"If only I could hold you one last time," says a grieving Molly, played by Demi Moore in Ghost. Her husband Sam, played by Patrick Swayze, was murdered in a botched theft the week before. Unknown to Molly, his spirit is sitting next to her, holding her with love. Sharing her suffering. But Molly can't see him. She's left alone to deal with her emptiness and loss.
With a sudden intake of breath that gets caught in his throat, Les bursts into uncontrollable crying. It chokes out of him, as though he’s vomiting his soul. Bent over, embracing himself, tears stream down his contorted face.
I have to repress my own sudden desire to cry. The man I love is in pain, and I’m helpless, unable to take it from him. Instead I draw him into me, my arms around him, burying his face in my neck. I don’t say anything: there’s nothing to say. I caress his back, listening until his sobbing quiets and there’s nothing left in him. This tall, confident man leans into me like a defenceless baby, for whom there’s no more reason, no more meaning, no more words, no more feeling. Just the warmth of my arms.
When we’d arrived on the island earlier in the day, Les’s eyes sparkled with playfulness and excitement. We were on holidays - his favourite thing. He entertained me as I drove us through lushly treed and impenetrable mountains, past transluscent lakes and gushing waterfalls of melting glaciers. We were visiting Tom's new home (his gay brother) who had just finished building it, on a few acres of private rainforest.
After a tour of Tom’s open beamed, cedar and stone country home; a walk through his sprawling acreage artfully landscaped with a reflecting pool; a meal of barbequed salmon and wild lettuce salad; we cozied up on the couches around the open wood fireplace to watch a movie, while night settled in around us.
It was Les who chose Ghost.
Later in bed together, my body pressed up against his lanky body, I drew my fingertips across his soft skin, trying to give him goosebumps. I knew all the right places - on the side of his torso, just under his arm, and down to the swell of his hip. The underside of his arm on the tricep. The inside of his thigh. Les would make a sound, from pleasure, that sounded like... well, purring. But tonight he was quiet.
I remember the moonlight coming through the window, casting an other-worldly glow on us. I knew he’d had a rough night from watching the movie. I wondered what he was feeling, but I didn’t ask. It’s important to allow him the space he needs, I thought.
“Why did it have to happen?” Les asked me, in the quiet. “Why did Max have to die?” He turned his head to face me, and ended up
rotating his body so our chests now touched.
His question was asked nakedly, with no anger. He was open to the truth. He just needed to know why.
I loved this man like crazy. I wanted to make it all better. I searched my database of knowledge and experience; tried to remember what my father the minister told me about death and God’s will; I remembered all the ways I rationalized suffering in the world: yet still, I was at a loss. I wish I could tell you that I said something profound. Instead, all I said was, “Maybe it happened because that’s how we learn to love.”
“I don’t believe in aetheists” I said to Les, teasing him. Provoking him.
We were in the “Green Room.” It’s his television and library room on the second floor, that’s painted a forest green. It has a comfortable black leather couch, book cases filled with travel books, chachkas, photos - and it leads to an outdoor balcony that we drink coffee together in the mornings in our matching white terrycloth bathrobes.
“I wish I did believe. I just don’t feel it,” Les said sadly. “I want to believe that Max is happy and still alive, on some level.” His hazel eyes were blue.
I cannot imagine anyone living without faith in the hereafter. Yes, I did grow up in a Christian home. Topics of spirituality, life after death, and a God were commonplace. But that’s not why I believed. In fact, I never took to Christianity as practiced through ritual in my father’s church. I took catechism, I did communion, but these things never made sense to me. I remember as a child, simply knowing and feeling that life was more than it appeared. I remembered coming from somewhere else - somewhere better - where love and joy were the true reality, before entering the illusion of earth. It was as as natural to me as being gay.
“I have been praying, though,” Les admitted to me, vulnerably.
I’d suggested previously to Les that he try praying, asking a higher power to show him that there's life after death. I really wanted him to be at peace knowing that Max, his ex-lover of 20 years, still existed, and lives in peace.
We were cuddling on the couch, lazily watching television on a Saturday afternoon. The door to the outdoor balcony was closed. There was no air moving, no sudden gusts of wind.
A commercial for the movie “Ghost” appears. It shows that moment where Demi Moore longs to touch Patrick Swayze one more time. The most poignant moment of the movie. It triggers Les.
I can feel his sadness.
Suddenly, we both hear a “flick.” Then, landing on the coffee table in front of us, is a picture of Max, that Les had sitting on one of his book shelves. There’s no wind in the room. We heard the “flick.” We saw Max’s photo twirl through the air, and land face up on the coffee table in front of us. It’s at least 15 feet.
Chills run through us. I start to cry, quietly. To me it’s obvious...Max wants Les to know he lives on.