I went to a funeral during the week. I hadn’t known the deceased that well, but known her well enough that I wanted to pay my respects.
I drove from home to the funeral parlour, which was about a 5 minute drive from the shop, if that. Gathered in the foyer was a modest crowd of about a dozen. I knew only one of them. After a few minutes we were led into the chapel for the service.
Funerals are never happy events, but this one seemed particularly forlorn. I sat there listening as the dead woman’s brother of his memories, happy and sad. He spoke without notes, recalling moments and speaking them as they arrived. He spoke well, with that poignancy the death of a loved one brings to the fore.
There was one particular story that tugged at me as I heard it for the first time. He told the tale of his sister falling deeply in love more than 30 years with a man described as the love of her life. Quite unexpectedly, and still very young, he died. From that moment M never saw another man. In that brief description you sense the loss, the expected life, happy and full, abruptly curtailed, and instead another road, another life in its place.
Her brother spoke of how he had spent the last few days cleaning out his sister’s flat – an awful, miserable job, I know. He told of how he had come across a drawer full of mementos from that brief and happy relationship – photos and keepsakes, fragments of hope and remembrance.
I had an appointment in the city, and so after I said farewell I drove to Hawthorn station and caught a train in. As the stations along the way passed by I reflected on the funeral and what people might say of me. I felt a kind of detached sorrow. Mixed in with it was a forewarning: live fully and well. I did not want anyone to tell sad stories of me should I die one day.
It was a sunny day on Wednesday, heralding the Spring just a few days away. I wore a suit with tie. As always I felt elegant and stylish. I walked down the sunny side of Collins Street towards my rendezvous. I walked by dozens of men I might be brothers to in professional terms, men in suits, many with the flair that has become so common – the tan shoes with the blue suit, the off colour belt, the cool tie with a slim cut suit with narrow lapels.
Still and all I felt more. I always feel more. I felt tall and handsome. I felt smart and strong. I felt masculine and manly, more than just about everyone. I’ve had this sense for 20 years or more, whether rooted in reality or not. I felt like a winner, like the man who would always win, the man others look at and expect to win, the absolute winner.*
This I thought, or perhaps more accurately, sensed. There was a sardonic curiosity to it. I stood waiting, propped against a tree with my sunglasses on. I rotated that sense of self around in my hands. I was fully aware how incongruous it was. And yet when my lunch date arrived I knew that in her eyes I was exactly the man I have described above.
We had lunch at Il Solito Posto, one of my favourite venues for a romantic meeting. This was not romantic. I’d been invited to lunch by a LinkedIn contact, a woman I had met first perhaps 2 years ago, but not seen for 18 months. I didn’t know what the purpose of lunch was, but hoped an opportunity might be in the offing.
We had a pleasant lunch. I like this woman, did from the get go – an attractive, stylish, intelligent woman, feminine and with a great sense of fun. Back in the day I had sensed in her an attraction towards me, and in fact we had promised to catch up for dinner then – but somehow never had.
There was no real opportunity discussed. She’s a high-powered businesswoman. She said she would look out for me, but for the most part our meeting seemed to be about reconnecting. I had no complaints with that – pleasant conversation, great company, a bowl of ragu and a red wine are nothing to take lightly.
There was one moment when she asked me exactly what I do. I answered her, feeling unusually articulate. As I spoke I listened to myself and watched her reaction. She lapped it up. She watched me keenly, nodding her head, murmuring assent, exclaiming agreement. I was aware at how convincing I was, and wished I could be like this more often – mostly I flounder with such a difficult question.
All these combination of factors combined to make a mighty impression – an attractive woman impressed by me and wanting to see me again; my words, so eloquent that even I took notice and learned something; the elegant Armani suit I wore, and wore well; the recollection of absolute power, intelligence, maybe a little charm; and the funeral earlier throwing into sharp focus what I want to achieve.
I left her and caught the train home to where Rigby waited for me. I took off my suit, put on some daggy tracky-dacks, and that was my day done.
* I don’t mean to sound a note of self-satisfied triumphalism. Anyone who reads this blog should know by now that I write often with tongue firmly in cheek. That’s less the case this time, but it’s true that these celebratory words should be read as some kind of counterpoint, and perhaps response, to the description of the funeral. Life is action and reaction in my experience, and in that narrative the ridiculous, and occasionally the contradictory, mix with the perfectly normal. Standing in the sun I’m trying to sum up the surreal disconnection between what is real and what is perceived. It’s like a movie where the sad events on screen play to a happy soundtrack. In a movie that may be satire. In life it is merely confusing.