convey the pain without sounding bitter. And it has a happy ending. I'm glad I stumbled onto your blog. Thanks for sharing this.

Anonymous said...

Wow. That is a gorgeous post. It's the first time I've made my way over here, and I'm so glad I did. I knew I had to once I saw your amazing handwriting over at Neil's. I'm in awe.

flutter said...

He was right, you have a gift that can't be ignored. Perhaps that makes forgiveness a little easier.