[Editor's Note: Jack Grisham is an author, hypnotherapist, T.S.O.L. front man and all-around troublemaker. This column, True Story, may or may not be factual, with characters who may or may not be real.]
His head was down, visibly sweating over the object of his attention--a black leather book. He was oblivious to the world outside, but to me, he was a perfect target. There's a creepy self-help guru who says, "Comfort the disturbed, and disturb the comfortable," but I like to leave the comfortable alone and disturb the disturbed. I opened with a very harmless, yet intruding line.
"It's a great day, isn't it?"
He looked up at me, his eyes echoing a deep longing. Whatever he had been pondering had taken him desperately far from this place.
"Yes." he replied. "I guess it is; Carol loved days like this." He stroked the book as he talked, almost as if he were caressing the soft back of a lover. "The fall was always her favorite."
I sat down beside him. "Is Carol your wife?" I asked.
"No," he said as he shook his head. "She lived next door." Again to the book his hand traveled, this time placing his fingers under the worn cover--slightly lifting. "I bet she's at the park; she loves to walk." He opened to the first page, and there was a photo, taken from some distance, of a woman walking a Boston terrier. "She was wonderful with him," he said, "very kind, loving."
"You talk as if she's gone. Did she pass?"
"No!" he replied, angered. "Of course not!" He took a deep-sea breath before continuing. "It's just that I'm . . . well . . . I'm not supposed to see her--it's complicated and a bit unfair."
He turned another page, this time to a photo of her walking upstairs, and then of her in a grocery store, and then a high-angled shot of her lying topless in a yard. He smirked at that one. Each photo was candid, its subject unaware.
"So, are you restrained?" I asked.
"I wouldn't call this restrained," he replied as he held high the book, "but there are certain parameters that I must abide."
"Like, 300 yards and no phone calls?" I asked.
I leaned over and gently touched the book--toying with him. I opened it to a random page. He didn't resist.
"I wonder where she is now," I began, "who she's with, what she has on?"
He leaned back and closed his eyes, crying meekly--his tears searching for her on his face.
It was then that I looked down to the page I chose. The face looking up at me was so beautiful, so loving, a woman created to soothe every hurt, guide every step, right every wrong--my woman. And in that instant, I was hooked--an emotional needle plunged my veins. I defensively looked to him, but in his eyes, I now saw only relief.
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"She's yours now," he said.
He got up and walked away--leaving the book. I turned back to the front page, and there, scrawled on the inside cover, was an address and a name: Carol.