50: Crossing an Ocean to Find Brian

50: Crossing an Ocean to Find Brian

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Dreams and the Unexplainable

Crossing an Ocean to Find Brian

We determine our destiny by the actions we take today.

~Catherine Pulsifer

The voice cut through my drowsy state, jarring me so much that I sat straight up in bed, blinking hard against the bedroom light. I had lain down to rest while I waited for my boyfriend to pick me up. I worked as an au pair and English teacher for three lovely children in Athens, Greece, and I was tired after a long day.

As I waited for him, I pondered the message I had heard and realized a high-pitched buzzing noise in my ears had preceded the voice that had spoken to me. I wracked my brain trying to think if I knew a Brian. It was a common name. Didn’t I know someone? But I didn’t. And, more than that, I was particularly struck by its deliberate tone. It was an order. I had to go home — leave Greece, and travel all the way back to Boston, Massachusetts — to find a man named Brian. But why?

I didn’t have any answers.

A sense of urgency began to grow within me. What if I missed the window of opportunity? Should I break my commitment to the Greek family? It had been a big decision to move abroad in the first place; it was just after 9/11, and the world was on edge. At twenty-two years old, I was eager for adventure but recognized the risks of an American girl traveling abroad alone. In the end, I decided to pursue my dream, much to the chagrin of my family. What would everyone think of me now if I arrived home months earlier than planned?

Over the next two weeks, my decision was made for me. My Greek boyfriend proposed marriage, which I turned down; this resulted in our break-up. The Greek family decided to go to their summer house weeks earlier than planned, which meant my services wouldn’t be needed anymore.

In June 2002, I returned to Boston. I found a job as an editorial assistant and commuted daily via the city bus. The voice and its message, though still on my mind, were eventually pushed back as I became preoccupied with work.

Until September. As I waited to get off the bus for home one day, I glanced out the window and saw a tiny black kitten running up the sidewalk in the same direction as the bus. Immediately, I thought, Oh, my God, that cat is going to get hit by a car!

The bus pulled over for my stop, and I jumped off. The cat was in front of me, just watching me. Then it turned and started running. It looked back at me, saw I was trying to catch it, and ran faster until it turned down an alley that opened into a parking lot for a liquor store, a bank and a bar called Costello’s. The cat approached a cement parking barrier and hopped onto it. It sat and waited patiently for me. Even more bizarre, it now calmly let me pick it up.

I called my mother from my cell phone to ask for a ride to the nearby animal hospital. Once there, I handed the black cat over to the attendant, who promised it would be adopted immediately; kittens always were.

When Monday came, I called the hospital to check up on the cat. One attendant, who claimed to be the one working the day I brought the cat in, swore he didn’t remember the kitten. Another attendant said it had probably been adopted right away before paperwork could be filed. No one could give me a solid answer on its whereabouts, which was both odd and frustrating to me.

During this time, I visited the employment section of the hospital’s website. I was surprised to discover that they were hiring veterinary technicians for their emergency department. The best part? Experience wasn’t necessary because they were a training hospital.

Before I moved to Greece, I’d volunteered at a no-kill shelter in Boston. While in Greece, I’d volunteered and assisted in life-saving procedures for the stray cats in Athens. So when I saw the job posting, I immediately felt it was the job for me. I applied and received a phone call to come in for an interview the next day.

I was instructed to come into the hospital from the employee entrance, which opened into a long, dimly lit corridor. Doors to the medical wards lined the hallway. One door suddenly opened at the very end. A man in emerald green hospital scrubs stepped out. He leaned against the wall and glanced down the hallway at me. I was easily eighty feet away, not close enough to discern physical characteristics, but as soon as we saw one another, a bolt of electricity shot through my body. My immediate thought was, Whoever he is, he’s going to make this an interesting place to work!

I had my interview and the head of the department offered me the job on the spot. On my first day of work, she took me into the emergency room to meet my trainer. It was the man I saw the day of my interview.

We became good friends and colleagues. Since we worked the 3:00 p.m. to midnight shift, several of us would blow off the night’s emotional stressors by hanging out at a local bar after work. One particular night in April 2003, we all decided to leave through the bar’s back entrance. Feeling empowered after I heard about his recent split from his girlfriend, I turned to him and quietly asked if I could kiss him. He said yes.

Shortly after that night, a realization struck me like a bolt of lightning, literally taking my breath away as all of the pieces fell into place, one after the other. His name was Brian. And not only had a mysterious voice instructed me to “go home and find Brian,” but the strange black cat that helped lead me to him had waited for me on a cement parking barrier in the parking lot of this bar — Costello’s. By leaving through the rear entrance of the bar, Brian and I had shared our first kiss where it had all started.

It blew my mind. Whoever spoke to me that night in Athens — whether it was a guardian angel, my deceased father, or perhaps even God — he or she knew how important it was for me to find Brian.

We’ve been happily married now for eleven years and have an amazing four-year-old son named Joseph.

At our wedding in October 2005, my father-in-law told our story to a packed reception of family and friends. At the very end, he presented a gift to us, the happy newlyweds: an adorable, stuffed black kitten.

~Kathryn Merz

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