I’m been thinking about writing a blog about my bed and breakfast ever since my guests started arriving or, more accurately, ever since they started leaving, because it was after I shut the door behind my guests I felt the impulse to write about their visits. Where does that urge come from, I wonder? After all, it isn’t as if my guests just disappear. Like Eric, they write generous notes in my guest books, and they leave references on the Airbnb website, the same as I do for them. That’s the way we garner good reputations as hosts and guests. I think what I yearn for is to extend the conversation. We’ve become friends, and I don’t want them to leave quite yet. I have more questions that I want to ask, more I want to know about them, more that I want to share about myself. It’s hard to let them go.
The professional medium, one of the most gentle and open men I’ve ever met, arrived on a sweltering summer afternoon, just as I was wondering how I was ever going to get the new air conditioner out of the trunk of my car and upstairs into his room. “Want me to carry that in for you?” he asked, walking up my front walk with his suitcase in hand. “I’ll install it, if you like. I work part-time as a contractor.” Jake was on his way to Lily Dale, a community of Spiritualists in western New York that dates back to the late 19th Century. He was going for a ten-day trial to see if he qualified to join the staff, in which case he’d be spending his summers there helping people connect with their deceased loved ones.
I offered Jake dinner in return for his kind services, but he refused the vegetarian fare I offered him. When he got back from Arby’s, he joined me in the garden. We were talking about our lives a little—maybe about our children—when he unexpectedly changed the subject.
“Does the name William, or Bill, mean anything to you?” he said.
I was stunned. The name William is of critical importance to my life. William, my father, who died when I was eleven. William, my son, with whom I have a very troubling relationship and have not seen, except accidentally, in three long years. Two big empty spaces in my life. but how would Jake have possibly have known this. I was immediately suspicious. “Why do you ask?” I said.
“I just got a sense of it,” he said. “Is it true?
I told him that I have a son named William, that my father’s name was William.
“Ah, I thought so,” he said.
“Come on. You’ve been doing research on me,” I said, although I couldn’t see how that was possible, as he’d only booked his room yesterday, and Airbnb is very respectful of my privacy. From the start I’d been a little hesitant about inviting a professional medium into my house. It’s a line of work that I view with suspicion. Now my defenses were up.
“No, I don’t do that,” he said, in his patient and kind manner.
Jake told me how he had gotten into the medium business. The deceased son of a former girlfriend had appeared to him, speaking about his craving for a special kind of cheesecake from a bakery in his hometown. “I seem to have a gift for this,” he said. He hasn’t been doing it long, maybe a couple of years, and I could tell that he was a little nervous about his upcoming week at Lily Dale.
I hope Jake gets the job. If I ever see him again, I will apologize for doubting him. And I’ll ask about my Williams.