I had another ghost sighting today. I had just finished a late lunch with a friend in the Chelsea Market and was looking around some of the food vendors when I noticed that the man buying vegetables next to me was someone I hadn’t seen in at least 20 years. Years, hair loss, and medications have rendered me relatively unrecognizable from what I was back then, and, though it might be generous to call this a mixed blessing, today I was grateful for it. He had aged dramatically, yet I recognized him immediately. I was fairly stunned. The years had not been kind to him. I began thinking about time, mislaid years, and aging. Lost in my head, I tumbled around in a brackish muck of self-pity and remorse - I tried to find my way back out but couldn’t.
I didn’t mention any of this to my friend and tried to simply shrug it off, but the memories kept coming back. I was shocked at such disturbing, visual evidence of the passing of time. I continued to stare straight ahead and walk through it as though nothing had happened, unaffected.
My friend and I climbed up to the High Line and we walked. We chatted, and we looked at the river, and we walked. We looked at the passing boats, and we talked about how we did or didn't like certain new additions to the skyline, and we walked. We noticed tourists and we stopped to take the occasional photo. I was still fighting the sour ball of melancholy that had lodged in my chest. The sun was hot and bright, and we stopped under one of the overpasses while my friend took a few photos of some building or other. I turned and saw another familiar face - this one much more recent and kind of famous. I took two steps forward.
“You are fabulous” I gushed.
I actually couldn’t help myself, the gushing kept bubbling forth, unstoppable bilious froth.
“My name is _____. I just saw you in "The Bacchae," and I also saw you in "Hair" last year. I think you are just fabulous”
“My name is Jonathan, Hello and thank you.” He took my hand in one hand and rested his other hand on my shoulder.
“Oh, I saw you in "The Singing Forrest" too!"
“I think you are just terrific, really. Congratulations on your success.”
He smiled, he may have said thank you again, I’m not sure.
“The world is your oyster and you should enjoy it.” Perhaps he thought I was a mad stalker; luckily he seemed sincerely moved.
It was only after the encounter ended that my friend, who witnessed the entire thing and needed to be told who he was, assured me that he did, in fact, seem genuinely touched. She then told me that New York Magazine’s Matrix had just trashed his performance as Dionysus in "The Bacchae" and that the show had just been horribly reviewed in today's New York Times.
This might have been a very difficult day for him. I’m not worried that it will last long for Mr. Groff - er - Jonathan rather (we are on a first name basis). This is a very talented kid with a huge rising star. This Friday, Ang Lee’s "Taking Woodstock" is opening and he is in it! "The Bacchae" is closing Saturday and by this time next week Jonathan's cute but awkward Dionysus and the accompanying bad reviews will be history.
If this was a difficult or lousy day for him perhaps my few moments of gushing brought some light in an otherwise dark afternoon. It certainly relieved me of the sour, disquieting feelings brought on by my earlier sighting. Sometimes not being able to edit might be a good thing.