New York (Things were looking up but we didn't know it yet...)

(Part 3)

For Part One Click Here

For Part Two Click Here

If you happened to be in a park known as Central Park and it happened to be the one that is located on an island made out of buildings and people, known to most as Manhattan, and you were near the Metropolitan Museum of Art on 5th Avenue, and you decided to head east down 81st Street and then take a left on Madison Avenue, a little ways down on the left you would find a bookstore that has a toy store in its basement.

Crawford and Doyle is the name of the bookstore and it was into this bookstore that my friends Jessica, Billy, and I wandered one November day the year before the miracle of the rescue of my heart took place. In other words it was November of 2005. ;-) Jessica, I remember, picked up a book by Joan Didion called The Year Of Magical Thinking. She bought it, too. (You should read it, it's wonderful. That is, if you like to read, or can read tolerably well. I figure you're here, reading this, you might enjoy Joan. I digress...) While Jessica was roaming the titles, I wandered towards the back of the bookstore and came upon a narrow set of stairs going downwards. And, because I was curious, I went down those stairs, went through the little door at the bottom on the right that I found there and walked into a tiny room full of miniature figurines, paintings, the smell of turpentine, the smell of pipe smoke and, not least of all, in fact the room was more full of him than anything else, Steve Balkin.

Here is a picture I found of him...

Jessica and Billy found me down there talking to Steve, for talking with Steve is one of the great joys in life. He is an ineffable character, full of stories and notions and motions all while puffing away on his pipe. Using the restroom in his little space one finds stacks of empty pipe tobacco cans. When I met him he was in his Adam and Eve stage of painting. They were in everything he created. He was especially taken with Jessica, and how could you not be? She is tall and lithe and lovely and has a way of being that reminds me of a 1920's ingenue lounging languidly in doorways. It makes men get all melty and swoony. Steve called me, "darling Hobbit". I still refer to myself as a hobbit to this day. I left Steve's space after a couple of hours (a couple of days?) feeling a little braver, a little happier, and a little curiouser as to what else might be lying in wait in places I wouldn't have expected.

It was to Steve and his bookstore basement that I went the second day I was in New York. I needed him to keep something safe for me.

You see -- Zack's email had left me bereft and crushed. Not because of what he said, but because I knew he was right and I knew what we had to do. Or not do. Rumors were starting to fly around the church at this point and I was getting phone calls from people who were saying everything from,

"You must not love Jesus because your actions say so."

"You are suffering from delusions of grandeur. You just want to be a rockstar."

"You disdain motherhood."

"How can you call yourself a Christian?"

The first night in New York I couldn't sleep and so I got up and walked to a diner on 9th between 43rd and 44th. I sat in a booth facing the door and wrote Zack a five page letter. I poured out my heart to him and ended it by writing,

"I never saw you coming. Never in a million years would I have ever known that you would be the one to show me what love could be. But I want you to know that you have my heart and I will wait for you as long as I have to. Even if I'm old and gray and tottering about I will still wait for you."

So to Steve I went with my book of a letter. I told him everything that had taken place since I last saw him. He took my letter and thumb tacked it to the wall by the door.

"That's where it will stay until you tell me otherwise," he said, his pipe dangling precariously off of his bottom lip. "You walk in the door and there it will be, on the left, safely tacked to the wall."

I thanked him profusely and he smiled at me,

"I have one word for you, Meghan, and it's this: Patience. Patience, child. Everything will work itself out, you'll see. If things are as you say they are then it will only be a little bit of time."

"Just please do me a favour, Steve? If no one comes to get it by November 6th, will you please destroy it? I don't want any ol' person coming along and reading it."

I knew that Zack was going to be in New York for the first part of November to teach a workshop he had started on the side; he was calling it the OneLight Workshop. In response to his heartbreaking email to me all I responded with was this:

"If you want to know my response to this email, and how I feel about you and this whole situation, I have left something for you in a toy store in the basement of the Crawford and Doyle bookstore on Madison Avenue between 81st and 82nd Streets.

{end transmission}"

I went onto Boston to finish out the tour and then home. Songs began to pour out of me then.

"Keep an open hand hold

No one will ever be yours and yours alone

You've got some diving to do

Find all the places where you've been run through

And then the sight of his face when he comes into view

There he is right in front of you

Murmuring lips in your hair, feels like home

Your Jericho comes down when he's around

Your Jericho comes down when he's around..."

Jericho ~ Songs To Sail By ~ M. Coffee

November 3, 2006 was the day I opened up my email and there saw an email from Zack and when I opened it up there was a picture of my letter, thumb tacked to the wall.

Another email came through, this time with a picture of the letter lying open on the leaves somewhere in Central Park. And then yet another email with a picture of a reply from him tacked to the same wall.

I started weeping. He still cared for me then. He cared for me enough to go and get my response. I thought I would burst open with joy.

That was a very bright day.

Later on that bright month in November I was back on the road, this time with Edwin McCain on his northeast tour. As the bus inched its way through Times Square, and pulled to a stop in front of the BB King Blues Club, I was already out the door and making my way down the subway steps before Edwin and the guys knew what had happened. I knew I only had a couple of hours before sound check to get to Steve's.

I bounded down the  bookstore's back stairs and burst through the door breathless. Steve stood up from where he had been hunched over a canvas, smiled and pointed to the wall where I had left my letter. There, tacked to the wall, was a little note. On one side it read, "SHMILY" (which stands for See How Much I Love You) and on the other side it said, "From a car to flight #374 to a car to the #2 to the Q to the #4 to you..."

I looked up at Steve, tears rolling down my face,

"He loves me! He still loves me!"

Steve relit his pipe, blowing a cloud of smoke up towards the ceiling,

"Of course, why wouldn't he? Now, tell me what in the world has happened! I've been dying to know. And how is that glorious Jessica of yours?"

{to be continued...}

Click here for the next part...