It Happened One Day When I Met . . .

     It’s just one of those things. You read an author’s works. All of them, several times over. You build up this image, this fantasy, a complete history and life story around who you think they are based on their writing. And you do this even though they have said repeatedly in forums, and in blogs and interviews – that just because they write it, it doesn’t mean they believe it, or that it reflects who and what they are as a person in real life.  But hey! Why let go of a good fantasy, right.
     It doesn’t really matter who the author is – or the otherwise famous person you feel you have to come to know and love so well from following their writing, their art, their music . . . those tantalizing tales shared in gossip rags and in other places. It’s about the dream and the expansion of that balloon dream until POP! And reality hits.
     I met this famous character – let’s call him Dirk just because – rather unexpectedly at the local pub. I knew – because I ready everything there is to read that he writes, and that is written about him – that he had extended family in the area. But I never expected to meet him in my little town.
     Anyway, I was sitting in the pub after a hard day’s work crunching numbers for my accounting firm, and looked across the room  and there he was! In all his famous glory. Alone! No one was with him. Could it be? Was I imagining things? Why would such a fabulous person be sitting all alone in a pub? It never crossed my mind that there might be a perfectly good reason for his solitude.
     And make no mistake – it was solitude. All the other booths and tables were filled. I had just managed to get a bar stool ahead of a lumbering ox of a man, who glared ferociously at me, while I did the usual cute girl thing and simpered with a bit of eyelash fluttering.
     “Hey Benny,” I beckoned to the barkeep, and he leaned closer to me, turning his head slightly so I could speak directly into his ear. The local garage band was trying for 11 on their amplifiers, and apparently succeeding, much to the delight of the younger crowd and the chagrin of the older patrons.
     “Who’s that sitting all by himself?” I gestured over to the man sitting alone in the booth.
     “Who?” Benny squinted and then looked at me in surprise.
     “There’s no one there, Misty. That’s an empty booth.” Benny backed up from me, and then shook his head, “Nahh – you haven’t been here long enough to get a good buzz on.” He scowled and folded his arms. “You pulling my leg?”
     “Benny!” I exclaimed. “There’s a man sitting all alone in that booth. Look, he’s . . . “ I turned around to point at him, and gasped. The booth was empty. “That’s odd.” I looked in surprise at Benny. “There was someone there, Benny, I swear it!”
     “Whatever, Misty,” Benny said. “You haven’t been here long but I think you’re ready for a nice cold cola now – no more beer.”
     Benny turned away from me and poured a tall soda. “It’s on the house,” he said, sliding the glass over to me. “You  work too hard, kid.”
     Pouting, I picked up my cola and pondered what I had just seen. Or not seen. How could I see a person one minute and then not the next? He WAS there! I saw him! I looked back over my shoulder and gasped. He was there in the booth again. And he was looking calmly and fixedly right at me.
     Without a word to Benny, I picked up the cola and walked over to the table.
     “Hey,” I said, smiling.
     “Sit, if you dare,” he responded. His voice was low and jangled my nerves in an odd way.
     “If I dare?” I asked, feeling stupid.
     “Not many do,” he responded.
     “Why’s that?” I asked, my natural caution kicking in . . . something was wrong here.
     “Because I’m not really here.” His eyes glinted as he looked up at me, and waved me to the seat across from me. “Sit or go away,” he said, “I don’t really care. But don’t stand over me, looming. You make me nervous.”
     “Well, maybe just for a minute.” I set my cola on the table and then hesitated as his body stiffened.
     “Why are you not really here,” I ventured, deciding to get that cleared up before I sat down.
     Dirk looked up at me with a slow grin. The gold tooth on his left side of his mouth sparkled as he said, “If you sit down, you can go where I go. But, if you do, beware . . . you’ll never come back here to this time and place.”
     I involuntarily stepped back a pace and his hand lashed out and grabbed my wrist. “Don’t leave, sweetheart,” he said. “Take a chance. I know how you read everything I write, I know what you dream in the shadows of the night . . . stay with me. Now is the only chance you’ll ever have.”
     Gulping, I tried to pull my arm away and say something really smart like “Stop it. Let me go. You’re hurting me.”
     I felt like I was trapped in mud, or homey, and not able to move. In slow motion my body collapsed in on itself next to the man who wrapped his arm around me and pulled me into his side in a crushingly tight squeeze. Panicked, I tried to scream and no sound came out. The bar slowly faded away.
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