A Visit From Leslie (cont.)

…  It was just like the days when we used to hang out in her basement apartment with the brick fireplace. She’d have her butt pressed against the wall with her stringy legs perpendicular to the ceiling as she worked out the tightness in her hamstrings. I was on the other side of the room stretched across her gold fleece blanket trying to touch my fingers to my toes. Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill played from the stereo above our heads. Even though we both had our eyes closed and we were doing our own thing, we were aware of each other’s presence.

We had a way of doing that. Even after Leslie moved to Maui, we were somehow connected. I would think of her and she would call ten minutes later. Sometimes when I telephoned her, she’d answer, “Hi Karen. I knew you were going to call.”  She said this so matter-of-factly it made me believe in another dimension. 

I remember one evening during my visit to Maui when I sat in a turquoise folding chair outside of the shop where Leslie worked. With only five minutes until closing, I started to pull the sarong wheels inside the store so we could head over to Charlie’s for a burger.   

“Wait a minute,” she said. Her head cocked to the side as if she were listening to a coyote howling in the distance. “I’m not going to close just yet. I’m about to make a lot of money.” And, sure enough, within minutes a woman sauntered into the store and bought $200 worth of merchandise.

 *****

I’d been hoping Leslie would visit me ever since the day she died. She didn’t include my name in her suicide note, but I knew I was special to her. I was the first close friend she made since getting sober, and she was the first close friend I made since moving to San Francisco. We had that immediate connection that makes you think you’ve done this before.

Every once in a while, I’ld lie on my bed in the darkness and whisper my prayers to Leslie – as if she was now one step closer to God. Maybe if she put a good word in for me I could get that cute apartment near Ocean Beach or date that musician I met at the Bazaar Cafe. I tried to imagine what it’s like to be dead. Was Leslie a spirit floating around with wings? Did she know she was dead? Was she in big trouble for taking that bottle of pills? Sometimes I’d ask Leslie to come visit me or show me a sign that she was still around.  

“Okay,” I’d whisper to the sky, “I really want to hear from you. Just don’t hover over my bed or float through my kitchen or do something that will scare the hell out of me!” I’d wait a few seconds, spook myself, and then say out loud, “Never mind.”

 *****

I’d sort of forgotten about Leslie lately. She was like a great novel I read that was now gathering dust on the bottom shelf. Sometimes I still talked to her when I was driving alone and occasionally I scribbled her name in the sand, but mostly I figured she was okay up there and I needed to get on with my life. So I was kind of surprised to hear from her last Thursday.  

She arrived slowly, subtly, as light as a mosquito on my arm. I felt her sit on the bed beside me. She didn’t say a word. She just looked on like a mother watching a sleeping child. My thoughts raced, forming a silent conversation with themselves and the presence that was around me.  

“What’s it like up there?” I asked. “How are you doing? I miss you. Are you okay?” She just looked on, smiling without using her face. Then my mind thought it should try for a free psychic reading:  “Hey, am I going to get married? Should I move? What about this writing thing?” Her invisible voice washed over me.  

“Ssshhhh,” she silently whispered, somehow stroking my forehead. “Sssshhhh.” My brain lurched forward: “But what about...”  

“Ssssssshhhhhh,” she whispered again.    

And then I stopped asking. I slowed down to the moment that was happening and I let myself feel. Something opened up inside my chest, like a cloud of lavender incense calming a room. My heart experienced what Viktor Frankl describes in Man’s Search for Meaning – love. It was like that huge, white light that accompanies a UFO in science fiction movies, only there was no light. It was more of a feeling. The chattering voices in my head went silent. I lay there floating in a sea of bliss, feeling nothing but the openness of my heart and the intense purity of this divine love. 

One of the authors I read after Leslie’s death said love is the one thing that never dies. Love survives time and dimension and death and birth. This always sounded nice and I wanted it to be true. But not until last Thursday did I know for sure.