As of today, She — the erstwhile, dancer, actor and teacher — and I have been in exile from the madding crowd of central Maine, for 60 days. That’s two months without a bowl of minestrone at the Olive Garden, Erick’s liver and onions, coffee with my best friend, the judge, a haircut at Joe’s Headquarters.

I returned to Facebook this spring, probably to keep from writing, but really to see what’s happening to my street friends. I miss them and their interesting side stories:

Whitney, the barista astrologist with the craziest, wonderful hair and a 6-foot-8 boyfriend, Logan, the barista poet with a great sense of humor, who is expecting a baby soon. How awkward for a child to step onto the stage without the proper music.

The recently married Natalie, the barista carpenter, who would love to spend the rest of her life “building stuff” and who is expecting as well. Tough. Sweet and happy, but tough.

Allison, the barista mother of two, with the most “born to be a mother” mojo. Jimmy, the mysterious, quiet barista from Fargo, North Dakota. Starbucks is quiet now, a haunted place as silent as Times Square.

I think of my U.S Cellular crew: D.J. and Cody, Adam and Matt and Jason, the crew who kept my phone alive for years. Their shop is closed now. They meet with customers on the stoop now, donning masks and blue gloves. The new normal.

For years now, I’ve bent their ears with stories of old Hollywood and Broadway, the Great Depression and World War II, and watched their eyes glaze over.

They listened politely to my recitation of places and names and stories. I may as well have been reciting the Iliad in the original Greek. I know their stage has different faces. It was a selfish performance. I only recited those stories to remind myself how lucky I was to have lived through those times, and because of a spiritual duty to keep the names alive and written in the wind.

Let me finish this week with the story of the “ghost light,” an artifact of legend and love.

When all have left the theater at night and the janitors have finished their work, the stage manager, who like the captain of a ship, is the last to lock up and turn out all the lights, but for one.

He, or she before leaving, drags out the old iron standing lamp with its bare, cold light and turns it on. The ghost light is never extinguished. They say it’s an insurance thing, to keep any late walkers from falling.

We who were raised in the theater know better. It’s there for ghosts, the long dead whom we did love. It’s an ancient tradition carried through from vaudeville and Ziegfield’s Follies to “Hamilton.”

You can bet that tonight in theaters from Sheridan Square in Greenwich Village to 59th Street on Broadway, all the ghost lamps are lit to warm the ghosts of the hundreds of performers taken by the virus, and will stay lit until the marquees are ablaze again.

I’ve decided today, that to honor my old classmates, Geraldine Page, Annie Bancroft, Sandy Dennis, Mal Throne, Zero Mostel and others (your eyes are glossing over ) from the classroom on 14th Street, I am going to buy a small ghost light to put in my window when I turn the others out.

It will be there to remind me of what, and whom, I’ve lost.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer. 


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