It’s been almost two years since Nick and I first got to know each other. Sometimes I wonder if he’s still there; if we can still talk like we used to. Can I still conjure him up? Or have I lost my touch?
I head out to the woods to find out. I have some questions about his buddy Milo.
Like the Cheshire cat, the first thing I see when Nick appears is his grin. I notice the years haven’t changed him much as he leans on a convenient tree in front of me, hands in his pockets, his baseball hat keeping his unruly hair out of his eyes.
“Back on conflict arcs again, babe?”
“Babe?” I raise my eyebrows.”Where did that come from?”
“Just goofin’ around. It’s spring; it makes everyone a little goofy.”
Yeah, I’ve noticed that too. My pen hangs poised over the page, and I wait. For answers. Nick? Answers, please?
“If you want an answer, you’ll need to ask a question first.” Nick sounds so matter-of-fact, he could easily be the one teaching me to write, instead of me trying to impose my story upon him. “I’m waiting…” he prompts me.
“It’s about Milo.”
“Is that the last conflict arc?”
“I think so, except for the one with the song.”
“The song is a character?”
“You would know that better than I, wouldn’t you?” I ask him.
His eyes scrunch in the most appealing way as he appears to process this.
“About Milo?” I remind him. “When did you get to be friends?”
“In college. My parents wanted me to study medicine, remember? He was in my biology class–or was it anatomy–” He grins. “I can’t remember.”
“Did you study together?”
More grinning. “Well, he studied.”
“What do you mean, he studied? You didn’t cheat your exams, did you?”
He lets me stew about this, before reassuring me. “Nah, I just took the low grade. Didn’t want the parents to think I’d be much of a doctor.”
“You would have made a better doctor than some of the ones I’ve met.”
“Not what I was meant for, remember?”
“Yeah, I remember. But, tell me more about Milo.”
“Milo was always weird. Needed to get out more. He read books by Carl Jung, and Sigmund Freud, and Kant. Talked about philosophy and religion. I always told him he needed to lighten up. It’s okay to think about stuff, but man, you gotta live it to understand it. You know what I mean?”
“I do, Nick, I do,” I say as I scribble down everything he’s told me.
When the wind blows on my skin, reminding me that I’m alive, I can hear Nick mock me.
“You’re afraid I’m going to leave, aren’t you?” he asks.
“Well. A little, yes,” I admit.
“You shouldn’t be. Is that why you’re afraid to finish the revision?”
“I’m not afraid of the revision.” But I know he won’t believe me. I can’t lie to my own characters.
“Really? You keep saying you’re going to cut that second scene, and it’s been …” He ticks the weeks off on his fingers, frowning. “Two…three weeks.”
“I’m thinking this Sunday. I might have a block of time to tackle it. But I’d really like to get through the outline before I do that.”
Nick looks dubious. The wind tousles his dark hair. No grey yet. He’s gone all young on me, reminding me that, even as I get older, he’ll always be the same.
“You sure?” he asks. “‘Cuz I bet you’ll want to do the time line, and reorganize the scenes.” He fixes his stormy eyes on mine. “Again.”
“I’m doing all I can, Nick. There’s this editing challenge–fifty hours in March, and I don’t know how I’m going to fit that many hours in. I’m not even sure I’m up to this. Other writers have nothing but line edits between them and a finished novel. I’ve got … a full rewrite, and then who knows, I still might not be close to finished. There must be something wrong with me. I’m not much of a writer, you know—”
He holds up a hand, shaking his head. “You’re cutting yourself down again. And I can’t let you do that to yourself.”
I study him, in all his graceful, fluid, steely eyed, dark-clad glory. His very existence is an affirmation of my abilities. I want to cry with joy in this moment. This ecstasy that is writing saved my life, my soul. Without it, I would drink myself into a stupor or worse. Instead I savor every day that is given to me, reflect upon the miracle of being alive, and leave a river of words to mark its passing.
If only I were as eloquent in my novels as I am in my journal.
Nick has meandered off into the trees, and looks back at me occasionally to see if I have finished yet. I’m still writing, agonizing about what I should do next.
Wandering back to my side, he watches the words creep onto the page with interest.
“Nothing about me?” he asks.
“What do you want me to write about you?”
“Hmm….” He thinks for a moment. “Have you described my guitar– the black Strat?”
“Not really. But I could, I guess. I’d really like to see more pictures …”
He drags my pen across the page to make the words. “Curves like a woman. Ebony, shimmering under the lights. We left her at the Hacienda. That was the only lucky thing about that night.”
“Maybe if you’d brought her–it– with you things would have been different. Maybe Libra guided you to it because it–she is your destiny. Wait … she gave it to you didn’t she?”
Nick lets go of my pen and smiles triumphantly.
“When did she give it to you?” I ask. “For your birthday? When was your birthday? Was your sign Libra just like hers was? Or did she give it to you for Christmas? Is this important?”
Nick paces, letting the wind press his t-shirt against his spine, his fine-boned physique appearing fragile for someone so fearless.
“She sold the coat–the fur coat–to get you the guitar, didn’t she?”
“Maybe.” He stuffs his hands back in his pockets.
“You’re not going to tell me any more?” I ask. “Where does one buy a nice guitar in the 1960’s?”
“Looks like you’ll need to do some research, won’t you?”
I sigh. “Yeah. But that’s okay. You done good, Nick. But can you hold that thought? I have to stop for a while–”
He shrugs and gives a lopsided grin designed to send my heart aflutter. “I’ve got all night.”
Sadly, I close my notebook.
“Should I walk you home?” he asks.
“I would like that,” I reply. Avoiding the puddles in our path, he walks beside me, sharing this last bit of a sunny afternoon. Sometimes I think this ghost in my mind will be the only one to completely understand me.
What ghosts walk across your pages?