I have two children; they are both in the end of the teenager period… or maybe not, they are teenagers that grew poorly. Really nobody likes to be sixteen or seventeen, only who are thirty years old wants to be teenager forever.
My wife refuses to get old; so she is obsessed to look like younger but this is an unfair fight because how much she would like to be young, older she looks like. It’s a contradiction that became a source of sorrow and that makes her bitter and ... even older, if it’s possible.
I’m a mixture of gravity, nostalgia and silliness, an unsophisticated person; So simple like that: I’m in peace with my newspaper and my pipe and every morning I look at the mirror and I like me, just like that… or maybe not… unsophisticated man, ground-to-earth enough to have no troubles with the middle age and the loss of virility… or maybe not… and I got used to hide the anguish of my situation.
I’m not a person to love at first sight. My children love me only because I’m their father and they haven’t another to replace me. To be a father is a situation for life, I think… or maybe not, because there is some who gave up being fathers, or maybe not… they are required to. It’s sad… or maybe not… everyone wants to be a father, who doesn’t? Not everyone, they are not bad persons after all, only the role doesn’t fit them. They can’t feature a beloved father because they don’t know anything about what a father must be or not be. But I’m not like that. I love my children as I love my wife; despite we never talked about love or anything suchlike feelings.
I'm actually a very reserved man; I think I have always been so. Educational issues, I think! All my life was about my duties… first my duties to my wife, to my children, then to my boss, to my neighbors… and so on. I am a duty man, I always was... or maybe not.
I never could imagine that something like that could happen to me. Really I don’t think these events could happen to a very simple man like I am. I don’t believe so… but they did. What can I do?
I lived all my life in that dirty and grey small town dominated by the seaport, with nothing really interesting …
On Saturday's night the young men went to the bowling and the young couples went to a pub to drink beer, shots and maybe dancing later in a local Disco. I never went to a place like that and I don’t like dance at all, I never dance… music to me was always a sort of distraction that I couldn't afford because I got married at twenty years old and I got the first son five months after the marriage. So I felt oldness since the thirties or less.
When I first met her it was about thirty years ago. She was twenty nine years old and she was everything I dislike in a woman. She smokes a lot, she drinks beer and Scott like men did. She worked in a local newspaper making photography and she wrote for a fashion magazine in New York too. She was what we call now an emancipated woman and men were afraid of her but in secret all called her a hooker.
At this time she had no boyfriend and some people said that she left her husband in London and fled to the United States to become a journalist and a photographer. I think she was good in both jobs and after a while she worked in a famous fashion magazine in the Apple big city. I didn’t know why she came to live in our ugly town… I never did.
At the time all women wanted to look like her, Sarah, it was her name. She always weared fashionable dresses and hats which fabrics she ordered from Paris and she made herself as the models only seen in actresses and artists from Hollywood. She hadn’t the perfect beauty of a doll but she was a glorious female beauty, so stylish and charming, what we men called a Vamp.
She made scandalous photos of completely naked men and women, so naked as they were born. Her home was always full of very weird and vicious people, artists as they called themselves. That place, her studio, a third floor in a bulding near the boat's berth, it was the hell and the purgatory at the same time. One they I was invited to have dinner with my boss' family, in some kind of party he made to celebrate the come back of his oldest son that went to war in Europe. She was there and when I saw Sarah I couldn't look her directly nor speak to her. I really never had seen a woman like her, only in movies, perhaps. Five months later I got married. And I never saw her again. Until now…
Thirty years later I met Sarah again in an exhibition at MoMa. I rarely leave home now since I decided to retire myself, but my daughter Marianne asked me so much to go to NY with her to see an exhibition of one of the most influents photographers ever: Irving Penn, who just died in last October. Marianne loves everything we can call it art and she used to be a photographer’s assistant during college. She never looked like her father, she always was so different from me and from her mother too, I think… maybe not… may be her mother was required by me what she never was. I realize now that my wife is a stranger to me, I don’t really know what she likes, if she likes music or what color is her favorite. We are married so long and we never talked anything but money and children. A husband must know what is his wife's favorite flower, but I don't.
So I went to NY with Marianne… and at the gallery I saw Sarah. She looks the same but a bit older. Stylish and vamp as always. She looked beautiful and weird as I can remember. She looked at me and I think she know me. Her eyes got a bright light of recognition. Sarah became a very famous photographer and she was now a fashion editor in chief of an influent magazine, Marianne told me. Marianne asked me if I know Sarah and I said no, of course not. She told me that she lived in the same town as we did when she was young, at the beginning of her career. Maybe I had know her, I said. May be not… and I said nothing. My daughter said me that she would like to know Sarah and that she admire very much her work. She was a pioneer in female photography and nudity, Marianne said. I said nothing.
Now, in front of the infinite ocean, having the clouds to my witnesses and the sun as my god, I must confess something: I loved Sarah… I loved everything she was and whom she represented: Freedom and Beauty. Everything my life never was neither I never had. Freedom and Beauty, the lightness of beauty, the full colors against the grey tones, the courage and the daring to be weird in a time in which to be free was a sin.
Today, I must confess that I am not an old man in front of the sea. I am a stupid old man, maybe a fool middle age man, unsophisticated man... attached to the prohibition to speak to Sarah. I never could talked with her; I never dared to told her something very stupid. All my life is arrested by the simple fact that I never spoke to Sarah. Or maybe not… How depressing is that?
Text: Paula Lamares
Illustrations: William Kentridge