We sit still, rather rigidly, and staring at one another, sink into an awkward silence.
Words don't come easily after a gap of twenty years, worsened by the fact that we have not seen nor even spoken nor written to one another during the period.
Looking through the windows does not help us either -- out there, it's the devastating emptiness and amplitude of ocean and sky that can not be abridged. A stunning view, but quite discouraging in our present situation.
"Can I offer you anything to drink, sir?" The handsome barman, beautiful like an angel, behaving like an angel, has approached, breaking the silence.
"I'm having red wine, grazie." Carlo replies, glancing with interest at Gabriel. In his tar black uniform with a modernized clerical collar, the barman looks misleadingly monastic.
"Can I bring you another gin tonic, sir?" He smiles, and his beauty indeed has a surprisingly soothing effect on me.
"No, thank you." Having had just two drinks I sound groggy already, and both Carlo and Gabriel eye me with curiosity. "I'll have sparkling water instead."
With a funny flourish, that he had rehearsed for a musketeer movie, Gabriel bows -- and I can't help but check his muscled derriére as he retreats back to the bar. He walks glibly like a top model, his blond ponytail lasciviously swaying in a call to follow him -- and I wonder how he sees me. I know that I look much older than thirty three, with my gray hair. How could I not bear it, when both my parents are gray haired? Because I am blond like my mother, my hair looks completely white already -- 'emotional white', as I sometimes describe it, since it started turning gray shortly after my father left home. It suits my green eyes well, and makes an appealing contrast to the tanned skin tone I have inherited from my father. But still, when I meet a guy so jovial like Gabriel, who looks even younger than he already is, I have to wonder if I shouldn't start considering dyeing my hair.
"So," I startle at my father's voice, that I haven't heard in such a long while, coming from so close, "you drink gin tonic. Just like your mother." Carlo sounds disappointed. Or perhaps surprised. The subtleties of his intonations are no longer familiar to me. "It's a writer's drink, they say."
"And what would be a painter's drink, Carlo?" I lift an eyebrow, as skeptically high as it will go, but he simply ignores it.
"I guess it depends on the painter, ha-ha." He laughs briefly, and quickly dismisses the subject. "This is a very nice place, son." Sentence by sentence, it is as if my father is heating up his conversational skills. I am aware of how much he cherishes silence, above all things. "The views are stunning. Good artworks, too." Absently, he caresses the soft black leather of the chair. "It must be expensive."
"You're my guest, Carlo." But why do I feel compelled to lie? The Nirvana Lounge has been recommended to me by the only friend I still have in town, Dan Charmand, the museum's director. Somehow, I do not want to mention that we are actually both Charmand's guests. "A couple of my paintings have just been bought by well known Art collectors. Let's celebrate!" That, at least, is true, and I am elated with the money and the prestige.
"I'm happy to hear you're having such a brilliant start, Laurent! The art critics are praising your paintings... 'A refreshing punch in the face of the portraying tradition'. Seems like you've knocked down all those guys that are staring at us from the wall, ha-ha!" They are classical male portraits, a fine selection made by Charmand at the request of The Nirvana Lounge's owner. "British lords, aren't they?" Carlo punches the air, as if hitting the gilded noblemen directly, and laughs. I only fake a smile, unable to see what might be so funny. "I'm curious to see your paintings!"
YOU ARE READING
The Last CanvasSpiritual
A starving Italian painter flees Paris in the winter of 1974. His destination -- a tiny private island lost in the Indian Ocean. His destiny -- a soul-crushing love triangle with a French nobleman and a haughty Parisian intellectual. His fate -- inv...