I saw him.
Everyone was so kind about it, sure that I was just wishing him there, sure that I had imagined it, sure that I was having a little ‘episode’, much like those I had after he first left me.
But I know I saw him.
In the middle of Sable’s funny tale about her doorman and her neighbors’ rabid Pekinese, while trying to focus on her story and find the part of me that not so long ago would have laughed uproariously, I looked up from our table by the window just as he hurried past.
Even with the rain on the glass, the well-lit interior of the bar illuminated him completely, head bowed, shoulders hunched against the rain, thready thick sweater and bare-headed as always.
I must have made some audible sound of shock, because everyone at our table turned their focus on me in unison, all heads swiveling at the same time. That should have brought me to, but all I could think of was ‘I have his slicker and he’ll get soaked in this downpour!’
He had barely passed and I was up out of my chair, weaving through the other diners, muttering ‘excuse me’s’ as I made my way to the coat rack just inside the main entrance. I tossed coats left and right frantically in an effort to find his slicker, finally did so, and ran out the door and up the direction he had been headed when he passed.
Sheets of rain coursed down my neck and quickly soaked me through. I felt none of it. Like a woman possessed I raced up the street in front of me. There were few people out in this weather so he should have been easy to spot, but there was no one headed in this direction. Thinking he may have crossed the street, I swiveled in a half arc, scanning the sidewalk opposite and finally looking back down towards the bar. Nothing but an elderly couple getting into a car outside the bar, and a mad jogger running up the sidewalk opposite.
He was gone.
I think I really must have lost it for a brief bit then. I remember the brick wall of the building behind me, a firm support that I slid down slowly as I collapsed into a soggy pile on the sidewalk. By now my worried friends were into their own coats and headed in my direction. Someone kept moaning ‘no, no’ and the pitiful sound of it filled my head. As if through a long tunnel I recognized my own agonized voice. Sable’s husband Michael efficiently scooped me up and deposited me gently into the passenger side of my car; Sable was already in the driver’s seat.
For the second time that day, I pressed my feverish forehead against a cool rain-spattered glass. My eyelids closed slowly, like a curtain coming down after a bad dinner show, shutting out the cruel lights and empty streets, the familiar trees and houses as they rushed by on the journey home.
My mind was racing, analyzing what had just happened. I know I saw him. I also know that there was not even a remote chance that anyone else would believe me.
The next hour was spent allowing Sable to dry me off, put me to bed, bring me a hot restoring cup of mint tea, and generally flutter about trying to console me.
When she finally left, after numerous assurances from me that I was fine, that yes, I must have been mistaken and after just as many promises to call her the next day, I fully exhaled for the first time since I’d seen him outside the bar.
Then I did something I hadn't been able to do in forever. For the first time in two years I snuggled down into my bed, on my side, and I slept the night through.
The rain never let up.