A gently haunted corner of Salem

After waiting two weeks, I finally tapped out a response to a text from my cousin Bevan. It was an important text and my silence had made me more anxious each day, something I hadn’t noticed because my attention had been so focused on work. In my sudden leisure just moments before my friends and I began to explore Salem, the weight of all the messages from friends and family that I had neglected dropped down on me.

In anxious moments like these, I’ve learned that even the tiniest action can lift what seems like an unmovable burden. Bevan’s text was foremost in my mind, so I chose to respond. My anxiety was exorcised, and I felt free to explore.

In the course of exploring, we stopped in at a teashop one street over from Salem Common. There is just enough room inside for a few tables and floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with jars of tea. Madeleines and macarons are for sale, which fit in with the Parisian decor. I sat down with a cup of Witch’s Brew (black tea with aromatic herbs) and my eye was drawn to tiny portrait in a frame over a few books. A sign read “The George Whitman Memorial Library.” I almost spit out my tea.

My cousin Bevan had written a short essay on her time with George, which had been included in a book commemorating his Paris bookstore, Shakespeare & Company. It’s a site of literary pilgrimage. I’d made a point of going there in my 20s. Bevan herself had lived in the rambling upper floor of the store and been one of George’s last assistants and, as her lovely essay shows, a friend to the eccentric old man. He’d sheltered generations of young bohemians like her.

Why was this little node connecting Paris and Bevan tucked away behind some jars of tea in a little shop in Salem? George, the sign informed me, had been a Salem native.

My message to Bevan had inadvertently conjured the spirit of George to give his blessing to the moment and the day.