Walking in downtown Cincinnati late one morning, I ran into an old friend: an artist and teacher I had modeled for at the University of Cincinnati and in private classes taught in her home. As I shifted out of working in the academic world and into the theatre and bartending worlds (sometimes working two full time jobs at once), I was also dealing with the breakup of a ten year long relationship, so we hadn’t seen one another in quite some time. We stood and chatted for about 15 minutes, just catching up on what happens when we humans aren’t looking at one another, both genuinely glad to have run into one another, then she asked me about my dearest of friends, Michael Mueller. She and Michael never were close but whenever he and I would run into her at Mullane’s, a restaurant where she read Tarot (and truly among the most magical and loving places that I have ever been blessed with being in), the two of them would chat like two old friends catching up on their lives, sometimes for hours. When I told her that he had passed away in March of the previous year, knowing how much he meant to me, she reached up to me and gave me a tight loving hug; the kind of hug in which you feel the other persons heart begin to sync up with your own; the kind of hug that strangers passing by, at Fifth and Walnut, on a bright, beautiful late June morning see but don’t feel awkward about. When we separated she looked up at me with her brown eyes and asked if I ever feel him around me, before I could answer I felt a cool breeze, not a chill, it was like the air in the shade of an enormous oak, then I felt something I had never felt before, it passed through the very center of my torso. Her eyes opened wide and she asked “Did you feel that?”
I have been in a bit of a spiritual crisis that at times is like a leaden shroud over my heart, and have become increasingly and cynically agnostic as I find myself without so many of my closest and dearest friends, but that day, I did feel something beautiful and joyful out on the street with Merle Rosen, and it is the one thing that keeps me from believing in nothing.
Merle Rosen passed away on June 20, 2017, and at this moment I am feeling her and the joy of loving her, and i am so grateful to her for teaching me both then and now that all of this isn’t simply nothing.