Although the Pittown cafe owner had misjudged Merlyn’s friend to be her husband, she actually did have a husband. An estranged husband, anyway. The estrangement was how she came to be living in Pittown. Merlyn and Benjamin had only been married for three years. It wasn’t long but, as it turned out, long enough. They had known each other for two years previous to getting married. Merlyn wasn’t a big fan of getting married but Benjamin had fallen in love with her and very much wanted the marriage to work. For her part, Merlyn both loved and was in love with Benjamin in return. However, unlike Benjamin, she knew that he was ill-prepared for the reality of a committed relationship. She also knew that love is the most powerful force in the universe, so she gave Benjamin and the marriage her best shot and put her faith in his love to get him through.
“Do you even like me?” said Benjamin accusingly on their last night together.
Merlyn looked at him and felt that she often didn’t like the person that he could be to her. Not wanting to shy away from an honest answer, she said, “Who would…?” She was going to say, “Who would like being treated the way you treat me?” but Benjamin interrupted.
“Right,” said Benjamin. “That’s fantastic. You don’t even like me. Then there is no point being together.”
If it had been earlier on, Merlyn would have tried to help him understand what she was saying. He wasn’t easy to talk to. Oh, he could talk alright. He was a rather dreadful gossip although he considered himself to be the opposite. He could tell a terrifically funny story. If he had no vested interest, he could kindly listen to other people’s problems and even give them good advice which they often took. He could talk endlessly about nothing with people who also liked to talk about nothing (something Merlyn couldn’t tolerate herself, finding it beyond boring). However, when it came to talking about the important, personal things in life, Benjamin was neither equipped nor willing to learn how to do it.
If Merlyn tried to cajole him into talking about some prickly issue, he was fond of saying, “You know that we have discussed this numerous times before in great detail and I don’t wish to discuss it again!” Mind you, the “numerous times” would have been one time. And the “in great detail” would have been him pontificating about what he considered to be Merlyn’s less-than-desirable behaviour.
Like many (if not most) people, he had never learned to talk properly. He thought it was a dangerous endeavour which would likely end up taking you somewhere regrettable. When he drank (which he did frequently), he was more talkative. Although a drunk man’s words are a sober man’s thoughts as the saying goes, both the words and thoughts were muddled and destructive as is generally the case with drinkers and talkers.
“Tomorrow, I’ll look for a place in Pittown near my new job,” said Merlyn with resignation. “I’ll be able to afford there on my own. You should be able to stay here on your own.” She paused and added, “Or you can get someone else to share the rent with you.”
Benjamin said with more than a little spite, “Yes, I’ll get someone else. I can think of heaps of people who’d like to share with me.” Indeed, there were.
Edgar and Enid
A few months before moving to Pittown, Merlyn started a job caring for an elderly woman named Enid. She had had a type of stroke which left her with intermittent memory loss. Her highly successful son, Edgar, wanted his mother to live in her own home as she was happier there. He slept there but needed someone to be with her during the day.
Edgar’s ad for the position was short and specific.
Daytime carer needed for elderly lady. Must be kind. Must have impeccable integrity.
The wording of the ad was why Merlyn applied for the job. She thought that anyone asking for kindness and integrity must be that themselves.
The interview was a little odd. Edgar opened the door and looked at her searchingly as if he was running through a computer program in his mind; a checklist only known to him. On entering the old-fashioned but sweet and clean lounge room, Merlyn gave Edgar her resume. He put it on the table without looking at it. After a few half-hearted questions, he stood up to indicate the interview was over.
“My mother is special,” said Edgar as he politely opened the front door for Merlyn. “She needs…”
“…special care,” volunteered Merlyn.
Edgar nodded. Merlyn could see the sadness in his eyes that this special woman was only intermittently there now.
“You will let me know after you have interviewed all the applicants?” asked Merlyn.
“No,” said Edgar. “I didn’t accept anyone else’s application. You will start tomorrow if that is convenient for you.”
Convenient or not, Edgar was not the type of person that you inconvenienced.
“I named Edgar after Edgar Cayce,” said Enid to Merlyn during one of her lucid conversations. “Do you know who that is?”
“No,” said Merlyn.
“He was a wonderful clairvoyant,” said Enid. “He would go into a trance and give long speeches about life and everything important. His secretary took it all down for decades. They called him the Sleeping Prophet because of how he got his information.”
“Really,” said Merlyn who was genuinely fascinated.
“Edgar and I sometimes laugh that he is the Waking Profit, not the Sleeping Prophet,” said Enid. Her laugh was pure and infectious. She seemed to laugh along with life. Seeing Merlyn’s confused look, Enid said, “Because of his business, dear, his finance company – Prophet House.” She added proudly, “It’s one of the country’s leading businesses now.”
Edgar was an unusual mix of person; gentle and intuitive with a sharp, almost demanding, intelligence. He was intensely interested in the world of making money. The strange thing was that Edgar didn’t seem that interested in money, personally. He did have a very expensive apartment in the most prestigious bayside suburb of the city but he seemed as content, if not more, in his mother’s house in Pittown.
Sensing Merlyn’s thoughts, Enid said, “We all have different things to do in life. And how we know is that it drives us and won’t let us go.” Enid laughed, “The damn thing just won’t leave us alone.” Enid’s lucidity then drifted into the ether and she started rambling incoherent memories of when Edgar was a boy. She asked Merlyn if Edgar was outside playing. Merlyn replied that she would go and look. She went to the kitchen and made a pot of tea the way Enid liked it; Earl Grey with milk.
“Here, love,” said Merlyn. “While Edgar is playing, let’s have a nice cup of tea and look out the window at your flowers.”
Enid’s house was one of the fewer, well-cared-for ones in Pittown. It was walking distance from Merlyn’s unit. In years gone by, every spring, Enid planted hundreds of pansies in her front garden. It was somewhat unimaginative but there was so much love in the garden that she could pull it off. Nowadays, Edgar organised for a gardener to plant the pansies. Enid thought she did it herself.
“I love my flowers,” said Enid wistfully. “I like Edgar to have something beautiful to look at while he is growing up. Because, darling, beauty is the soul of life. If we learn to see beauty, we are never far from God.” Even in her confused moments, Enid didn’t seem to lose her connection with her higher self. Only her lower self got confused. She looked at Merlyn and said, “Who are you again? You have a lovely face.”
Merlyn smiled. “I’m your friend,” she said simply.
Enid relaxed and closed her eyes for a rest.
Perhaps, thought Merlyn, she’s visiting the Sleeping Prophet.