Anton is still here. At the moment he is in his room in bed and complaining about the lack of heating and my complete lack of thoughtfulness toward his welfare in having not put more pressure on the Estate Agent. There is no electric blanket and he says he isn’t concerned but has always liked hot-water bottles. This afternoon he went for a solitary walk around the lake in spite of the rules about lockdown. I’m allowed to exercise for an hour a day he explained although I don’t believe he has ever voluntarily done an hour’s exercise in his entire life. I imagine he is readying himself for an evening of fencing; épée or foil? We won’t know until battle is joined.
He arose from his cot a while ago and is currently at the stove making dinner. What have we got was his greeting and I said I don’t think we’ve got much at all at the moment and then according to the savoury aromas wafting across the room and the grunts of satisfaction we are having a concoction that comprises diced carrot, diced onion, bacon, cumin seeds (he shrieked with delight when he found them Yay cheers for Chavvi) garlic and a can of pinto beans. And could you pour me a glass of whisky – I man can’t cook on an empty stomach.
Well young Anton, my compliments. You’ve made a silk purse from a sow’s ear. There is something in this that I can’t put my finger on. And because he never tries to be mysterious or cryptic he just smiled and said it was juice of a small lemon.
“Is this the sort of stuff you ate when you and Ian were in Coober Pedy?” he asked.
“Yes, but not quite as flavoursome as this.“
”You know mate it’s really funny and I suppose I’ve had it in the back of my mind for a long time that we’ve known each other for years and you knew Ian for years but he and I never met. We were both photographers. And you don’t have to answer this but who taught you more about photography, Ian or me?”
I didn’t answer him I just shook my head. I kicked my chair back, went to the cupboard and got the whisky.
“Are you gonna do the dishes?” That was Anton.
“I’ll do them later.” That was me.
Then we just started talking about anything. Do you remember the time we went to somewhere or other. Who were you with at the time? I don’t know who were you with? I don’t remember doing that. Who was the girl whose father was a ship’s captain? Elizabeth. Do you miss her? Do you miss Juanita? Who do you miss most? I miss everyone of them.
Silences. Two old men with a glass of whisky in hand. Silences.
My mind went to Juanita and the Peronistas and wondering about the terror that was there after I had left. I looked at Anton but he was looking straight over my shoulder.
“I miss your father,” he said and there were tears rolling down his cheeks.
“I didn’t know you knew my father. Are you okay mate?”
He wiped his eyes with his sleeve. “Yes.” He shook his shoulders. “Yeah I’m okay.”
“I didn’t know you knew my Dad. When did you know him?”
“When you got married. The first time. You got married and you had a house and nobody was ever invited and you went overseas and you disappeared off the face of the earth for ten years as far as everyone was concerned. I used to drop in and talk to your father. I have to tell you this,” and he laughed. “The first time he asked me to stay and have dinner and your mum made me coffee and then we sat down and he said grace and I’d never been anywhere where anyone said grace. After we finished he picked up a Bible from the dresser and asked me if I wanted to read a passage. I’d never opened a Bible in my life. He read something from Psalms and it sounded like poetry the way he read it. Yeah. I miss you father. And your mum.”
Then we lapsed into silence again. I didn’t know if he was waiting for me to say something or if I was waiting for him to say something.
“Thanks for cooking dinner mate.”
“No worries. It would have been better with coriander but.”
“How long are you planning to stay?” I asked.
“As long as the lockdown lasts. Why? Are you getting sick of me.”
“No Anton. I want you to stay as long as you want. As long as you need.”
(If you never read the seven or eight post I wrote when Anton came last time you can read them HERE all collected together.)