Wednesday, 28 January 2009

"Did you know him?"

Nobody really knows exactly how old Will Donovan was when he died.
Well, no one really knows exactly if he died at all.
Some say he was 20 years of age, others say he was around 35, some even go as far as to say he was actually very old, but had that disease where you aged very very slowly.

All that is known for sure is one day he was there, and the other he wasn't.

Tales are spun in the dinky bar in Beirut that Donovan used to spend a lot of his time in, about what could have happened to him. Many say he just packed his bags and left without saying a word to anyone. Some say he went to explore the shadier parts of Beirut and never returned. Some say that he was a CIA agent that had a change of heart after falling in love with Beirut, and was "liquidated" in the name of American national security. Some say he decided to walk into the Mediterranean Sea, but ended up walking on water, and never stopped.

Those who knew him best said nothing at all. They just whispered his name under their breath at every sip of their drink that they took, slipping into mundane conversation and feigning normality, but always with a far look in their eyes.
Maybe in hopes that he'll hear them and come back.

Many facts surrounding Will Donovan's appearance are blurry. Some say he was blond with wide shoulders and a baby face. Some say he was darker haired, lanky, with a beard and stern eyes. Some say he wore suits with torn converses, while others say he wore tshirts with boots. But the two things that were always mentioned no matter who was describing him, were his tattered fedora hat (where it came from is a whole other story, whether he found it on the Lebanese shore or was given to him by Tom Waits himself, we'll never know) and his differently sized pupils. One of his pupils seemed to be dilated as though it was in the dark, while the other was sharper, tighter, and more focused, as a pupil would be in the light.

Perhaps this was no coincidence. It would be no surprise to anyone if Donovan was able to see into the dark and the light of everyone and every situation, taking in all he could, only to focus it all and go forward with it. A balance of sorts, a gift.

Stories of his nights at the bar range from him sitting there quietly, as if not wanting to be noticed, (gazing every once in a while at the TV trying to guess the movie that is playing), to heated debates about politics and life and philosophy. Sometimes, it was said, if he had had enough drinks, he did a little dance that he called the "old man dance". The bar's patrons still manage to dance that dance every once in a while, before stopping to remember who coined it, and how he was not there to join them.

One thing is for certain, he left something of himself with everyone he met, and those who were awake enough to see it were all the better for it. And those who saw and were able, gave him of them selves, because it was no coincidence that their paths crossed, and to some, it was a blessing.

I've heard that years after the disappearance of Will Donovan, a prayer was passed on from those who were close to him, those who loved and cared for him, to their children, and then to their children's children.

"Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep;
And a Will Donovan, in my dreams to meet"

Ever so often his name is mentioned in a bar in Beirut, and the question always comes up among strangers...

"Did you know him?"

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