In my youthful days, when I retained a monstrous reserve of vitality, I was often drawn to the theaters and galleries to satisfy my mental dose of poetry and art. In truth, I often found myself in communities and establishments for reasons short of intellectual gain; as several young men are known to wander. I had a good deal of disposable income from employment at the family business. My employment required little of my time indoors and uncertain working hours, which left me a great deal of time, often several hours and at times days apart. Moreover, my father considered my character with trust and left me to pursue unorthodox ventures with a little caution whenever I employed disagreeable company.
In the first quarter of my A-Level vacation, I had the luck – or misfortune as my father considers it – of making acquaintance of a company and an individual; in that order. I had suffered a fever from a typhoid attack and was advised to take a fortnight off my employment as I fully recovered. With too much time than the sun had, I started wandering about the city trying to make new friends and reestablish lost contact. Very soon, I ran into Elsie, an old acquaintance I strongly desired from my secondary school days. Her smile was just as softening and her wit had multiplied without restraint. We quickly took to each other’s liking. I would check in at her work desk and amaze her with stories from the theatre and galleries. She did like to hear these stories since her employer, a ruthless lawyer and yet humorous fellow, often engaged all her time sorting case files and engaging clients. He would come about whenever he saw me and listen attentively, asking very precise questions that often drove me to such detailed descriptions I soon swore I was poet. He would then ask me to describe my day wandering about the city and listen with such attention I could swear he’d lost his mind.
One day, the lawyer invited me to join a rouge gathering of poets. I had two requirements; bring a poem and female company. I took this as a chance to charm Elsie and win her heart. On a sunny Sunday afternoon, I took a bodaboda to the National Theatre, arriving late as was my custom. As I rushed in through the door, I bumped into an old man who seemed quite frail and was barely keeping himself up. I quickly gained my stamina and tossed aside my notebook to get a grip of the old fellow before he could hit the ground. Once I had apologized and we had settled matters, I rushed to the meeting room, interrupting a young lady who was reciting. Another round of apologies paid in full, I took a seat by Elsie who was in no cheerful mood at my appearance and manners. Looking about the room convinced me of the absence of the lawyer. I was soon called to take the stage and recite my piece of literature. I stood up and at that moment I was certain of death by embarrassment; I had lost the notebook and had not engraved the content in memory. I felt Elsie touch my hand and a sudden charge took over me. Walking to the stage, I blanked out my vision and tried to engage mental faculties as I recited everything I had scribbled line by line. My ears picked nary a sound and I was uncertain if I was uttering blather. Once I was done, clarity and embarrassment started to resurface and my palms grew moist whereas beads of sweat moistened my collar. I looked at Elsie, smiling as the room clapped loudly and one or two ladies swayed their hands about. Too embarrassed to stay in, I dashed for the door and no sooner had I stepped out than I ran into the old man again. With a strong grip, he grabbed my coat and pulled me to the side where the lawyer was standing with my notebook in hand.
“Meet Frank. Frank, this man shall be employing your help. I have to go now by the church mission to offer them my aid”
With those word, the lawyer handed my notebook and walked away. I turned to face the old man who was staring at my head with interest and muttering to himself.
“Quite big, that’s good. The shape is rather disappointing. Ah, nature didn’t favor you my dear. Yes, yes. But I believe we can…may I touch your head?”
I was taken aback by this and before I could utter a word he was measuring up my head with his palms and still muttering. Then he suddenly stopped and a look of haste took over his eyes. I noticed his sharp piercing eyes were not those of an old man; a little worn for the day but lacking in years.
“I am afraid, dear, but a matter of haste is at hand. I shall explain to you later. Listen to what I say and do what I ask you to do. Now tell me everything you descried from the moment you walked into the gate.”
I hesitated a little, trying to make judgement of what had ensued since I last had my senses in command.
“Haste, Frank! Engage your wits. I shall explain later. Now now…”
I took a seat next to him and began describing from the two sharply dressed gentlemen I met at the gate who engaged the gatekeeper with cheerful talk, the custodian who was cutting the grass to the left, a broken car that was being fixed by a mechanic next to the two only other cars in the parking lot. He pressed for details and I described each car as vividly as I could recall. He nodded. I proceeded to describe each and every character in what seemed to be a wedding meeting at the garden. He quizzed why and I mentioned the lack of uniformity of background and yet clustered familiarity. Unsatisfied, he pushed me to continue. I was getting rather tired of this conversation which lacked purpose as long as my interest was considered. Once I was done to the point where we ran into each other, he sighed and stood up looking disappointed.
“I am sorry I wasted both our time. Perhaps the lawyer was wrong. You recall too little to satisfy my requirements. Huh”
At this point I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to see Elsie. She was still smiling and her eyes seemed to suggest she wanted us to have a moment of privacy.
“Disappointing. Has this city not a single mind that can recall anything but useless gossip?”, he spoke again
“Does the old man speak to you?”, Elsie asked
I affirmed. At this she looked at him with a bit of anger and then she spoke up
“I dare you Frank can recollect his birth. Perhaps you are unfit to make the most of him. We shall leave you to your worries and be on our way where we appreciate each other’s company”
At this talk, that sudden rush of blood came up and I started to recall with detailed precision. I described everyone by element, protracting their moods, motives and backgrounds. This still wasn’t enough for the old man. Just as I was about to leave, I asked if the gateman would be of interest to his engagement. I got his attention and went on to describe him.
“He was about 5 foot 8 inches with a slight limp to his left. His muscular arms were scarred in what seemed to be an arc just beneath the folds of his sleeves. One of his nails…”
“What is the time?”, he interrupted me
“Four minutes to six O’clock”, Elsie responded
“Follow me!”, at which he jumped, tossed aside his walking aid and dashed off towards the gate. We tried to keep pace but he was too fast and Elsie too slow. We turned the last corner towards the gate just in time to see him tackle the gatekeeper. The two men quickly stood up and engaged in a fist fight as two policemen rushed to his scene just before his foe could design a mark on his face. The gatekeeper was restrained. During the fight, his physique and facial facade suffered dramatic. The old man emerged a man in his forties with remarkable strength.He reached for a duffel bag on the ground and opened it, retrieving a remarkable art piece. He then beckoned me to come closer and we strolled towards the administration section.
“Frank, I can tell by your judgement of art that this is a remarkable piece. I have no such interest in beauty but story. This is the “River of Bodies” by Jamil Keniga. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. The man pretending to be the gatekeeper had stolen it”
When we were in the manager’s office, he began to describe in detail what had led to this scuffle. The police had been tipped off by an anonymous source of a theft that was to occur at the theatre. The group responsible called itself the Eclipse. The members of the group believed that only beautiful art should be displayed for the world to see. They stole valuable works of negative art and sold to underground dealers then used the proceeds to fund their operations. The scar on the arm had tipped him off, but it was not an arc. Members of the Eclipse marked their bodies with a round scar; the gatekeeper’s sleeve obscured half of it. We were just lucky to make it to the gate just as the man was about to change shift. The manager walked in and thanked him for his help. It was getting late and I made mention that we are going on a date, at which Elsie looked at me surprised, then smiled.
“Oh, and dear Frank, I am Dr Jakwach. I shall be calling you shortly to employ your facilities. I was wrong, perhaps the anthropologists ought to update their chapters on intelligence and shape of the medulla. Good evening and good luck with the date. Not that you need it.”
We walked into the breezy evening, hand in hand and without care of morrow, as is customary of new love.