10 Feb

I was in some marble Art Deco palace of an expiring railway station with a grubby ticket to somewhere in my pocket trying to keep my concentration whilst in company with F Scott Fitzgerald’s winding account of his falling apart when I looked up and saw him. Always fashionable in the way of a sleeping seaside resort during the last weeks of summer after the tourists have gone back to their work and their schools, before the Autumn brings the cold wind from the south. Fashionable, in that sense, in that place and time and never any other. His appearance, his crumpled but otherwise immaculate white shirt, his rubber sandals with a design bearing the unmistakable stamp of this fresh and ominous century. His hand-crafted New Age jewelry, the eagle pendant and the bracelet s’posed to evoke some Ancient Egyptian religious ceremony.

He was reading a large volume about births and death in France such as those who’ve turned to genealogical inquiry use when they’ve finally given up searching for what talent they imagined they possessed. I turned back to my book, unable to move as to do so would attract him and render a rendezvous unavoidable. Genealogy? France. Mmmph!

I could imagine what conversation would precipitate when our eyes finally met. He would inflict on me some story. Some Hugenaut ancestry perhaps? A Nevarrian nobleman who’d fled Paris with a serious wound after the betrayal following the betrothal of Margueritte de Valois to King Henry of Navarre. Obviously some hermetic fortune would be involved and my companion in his crumpled white shirt and batiq silk pants would grab my arm and tell me in all earnestness that he was the sole heir.

He didn’t look much older tho’ it’d been years since. How many? I’m not sure but I remembered meeting him on a fishing scow in the water west of Freemantle where he’d told me other stories. The one in which he’d discovered a Chagall at the Camberwell marketplace on Sunday morning. And tho’ it was preposterous that some flotsam in a rubber coat out here scraping fish off the deck was about to earn some eight figure sum at Sotheby’s I believed him at the time, for a time. His eyes were bright with sincerity. He looked a picture of virtue even if he did complain when told to get back to work. But then he told me about the Picasso discovered in a bookstore in Moe, the Leger sculpture spotted in a Collingwood junk store. About the lawyer that was holding it all. About how he was hiding out here and who he was hiding from. And, inevitably, his secret powers of healing, his second sight.

It required some effort to humour him and in the end I gave up and froze him out. There was a woman involved I remember. She and he had known each other some time before. The acquaintance was an unpleasant memory to both of them tho’ I never discovered the details. He warned me against her. The usual nips and pricks of the jilted. She couldn’t be trusted, he said, manipulative and a liar. Oh so rich coming from him. He said repeatedly she would cheat me. I can’t remember whether I broke with him before or after that brief and bitter encounter. Did I reject him out of hostility to what I imagined were lies told? Or was I angry because his lies obfuscated this time when he was finally telling the truth?


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