Working with Nick every day you would think it would just be a simple matter of asking him about the apartment. He’s managed to keep his secret because of his family at the newspaper. Wow! That’s the ultimate test of loyalty. If my nosiness gets back to him, I doubt he’ll perceive it in the manner that I intend. What have I gotten myself into? I don’t want to undermine Nick’s faith. He has been a father figure to me. I do not wish any harm, yet curiosity consumes me, with every clue I find. Seems to me the way to forget would be to tear the apartment down, severing all ties. He could not do that. Allowing the apartment to remain, time stands still. It’s a monument of the love he once had and still carries, “The Flame”.
Nick reminds me of the actor Jimmy Stewart. Nick and Julie grew up neighbors. Attended the same school, same church, always together, celebrating birthdays, family events. Their parents dreamed that one day they would marry and when it actually came to pass, they were overjoyed.
Nick studied journalism at Indiana State. He would laugh, saying that Julie’s forte was in nothing accredited. Social activities were her major.
After graduation Nick was groomed by his father, Ralph to take over the family business. A few years later Nick became the publisher of the family owned newspaper THE OBSERVER. Running the newspaper was what Nick had been raised to do. One of his earliest memories was of sitting on papa’s lap and looking at a big desk. Nick used the old desk for several years but needed more space than what the old antique gave him.
Nicks secretary-bookkeeper was trained by his father’s secretary so the transition went smoothly as the new generation took control. Ruth Goins came to work for the newspaper after graduation, having worked through the vocational department of the high school. A program designed to give high school seniors real work experience and a shot at landing a job through school. Ruth proved to be a gifted student and a prime example of the success of the program. Ruth was a few tears younger than Nick but was a perfect secretary for him.
Friday night, Keith and I meet at Zona’s for a couple drinks and discuss the apartment. I explain the feeling of warmth and the dust outlines that were visible only a few seconds. Keith comments “Looks as though the apartment is going to reveal its secrets to you. You will have to have patience along with persistence. The apartment has waited a long time. It has waited for you. That explains the preoccupation you have with the locked door. Everybody else just ignores it but not you. I am however intrigued with the dust formations. How do you explain them, did you fall asleep?”
“I was daydreaming but I assure you that I was not sleeping. I opened my eyes and there they were. Sunlight was shining beautifully. It was so magnificent I could see the dust specks glowing. There were millions possibly billions of specks highlighted perfectly by the sunlight. As if cued they instantaneously came together and I saw two human forms directly across the table from me.
Having thought about what happened, I think of it as a quick introduction, not intended to frighten me. Quite the opposite; gave a tiny glimpse of what lies ahead. When walking through the door into the apartment I enter a different world. I sense a presence, as if there is still life there. I am a seeker to observe and close the book to this story. It is too early to make sense but that is what I feel. You probably think I have gone crazy”.
“Not at all Bob, you are immersed in the story the way I once was. I was jealous, completely in awe of the love he possessed. I’d lay awake aching for just a fraction of the love that my good friend had. You can talk to me Bob. We can meet here at Zona’s every Friday or whenever you feel the need. You have done an excellent job of feeling the story. It has made an impression on you. You must keep objectivity. While in the apartment let your senses run rampant. When you leave, return to reality. You must keep them separate. Do you understand Bob?”
“I’m a bit confused Keith, you’re the one that told me to relax and feel the story.”
“That’s right, but I can see the apartment has become an obsession. I’m on your side. When we become too close we lose objectivity. Never in a million years would I have believed you would become as close as what you have. Heaven sakes man, you are seeing visions out of dust. Do you not see that as strange? Please, my friend, it’s possible forces that we do not understand are guiding you. It might be a once in a lifetime opportunity. I merely wish it to be a good one. Our first discussion was to feel the story. Now do what you have been trained to do. Write an accurate detailed story and let your heart enhance, not control.”
We finished our drinks and went our separate ways. Driving home I thought about what Keith said. Has the apartment become an obsession? While lying in bed, I replay what has happened. I was certainly preoccupied by the door and I did walk up the steps on many occasions. The first visit saw me overwhelmed. The second visit I was relaxed, leaving with a warm heart. I understand Keith’s concern; however the third visit will set the tone. I will go back with a better understanding. What happened to the mysterious lady of Nick’s?
I open the door intending to search the living room. I brought a flashlight and stand still for a moment to be at ease before turning the flashlight on. I make a complete sweep of the living room. Behind the door where the hallway begins is a small writing desk and chair. They were not visible before because they were behind the door where it was completely dark. To the left of the door are a chair, end table and lamp. A large window with torn curtains is on the north side. A stand with a record player is beside the couch, and another end table with matching lamp. Before the hallway begins is a stand with an old rotary dial phone just like my grandparent’s. I walk over to the record player and open the lid. I push the switch; the needle moves over and aligns itself. Several scratches are heard and music begins. Electricity still flows in the old girl.” Old girl” seems more personal than “the apartment”. The old 45 record is Sea of Love. Fascinated by my discovery, I reach for the light switch and the bulb comes to life. I’m shocked from what just happened. The black lamp with the shade hanging down on one side highlighted the R. C. A. Victor record player. The record stopped and the needle aligned itself and shut off. I sit down at the writing desk and look across the room at the other lamp. Within seconds I pull the switch and presto just like magic. A life magazine lays on one end table and there was a thin phone book under the old rotary phone. On the desk is an 8x10 picture. Eureka! I quickly grab for it, it must be the lady’s family. People sometimes write information on the back. I carefully slide the black and white picture out of the wooden frame. It reads Mom and Dad, 20 year anniversary. I had hoped for more but it is a start. I search the desk but found no more clues. I turn the two lamps off before leaving the room.
I walk into the kitchen and sit down in my chair close my eyes, take a deep breath. I am completely relaxed and allow my mind to drift anywhere it wants. I see the living room in its glory days, with fresh wallpaper and new curtains. Birthday enters my thoughts. I see a gold heart shaped locket on a chain. At that instant I hear a pigeon cooing. I open my eyes and see the dust form into two silhouettes, I see a man and to the left a woman. I’m not dreaming and it is not my imagination. Poof, they’re gone. If the pigeon had not cooed would I have missed them? Certainly an interesting question. That seems to be the purpose after all, to draw my attention at that exact instant. I doubt anything will top that, enough for today. I leave with a smile on my face and a feeling of satisfaction at my discoveries of today. I lock the door and put the key in the desk. I see a chair that looks as though it belongs with the desk, it has a high back with wooden slats, I place it with the desk and sit down, feels good! I run my hand along the desk top feeling as though it was alive, why I did that I’m not sure.
My drive home was exhilarating as I thought of the record player, lights coming to life, the locket , the picture and of course the dust formations. I can see why archeology work is satisfying. Brush away layers and find the big discovery.
I slept well and dreamed I’m a young boy sitting on the couch in the apartment coloring a heart shaped locket.
During the week I think about the apartment but I do not dwell on it. I do my job and look forward to talking to Keith on Friday.
Keith and I talk about work for a few minutes and then I tell him that electricity still flows through the old girl. He laughs and emphasizes “unbelievable!”
“Did you say old girl? Somehow it seems right, blood still flowing through her veins, her pulse. It makes sense but unexpected. What made you try the electricity?” I explained how I impulsively hit the switch and the old record player jumped to life. We have a good laugh at that. I describe in detail the living room and the photograph. Keith listens intently not stopping me once. ‘It’s a shame the back of the photo did not yield more but the clues will piece themselves together as in a puzzle”, Keith adds. Hesitantly I tell him about the dust forming. Emphatically Keith tells me “my friend you have stepped into the twilight zone. This story only gets better. All those years electricity flows through her. A heartbeat only you can sense. You travel as one the rest of the journey. Man, I now find myself jealous of you, my boy! This could be the most important story of your life. Appears to me, it is your destiny. I must admit to being confused with the dust formations. Keep up the good work Bob. I’m not worried about you anymore. You seem to be in good hands, or should I say, that you seem to be in good with the old girl. You must follow the path wherever it leads. Enjoy the trip and anytime you want to talk feel free to call me. I will talk to Ruth. We teasingly make remarks about the lady and Nick that makes me believe that she knows everything. She is Nick’s secretary and acts like his sister; so protective. If she is as tight lipped as she is tight with her books I won’t learn much. Ruth and I have worked here our whole lives. I have been to her home countless times for Sunday dinner. Through the years we have attended social activities together. She’s not bad looking, needs to let her hair down and loosen up. She always seems uptight and business like. Hell, if she would loosen up she might be a whirlwind. I will ask her to join us here at Zona’s. Once I took her to a wedding and the reception afterwards. We drank some wine and she started acting friendly, giggling, touching me in a sensual way. I thought it’s probably the wine getting to her, believing she didn’t drink very ofte; threw me off balance. I have never seen her act like that before. We were two lonely bodies with animalistic instincts rising to the surface. I was getting, you know, and I snapped out of it. I consoled myself thinking it’s the wine. I would never take advantage of her. Later I questioned whether she making a pass at me but the next week at work it was business as usual, Ruth the bookkeeper. We have remained friends and no intimacy has ever happened. Sorry Bob I got off track, but I wondered a few times had I pursued that moment further what might have happened. If it would of blossomed or destroyed our friendship. Hell I have never understood women. I am doomed to be a lonely old man. Anyway I will speak to her”
After buying another drink I said goodnight. The heart shape locket was on my mind. I would thoroughly examine the desk tomorrow looking for hidden compartments. Talking to Keith gives me confidence and support. Discussing what I see and feel while in the apartment convinces me its reality and not my imagination playing.
Any important issue of the day replay themselves while I am trying to go to sleep. Sometimes it is a blessing and sometimes it is a curse. I’m not obsessed with the apartment but I do daydream about it. While momentarily I might have a loss of concentration, I find myself energized. I have a good night’s sleep soundly and wake up renewed. A heart shaped locket, an angel on the top of a Christmas tree and the initials A. C. M. are replaying like a stuck record in my mind as I wake up.
It’s Saturday and my mother wants to see me after work. I explain that I have some important work to do at the office first. My mom seemed concerned about me last Sunday. Her exact words “you seem more relaxed and happier.” Teasingly she asked, “Do you have a new girlfriend?” Smiling back at her I say “It’s an old girl mom.” If she only knew; wanting to tell her all about my adventures but it was not the time and she would probably say, “Bobbie you have such an active imagination.” Dad was never one for conversation, he just chows down and returns to the television, leaving me and mom to talk about anything. Her motherly advice is, find a good girl and have children. Get out have fun, relax, don’t take work home with you. Kissing me goodbye she said, “All work and no play, my Bobbie will get no rolling in the hay.” Mothers! She is the only person to still call me Bobbie and wants me to have sex. Of course she has her own ulterior motive, she wants a grandbaby. What a mom.
I sit down at the roll top desk with one overhead light shining directly above me. I think, this old desk has been around a long time. If only it would talk. I say out loud if you have anything you wish to reveal please do so and help me in my journey to find out about the old girl upstairs. Laughing at myself, here I am asking Mr. Desk for help. I slowly, search the middle drawer and the four large bottom ones. Keith advised me to look for a hidden section, small drawers, small compartments, odd shaped. Apparently when Mr. Desk was made there was a purpose for them. They only add to the mystery now. In the back and middle are six wooden dividers that appear to slide in and out to make different size sections. I’m playing around and never expecting anything to happen, more out of boredom than searching. After removing all six dividers I was pushing one back in when the divider refused to slide back. Oh no, I’ve broken something. I bend over and get a better look. Something has fallen down I get the flashlight as an adrenalin rush causes my heart to speed up. A cigar box has falling from a hidden spot just like Keith told me. I remove the box and place it directly in front of me. I’m hesitant to open it even though I did ask the desk and apparently it heard me. Laughing at myself, it’s just a cigar box nothing peculiar about that, however where I found it was. I relax and return to somewhat normal sense, hopefully getting the full amount of oxygen to the brain. I replace the six dividers back where they go. It seems more fitting to open the box in the kitchen.
I unlock the door and turn one lamp on and start the R. C. A. Victor. Sea of Love plays as I turn the other lamp on and sit down at the small desk. I repeat exactly what I did last week, a ritual so to speak, hopefully to become one with the apartment. After the record player shuts off, I close the lid and turn the two lamps off. I go to my favorite chair in the kitchen. The cigar box has not left my hand since I found it, afraid it might magically disappear. Comfortable in my chair’ it’s time to open the cigar box. Slowly I open the lid nervously excited. Inside the cigar box is another box. It’s a red jewelry box. I place it carefully on the table and stare at it for a moment. It was taking all the strength that I had to raise the lid of the jewelry box. Cold chills run down my back. I freeze, my eyes gaze upon a gold heart shape locket. I can’t breathe. My arms will not obey, I cannot make myself move. Time stops as I look at the gold heart shape locket. Suddenly as if magic, my whole body becomes warm and I’m no longer frozen. I place the locket between the place settings. Instinctively I knew that was to be done. Within seconds the dust forms into a man and a woman. A bluish white light circles the forms and the locket. The two forms are fuller, brighter more pronounced than before. The woman has dark hair, poof!!! The forms disappear. I stare in disbelief for some time, before returning to normal. I pick the locket up and it has more brilliance than before as though it was freshly cleaned. It was wonderfully warm and a gentle like spark goes through my fingers. I sit back down and turn it over numerous times. The locket opened; apparently I touched the latch in my excitement. Inside is a black and white picture, of Nick’s lady. I stare at a small but visible photograph of a beauty. Penetrating eyes, beautiful smile. I cannot look away from her. I must be daydreaming so I smack my face hard, ouch, it’s real. With great care I put the locket back in the red jewelry case. I notice some stationary folded up under the packing material. Ever so delicately I unfold the green stationary it reads,
TO MY DEAREST NICHOLAS
I GIVE YOU MY HEART
ON THIS SPECIAL DAY
WITHOUT YOU, IT WOULD BREAK APART
IT’S YOUR BIRTHDAY
WHAT I MUST SAY
IS I LOVE YOU TODAY
I WILL LOVE YOU TOMORROW AND
I LOVED YOU YESTERDAY Yours Forever Angel
What a beautiful name. I did dream of an angel on top of a Christmas tree. I inspect every letter to savor the moment. This Angel has beautiful handwriting. I remember Keith saying, the lady had to have been an angel because while they were together, Nick soared the heavens. I read the note countless times. After what happened today, I could not place the shiny heart shaped locket back into the confines of the old desk. It had been held captive long enough. It now captivates me. The love it represents must be cherished. I place the stationary back in the red jewelry box and lay it between the place settings. I uncoil the chain holding the locket and place it in a heart formation on the table, surrounding the case with Angel’s letter. This only appears fitting because their bond is the apartment. I feel privileged to be part of this story. I only hope that I, as a young reporter, can do justice to the heartwarming story as it is presented to me.
The love that Nicholas and Angel share is a love across time.
End chapter two “INTRODUCTION”Robert S. Garrity