It’s funny how a ghost from one’s past, long forgotten, can suddenly reappear.
Without warning or reason, it jumps out from behind a door and brings a memory cloaked in wisdom.
I was halfway through college and so smitten with a boyfriend that I would awake in the middle of the night and pray feverishly, begging God not to ever let the relationship end.
But one night, after dinner and a movie, end it did. He had acted peculiarly since he appeared at the front door with a gentle knock and a sweet smile.
“Is something wrong?” I kept asking.
“No, uh um,” he replied, his blue eyes betraying the words.
When he took me home, he got out of the car and came around to open my door. There, in our front yard, he told me about her.
I cried for days. I lost weight until my clothes hung on my bones. When my sister saw the polish peeling from my fingernails, she had a sharp talking to me.
“How could you let yourself go like this? No boy is worth what you’re doin’ to yourself.”
It straightened me up. Slowly, the wound began to heal and, in a few months, I had found my laughter again.
One night, six months after that breakup, I ran into him at a high school football game. The air was crisp on an October night, causing our breath to rise like curls of steam as we chatted, awkward at first, then gently back to how it had once been. His eyes twinkled with the good humor he always possessed and there, as my old high school team beat the one for whom he had played, we talked and laughed merrily.
Four days later, he called. It was always his good manners to call on Tuesday night to ask for a date on Friday or Saturday. It wasn’t like it had once been for I was cautious and he was embarrassed at the mistake he had made in breaking up. It turned out that she hadn’t cared that much for him.
“I’m sorry,” he said, and it was clear that he meant it. We were back together.
One Sunday afternoon, he called. “If you’re not doing anything, I thought I’d come by.”
“Sure. I’m studying Hamlet. Shakespeare can wait.”
It’s odd how it happened. We were talking about dreams and plans. The future. I was studying journalism and broadcasting. I had certain plans to leave our small town for the big city and have the kind of life that I had read about in books.
Since I was a little girl, I had dreamed of leaving Rural Route One.
He looked off in the distance then asked, “Are you sure? You don’t want to stay here?”
I shook my head firmly.
Sadly, he fiddled with his fingers. “I’m a country boy. I’ll never leave here. I plan to die right where I am.”
So, it ended again. This time, for good and this time, a mutual decision. I stood on the porch and watched as he walked slowly to his car. He was almost to the driver’s door when he turned and looked back, his eyes glistening. He tried to smile.
“Bye,” he whispered.
Just as I said I’d do, I took off for the bright lights and rambled through four years of adventure until homesickness drove me back to the very place I had wanted to escape.
The other day, I sat down on the step of the porch from which I had waved that last good-bye. I could see him vividly. That memory had not crossed my mind in many years, but when this ghost returned, it whispered how wise he had been and how wrong I was.
He was smart enough to knew he was country, but it took three big cities to teach me that I am, too.