He had a pair of the saddest eyes I’ve ever known.
Brief encounters and facebook posts. A few emails here and there, two long conversations. Friendly, kind.
I’m intrigued by his life and confused by his humbleness.
And hard to admit, I’ve been a little obsessed with the idea of him for a year now. At first I thought he was 25 so I gave it up. Then I found out he was 42! He was french, brown eyes, slightly taller than me, french nose, brown hair, attractive, a writer/dj from a creative family. Always has positive, kind things to say via facebook. I was almost confused when I had arrived to Paris and no effort or invitation to coffee or whatever was extended my way, after what i felt would have been natural considering our shared community.
My heart was pounding that day in florence when I knew he would be arriving soon. Finally I would have real face to face time with this mystery man whom I had contrived a small fantasy with. (What I didn’t expect was to have a connection with Joe while in Italy and so I was very distracted but wholly grateful for the time spent with him.) I tried my best to chat and get to know Arturo but I felt I like I was pulling teeth. I left Florence disappointed and restless with the exchange. After a conversation with a girlfriend I knew I would have to be the one to initiate anything and so I had to move forward and exhaust all efforts or forever be haunted by the idea of him.
An invitation to coffee on Monday was immediately and enthusiastically accepted as well as a returned invitation to a club he was playing at that weekend. I was delighted to be able to see him in his zone and he gave us the royal treatment and all; vip list and drink cards. He introduced me to a few other photographers – portrait and documentary reportage photographers that were friends of his and there the same evening. (Serendipity!) The people watching was amazing, the music was suburb. He walked me home and said good night. Again, I was a little confused. He wasn’t interested in me in the slightest. He wasn’t charming or gay. He was self assured but not catering or attempting to entertain me. Again, kind and friendly, but nothing more. I fell into bed still restless about our interactions. But, I still had tea to look forward to.
Rendezvous at Saint Paul, it was cold that day unlike the weekend before. We walked towards the Marais past shops that I knew all too well from my many many wonderings through the city. We walked up to a door that I had seen dozens of times before but never looked inside. A old charming tea house bustling with sounds of conversations and from the faint scrape of where the cup meets the saucer in between sips.
We talked of writing, photography, the night club scene he has been in for 20 years. I avoided the topic of the movie about his life that his sister made because it previously made him uncomfortable. We talked about being in stale environments and needing space to breathe. We talked about dogs and my travel stories. We talked about our connection to the art world and spoken word community in paris, About his upcoming move to Spain and his hope to start over and have reprieve. Not once did I see joy, inspiration or light come upon his face. His laughs came as a surprise even to him and they were few, short and almost forgotten as quickly as they had come.
I felt it and a saw it for the first time. Here was a man who was so deeply engulfed by some tragedy in his life that he has no light left in him. He was empty. He felt void. He was numbly walking through his current life with a hope of future restoration and solace in Spain.
In theme, we shared a kind and friendly au revoir. It was simple and quick as if we had exhausted all topics and had nothing left to say. I walked home through the Marais along the small streets and across Place des Vosges where the green leaves were beginning to sprout on the squared hedges. The sharpness of the vivid green made more intense by the grayness of the sky. In my mind I was mulling over the 2 hours we spent sipping tea and exchanging ourselves, really, for the first time.
My fantasy was gone, gladly so. I am able to walk away with compassion for my new friend and wish him well on his journey. And I onto mine.