In a few days, I shall be back in Nice, France.
The pic you see above was taken in Nice in 1971, with a girl I had just met.
I do not look anything like that guy any more; and I have no idea what became of the girl.
I have never written about her at any length: why it is that we were instantly attracted to each other when we first met in Nice in 1971, or why it is that we decided, only a few months after this pic was taken on the seaside rocks of Raba Capeu, to meet in the Spanish city of Aljecerias — which is where we fell in love.
I thought I would marry this girl one day, but that is not what happened; and for many years after she left me, I will admit to spending more time than I should have, seeking inspiration in nearly every Manhattan dive bar or watering hole for drinkers with writing problems.
Ah, the self-indulgent but potent consolations of lamenting the Lost Lenore, or the cruelty of La forza del destino, usually in the company of broken down old men, men who passed their pointless days doing shots and short beers, their already-lived lives now consisting almost entirely of the prolonged, grim afternoon silences of the confirmed drinker, interrupted only by alcohol-fueled ruminations on what might have been, if only.
And now, I am as old as they were, and perhaps might even get older yet.
I, too, have disappointed myself, as well as a few people, in particular my father, who hoped for a long time that I was capable of achieving great things with my life — which never came to pass.
Has it been a life wastefully lived?
I would say, maybe, yes, but what’s the use in worrying about it?
A few weeks from now, I’ll be in Gouna, on the Red Sea, where maybe I’ll begin my life anew.
I’ve thought a lot about what it is that I shall be doing there.
It’s taken me almost 17 months to get in solid enough shape to escape America.
So what if now my salad days are long over?
Funny, though, something’s been tugging at me.
Lately I keep imagining the story of an old man who shows up, unexpectedly, in a distant, unfamiliar, and dangerous land, seemingly in search for something.
I cannot stop thinking of this man, and I’m beginning to imagine the sorts of jams he might get himself into, as various exotic people, some of them not very nice at all, try to figure out who he really is and what it is that he’s actually searching for: a pot of gold? a place to die? Or… something else?
By April, I expect that I’ll know a lot more about him, enough at least that I can start to tell the world about some of his adventures. and in particular, what it is that is compelling him to push himself to travel to a desolate, barren landscape, at an age when most men resign themselves to the pensioner’s life.
Now that — should it happen, for I have been down this road before, more than once even, and have always taken a wrong turn somewhere along the way — is not such a bad thing to look forward to, after all, when staying put is no longer an option.