I walked through the alley to the sidewalk. My car was parked in the lot across the street, but I decided to take a walk instead. Downtown was dark and deserted and the air was cold. I breathed in deep through my nose and felt the frost. I put the keys back in my pocket and turned towards Main Street. I needed some time to think. I turned and walked up past the frame shop, the pawn shop, and the furniture store. It was two o'clock in the morning, cold as hell, quiet, and...lonely. I was alone. Alone with my thoughts, and alone...in my life. That was nothing different, but now I was by myself in a predicament. A problem.
If what I had seen and experienced, Aunt Clara flying in her wheelchair and talking to me, was real, then it was a beautiful thing. An awakening thing. But if it wasn't real, if it was a fantasy or an illusion, then...I was losing it. But it seemed, it felt, so absolutely real!
I realized there was only one way to know for sure. I had to tell somebody. I had to trust someone. I had to take a chance. There was a part of me that was almost willing to just keep it to myself. To enjoy this dream, or new reality, whatever it was. It was exciting and intense. But still. I had to know if it was real, or if it was just...me. Who do I trust more than anyone in the world, even more than I trust myself? I thought. My daughter. I trust Yvonne the most. I will tell her. No, wait. I know. When I see...if I see...Aunt Clara again, I will ask her if I can, if I should, tell Yvonne. But what if Aunt Clara says "No, don't tell Yvonne. You mustn't tell anyone." What if she says "No, Davey, it's our little secret."? Should I go along with her or against her wishes? Just give in to the dream and enjoy it...or maybe be swallowed up by my own craziness?
At the corner, a few blocks further up Main, I stopped and wondered whether to go left or right on Wayne Avenue or just turn around and head back down Main Street to my car. To just go home. My walk in the cold had not gotten me any closer to peace of mind. I took a deep breath, stuck my hands in my pockets, and walked slowly back toward Arch Avenue, back to my car.
I put the key in the ignition but before I turned it, I heard a song. It was coming from my coat pocket. "Like a Rolling Stone". It was my ringtone. I looked at the little screen, beaming brightly in the darkness. I didn't recognize the number, but it was a 304 area code, West Virginia. "How does it feel? How does it feel? To be on your own, no direction home? A complete unknown, like a rolling stone?" it sang. Great, Bob, it feels just great! I didn't answer. Maybe whoever it is will leave a message. There was silence for a minute, then just as I was about to see if there was indeed a message, Bob sang again. "How does it feel..." I flipped it open and said, "Hello?"
Aunt Clara said, "Davey, why are you sitting in your car in the parking lot at three a.m.?"
"Thinking," I replied, "just thinking."
"Well, Davey, I think you think too much, you know?"
"I know, but I can't help it."
"Well...it's late, but why don't you come on back in the shop, okay? We need another player."
I swallowed hard and said, "What do you mean?"
"For our game of rummy, Davey, the more the merrier!"
"I'll be right there" I answered.
I unlocked the back door and as I closed it behind me, I heard laughter and giggles. I heard the voices of Aunt Clara and Yvonne.
(To Be Continued)