[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.
“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.