She instantly had 100% of my attention. It was not her looks, although the tie-dyed tee and long flowing skirt were visually stimulating, it was her voice and lingo that drew me in.
“Man, I want a hot cup of Peppermint Ginseng Tea with a Gingerbread Scone,” she ordered in a raspy voice reminiscent of a Janis Joplin song.
The server stood there with his order pad at the ready. “Will that be all?”
Her wide smile exposed a perfect set of glacier white teeth. Her skin tone, almost the same white, told me she spent very little time in the sun.
A hundred questions ran through my mind. Who was she? What’s her story? Is she seeing anybody? I thought she had the most beautiful face I ever saw, not painted on looks like a fashion model, but a quiet natural glow; a soft beauty that could steal the heart of the hardest man.
And then it happened. She caught me staring. I felt my cheeks catch fire with blush. My gaze fell into my coffee so quickly I am surprised it didn’t splash. When I looked up again her eyes were fixed on me.
“You’re a Virgo, aren’t you?” she asked, her brilliant blue eyes fixed on mine.
“As a matter of fact, I am,” I replied. “But how did you know?”
She shrugged. “Lucky guess.”
“I’m not a big believer in luck.”
The server brought over her tea and food. “Anything else?”
“No, this is fine.”
She looked back over at me and asked, “Would you like to join me?”
“Sure.” I picked up my coffee and sat down across from her.
My heart was pounding like a drum. A slight point of sweat gathered on my brow. Wiping it away I asked, “Have we met before? You seem very familiar to me.”
“You would not remember,” she said. “It was a long time ago.”
I sipped my coffee and searched memories for where and when.
She offered her hand across the table. “My name is Millicent. Millicent Sullivan Dawson, but everyone calls me Millie.”
I studied her with every fabric of my being. “We’ve met somewhere, but I don’t remember. Oh, and my name is David.”
“Of course you don’t. I don’t either, but we have met several times.” She smiled and took small bites of her scone. “I already knew your name.”
“Help me out. Where do you know me from?”
“I can’t tell you. I have to show you.” Her eyes locked onto mine. “Would you be willing to go home with me? Nothing funny, but I think you would understand my reluctance to be very specific right now.”
My stomach pushed up into my throat. I nodded and said, “Sure.”
The next thirty minutes was a mixture of quiet study and small talk; getting to know each other. We discussed the minutia of our respective lives. I dropped out of college after drinking my way through the first year. And now I eke out a living, selling swimming pools to suburbanites.
She was a professional student and at thirty-three, studying for her PHD in philosophy. She came from money – old money. Best of all, she wants to take me home – so much for not believing in luck.
We left the coffee shop and she took my hand in hers. Our shoes clicked on the cobblestone sidewalk; the late afternoon sun cast long shadows ahead of us.
“I don’t live far from here.”
I wanted to talk, but my thoughts consumed me. Nothing remained that enabled me to put together any significant conversation, so I just followed her lead. She did not share my conversational hiatus. Raspy sentences rolled off her tongue without a hint of comma or separation of topic.
“Here it is.” She pulled me up a short set of steps to a heavy metal door painted red. I watched as she fumbled through her canvas bag. Finally she pulled out a large set of keys with a small collection of rings and things hooked together in a metallic bundle of chaos. Without hesitation, she singled out the right key and twisted it in the lock.
The door swung wide and I followed in behind her. She hung the keys by the door and kept walking through the hallway into another room. “Come on,” she looked back and motioned me towards her inner sanctum. “It’s in here.”
I walked into the room behind her, took a quick scan and got a good feel for exactly how eclectic Millie Dawson really was. The more I took in, the more I liked her. Her room was decorated in late sixties fluorescent and late eighties furniture. I spied a Lava Lamp and a Rubik’s Cube side by side on a table.
One wall was nothing but books. I walked over and started going through titles. She watched me with great interest. You can tell a lot about a person by the books they read. This new age hippie girl was as diverse as they come. Her library included volumes by Hemingway and Hawthorne, Jimmy Buffet and Pearl Buck, Capote and Tolstoy. The mix of century old authors stacked beside the latest contemporaries was incredible.
“You don’t strike me as a reader of classic literature,” she observed.
“I’m not really.” I straightened up and turned to face her. “But it’s pretty obvious you are.”
“I’ve been cursed that way.” She reached into a small box on the coffee table and pulled out a cigarette. “Do you mind if I smoke?”
“No,” I replied with indifference. “It’s your house and your lungs.”
Blue smoke left her lips as she blew out the match, dropping it into a ceramic ashtray shaped like a windmill. “They are French and not very strong. I don’t smoke very much. Seeing you tonight was kind of startling and I just needed something to cut the edge.”
“What’s this about? Where have we met before?”
“David, do you believe in destiny?”
“I don’t know what to believe. I think if we met before, I would remember it.” My mental rolodex was spinning like a slot machine.
“Sit down. I want to show you something.”
She pulled me down beside her on a worn blue sofa, lit an incense cone, and pulled a book out from under the table. She opened to a page held captive by a small wooden ruler and spread it out in front of me. “I ran across this a few years back when I was browsing an old book store.”
I looked at the photograph on the open page. It was a picture of a confederate soldier taken at Chickamauga in 1863. Standing to his left was a woman who looked exactly like Millicent Dawson. The soldier looked exactly like me. No, not that he looked exactly like me. It was me.
My pulse began to race and my breathing got very shallow.
I heard her say my name but I could not seem to respond.
“Look at this.” She pulled another book from the stack. It was a very large art book. She opened to a place marked with a sheet of paper and put it in front of me. On each facing page there were copies of oil painting portraits of a 17th century couple. The caption read “Mr. and Mrs. David Sullivan, Charlestown, S.C., June 1791”
The portraits could have been of me and Millie painted just yesterday. I swallowed hard and began to search memories in places hidden by time and preservation. The dreams over the years of civil war battles and Carolina street markets began to come back with crystal clarity. The dreams always included the presence of this beautiful woman.
“What does this mean?” I asked.
“I don’t exactly know,” she replied with a slight hesitation in her voice. “I just always knew we would meet. You have been in my dreams since I was a child. Then today, when I passed the coffee shop and saw you sitting there, my heart almost jumped out of my chest. I knew instantly it was you.”
“You came in there because you saw me?”
I looked back over the pictures and squeezed Millie’s hand in mine. For the first time in many years, everything made sense and the loneliness I carried as a constant companion was gone. Millie reached up and pulled my face towards hers. Our lips joined with a familiarity that transcended generations.
Later that night, before we fell asleep in each other’s arms, a simple thought floated through my consciousness. Two hundred years from now, would a beautiful woman in a distant galaxy intersect with a space traveler she fell in love with many times over since the beginning of time?
I certainly hope so.
Mickey Mills – 2011, All rights reserved