In three hours, I will help the artists whose work has been showing in my professional space strike their show. Tomorrow the next show comes to Art @ Suite 100, and life clicks another quarter towards eternity. I look around the house and think of the drawers, shelves, and cupboards filled with the flotsam and jetsam of my life. I don’t know where to begin. Inertia overcomes me.
Another little miracle happened here yesterday. My lost copper hair pin reappeared. When I crossed the living room to take my coffee outside, I paused and glanced down at the floor. My hairpin lay on the floorboards about two feet in front of the threshold. I had eaten my dinner on the porch the previous evening, stepping over that very threshold. I had entered and exited the house all week via the front door. The pin had not been lying on the floor or anywhere near that spot. I have no clue how it managed to find its way from wherever I lost it to my living room but there it sat, waiting to be discovered by me.
I said a silent prayer of thanks to St. Anthony out of ingrained habit. Holding the pin, feeling its smooth contours, I wondered if my mother had found it; or my favorite curmudgeon; or perhaps the house ghost. I smiled. I suppose it doesn’t matter what spirit occasioned its return.
This is far from my first experience with weird happenings. As I sipped my coffee, I thought about my last apartment in St. Louis before I left for law school. I would come home from work to find the record player scratching across an album, mournful notes drifting through the place. I’d wake some mornings to discover that all of my pictures had been turned face down in their frames.
My father changed the locks and installed deadbolts, precautions stemming from his insistence that someone would enter my apartment while I was away. As for myself, less sure of the nature of the miscreant, I took to unplugging the radio. Nothing impeded the imp who deployed the blender, rattled the window shades, and moved my jewelry.
One summer night, I struggled to fall asleep. The apartment had no air conditioning. The full July heat poured through the window, still and heavy. Finally I drifted into a sluggish unconsciousness.
I woke with a start to the cool breath of a figure bending over me. White and shapeless, vaguely human, no eyes, no mouth but a gentle, urgent voice. Wake up, wake up, there’s someone in the apartment. Wake up!
I jerked upright, eyes darting around the seemingly empty room. I pulled myself from the bed and ran through the house, screaming as loud as possible. Sounds of scuffling hurried feet — the sight of an open back door — I stopped, hands to my mouth.
The police found that both my apartment door and the backdoor to the building had been smashed. A garbage bag lay across the rear sidewalk with its contents spewed over the cracked cement, booty dropped in the burglar’s haste. Whether my sudden noisy entrance or the appearance of my ghostly sentry had driven the intruder from my apartment, I cannot say. In fact I did not explain to the officers what had actually awakened me.
They scolded me for not calling for help from the phone on my bedside table. I allowed as how they were probably right and I would do that — next time. Let’s hope there isn’t a next time, one of them muttered. You got somebody who can fix this door?
They hammered a board across the splintered door frame, and told me to call the landlord in the morning. I assured them that I would. I hugged my upstairs neighbor and declined his offer of a couch for the night.
I never again complained about the sound of my record player greeting me after work. I figured even ghosts deserve entertainment.
Four years later, I walked with my mother in her garden after her cancer diagnosis. She told me that she had dreamed about an angel coming to her. He told me that I have a year left, she said, in a voice so matter-of-fact that I stopped to examine her face. She shrugged. I’m all right with that, she continued. He also said everyone would be with me when I left here to go home.
I thought for a few minutes and then asked her what the angel looked like. A white form, with no face, vaguely human, but with an endlessly gentle voice. My mother paused. You think I’m crazy, don’t you, she asked.
I thought about that record player at my apartment on Maury Avenue. I shook my head. I wrapped my arm around her waist and said, If you’ve only got a year, we better make the most of it. Let’s go have some ice cream.
Here in Kansas City, more than three decades later, I listen to the silence and glance out the window at the grey sky. A sudden peace overcomes me. I smile, and head downstairs to get another cup of coffee.