, por Jeffrey Bernard
«I’ve just spent two days sitting on the floor surrounded by remorse-inducing memorabilia. Backache and boredom propelled me from my sick bed to clear up boxes and drawers full of old letters and papers, but it was the postcards and snaps, evidence of holidays and seemingly happier times past that ended up at grey Heathrow or with the slamming of a door – front and then car – that had me rooted to the carpet wondering for the millionth time what could or might have been. If you have tears, prepare to jerk them now. No, don’t. It’s been quite a laugh. I found an old divorce petition actually complaining that I was morose, sullen, non-communicative and shunning any social contact when I was not
drinking; but what surprised me was the expression on the faces of those ladies in the holiday pics. You’re standing there, a Mediterranean Jack the Lad under a palm tree with a long drink in one hand, peeling shoulders and self-conscious grin, and she, in spite of her sunny smile, has that look in her eyes, almost smouldering, denoting that all the while she can count the bills dropping on the door mat at home. Fill in the balloon over her head and it would read, “Why am I with this idiot?”
Pictures in which she or they are actually looking at you and not the camera are even bigger giveaway. But what breaks my heart are the snaps that were taken at the time or just after you first met. Actually, they don’t break my heart at all, they just make me cringe with embarrassment. There’s that awful look of pride in new ownership that reminds me of a salesman with a new car or a child with a new dog. You’re both sunny side up then and you think the process of hard-boiling is going to take a hundred years. But, sitting there on the carpet, pushing the snapshots to one side for a minute and dipping into the old letters, the tale unfolds itself. “Miss you terribly.” “So looking forward to next weekend.” “We must try harder.” “We can’t go on like this.” “I must have been mad to think it could work.” “I think we should say goodbye.” Yes, your dinner might not be in the oven but, by Christ, your letters and snapshots are in old drawers and scrapbooks.
Almost as sad is the sight of those old friends. There’s Fred on the beach pulling a silly face, Jim pissed in a night club and Bob waving frantically from the balcony of his room. If you see Fred now – bump into him in a pub – he looks a little embarrassed. He assesses the situation, peering into your pocket with his X-ray eyes and asks, “What are you
doing now?” “Oh, the same old thing, “ you reply, resisting the temptation to remind him of the time he you aside with tears in his eyes to tell you that Maggie was leaving him and that life was no longer worth living. “Still scribbling?” he asks, adding, “No, no. This one’s on me.” The largesse is so offhand and who’d think the four of you once squabbled over a restaurant bill in Paris?
With luck and in the two or three weeks’ time I’m off to get a breath of sun-drenched hot air into the offending lung. Alone. But I shall still take a camera. Three years ago I got a Russian soldier in Red Square to take a picture of me standing outside the Kremlin. It’s deeply moving. I look like another alcoholic defector. But however awful one looks the memory banks and scrapbooks need to be kept stoked up. The holiday show must go on. This time I’ll get a snap with the local barman. We’ll have our arms around each other’s shoulders and if you look carefully and closely into his eyes you’ll see that he’s thinking, “God, how I loathe this boring, drunken, peseta-less tourists.” The only trouble is that I may not be drunk. At the moment I can keep one down, so you’ll forgive me I hope if I remain yours, morose, sullen, non-communicative and shunning any social contact. That wife was quite right about not drinking. It’s disaster. If you’re born two or three drinks under par you just end up with your old snaps snapping at people.»