As I closed my eyes last night, drifting off to sleep, a shadow passed through the moonlight in my bedroom window. Even with my eyes closed, I could detect the change in brightness. Instantly, I somehow knew who it was. In all my research for gay ghosts around the globe, I had forgotten one.
I forgot what time of year it was. July 8th had slipped my mind.
I still remember the first day I met Chris. I was killing time in the office of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Union on the campus of Kent State University. My conversation was interrupted by an intruder. A tall, blond-haired, blue-eyed creature stood in the doorway, dressed in the deep blue uniform worn by drivers from the Campus Bus Service. He introduced himself hurriedly, not having much time. He would return later to meet everyone and have a proper conversation.
He was a new, returning student at the university. After living for the previous 5 years illegally with his boyfriend Marcel in Germany, he had returned to the States and decided to continue his education. He was a very interesting person with a certain wit and sarcasm to him that came across in a humorous way. I was still quite painfully shy in those days, but gradually he worked his way into my circle of friends.
Our friendship took an odd turn one evening. I visited him at his apartment in Cuyahoga Falls. Marcel was very moody and after a few sharp words in German, left for bed. Chris and I stayed up and watched Victor, Victoria on laser disk. We both needed a bit of an escape, so he pulled out a bottle of vodka and some cranberry juice and we each had several cocktails. Perhaps it was the alcohol, but one thing lead to another. I had a bit of a crush on Chris so I couldn't resist crossing that invisible friendship line in the sand.
We talked about it days later. He told Marcel what had happened. I felt incredibly awkward. We stayed friends, though I did distance myself. Months later, he called me out of the blue. It seemed like casual conversation, but I could tell by his voice something was wrong. He apologized for sounding so quiet. He and Marcel had an argument. Marcel had thrown him down a flight of stairs and broken a few of his ribs. It was the first time I began to worry about him.
We became casual friends after that point. The only time we really would see each other was when we crossed paths at his usual hangout, a small bar in Akron called Adams Street. We would catch up, joke, laugh, and drink, letting all the trouble go away for the moment. We never really discussed the bad things in our lives. One of the last times I saw Chris there, he told me that his life had taken a turn for the better. He had found the courage to leave Marcel, found a new, wonderful man, and moved to Tonawanda Avenue in Akron. He gave me his phone number and I said I'd keep in touch.
I'm infamous for being lousy at calling people.
Quite some time passed before I found myself in Akron again, back at Adams Street in hopes of running into Chris once more to catch up on the latest news. I remember sitting down at the bar, feeling someone step up behind me so close it made me jerk around. There was no one else within arm's length of me. I couldn't think of what to order, when a very loud voice inside my head told me 'vodka and cranberry juice'. I sat back, contemplating whether or not the bar was haunted and struck up a conversation with a friend of mine.
That was the night I learned of Chris' death. Almost six years ago to the day.
From what I was told, Chris has battled depression quietly most of his life. He was alone on the night of July 8th (his boyfriend worked nights). He hit his low point and didn't spring back. His boyfriend found him the following morning. He had hanged himself with a telephone cord.
It took me a while to grasp his death. I spent over a year telling myself I should've been in better contact. I could've prevented it somehow. Slowly, the pieces fell into place from that evening. Had it been Chris who stood behind me when I heard the news? The coincidence was too uncanny. There have been several times over the passing years when I believe his presence was around. A friend of mine with psychic abilities whom I trust told me he does linger around occasionally, even giving me ideas for my writing. It has been years since I've visited his grave, but I don't believe in that tradition. I know he's not actually there anyway. It's just his body.
Chris was the first person to tell me about any local ghost stories, which began my interest in the Cuyahoga Valley. In some ways, he was another first: the first gay ghost I ever encountered.