“Ben!” I yelped, grinning, as I hurried up to the man still waggling the notebook paper sign at me. Just waking up from my nap on the plane, my contacts were still doing their best flypaper impression, so I spent most of the walk from the gate to the cab stand outside doing that odd eyeball-rolling-squint thing in an attempt to o, I dunno, see or something.

As it was, I must have blinked because I missed the awkward first-meeting phase altogether. We just … fell in step.

Ben’s handsome in that way that I won’t be able to describe very well but I’ll give it a shot anyway. He’s charming, yes, that’s true, and definitely funny, but his features are just interesting and nicely arranged and they fit him. I also like the fact that I don’t have to break my neck looking up at him, that his voice is calming and Canadian, and that he has swank fashion-sense, including yet not limited to a silver pocketwatch and utterly groovy wire-rimmed glasses.

And he’s got stories. O, the stories. Voices to go along with all his characters, animated expressions and vivid demonstrations, frame by frame. Writers don’t just love stories – they love good stories, and Ben’s got truckloads of them.

But the best part about Ben is his energy. If I could adequately explain the entire “energy” thing, I would; yet another concept I spend a ridiculous amount of time thinking about yet can’t describe for shit. I react to others’ energy levels quite like I react to temperature.

As a result, being around Ben was both emotionally recharging and exhausting at the same time. And that was just within twenty hours.

ï ï ï

I was terribly pleased that Ben and Chad hit it off so well. Saturday night, the three of us went to Tony Roma’s for dinner and had an excellent time. Ben and Chad are both dynamic conversationalists, so I spent most of the time listening and laughing.

Right up to the part where Ben looked across the table at Chad and offered him a job.

In San Francisco.

I remembered to breathe right about the time Chad leaned forward and said, “So, tell me more about this …”

ï ï ï

Chad is, without a doubt, a marvelous teacher. His charisma draws people’s attention, and his wit drives even the most elusive of points exactly home. Chad is also quite miserable being a teacher right now. I’ve watched him for years exhaust his time, his energy, his self-concept while being a teacher in a world that has arbitrarily turned teachers into baby-sitters instead of mentors. Someday, Chad’s said to me, someday I could be happy teaching. But not right now.

I don’t know if that someday will ever happen. I hope it will. Regardless of society’s denigration of the profession, teaching is still one of the most important.

So because Chad is not one to wallow in self-pity, he’s enrolled in classes at a local college for computer science, hoping to initiate a career change that won’t be such an emotional drain, not to mention a financial one.

And then Ben appeared, and just as suddenly handed us an opportunity as golden as the bridge we’ve never seen.

ï ï ï

Ben left Sunday afternoon, after a less than tasty lunch at The Mill and a half a day’s work at the library. We sat in the cashier’s office and talked; he introduced me to the incomparable Nova Scotian fiddle folk-cum-rock of Ashley MacIsaac, and we talked some more about human nature and my future. It was an eclectic, electric, too-short visit, best summarized in our hasty good-bye hug and then Ben jogging to catch his cab. I watched, and realized I forgot to tell him something. Too late now, dammit.

No; not too late. I laughed at myself, not too late, and yelled it to him right before he disappeared into the car.

Later, Ben would scold me for saying what I did at such an inappropriate moment, one in which he couldn’t properly respond. But I didn’t need a response; I know that bridge exists, now.

All it took was an opening gate.

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I give respect and reverence to those who came before me.