The last time I saw him, he wearing an uncharacteristically large overcoat, standing in front of a clothesline, smoking. Nothing like him at all. Adding to that, he was angry and had his back turned towards us. I can’t blame him for the anger. We were angry too. And sad. It’s still surreal to think he’s gone.
The three properties were set in descending order on a grassy hillside facing the ocean. It reminded me of Mendocino but felt like New England. The garden sat between them, which was where I’d chosen to spend my precious energy.
While the professor and his partner had packed their bags to move from the middle class apartments in the rectangular center building, down to the dark and janky hovel, I fed the garden bed with dark, fresh soil. Why go back when tomorrow presented itself on an accessible horizon, lit by the sun reflecting off the glittering sea?
The garden bed was bursting with sprouted bulbs and all manner of green things simply waiting to be planted in something that might further nourish their growth. I knew all I needed to do was extend an ounce of care and a few drops of water; they weren’t asking for much. Unlike before when everything seemed to require opening a vein.
The dogs were running up and down the hill as I delighted in all the possibilities lined up neatly under my hands. I was so grateful Ratchet finally had a brother. No landlords here. Just sunshine and free will.
Once I’d gotten the plants deeply settled into their new growth beds I decided to wander up the hill to the curious property under the purple banyan-like tree. It had leaves like a Japanese Maple and I’m sure it’s got a real name but as I’m not a botanist; purple banyan it is.
The house was a vintage Victorian. Intricate windowsills framed in contrasting colors from the darkly painted wood panels. The stairs were steep and wide leading up to the first floor which had been converted into a shop. The second floor was a bed and breakfast which I knew without being told, the way things are often understood in lucid planes.
I entered through a dark alcove into a not much brighter room surrounded by shelves and tables which had only begun to be filled with candles and pottery. Sitting on a bench by one the many windows was a tribe of all too cool somebodies wearing shades and layers of velvet, embroidered scarves and the relaxed attitudes of people too rich to care about anything.
He walked out of the shadows behind me holding a candle he’d just unboxed, picking packing foam off his slightly too short sweater. It’s a challenge finding sweaters that fit when you’re 6 foot 6.
My heart jumped like it always did when ever I saw him but extra now since it felt like even more of a gift.
Can I hug you?
His signature, perpetually tired face scanned the room for a spot to place the candle. He rumpled his artfully distressed hair with a now freed hand. After what felt like an eternal pause he came back from his silent curating.
Oh my gosh! Of course! Come here!
I could feel him and smell him and hear him as if he were alive right now. His lower back was warm and his heart was still beating.
As I moved away to look at him, he slung me around to one side, wrapping his arm around my shoulder. I held him from my secure nook as we surveyed the new beginnings of what will be his heavenly shop.
The cool kids in the corner gathered their bags to head up to their rooms. I gently released my old friend to return to the garden between three worlds, with renewed confidence in all that is seen, unseen and is.
The first dream of the new year just happened to be the gift of seeing a friend who passed away unexpectedly last year. I hope wherever he is, he’s as happy as he felt. I love you M. We miss you. I just know you’re lighting up heaven.