(About a 4 minute read)
The story begins more than 25 years ago when I owned and operated a tiny little business in Illinois employing 13 people. To make this brief, I won’t go into the details of how one day I found myself thumbing through Victoria’s Secrets catalogs on a business mission to find flannel pajama prices — but it happened that one day I found myself doing just that.
I was flipping through the pages quite rapidly when I felt stopped in my tracks. What had I just seen? I thumbed back two or three pages. There, posed on a bed, was a young model in her underwear looking straight at the camera.
Any other time in my life, I would have been more likely to fixate on her underwear than on her eyes. But it was clearly the eyes that I’d noticed, and that had caused me to thumb back to her.
She had an arresting look in her eyes. I thought it might even be familiar in some way, but I couldn’t place where I might have seen it before. I was all but hypnotized looking at that expression. I felt a huge desire to meet her, and then an ache in my chest when I realized I never would. I remember thinking, “I just want to meet her so I can find out what that look in her eyes is all about.” I thought it almost like a prayer, even though I was a non-theist.
A few minutes went by and I finally noticed, down in a bottom corner of the page, the same model in flannel pajamas. That woke me up, the spell was broken. I jotted down the price and other pajama information, and then started thumbing through the catalog again.
Fast forward three or four years. I’ve closed down my business, left my wife, and — finding myself without any ties or obligations left in the world — decided to move to Colorado. In Colorado, I have become a regular at a certain coffee shop a city block from my apartment that happens to be the most popular coffee shop in town. The customers most nights are so many they can’t all fit inside, and the crowd overflows onto the sidewalks.
One night, I’m standing on the sidewalk with the overflow crowd when I’m a bit alarmed to spot a tiny white sports car with its top down swoop into a parking space at such speed that I think for a moment it’s about to crash into the car parked in front. Nevertheless it comes to a halt in time — just barely in time, though.
The driver — instead of opening the door — stands up in his seat and leaps over the door onto the ground. “Cocky”, I think. The moment he reaches the sidewalk, he turns in my direction, and begins strutting towards me. “What a cocky strut!”, I think. Then — twenty feet away — I am able to see his face well enough in the night to realize he is a she.
Moreover, not just a she, but the she. The underwear model from the catalog.
You might expect that I’d be a bit shocked. But I wasn’t. Long story short, this was to me just another one of a whole series of very strange events that were happening to me on almost a monthly basis back in those years. My attitude that night was far closer to “Again? Another one?” than it was to shock.
She strutted right up to me, looking neither to the left nor the right. When she at last came to a halt in front of me, she looked up straight into my eyes and said, somewhat cryptically, “So this is the place for coffee?” I told her where to look inside the shop for the service counter (there were so many people inside, it was a bit difficult to spot).
Off she went.
I had just begun to think that I’d never see her again, when she popped back out of the store with a cup and a pitcher. Again she came up to me, and we got into a conversation that lasted perhaps 30 or 45 minutes, and during which I avoided mentioning anything about having seen her photos in Victoria’s Secrets.
Within a few months Suzanne and I had become platonic friends, and we were hanging out together for a few hours in the evening nearly every day of each week. We did all sorts of things from taking road trips in her sports car, to attending movies, to shopping, to soaking nude in hot springs, to midnight mountain hikes, and more — but we never became romantically involved with each other.
She was 16 the year we met. I was 39 or 40. She had posed for the catalog when she was 14 — yet both in person and in her photos, she looked like a 19 year old.
About six months after we met, I finally got around to telling her where I’d seen her before. Her response: “You’re the sixth man I’ve met who saw my photos in Victoria’s, but you’re the only one who remembers the flannel pajamas.”
And the look in her eyes? I have come to believe that peculiar look might be associated in some people (but not in everyone) with certain mood disorders. Suzanne, as it turned out was bi-polar. A few other people I’ve since come to know have the same look, and the same illness, or a closely related illness.
I have absolutely no explanation for any of the strange things that happened between Suzanne and me beyond calling them “coincidences”. But I’ve always thought the events that happened with her, were the least strange of all the strange events that happened back in those days.