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I tap the cue ball; it misses and hits the table’s side. My boyfriend smiles, lines up the cue ball with the eight ball, hits it hard and sinks it. Darn. Another game down, but I think I’m getting better.
“Hey babe, I’m going to get another drink, want one?” he says with a smile.
“Sure. I’ll rack.”
He walks away from the table. The bar is some Houston hole in the wall. Pool tables, dart boards, hardwood surfaces that smell like mildew. The rain hasn’t let up for hours so we’re riding out the storm eating greasy burgers and drinking beer. He’s playing pool, I’m playing miss-the-ball.
I glance around the room and feel like I’m in a country music video. There’s a biker in the corner with long grey hair and a leather jacket. Two girls sitting at the counter; one in a camouflage crop top and the other in a leather fringe vest. The cowboy to our left has on a Stetson hat, Wranglers, and a pair of ostrich boots.
We play a few more games and I excuse myself to go to the restroom. It’s a typical dive bar facility. As I return, the cowboy looks up from his beer, whispers to me, “He’s gonna marry you one day.”
I’m taken aback by his words. The cowboy looked familiar. I can’t place his face, but I recognized his eyes and voice. The shape of his shoulders the curve of his cheek. I smile an awkward grin and continue back to the pool table. I turn around to look again, the cowboy is gone.
When the rain abates, we settle our tab and leave. My boyfriend drives me home; I’m exhausted and head straight to bed but have a fitful sleep. I’m haunted by the cowboy and his words until I place his face. I sit up with a start and pull out my journal. I know it was my deceased husband.
I write: “Life is full of coincidences, oddities, and strange occurrences. Sometimes, it’s easy to say that a random event is just that: random. Sometimes things happen that are so concurrent one has to stop and think about the design of life.”
The next morning, my husband’s cousin–his high school classmate, his close friend–receives a donor’s kidney. A young twenty-something crashed not more than two miles from the dive bar. The cousin coded on the table two times, but now the prognosis looks good.
That day, I know that my husband had been with his cousin, holding his hand, telling him it’s not time to go.
Fast forward three years. I have a dream about my husband. An odd dream. He was an interloper, unexpected, intruding on my subconscious. I wake and immediately fiddle with my engagement ring. I write in my journal: “He visited me while I slept.”
Since his passing five years earlier, my thoughts often returned to my husband; but he hadn’t appeared in my dreams since that night in the bar.
The next day, I receive a package from the cousin’s mother. It is August, the postmark reads December 15, 2008—four years and eight months earlier. I laugh to myself and put the shiny ornament away in a holiday storage box when I receive a phone call: the cousin passed the night before. He was 46 years old.
I close my eyes and think about his widow. A young mother, a young husband, a life cut too short. My journey is all too similar. I hold a picture of the two; dressed in football uniforms, sweat in their hair, flirting with the camera. Together then, as I know they are now.
Think what you will about coincidences, oddities, and strange occurrences. I know what happened that night at the bar, and I know why I received the ornament the day the cousin died.
Sometimes things happen that are so concurrent, one has to stop and think about the design of life.
Author Bio: Alison Nissen is a writer who does daily battle with dog hair and laundry. She has taught collegiate composition and literature classes for over a decade. Currently, she is the managing partner of 3 Dog Tales Productions, a full-service Ghostwriting, Editing, Coaching, and Publishing company.