Monday, August 26, 2013

chapter Six, continued

to read from the FIRST CHAPTER


Next morning, when I quietly resumed painting the studio's exterior walls, entering the mansion by a service side gate, I was surprised to see Barbara coming up to meet me. I honestly did not expect any more personal contact with that extraordinary couple -- I felt so far detached from them and their self-absorbed behavior, perhaps too common in the realm of the rich and famous, but so distinct from my world of natives and servants.

Barbara left her social veneer aside for a moment and showed herself elated. For the first time in a long while, Davez had locked himself into the studio, and every time she had checked to see if he was okay, she had been able to hear him composing.

But to me it was still a major surprise when, that afternoon, he slipped out of the studio for a moment, to hook Barbara and me, inviting us to listen to his compositions.

'Man, I owe you, forever...'  -- he told me, driving me by one arm, while tugging Barbara by the other.

Davez had actually located his producer at a party in London, and through the extension put him to listen to while he played for us each of the tunes he had composed during the night -- one of them the song inspired by you, Laurent. If I remember correctly, he first named it "Seed of a Son".

What am I doing here, I wondered. Never had I heard a song like that, hypnotic and incomprehensible -- and as formerly I had seen intriguing paintings in the museums and galleries of Paris, and Armand had advised me not to judge beforehand, not to close myself to the new -- I tried to approach Davez' compositions through my own painting process, trying to understand how he planned to add other instruments, as he was narrating it to his producer.

Davez abruptly ended the session, frustrated at not succeeding in harmonizing music and lyrics, and annoyed by the festive din which reached us through the mouthpiece of the phone, as a background to the producer's drunken voice.

And after he angrily left the studio to lock himself in the bedroom, Barbara cautiously walking behind him, I quietly and humbly returned to my painting job which was, after all, the only thing that had brought me to that house.

Several days later, I received a call from them. I figured they were going to rush me back to the job, because I had not attended it for days now, to stay home taking care of you, Laurent, who had been sick. Do you remember it? I had been spending a lot of time away, working at Davez' house, but nevertheless I had been able to realize how my absence increased your sadness, paired with the fact that Catherine was not there either -- and she hadn't even bothered to phone you... us... from France yet. I think you got sick from grieving in silence, and I realized that no matter how much Joanna cared for you with great love and dedication, you would not heal without my presence. If you were to heal at all, I feared, without Catherine.

I had intended to spend the night at home in your company, but after putting you to bed, Davez phoned me at the colonial mansion, summoning me to his house. And he did not accept my apologies for not attending work, nor even when I said I would be there the next morning very early, to finally finish painting the walls.

'You're fine, man. You can come right now.' -- it was not a marching order, but neither was it a question.

The rock star's mansion was on the other side of Punaouilo, and when I got there, and a long way it was on a bicycle, it was late, far more than I used to stay awake.

But maybe having slept all afternoon, Davez and Barbara were fully awake and in high spirits. If I had arrived a little later I would no longer have met them, as they were on their way to the bedroom, but not to go to sleep.

They had dined at the best restaurant on the island -- one praised even in international guides; after  all, Punaouilo was an international resort for millionaires -- but before that, they had paid a brief visit to the local art gallery.

'I've never seen so much crap together!' -- Davez spit the words, tracing back to the same viral disdain with which he had treated me on that first afternoon, and I wondered if I had gone there to be humiliated -- 'And what was that creature?' -- I was sure he was referring to Danny Douxis, the poor cover we had for an art dealer in Punaouilo, and I felt embarrassed for him too -- 'How do you leave your paintings sitting there, man? Schatz...' -- I'd never heard the word before, and figured it must be Barbara's family name, who was not hiding her boredom doing the translation -- 'What did we think of our friend's paintings?'

'Good...' -- Barbara replied, without even looking at me -- 'Very good...' -- she said, without enthusiasm.

  That woman, so beautiful and sophisticated, made ​​me think of Catherine. Not only by the disdain both women treated me with, but mainly by the differences between them -- how your mother would have liked to be as rich and famous, and how I was the one bloking her path... Catherine did not blame me for her bad luck in life -- to her, I impersonated her very own bad luck.

'Good?' -- Davez cried and spun in his heels, excitedly -- 'Dude, your paintings are fantastic! Pure poetry... That blue one, it's like cosmic dust...' -- Davez seemed genuinely enthusiastic, and I was truly surprised -- 'Why didn't you tell us?'

Because no one ever wanted to know, I thought. At that point in my life, painting had become a mere hobby. Although it was not a secret, and in not having an atelier I used to paint in the open, in our garden, no one had ever seen my art. In Punaouilo, people knew me as a house painter and gardener. I felt as invisible as my paintings, and defeated.

  I didn't ask which blue painting he meant, because I found myself in a "blue period" -- not inspired by Picasso's, but to Douxis' request.  He held blue to be the latest fashionable color in insular decoration, and he was only accepting blue paintings, to meet his customers wishes and to match their sofas and lampshades.

'Have you ever painted ghosts, man?'

I wanted to laugh at Davez question, just as Barbara's subtle perfume made ​​me want to cry. Before that stellar couple, I felt like crap, so poor and a failure, having given up on my own talent.

And as I did not have anything to reply to Davez, I again thought of you, Laurent, who had reported having seen people in my paintings ... Invisible people, you had clarified. Sometimes, after having finished a painting, I had the desire to scribble and draw on top of some of them, and you could see people and other figures in those lines, Laurent. Do you remember it?

Davez wanted to know more about my paintings, about those invisible people, and my ink scribbles... I said I felt it was a process similar to his composing music, as I had heard it a few days ago. "Not always all things can be expressed in the same layers", I told him, and so I would add those lines later, as if they were an afterthought of poetry. "PS* Poetry. You know what I mean?", I concluded, thinking I had sounded stupid. 

Just like Davez hadn't been able to harmonize melody and lyrics, I had clarified -- fearing to sound arrogant or disrespectful to the rock star --, because lyrics were not simply a complement, but they existed by themselves, as poetry, and I had recognized in his process the same difficulty I had with what I called the "layers" of my paintings.

Again I watched Davez jump to the middle of the room, exclaiming -- "What are you telling me, man?" --, standing there for a minute or two, wide-eyed, staring at me, without seeing me however, to finally leave the house, darting towards the studio.

I immediately said goodbye to Barbara, politely. She must have been as embarrassed by Davez' sudden departure -- the second time he had left us alone. At least, I thought, this time I was not naked as I had formerly been, in the tub, though I felt as bare once again, since the girl had already checked my nudity up and down. And the rags that covered my body made a depressing contrast to her beautiful designer clothes, as much to everything else in that stunning house. I excused myself, and left by the service side gate.

A few days went by without me seeing Davez, although I had resumed painting the house. Barbara was always at the pool, but I never approached her, and she didn't walk up to me either. Maybe she could feel the tension and extension of my desire for her, but it seemed she didn't nourish any sexual fantasies with a wall painter, no matter how hung, and thus she avoided me.

Just once she told me, showing a bit of happiness and enthusiasm, that Davez had again locked himself in the studio, since that last night he had talked to me. Composing. He would leave the studio for his basic needs only -- and by her languid sigh I imagined that she herself would have been one of his most basic needs.

Many years later I would discover that Davez had come to the island in a renewed attempt to get away from drugs and the depression that made him incapable of composing -- such a long creative hiatus that the music industry had practically forgotten him, if not his glorious past stardom. He himself had become invisible -- a ghost of his former self. Just like me.

"I'm a ghost now" -- he had told Barbara in one of his worst moods -- "Aren't you afraid of ghosts, Schatz? Perhaps you should be afraid of me..." -- but that had been before, in London, and once in Punaouilo he had met and spoken to me, ghosts had taken on a different aspect and perspective to him.

Barbara, who had never even smoked and drank only pineapple juice, was his great support at that time. She truly loved and admired him, both as a man and as a musician, and she was happy with his new creative phase, that she perceived as having sprung from me -- and thus she had begun to sympathize with me. But she never failed in treating me like a mere employee, though I wasn't on their payroll, asking me to clean the pool and water the garden. For all matters, they had never even hired me.

During Davez' period of isolation, I was called to the art gallery by Danny Douxis. He treated me more politely than he ever had. I had been recommended to him through the friend of Catherine's mother, who owned the mansion we lived at as a favor. But I felt Douxis was working with me much more because he was interested in the people who had recommended me, and not for my paintings.

Douxis wanted to know more about my relationship with the rock star, since he was convinced of selling at least one of my paintings to Davez.

'He has an exotic taste! Oh, exotic like the man himself...' -- Danny rolled his little eyes, two little green dots on a perfectly round, plum face, thus demonstrating his pleasure -- 'Remember how I said that your paintings were exotic, Carlino darling? Wasn't I right?' -- he had clapped his fat hands -- 'Now someone who has an exotic taste wants to buy them! See the connection? I had envisioned it, haha!' -- and next, for the first time he asked me to bring more paintings to his gallery. 

But because I had been painting more walls than canvases, I had nothing new to offer him.

However, Davez' interest in my paintings finally did touch me, and I resumed painting with enthusiasm, even though they were all blue, all blues... 

At that time, I had been trying to paint the water as a theme, especially its reflections, and I used both the swimming pool of our colonial mansion, near to which I kept my easel, as much as the Pacific Ocean just across the street.

A long time went by without news from Davez and Barbara, and just because local society was so reduced outside the high season, and there was a lot of gossip, did I learn that they remained on the island. Apparently, the rock star had swum naked one night -- in fact, he had already left his mansion naked, had crossed the street, swam in the ocean and then came back home. 

Two, three weeks had already passed since I had finished painting their house, and I thought they had forgotten me.

Then one afternoon, Barbara called and left a message with Joanna -- Davez wanted to see me and my paintings, and they would stop by to visit me that evening.

I had little time to prepare myself, choosing the paintings I liked best and stacking them in the garden -- and to hide you, Laurent, for by no means I wanted the rock star to meet the boy from the song he had composed. I could not imagine what his reactions would be at your intriguing temperament, quiet and centered at six years old, with the presence of an ancient sage and the appearance of an old man, with your white hair. 

I did not want to share my son with Davez Drew -- not more than I already had, anyway.

An unforgettable night it was, and in many ways, it would change my life.

I hadn't known yet, but Davez and Barbara had already decided to leave the island, without having remained the three months for which they had rented the house. Nothing against Punaouilo -- the rock star wanted to return to London as soon as possible to start recording with a band the songs he had been composing on the island.

Davez was a very generous man, as I was to discover shortly. 

I now think he came to our house that night with a clear intention, yet unknown to me. I had imagined he also wanted to visit the colonial mansion, one of the oldest buildings on the island, but he squinted and said "Creepy", going straight to the backyard garden where my 'studio' was set.

'Tonight, it's your turn to show me your songs and poetry..'. -- he told me upon arrival, hugging me.

That evening, Barbara was looking more beautiful than ever, and she gave me a charming smile, like never before. She looked relaxed and happy -- and she had reasons indeed to feel like it, seeing Davez healthy and active again, all dedicated to his music. And she could be considered successful, too, since all other Davez female companions had only managed to drag him deeper into the hole, and away from his inspiration. 

Barbara would be forever remembered as his savior, the companion of his revival, and in one of the tracks from "All things transient", Davez would ask her to record the reading of a long poem about transcendental love, dedicated to herself.

Under the light of the stars, and by a single gas lamp that I had borrowed, emanating a not very poetical but cold light, Davez contemplated at length each of the paintings I showed him. He listened carefully to what I had to say about them, although it may have been not more than its title, if they had had one, and the places where they had been painted. I wasn't very eloquent, I didn't feel like I was selling him anything. It was more like as if I was telling him a secret, still reluctantly, for I had come to like him, but not completely trust the rock star. 

That evening I found out about Davez almost psychic sensitivity, as I proceeded with that little retrospective of my paintings. On one of them that I had painted in the old abandoned factory, when I was sick and starving, he said "It hurts, man." On the first canvas I had painted in Punaouilo, after having left the Île du Blanchomme with Catherine, he said "hurts even more." I don't think I have ever found anyone again to feel pain from looking at a painting -- I've seen people cry, I've seen people disgusted, shocked or be touched, but nothing like Davez' feelings.

But it was my most recent series that made the strongest impression on him. He stared at the first blue canvas before him, and confessed it was giving him goose bumps.

'Ghostly...' -- was the first word he used, and coming from him I could understand it was a compliment -- 'It is a light hole... I'm falling into your painting, man... Hold me...' -- and I had to actually grab him, but his momentary dizziness might have been caused by drinking a bit too much at dinner, for I could smell the whiskey, or perhaps by the uncertain gas lamp light that kept flickering in the garden.

'How did you do it, man?' -- he was breathless -- 'You have erased the canvases with your painting... Do you know what I mean? Your canvases... They are invisible... transparent... nonexistent...' -- he was ecstatic -- 'You've turned the canvas itself into water... No, into light!' -- he groaned -- 'Man, how could you do that?! You have transmigrated these canvases! Man! You are a fucking painting god...'

I was astonished, and even more when he finally announced that he wanted to buy my paintings. Not from Danny Douxis -- he wanted to acquire them directly from me.

Three from the older ones, and all three from the most recent series, although they were still unfinished. I was surprised and did not know what price to give him, but figured they should cost less than in Douxis gallery, and so I gave Davez the discount based on the percentage the dealer would have taken from me.

And I finally understood his intent for that visit. Even if I had shown him a collection of scribbled napkins, he would have known how to praise them, and would have choosen a few to buy from me.

That night, Davez gave me more money than I had ever seen in my entire life. And many valuable advices.

'Too cheap, man. Never sell yourself cheap, man. Your art is grand. Never give up. You have a great talent. I love it. Really do. And I can give you twenty times this amount, yet it would never have been enough to thank you. Thank you. But I think I can help you. More. Later. Forever.'

They then told me they had come to say goodbye, and Barbara even kissed my cheek -- "Thank you for all." -- she said tenderly. 

We would never again be reunited, not the three of us.

Surely enough, Danny Douxis learned about my deal with the rock star. Perhaps he had even seen the paintings being taken from the mansion where we lived, to be packed and shipped to England. After Davez and Barbara's visit, I still had had a few days to retouch the paintings, but not enough to be satisfied with them. Davez, however, did not consider them unfinished -- he had called them 'brut'.

'Natural like a rock, man. You're a rock.' -- again without knowing it, it was as if he was connecting to my mountainous roots -- 'Like your poetic lines. Simple. Direct.' -- the musician had told me, as if reading my soul -- 'Do not try to be like the diamond. It would be artificial. It's not you.' -- he had advised me.

Danny was furious with me about the deal that had excluded him, and kicked me out of his gallery, accusing me of being unethical. I tried to explain to him that Davez had chosen some old paintings, which he himself had already seen and despised, and others that were still unfinished.

'Liar! They were blue!' -- he screamed -- 'And blue was my idea! You cheater!'

Unfortunately, a year later he had humbly to apologize, trying to have my work at his gallery again.

 Because we were to find out, when Davez' album was released, that the musician had chosen one of my blue paintings for the cover. Even nowadays, "All things transient" is among the best LP covers of the century, and I keep getting compliments for that painting from almost thirty years ago. People still send me poems and songs inspired by that painting. It was my first painting ever to be sold for a million bucks, after Davez death.

But what happened at that time, the beginning of the 1980s, was that my work suddenly became known and desirable. Davez, besides mentioning my name in some interviews, always referring to me as a "fucking painting god", had recommended me to a major art dealer in London, Martius Dall who, even before the album had been released, and prior to all the visibility that cover was to give me, had sent a carrier to acquire all my blue series paintings. And so I began being represented in London, and soon after, a gallery in California followed... Since I had no paintings in stock, I was especially commissioned by them, and even received cash in advance... Davez appreciation of my work changed my life! After his studio in Punaouilo, I never had to paint walls again... But it was your apparition, Laurent, to change his life and my life as well... Do you realize it now, and how the "Sunrise Son" became a mythical song, even to me?

After my father's story, I promised myself to listen one more time to the song, and even to that album -- in the rarities market I owned the most expensive of all copies, dedicated "to the Sunrise Son" by Davez Drew himself. Usually, I was troubled from the very beginning, with bells ringing at the song's opening, and would even get a headache with the guitar becoming louder and more pungent as the sun was rising... The poem however, was beautiful, and as Carlo had given Davez the hint, the poetry had been recorded spoken and not sung. The words had not been added to the songs as lyrics, which made the album so unique and special.

'Thank you for telling me this story, Carlo...' -- I was grateful, and sincerely moved -- 'And I apologize for having lost patience and having been rude at you... But...' -- an important detail, maybe a fundamental thing, drew my attention during the story -- ' some point you said... you left the Île du Blanchomme along with Catherine... Didn't you say that?'

'That's right ...' -- Carlo replied quietly, averting his gaze to watch the immense moon slowly rising over Vice City.

'But how could she be there with you?' -- I  swallowed painfully -- 'Haven't you met in Punaouilo, where I was born?' -- I asked, puzzled. 

That had been the story I had heard from them all my life.

'No.' -- Carlo replied, turning a sad gaze back on me -- 'I mean... yes, you were born in Punaouilo. But it wasn't there that Catherine and I met...' -- Carlo sighed heavily -- 'We finally come to the hard part of this story, Laurent. The part that no one ever told you. The part in which Catherine made ​​me an accomplice, forcing me to lie to you, along with her.'

Davez Drew 1981 album

cover painting by Carlo D'Allegro

Friday, August 23, 2013

chapter Six

to read from the FIRST CHAPTER


The sweetest seed
to a love so luminous
The sunrise son
The resounding silence
of a blessed birth
The sunrise son

(should you like to listen to my inspiration, the goddess Alice Coltrane)

 I came into this world at sunrise.

I was born prematurely at the Coconut Palms Medical Facility on the island of Punaouilo, in the Pacific Ocean.

'After I "freed" myself from you...' -- that's how Catherine referred to giving birth -- 'that very morning I could take my first breakfast without the hassle of a swollen belly in which you kept kicking... Although supposedly a continental breakfast, ha!, it was no more than a disappointing tropical semblance to it .'-- Catherine enjoyed recounting the details of my birth ironically -- 'It was a  beautiful morning. Sunny. As usual, on that island.'

But it was sunsets which, all summed up and overlapping with memories, became more significant in my life.

After I had met Angelo for the first time at school, we had often set to meet at sunset -- after we had done our homework -- on the shores of the small lake which was about one mile from my house, hidden behind a hill, and even closer to his. It was my refuge, and I had never met anyone there before. And suddenly, that lovely boy, thick black hair and shiny blue eyes, was there everyday with me.

It was love at first sight -- on my part.

And we started dating a few months later after we had met, when one day we first kissed, shortly after the sun had set.

We were fifteen years old, Angelo a few months older than me.

Since then, I enjoyed being with Angelo especially at the sunset hour, as if it were a kind of commemoration to our relationship that we could celebrate daily. I write it in plural, but in fact this celebration has always happened in the singular.

'It's so melancholic... Makes me think of death, goodbyes ... I don't like it!' -- Angelo had clarified about the sunset -- 'Except for the fact that next comes the night!' -- for him, the best part of each day.

Sunsets in Vice City could be truly spectacular, and I still remember the first sunset we saw together, when we had just moved into town, at the age of 19.

 My mother had sent some extra money so we could furnish our room, but Angelo convinced me to use just enough to buy our double bed, and to spend the rest going out in the city at night -- and so we went to the Vantage Lounge, the most upscale and expensive place to Vice City then, with a privileged view of the entire city -- and of the sunset too, Angelo had assured me, to convince me to go.

And sunset there was stunning indeed -- but it was the social scenery that was the main attraction to the Vantage Lounge, I would later find out. To mingle with Vice City's high society, to see and to be seen by it, Angelo had informed me. There was no other place in town like it, according to him.

I remember he had sat with his back to the sea and the sunset, facing the elevator through which people arrived into the Lounge, that posh crowd he had so much curiosity and interest in meeting.

I had insisted that we arrive early, precisely because of the setting sun, and Angelo was frustrated to find the place almost completely empty. Bored, he had spent the whole time criticizing me, saying that I needed to improve my tastes and preferences, which were simplistic, and my timing, that he sensed was still that of the French countryside.

He was probably right. It took me a long time to adapt to the frenetic pace of the metropolis, and my introspective temperament did not help me making friends, even among the students of our college. While Angelo -- he seemed perfectly integrated, and his top model looks, along with his conversational talents, had already earned him numerous friends. He had even been to the residences and had met the families of some of them, also linking up well with their parents.

Now it was my father to give his back to sunset, on the same side of that same city where Angelo had once snobbed that scenery. It had been the silence of my father, who was immersed in his loving memories, which had pushed me towards my own past. My relationship with Angelo had ended abruptly and painfully ten years ago, and since then I fled all memories related to it -- because who truly wants to keep recalling a painful chronic disease that plagued us for so long? It felt like having had a high fever with delirium tremens for an eternity of eight years -- that's how it now felt, to have been in love with Angelo.

'I imagine those were happy days when you had the island only to yourself, Carlo...'  -- I tried to resume to the thread of the narrative, seeking to bring my father back to the present and to our conversation, though actually I was only using his memories to get rid of mine.

'That's not what memory tells me, Laurent.' -- Carlo gave a sad laugh -- 'But it is precisely at this point that memories and circumstances leave me confused. Without Armand's presence and our conversations, every day was the same. I don't even have any idea of how many days I spent alone on that island, because I was soon to lose track of time.'

The first day is still a bit clearer. That same afternoon after Armand's departure I started working in the garden. It would become my main occupation for a while, at least until the delivery of the painting material for the house, promised to arrive at the island in a few weeks.

There were many dead plants and weeds to be removed before planting new ones, according to my friend's plans and drawings.

I do not remember if I painted that very afternoon, but I would paint all afternoons from then on, with true dedication and self-discipline -- I knew they were important if I wanted to keep my sanity in that deserted island -- always near the time of sunset, when the light was magical.

I was able to properly focus my mind, but my heart wandered and sought the company of Armand, wondering at what port he could be. If I let it, my mind went on, guessing how long he would stay in France, and when he would come back to the island, ending that period of solitude that had just started.

That evening, for the first time I swam naked in the sea. 

I recalled the Apennines where, not as often as I'd wish, I could swim naked in the lake down the valley that you know well and have visited yourself, Laurent. But the vastness of my freedom at the Île du Blanchomme was incomparable -- the closest human beings were on the ships of which I only guessed contours or saw the lights across the horizon.

The silence and the solitude inspired me to sit down to meditate more often, and with each passing week I could follow my breath during longer periods of the day, making my daily routine one long meditation session. I lived at peace, lucid, contented, connected to all things.

Meditating was also a way of recalling Armand, my one and only master, and if sometimes I still felt like grieving his absence,  I only had to look around to see him in each and every detail of the island. I would not be there, healthy and safe, without him -- or without the love that had motivated him to invite me to join him.

If I sustained this in depth look on all things around me, I could see all people from my life present in every moment -- I was alive because of each and all of them, from my deceased parents to my grandfather who had raised me, now living isolated in another part of the planet, along with the many causes and circumstances that had brought me to the island -- my teachers, and their teachers, and all the farmers who worked to provide my daily food -- and their families --, enabling me to live day after day. I felt grateful to all of them.

I felt grateful and connected with all beings, contrary to what would have been expected in that deserted island -- even towards the illustrious stranger, Herr Weissmann, in whose house I had found shelter, and that allowed me deliciously long baths -- and in one of them I shaved, a last request by Armand.

'You're far too sexy with this beard, it is so hard to resist...' -- Armand had laughed when I blushed -- 'thinking how it rubs when you kiss...' -- after his coming out, he seemed comfortable with flirting, insinuating and amusing himself with me. He finally felt free to talk his heart out. Hadn't he even called me "Mon amour", just seconds before he boarded the boat, leaving those as his last words to me?

Now I suspect it must have been the opposite, that he had wanted to kiss me without that beard, which gave me the looks of a beggar.

Actually, he just wanted bad to kiss me, regardless of whatever beard, I now knew it.

I couldn't guess the hour I would go to bed. In Europe my best friend had been Orion, the Hunter, but the night skies, turned into the unknown over the Indian Ocean, confused me. I had wanted to talk about it with Armand, for I was sure he would have already get acquainted with the local mythology for the stars, but our scarce time together on the island had been devoted to much more intense matters.

I slept little -- no matter how heavily I worked in the garden, I did it as a meditation too, and I was constantly energized, never feeling tired.

I would wake up in time to see the moon diving into the sea and, facing the opposite direction, sit still to meditate even before sunrise began.

With Armand's departure, the luminous boy reappeared. 

 The gap he opened from the future and through which he came up to meet me -- I finally and clearly understood --, was destined to me only...

'Enough of this, Carlo!' -- I never thought I would one day yell at my father -- 'Stop fooling me! You were going to tell me about Armand and Catherine, remember? And now he's gone away from the island, and she hasn't appeared yet, and you bring back that damned little ghost! Soon, vampires and werewolves will show up and we already know what kind of stupid story this is going to be!!'

But that outburst of anger and resentment had little to do with the story that was being told, and much more with twenty years of Carlo's absence -- who seemed to know and understand it perfectly, and did not let himself be affected by my strong emotions.

'We'll get to them, Laurent.' -- he replied, serenely -- 'Didn't you say we had all night?' -- he looked at me with a bit of irony in the corner of a tired smile -- 'Honestly, I have no hurry to get to this point you are craving for... And this little ghost that annoys you so much, Laurent... He is you!'

'How so?' -- I gasped, taken aback, feeling the surprise immediately reducing my anger.

'I recall having told you this story before, when you first wanted to listen to it, at the occasion when the song "Sunrise Son" had just been launched...' -- Carlo replied, calmly -- 'But you were still a child, and I don't know how much you understood of it... You know you came into this world with the sunrise at Punaouilo, don't you?'

'This is my personal legend, isn't it?' -- I said, laughing and already feeling better -- 'I just don't really know much about that song... It became mythical, something like the core of a religion to many people around the world... I know that it was the reason why Catherine filed an injunction that prevented reporters, journalists, writers and photographers from approaching me until I was twent years old... She hated this story.'

'Haha, Catherine hated all my stories!' -- Carlo smiled sadly -- 'Especially this one, for it happened when she was away from Punaouilo, that time she had returned to France to be with her family... It was the decisive episode that changed my career prospects, too.'

'What happened then, Carlo?' -- I now asked responsively, with genuine curiosity. My father had so kindly reminded me of my willingness to hear it through the night, and in fact I had the biggest interest in listening to anything he was willing to tell me about himself, about the early relationship with Catherine, and from my own childhood -- 'How old was I, then?'

'It was the year of 1981, when Catherine went to France. One of the few dates I am sure of, I am afraid.' -- Carlo smiled -- "You were... Six years old, right? I had been hired to paint a house and redo its garden... My professional situation was rather... challenging. In all those years on the island of Punaouilo, I had sold only three paintings in the one art gallery that there was. The money that supported our little family was sent from France by your grandmother, Celeste... We lived as a favor in that small cottage deep in the back of the garden, in a colonial mansion owned by friends of hers, and even our expenses being modest, I could not meet our needs, not even accepting almost any type of job that was offered me.'

The house I was working at was a modern mansion, and that season it had been rented by a musician who had been very famous in the 1970s, a rock star named Davez Drew, dubbed "Cosmic Scorcher" for his caustic, incendiary way of playing the guitar. However, I knew nothing about him at the time, much the less that he was at an impasse in his career, trying to fuse rock and jazz, but without the same success that Miles Davis had achieved, and taking the opposite route.

And because he and his girlfriend had decided to come a couple of weeks earlier, when they arrived in Punaouilo they had found me still working in the house. Painting the studio was the only thing left. No one had warned me he was a musician, and so I had left the doomed building behind.

Despite not knowing English, I understood perfectly well what he said when he first had seen me -- he was shooing me out the house, unceremoniously. I tried to play dumb 'non capisco, non capisco niente', talking to him in Italian, and I continued to work.

Davez wanted total privacy in order to compose -- as much as he also wanted to be left alone with his new girlfriend, a stunning blonde rich girl who decided to intervene in our argument only to reinforce Davez' message in the languages ​​she knew - "Raus!", which I misunderstood as a permission to continue working on the house, then followed by the unmistakable "Sortez d'ici" and "Vattene!", expressed with a vehement anger and disdain that left no doubts.

I then tried to explain in French to blonde Barbara that I had to finish the job to get the money. I needed only a few days more and I would be discreet. 

"No way! Pay him and send him away!", I understood the musician's response even before the translation came, and I then amended that to me it was as much about the money as to finishing the job, in order to get more recommendations around the island. 

And while they were discussing how to get rid of me, I mouthed that they would need me at least to get rid of the ghost that haunted that studio, as told by local legends ...

Was it a sudden inspiration, out of desperation? 

The rock star seemed to understand the word "fantôme", and changed his behavior with me. He started demanding Barbara to translate every word I said, staring at me hungrily as I told what I knew about the spirit which was supposed to haunt the house, especially the studio. Davez was thrilled, to my surprise and Barbara's, who until then had maintained an attitude of disgust and estrangement towards me. Suddenly, she started regarding me with interest and suspicion.

The conversation followed to the edge of the pool where Barbara, our official translator, had settled to sun bathe on a lounger I had repainted. Davez wanted me to recount all cases of ghosts, spirits and demons that I had learned about in that part of the world. As you can imagine, Laurent, I recalled my conversations with Armand about the Portal Islands, and I recounted every tale and detail, lengthening the stories.

Barbara was bored doing the translation, but I realized that she was also surprised, as much as I was, to the musician's enthusiastic interest on that subject, and equally happy to observe, for the first time since the beginning of their relationship, something that truly stimulated Davez.

When I mentioned I needed to resume working, Davez replied something like "You're fine, man", and said that I could work the following day, after we'd finished the repertoire of local legends. I was so happy at his promise that I could work again on the house, and felt somewhat like Scheherazade!

The problem is that my repertoire had already finished, and I had to rely on some ghostly cases from the mountains that Tarso, my grandfather, had told in my childhood to distract me, as the three of us moved on to the hot tub.

In the late afternoon, when I was finished even with the ghosts from the Apennines, the rockstar still not being satiated, I promised him to talk to the natives to learn a few more legends. I knew there plenty of them around the islands, but I had never really payed attention to them. And when I thought I would be dismissed, Davez invited me into the tub.

'You're a fine man. Come relax with us...' -- and I tried to decline telling them I had not brought a bathing suit, not to mention that I was naked underneath my pants, to which Davez replied -- 'No problem... I'm taking my trunks off, too...'

I had never been in a bubbling tub like that before, but I decided to accept the invitation out of my fascination towards the enigmatic Davez, who had gone from his initial terminal rage into a tireless, ardent interview with me, and now had retreated to a concentrated, enigmatic silence, as if influenced by the night softly falling on the island of Punaouilo. At each step during that afternoon, he had been exuberant and exultant in his vast emotional scope, no matter how contradictory they had been. I had never met anyone like him before.

And there was Barbara, the most beautiful woman I had ever met in my humble, rather limited life, whom had remained blasé throughout the course of her translation, without uttering a single word of personal nature. 

I guess I must have fallen asleep, the water so warm and perfumed, and when I woke up Barbara was beside me, with her hoarse voice asking me a question I did not know if coming from her own, or still a translation for Davez.

'Do you believe in ghosts?' -- she inquired.

I immediately realized that this was a crucial question, the tipping point between the errand boy of local legends that I had been so far, into the narrator of my own beliefs and experiences that I could be.

And I decided to tell Davez about you, Laurent. 

How that luminous boy, the boy with hair so white like an old man, had appeared to me several times in front of the rising sun, serious and silent, and how I had rediscovered and recognized him a year later, in my own son. It was a rather emotional testimony for me, and I guess the feeling that emanated from my sharing captivated Drew.

When I finished talking, Davez stood still, silent for maybe two or three minutes, and then he suddenly jumped to the middle of the tub, startling Barbara and me. He had not taken off his trunks, after all... though, well, I had! He then proceeded to a thorough, careful investigation. What had been my feelings towards the apparition... Had I sweated? Had I been fearful? How was it on the Île du Blanchomme... the temperature on the beach, sounds, the light... the colour of the sand and the sea... he wanted details about the place... How many times I had seen the boy in a pool of light in front of the sun... And the legends about the Portal Islands... He was intoxicated, demanding Barbara to simultaneously translate my tangle of words.

And maybe to be sure about everything he had heard, he questioned me again, going over each point I had reported to him, and finally he wanted to know in detail about you, Laurent... Your appearance, and at what age it had come to be the same of the apparition, and when I'd been totally sure that you were the same luminous boy of those bright sunrises... 

And when I told him that your birth had taken place at sunrise in Punaouilo, he groaned and swirled in the center of the tub, and then ran towards the music studio.

'It was the evening that the mythical song about you was composed, Laurent. "Sunrise Son". It is always among the top 100 songs of the 20th century. As you said, it became the core to something of a religion to people around the world, that LP being like an entire bible to them, but your song the main mantra and teaching... It was also Davez' musical revival...' -- Carlo sighed, and smiled, appeased.

'Are you sure it was me, Carlo?' -- I asked, when his silence grew too long, and I knew my father wouldn't continue speaking without stimulation -- 'The apparition, I mean? Haven't you said it before that it represented your own future?'

'At first I had thought so. But when your mother told me she was pregnant... It was then that I understood. That boy coming up to me from the future... was to be my son! The moment I realized it was precisely when the apparition stopped visiting me, confirming that I had finally got the message.' -- Carlo smiled, comforted -- 'And when you were born, with a hair so blond it was almost white, such as the luminous boy of the bright sunrises, I recognized him in you. An elderly baby, a baby with an antique soul...' -- my father looked at me, basking in tenderness -- 'When you were six years old you were the living portrait of the apparition that had visited me on so many mornings at the Île du Blanchomme!' -- Carlo suddenly fell silent, then he raised his eyebrows, looking astounded and pointed to something on the other side of the restaurant -- 'Look over there, Laurent... It is just... magnificent!'

I turned my gaze in the same direction of Carlo's, to find a bright full moon framed by the windows of the restaurant, floating over a table as if set to a superb visual feast -- so infinetely beautiful that it was to indelibly mark my memory of the reunion with my father.

But less and less I understood why he had left home twenty years ago, to never return, never even try to meet nor contact me -- his "Sunrise Son".