Luis places the phone back into the cradle. His father had just informed him in his usual brusque manner that he was in the city for a meeting and would be joining him for dinner. No “would you be free?” or “is it convenient?”. No sir. That wouldn’t suit the stature of the great Gustavo II. What came was a summon- ‘Pick you up at 6.”
A sinking feeling begins to float in the pit of his stomach. He pictures his father sitting on an armchair, a disgruntled expression on his face. He often finds himself hoping it is a mask and that someday, it would fall off, revealing the real, better person within.
It was hard to tell if Gustavo ever felt happy. He had one predominant emotion driving his interactions- resentment – and he would want to pull everyone around him into his emotional hurricane. Luis would often relent to the temptation, take the challenge and jump into Gustavo’s vortex. But it always ended in a skirmish. When Gustavo was enraged, which was almost a perpetual emotion, he became oppressive and dominant. Luis finds it hard to feel love for him. He recalls reading (was it the ‘Bodhi Tree’ column in the morning daily?) that all negative emotions stem from one single one – fear. If that was true, what was Gustavo afraid of? Could it be fear of failure, of appearing inadequate, of losing control, of being taken for granted, of losing his importance? Whatever it was, they were his own storms, emanating from some damage or triggers from his past, from another place and another time. It had nothing to do with Luis.
Giving the knot of his silk tie one final pull, he thinks of the impending maelstrom and suddenly feels drained. Maybe he shouldn’t go. Maybe he should never see Gustavo again. But couldn’t there be something else he could do? In the ornate dresser mirror, he sees an image of his father helping him onto his first bicycle; clapping hard at his first win at the school basketball game. Where were those days? What happened? Was it possible that Gustavo could express love to only those he could control, like a child, perhaps?
He extends his hand to touch the mirror, hoping to hold down those moments. They quickly vanish into oblivion, supplanted by a man resembling him, a man with sweat drenched skin, throbbing eyes, rapid breathing- a fearful man. He takes a closer look, nervously touching his stubble. If he carries this inner turmoil to Gustavo, all hell would break loose.
He suddenly feels tired. Smoothing down his shirt one last time, he makes up his mind.
He would simply imagine himself to be a fly sitting on the wall, watching them both – calm, unperturbed.
Perhaps, then, the hurricane would lose its strength in cooler temperatures.
Perhaps, then, Gustavo would be tempted to act like a fly himself, albeit on another wall, and soon it would become a comical dance of sorts…
Art- The Italian Painter Giorgio de Chirico, by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Italy, 1968