the two sides of monsieur valentine


He is dead. He knows the answer to that question.

He took his last breath and saw what there is to see, and became something else on some other frequency. Yet this echo of him is left behind, on the wall above our fireplace, and so I stare both absently and obsessively until I can smell damp tweed.

He arrives at the park promptly after mid-morning tea with offerings of bread, seed, lunch. They know him, their patron, and cluster instinctively. He is only ever anticipated namelessly, and by no one else, as he lives alone. And so he is caretaker, a needed figure taking comfort in the ritual of exchange. He pays no mind to the liberties taken by the passing camera, immersed in the dignity of thanksgiving. Farewell, he clucks with his tongue. Until tomorrow.

Or perhaps not.

Perhaps he is all of salons, and decadence, and broad laughter, with lovers beyond notions of marriage or gender. He enters a room in a well-cut suit and the air pulls towards him, folk drawn to his notoriety and the prospect of his conversation. Even those schooled by discretion are strangely compelled, as he knows. He is a most favourite uncle as he has been to India, has tasted its spices and its people, and speaks most unconventionally of both. And just as he winks at politics and power plays he notes the hilarity of striking this particular pose, of feigning solemnity. For this is not him, but rather a caricature of a man much more alone than he, a smaller footprint in a smaller world, and there's nothing more comedic than tragedy.