I met Manny in a bar on a Tuesday morning in downtown Milwaukee. I was fresh out of high school and there to meet a girl who never showed up. So we drank cold beers and talked quietly above the roar of the furnace coming from the basement of the place. The door opened and closed as folks came and went into the frozen light pouring down East Wells Street.
I saw him again one day out at Holy Hill. We were nearing our 30’s and felt out of place among the withered pilgrims drifting around us as we sat in the last pew. We felt our bodies, strong amongst our layers and whispered occasionally through the creaking silence about kismet. He had business the following week in New York. I was going to Omaha. I told him to write me something.
From there, he seemed to have disappeared. But I still get postcards and bar napkins and used bus passes in the mail – sometimes all bundled up in a brown envelope as some kind of second-hand-smelling inventory of the thoughts that spiderweb and back-alley their way through Mr. Gantee’s head.
We are alone now. The diaspora. The world has closed in around me. I don’t get out much anymore. Still, the pilgrims go to Holy Hill. And now, I sit in this old, old house.
But I’ll hear again from him.
And I’ll share what I get here.