Every conversation with a local skeptic is the ghost story that made them a believer, and every conversation with any local at all is their story of what brought them to St. Aug and the power that keeps them here.
I drive to St. Augustine for the day and stay for nine months; it’s like a magnet.
They say you can’t go anywhere in Old Town without walking on a grave because of all of the battles along the river, and most of the town being wiped out multiple times by multiple plagues.
All of that death left a lot of energy. You know, the first law of thermodynamics? Energy can’t be destroyed.
In fact, every conversation with a local skeptic is the ghost story that made them a believer, and every conversation with any local at all is their story of what brought them to St. Aug and the power that keeps them here.
My new friend, Donovan, is no different.
Donovan is 18, almost 15 years younger than me.
He looks like a cross between Harry Potter and Obi-Wan Kenobi circa Episode 1, and his charisma is that of a 1930’s New York gangster, not the trigger-happy, loud-mouthed one, but the likable one who runs the show.
He works as a ghost tour guide and is more in touch with his wise, confident little voice than I am.
He teaches me how to sharpen my psychic senses so much so that I see a dark figure in the corner of my room, its claws latched to the ceiling, legs curled up like a cat.
It’s facing away from me.
It starts to turn its head back toward me, its body motionless, and my heart races as I lie in bed. I pull the covers over my head and call Donovan.
I run to open the door for him, and he makes me stay in my living room while he walks into my room like he has wings, holding a St. Michael’s medallion.
I don’t know what he’s doing in there, and he doesn’t tell me, but when he leaves for work, the dark figure is gone.
Nine months vanishes in an instant here.
There isn’t an inch of St. Augustine that doesn’t drip with magic.
Branches of giant live oak trees with weeping moss canopy the streets, lined by horses and buggies. Clickity clack, clickity clack, clickity clack, every minute of every day.
All around are the echoes of storytellers teaching others of the city that captured them.
Live music springs from every bar and every street corner in between.
Bed and breakfasts made from old houses (and sometimes morgues) are in greater numbers than anywhere else in the country.
Family-owned shops and restaurants line St. John’s Riverfront where Murphy’s Irish Pub gives a bit of Ireland.
James Murphy owns the pub.
He grew up in Jersey and spent the latter years of his time there working in my favorite old-mill town, Smithville, with the grandmother of my childhood friend, Lucy.
It’s a fact that connects us deeply, along with passions for Jameson’s Irish Whiskey and sailing.
Our love affair shoots up like a rocket. Just days into our relationship, he says he wants to take me to Ireland on our honeymoon.
I think this is it. Ireland. He is the one.
Until I know he’s not: James is Jekyll, and he is Hyde, and that transformation is fueled entirely by the devil in Irish whiskey. But that’s a story for another time. Tonight, his long-time friend and business partner, Beau, is visiting from Jersey.
Beau is your quintessential Yankee, tanned well beyond the summer, pudgy from pasta, shiny diamond cross brushing the top of his sleeveless tee shirt.
We are on James’ patio overlooking St. Augustine Beach, and I’m mining entrepreneurial gems from James and Beau’s brains: “What’s the one thing, the one piece of advice from alllll of your experience in business that everyone should know?”
Beau says something I’ll never forget.
“Listen.” He says. “You have to listen.”
Copper pots hanging above James’ kitchen island clang together in the wind like buoys on a windy day in sync with the music of the ocean below.
A wave hits the shore, pulling me back to my rack onboard O’Kane when the waves hit the hull behind my head, waking me from that dream.
Another wave hits the shore, and this time I feel it deep in my stomach.
Diamonds light up the night around us, and that sweet calm that always follows the glitter fills my insides.
I close my eyes and see her.
The little girl in her red and white stripy Winnie the Pooh dress.
It’s time to go.
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