There is a programme on the French TV channel called ‘Taratata’ – name says it all. It’s the kind of commercially oriented entertainment for glitz-driven moths I avoid in normal times.
Last night, I had it running soundless as I waited for the film I wished to see, one eye on Thai spaghetti packaged as would-be poems, one ear on the persistent rain outside, the other on the rat that somehow inhabits in season the space between false ceiling and ceiling of the living room and seems to be dragging a branch after it.
A glance at the screen and I was spooked.
Sitting behind the grey-cropped man flashing his Colgate® dentition as he licked his mike, on the left was Charlotte and on the right Elsa.
Charlotte was my first love, in whose life I lasted three years. Elsa was my second love, on the rebound, and the rebound of which sent me to where I am, thirty-five years later.
I swear: this was Charlotte as I knew her forty years ago, those bony features of beauty to damn the saint I wasn’t made in Brittany, except that her long black hair with the straight eye-enhancing fringe was now dyed auburn.
I swear: this was Elsa as I knew her thirty-seven years ago, those same doe-eyes, dimpled cheeks and kiss-me mouth nurtured out of French pied-noir blood in Morocco from Jewish stock, that same hairdo, down to the last curlicue, except perhaps a bit more rounded in the chest than the pear offering my hands remember.
The camera kept cutting from that shot to that of a trendily slovenly old beau and a young songstress in vogue and need of facial surgery time and time again, and every time I felt a jolt.
Memories poured forth.
And led me to that other amazing chance encounter of over ten years ago.
I was then employed piecemeal by FAO Bangkok and, as a favour to favours I had done a Dutch little man of a drunkard that didn’t deserve them, was made to attend a symposium in the depths of the southern Filipino archipelago – was it Davao?
One evening, loath of sharing in the fake companionship of strangers caught in the system, I retreated to my hotel room and switched on the telly. Clicking the remote I happened on the same French TV channel I watched last night, a discovery for me at the time. There was a documentary on some Latin America tribe and, after that, an interview with its main reporter: she hadn’t changed a bit from the time, more than fifteen years earlier, when we were smooching by the swimming pool of a Ratchaprarop hotel with her crew taking shots of us for a lark and she reluctant because pregnant with X (another French TV overlord) and it meant much to her, so be it. Actually, I kept asking myself what it was she found in me. But then, missing a mother in life, I’ve never been confident with women. But that’s another story.