I met him, I suppose, at a party. An older artist – sculptor, perhaps. Grey-haired, distinguished. In any case, I see myself at his long wooden house, in a cold green garden, out in the banlieues. He shows me around: oak-panelled rooms, numbered engravings … the conversation is in French.
I stay for lunch. He is very friendly. At some point he kisses me. Though essentially unattracted, I am in a sense relieved. At least it convinces me his interest is sincere, not mere politeness to a guest. After that, he squires me about. His reputation is worldwide, it seems, and his celebrity guarantees a good time.
I don’t see much beyond that. Do I sleep with him? Perhaps. At any rate, there is a civilised rapprochement between us …
[I must admit, the coldness and venality of this dream worries me. It’s true I feel no revulsion, in the dream, against the older man, but there is no sincere attachment either. Is it telling me to relax, accept the complexity of my feelings, give up the dream of fame, true love? Or am I in some sense the artist figure as well, doomed to disappointment in the objects of my affection?]
My days are now absorbing. We walk, or ride, through a constantly changing landscape, while I muse on what I hope to achieve from this strange quest. Knowledge? There is an element of genuine curiosity about these relics of the past. Celebrity? Perhaps not alien to me, if the dream is anything to go by. Excitement? That, perhaps, most of all. Or rather, if not excitement, at least the fending off and abeyance of boredom.
My companion fascinates me. He treats me with the strictest courtesy, yet rejects my attempts at conversation with scarcely an attempt at reply. I should like to discuss his family, origins, reasons for undertaking this trip, but all such attempts he evades with silence. The only thing we do discuss is (each morning) the route we are to follow that day; and (occasionally) the food.
He is strict in his observance of prayers, but very private about his ablutions. I have seen the scar, and speculated on it (it runs the length of his arm, and down across the wrist – clearly a life-threatening wound). Oddly enough, there are no stitch marks on it. It’s hard to believe that such a wound could be survived, so far from the hygiene and sterility of modern hospitals.