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Return Engagements (Book Two) PART 17

(Continued from part sixteen)

My week in Miami really was relaxing. I had two massages, spent lots of time on the balcony, made trips to restaurants and enjoyed long walks to and around Flamingo Park. I stopped into a bookstore and bought myself two funny books by Erma Bombeck. That’s what I read on the balcony.

Miami Beach was on the decline in those years, but hard times carry a particular honesty that I appreciate, and Miami Beach had it just them.

* * * * *

I made it back to my suite at the Palmer House the evening of the 23rd, as scheduled. And as soon as I was settled in my room, young Paul leaped back into my mind. I was able to push those concerns back out, but it was clear I’d have to deal with this now. I had between four and six days to find him and spend time with him, and then this world would end. Somehow, I had to combine relaxation with meeting… joining myself to… my young self.

The next morning I stepped out of the hotel and into a fresh fall of snow, along with two legal pads, two pens and my reading glasses. I trudged over to a diner I had frequented in the late 1990s, called Old-Timer’s.

Seated at a window booth (the same spot I used to take in the ‘90s), I ate my breakfast and watched a stream of people walking down Lake Street on their way to work. Seeing purposeful people was helping me somehow, and I soon realized that no plan I could make for him would be much better or worse than any other. I’d have to trust him, he’d have to trust me.

And so I finished my breakfast, went back to the hotel and spent a quiet mid-day, reflecting on my adventure to 1978 and particularly noting that my dreams had changed because of it. Whatever the “spirit of the age” really is, it seemed to be affecting my subconscious. And it didn’t seem to be just my old memories being triggered; I was dreaming in 2018 impressions and images, but with more of a 1978 feel.

At about 3:00 I dressed warmly and took the Ravenswood train north. I’d be at his apartment before he was back from work. I walked the half mile from the station to my old apartment, trying to simply to love the young man. There was no example and no guide to a situation such as this one, and so I went to my ultimate fall-back for uncertain and difficult situations, which is simply to feel love for the other side.

I sat on a set of step across the street from his apartment, smiling and saying a very polite “Good afternoon” to the few people who wandered by. And then, at around 4:15, his work truck appeared. I watched him park around the corner, then followed to see where he parked; it was two-thirds to the Corwin’s, almost at the park. I walked to him and greeted him almost at his truck.

Hi Paul, good to see you again.”

He froze, staring hard at me. “You’re the man from the apartment,” he said flatly.

Yes, I am,” I replied, adding a smile.

The young man seemed frightened and serious at the same time.

Paul,” I said. “Let’s sit down on a bench and talk a little.”

He walked with me, willingly. I could feel that he instinctively trusted me, and that it surprised him. But I didn’t think he knew who I was. I was forty years older than him, and I know he didn’t have any physical image of himself as an older man.

You know me?” he asked.

Yes, I know you very well.” I smiled without intending to. I found myself acutely aware of his silly ideas – silly from my much broader perspective at least – but found myself trusting him all the same. We were definitely magnetic toward each other and sat there is silence for a moment, while both our minds reeled.

Paul,” I finally asked, “do you feel up to some rather powerful surprises?”

Will they be true?” His question was asked with very little delay.

Yes, they will be,” I said, “and they won’t tear up anything you truly believe, though they might do some damage to the doctrines of your friends.”

I could see him gather his courage. “Then I don’t care,” he said. “If it’s true I want to know.”

At that I broke down and cried. “This may not make a lot of sense to you,” I pushed out almost right away, “but I thank you for that, from the bottom of my heart.”

You’re welcome,” he said, not remotely understanding.

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