“But people themselves alter so much, that there is something new to be observed in them for ever.”
~ Jane Austen (Pride & Prejudice)
After the autographs were signed, and the photographs were taken, the members began to disperse… for some, it was an opportunity to strengthen new-found friendships based on mutual interest. Others came with friends, or family and just wanted to hang out. The younger members brought parents. There was also someone from the media – some local internet publicity person.
Mr SG retreated into his office to sort some things out and after he was done, he re-emerged. I watched him and saw him looking around. As he searched he called out the name he knew me by, and when I waved (I had not actually moved from my spot on the sofa), he nodded in my direction and said, “I’m leaving”. I smiled and said “o.k.” and asked that he take care. He then looked for the president of the club to say his goodbyes.
I stayed on to chat with the friends that I made through the group, helped with some of the packing, and then I too excused myself and made my way back to the hotel.
He texted me that night. That text, in which he thanked me for coming and for the gift, brought me to clouds higher than the plane did. I had a smile plastered to my face for a long time after.
All that time, right up to the moment his mission took place, I continued expanding the website I put together for him, which meant he kept in touch because I let him vet each section. Just before he took off, he actually requested I compiled the media pieces on him, so I also created an online repository separate from the website. I added materials from before, during and after his mission.
We had brief conversations on the phone. And I really mean brief. All but one of those conversations took place after I phoned him.
One time, just once, he phoned me.
I was in my office talking to my partner and we were chatting about him. Almost as if we had said his name once too many times that we conjured his presence, my phone rang. I had to re-check the caller ID when I saw his name. I confirmed it was the name I never expected to see, and the phone literally flew out of my hand… I had to catch it mid-air before it crashed to the ground.
You should have seen our faces – mine and my partner’s. She grinned as I cleared my throat. She might have whispered “quickly!”, I don’t remember now; both of us were concerned that he might hang up if I took a second longer to answer.
I was making all sorts of facial expressions as we spoke, because I was happy and nervous. My partner stayed in the room to listen. He spoke of the gift I made for him, and how his father wanted one of the 2 parts I gave. When I said “no…”, he assured me that he had no plans of giving it to him. I made a mental note to offer his father something else or maybe a smaller copy if and when I had the time.
He then mentioned that he was being interviewed for a magazine published in my home country. It was one of those you’d get by subscription only. And the only people I know who subscribed are doctors, dentists and lawyers … you know, for their waiting rooms. He asked if I thought I could get him a copy. I said I would try. At first it was difficult. A friend offered me her copy. I then found the publisher and they asked me how many I wanted. He was pleased to hear that when I updated him.
The publishing office staff said this one thing that I daren’t ask him about, even though I was curious too. She said, if he was the subject of the interview, “we would normally give them a copy/copies”. I made some sort of excuse and assured her that they were for him and she had seen me contacting him (to ask how many he wanted). I don’t know why he called me to ask me except, was that an opportunity for him to call without seeming too obvious?
Once I had the copies of the magazine, with extras for a couple of the other members, I called him to ask how he would like me to pass them to him. I mentioned my intention to meet with a few of the committee members that weekend and he agreed to meet me then. He told me to let him know once I arrived.
I flew to that city again that weekend, and went straight to his place of business. The other members of the committee were there too. It was to be my last meal with them before I migrated to my current home.
Unbeknownst to me, he had called the place around the time we were just gathering for dinner. He spoke to his staff and asked if I was there, when they told him I was, he asked to speak to me. The expressions of the people in the group were very mixed. I was very uncomfortable. If darts could come out of their stares, I would have been like a voodoo doll stabbed by several.
I went to the phone and confirmed with him that I would wait till he arrived. One of the committee asked why he had asked for me and not for them. I really didn’t know what to answer.
When he came, he sat with us and we chatted. He poured us some tea and continued being a pleasant host. I gave him the magazines, which he signed for us. He didn’t seem to have any plans other than to spend the evening with us.
Then I made a mistake.
You see, I don’t like photos of myself. I often find that I ruin the picture. I prefer to be the one behind the camera. So, when the group gathered for a photo with him, I took a few shots. He called for me to be in the picture and gestured that I stood next to him for it. I agreed in the end but the person next to him seemed comfortable there and made no attempt to change positions. Awkwardly I stood at the end. I had hoped for another picture of just the two of us. However, his expression had changed and after that, he said he had to leave.
It might have been only my imagination but he seemed to have been offended.
He was cold after that, very cold.
He ignored all my emails and text messages, even though I tried to explain.