Have I loved -- no, not loved, just worshiped -- an impostor?
The most constant, solid presence throughout my adult life, during the past fifteen years, everything I have achieved was under his guidance.
To his suggestion I have moved to Samsara Heights, where I watch the sun set over the sea thinking it is headed to Punaouilo, the island of my birth. This nostalgic happiness -- or was it unhappiness? -- that softens my days in a city where I have practically no friends, I owe it to him.
That I now have the Pacific Ocean of my childhood at my feet -- that, too, I owe him. One just needs descend the hill, wandering through an enchanted garden trail, the final steps leading to the beach where I can relish bathing in the same waters of my early years. Melancholically poetical and marvelous as it is, it has been his idea, first of all, that I moved to the West Coast.
Once I bought the land, he indicated the best contemporary architects to build my dream house. Yet, it took him three years, since it has been completed, to accept the invitation to visit me. Now, I am not just anxious with his visit -- I fear it. I fear how our relationship will evolve from there. The questions I am about to ask him won't necessarily lead to disaster -- but most possibly.
My artistic career -- I owe it thoroughly to him. And to my talent, too, of course. Since the day he first visited my atelier, it has been under his sole guidance. I have entrusted him the power to determine my steps in the art world. Be it my solid prestige in the museums circuit, or my thundering commercial success, Dan Charmand has led me all along the controversies of my triumphant career.
That envious people call me Dan's boy, or Dan's toy, I couldn't care less. They are right -- to some extent. I am his creature. A happy creature have I been, so far -- living in ignorance of what, now, I think have been his ruthless intentions.
For love of my father, Dan will probably have to step out of my life. Like before, as I am led to believe, my father has gotten out of my life because of him.
Quite naturally, he occupied the place left vacant by my father. At twenty, when we first met, without being conscious of it, I was eager to find an adult masculine figure to replace Carlo. Angelo, then my boyfriend -- and through whom I met Dan -- was sure a strong enough manly presence in my days. But he was just as young and lost as I was, making me the more lost. Having been dumped, in the labyrinth of loss and hollowness that Angelo's absence ensued, Dan had taken the center of stage -- to never, ever again leave it.
Irascible to most, Dan took me into his liking. Because, like Catherine used to say, I was an obedient boy? Dan's advices were guidance to me, his suggestions like marching orders. Books I should read, movies I should watch, exhibitions I should visit -- I was always up to date with his check lists. Jazz to Britt pop, Japanese food to hamburgers. He told me what I should prefer, if I were to be the 'citizen of the world' he wanted to turn me into -- and turned me into it he has. In ways I could not guess -- at least not until now --, he echoed my grandmother Celeste.
"Do you think Charmand gets to choose D'Allegro's underwear color, or if he should put no underwear at all?" Jokes about us abounded. No matter how many lovers I was 'allowed' to have, I remained being Dan's boy. But I was no puppet of his. I was not just free in sex -- there was intelligent life for me outside Dan's perimeter. For instance, he wanted me to dress Boss, but I had insisted on Armani. I had kept my own style -- unless I was to accompany him to a dinner party, or a gala evening. Then I would need Dan's approval on how I dressed. I had to match his impeccable elegance to remain being his constant escort to ballets and operas and all other openings.
He does not have a family -- not a single member. He once mentioned being raised by a grandmother in Tunisia -- or was it Algeria? --, who has already died. Once, when I was crying over Angelo, he implied to have suffered a great loss, due to a tragedy of some sort. "Death only should be mourned, Laurent.", he had stated. To that, I dried my tears, and never let them flow again, not for my ex-boyfriend. Even his scolding was benevolent.
That is all I know about the story of his life. No details, nothing concrete. I have never had the occasion to ask any further. There is no space for personal matters in his days. The present only exists for him, dominated by impressive professional achievements -- 24/7, Dan is the almighty director of Vice City's acclaimed Contemporary Art Museum.
I do not worry who will inherit his fortune, his precious art collection, his ultra elegant penthouse, his partnerships in several businesses -- such material matters concern the gossipers only. Why should I think about Dan's death, when he is the best thing to have happened in my life in all the years spent at Vice City? I already have the unique privilege of being his intellectual heir.
I have been family for him, and he has been family, for me. We do not try to disguise a rather compensatory father and son relationship -- that people mistake for a daddy and son fantasy. I couldn't care less.
What I do care, though, is that he has lied to me. No, not perhaps lied -- just omitted. But omitted too great a deal, from our very start.
I had to go to Sweden to find out about Dan's passage through Paris. Nothing unusual, for someone who, in the sixties or seventies, wished to make a career in the arts. But I am left breathless, my heart racing, at the simple recollection of the nature of his connection to Monsieur de Montbelle -- my grandfather, if I am to still believe Catherine.
I have heard it from the mouth of Armand de Montbelle himself . Plus many other facts that gets me wondering why I couldn't have a normal family like everybody else -- instead of that kaleidoscopical mess that leaves me gaping and panting and traveling from one corner of the planet to another, trying to gain some sense and perspective on my own origins.