That night in bed, Suzie and I shared a cigarette and talked. We often had long, rambling conversations in bed together. We’d always been able to speak our hearts, and listen to each other as best friends do.
We knew… at such times dreams can be born.
We were happy together. We’d been around the world together, had fun together, been tested together, could rely on each other. Suzie lived for the moment and adored life as it came, a true gypsy soul untethered and free. I was enjoying the present but, still without a job in animation in New York, brooding a little about the future.
I listened while Suzie quietly talked of her mother in South Africa, whom she missed. She spoke of her brothers and sister and their life before her father went “crazy mean with his dopp,” meaning the booze, and she cried a little for things that were lost. Suzie didn’t often cry, but sometimes, after lovemaking, she was more emotional than usual. (Who isn't?) She naturally had a very loving heart and our act of love had set it astir.
After a long pause, she whispered, “I saw him again.”
“My father. He was sitting on the edge of our mattress.”
While we lived in the shared apartment on Seventh Avenue, we slept on a mattress on the floor. For privacy we had hung a row of curtains around. I sat up and looked down towards my feet.
“When did you see him?” I asked.
“Yesterday. Just after you left the apartment.”
“Oh? You sound okay. Is everything all right?”
She had seen the ghost of her father before, in every place we had ever lived. Australia, Africa, New Zealand, and now New York. He was a well travelled ghost, this father of hers, I had to admit that. I had never seen him, but this did not stop me from believing wholeheartedly that Suzie had. He appeared at times when Suzie was by herself. She would walk into a room and he would already be there, sitting quietly with his hands in his lap. He wore a look of inner reproach on his haunted face, as his anguished eyes followed Suzie’s every move.
He never spoke a word, just sat there on the end of the bed and stared with haunted eyes at his daughter. The way Suzie thought of it, her father was the one who was being haunted, not her.
“He was just checking up on me, to see how I was getting along in the big city,” said Suzie quietly. The little girl who used to be, wanted to believe in the protective father who never was.
Laying next to me in the dim light, Suzie’s eyes glistened with tears, tears not for herself, but for her tortured father. She believed he suffered the fate of being an unhappy ghost because of the unhappiness he caused other people while he was living, with his violent alcoholic rages and especially the murderous intentions of his ghastly suicide. She blamed his ghostly troubles on his addiction to alcohol when he was alive and held her father, now that he was dead, virtually blameless, at least as far as his soul went, the thing of him that was his essence and that really mattered.
Within Suzie’s small frame beat a giant’s forgiving heart.
“Had you seen him lately?” I asked. It had been a while since she had mentioned her father and I was curious. Suzie could be casual about things, and sometimes she failed to mention that, oh, by the way, I saw the ghost of my dead father again the other day.
“No,” she said. “Not for ages.” She thought for a minute. “He’s never been to America before.”
“Did he try a pretzel while he was here?”
Suzie laughed quietly and her splendid white teeth showed. We both detested the twisty, salty things sold on every NYC street corner.
I pulled her to me and gently kissed her mouth. Her cheeks were damp with tears.
“Goodnight, Suzie,” I whispered.
She snuggled into me with her long arms folded on my chest. I held her close as she fell asleep. How innocent she looked when asleep. Like a child.
My heart swelled with love for Suzie.
Laying there, listening to Suzie breathe and looking up at he ceiling, I thought some thoughts to myself in the night.
So, Suzie had seen her father’s ghost sitting on the bed. Well, that had happened before and would probably happen again. So long as Suzie was okay about it, why should I worry? I stared up into the dark and allowed my mind to wander. Suzie. It was fun in the bathtub tonight. Even after twelve years together, I found her as exciting a lover as ever. It was always no holds barred! Life was fun at the apartment, with friends all around, but it would be good to have our own place, if we could ever afford it. At least I had a job working as a messenger, but it was hardly worth it. The work itself wasn’t too bad, the people I worked with were friendly and interesting, but the money was terrible. No matter how much I worked, there was never enough. It was grinding us down and making life tough. When would animation work come my way? Would it ever come my way? Somehow, I knew it would. It was just a matter of not giving up, of that I was convinced. It was just a matter of persistence. Of believing blindly and carrying on!
That, and luck. Plain, old, dumb luck.
Well, I thought, I’d always been a lucky bastard. Ask anybody. As my father-in-law Mick used to say, “Rusty lad, if you fell into the toilet bowl headfirst, I swear you’d come up with a set of solid gold false teeth! Ahaw haw haw!”
I smiled to myself and closed my eyes.
Soon I was fast asleep.