I have a little trepidation about sharing this story with you because it's the only time where I've (quasi) fictionalized an actual situation for one of my books and didn't change the name of the main antagonist.
His name was Max.
With that simple statement, I know that some of you are already on to which one of my books he wound up in. And if you are, I hope you're screaming, "Oh my God!" because, yes, Max and Max are frighteningly similar.
It started innocently enough. A room to rent in a new condo for only $100 / month.
I was a college student trying to make it on a very tight budget, so I really wanted this room and was very excited when I got myself an interview.
Did it matter that it was a single man renting out the room?
But he was old! (Sixty at least. Maybe seventy!) And he was well mannered (and clean shaven), stylish (for an old guy), professional (he ran his broker business out of his home), and very pleasant.
In exchange for such a reasonable rent he said he would appreciate it if I could answer the phone as his "secretary" on occasions when I was home and he had errands to run. Also, perhaps I could play tennis with him.
Yes, there was a clubhouse with a gym and courts. He was a member. He'd get me a membership, too.
Also, he liked that I was into healthy eating, and wondered if perhaps I could help him learn to prepare tasty vegetables.
He offered me the place on the spot. It was definitely too good to be true, but there it was, true! I wrote him a check and moved in that weekend. And for the first month, everything was amazing! He'd even take me out to lunch once a week to "catch up."
It was like living with a cool, old grandpa. One who could still play tennis!
Then one lunch he began talking about the untapped power of the mind. An interesting subject, until the conversation veered into the moving of objects with your mind. He believed, given enough concentration, one could bend spoons with their mind and he had, he claimed, actually done it.
Not wanting to be impolite (or closed minded) I asked if he could demonstrate.
He could not, he said, and it frustrated him greatly because he had done it, knew it could be done, yet could not repeat it.
A little red flag went up, but I swatted it back down. This was just a case of an old guy with a dream-memory that seemed real. Who doesn't have those?
But there was a shift happening in the household. I started noticing him watching me. I sensed he was thinking things he wasn't saying, and he appeared out of nowhere on several occasions, really startling me.
Then he asked me for a picture of myself. I had headshots. He wanted one, but wouldn't say why.
Yes, it creeped me out, but rather than move out, I hid the pictures behind the cork board I had pinned to a wall in my room above the desk.
Then came our weekly lunch. I didn't want to go, but I did anyway, and that's when the weirdness escalated: In a previous life, he told me, the great love of his life, Athena, and he had been torn apart. He'd been traveling through the ages, life after life, in search of her and at long last he had found her back. He gazed at me through his glasses, held my hand and told me that he was beside himself with joy.
I was his long lost Athena.
What do you say to THAT?
I withdrew my hand, assured him that I was NOT his long lost Athena, that I had no recollections of previous lives whatsoever, and that there was no future US.
I should have walked out of the restaurant and abandoned all my stuff at the condo, but he had driven, it was too far to walk, and he seemed to have accepted my rejection with grace.
But the minute we got back to the condo I started packing. Because if a deluded old guy thinks you're his long lost love from a previous life and he's been wandering eternity in search of you, what is the logical next step so that your lives re-sync?
I locked my door, and was shaking as I packed my things. And as I yanked the cork board off the wall, I discovered that my pictures were missing.
He had found them.
Behind the cork board?
I looked around for a camera, but at that point, I just wanted OUT. So I gathered what I could carry in one trip, abandoned the rest, and made my escape.
And years later, still grateful to have survived, I put him in a book.