Just hours before Mary Margaret died, the rain that had battered the city for weeks stopped and the sun burned alone in a brilliant summer sky. The nurse took great care to describe the scene to me later. Mary Margaret had asked the nurse to bring her to the window. With the sun on her face, she closed her eyes and listened to the birds. She drew deep, contented breaths and tapped her fingers to a song only she could hear. The nurse went away and when she returned Mary Margaret was unresponsive. A short while after the doctor declared her dead the rains began again and hadn’t stopped since.

The news was on the Internet by the end of the day. “Mary Margaret Callanan, 1960s Actress and Model, Dies at 72.” “Mary Callanan, Symbol of 60’s California, Dead.” Young reporters are often assigned to write obituaries for still-living celebrities, ready to print at a moment’s notice. Being first is very important to news outlets, even if it means being inaccurate or incomplete. No evidence can convince them that nobody besides them is keeping score.

These obituaries included little more than key names and dates, and although Mary Margaret had once been one of the most photographed people in the world, in the dozens of obituaries I read I only saw four pictures: the iconic one where she’s cheerfully slumped in a chair with a sombrero slipping off her hair, happy but exhausted after a day-long photo shoot; the only-slightly-less iconic shot of her on Venice Beach in a bikini, the impossible ideal of a twenty-year-old beauty. Then there was a more sophisticated picture from the mid-70s, in a sidewalk cafe in Rome, not an especially remarkable photo but clearly Google was directing all these cub reporters to the same source. Least frequently used was a picture of her at the Galeria in 2006, addressing a white-tie crowd, a regal woman in color at odds with the sun-kissed black-and-white girl.

More substantive articles began arriving two or three days later. The New Yorker had a long piece that focused on her career after Hollywood. The Economist dwelled on the dichotomy of the lithe beach princess who became the beloved matron of contemporary art. Mia Farrow wrote a personal reflection that ran in the Times, and Yoko Ono told a touching anecdote in the Guardian. Mary Margaret’s face was forever trapped in the golden rays of the 1960s California sun, but her life, as most of us knew it, was more properly defined by Galeria 22 in New York, the Palazzo Callo in Venice, and the intimate dinners around the world that she graced with her warmth and wit. These stories were captured later. None of them did her justice, but it was a start.

For the first few days after her death it fell to Kamilah and me to handle the bulk of the work, and since I pleaded old age almost all the work fell to Kamilah. She didn’t seem to mind. Kamilah had been the latest, and was now the last, of the talented young things that Mary Margaret took under her wing and nurtured in lieu of actual  children, and she took it as a solemn filial duty to make sure that the stories were correct and the memorials appropriate.

There was a moment at the funeral where I looked down at Mary Margaret’s face, still beautiful as ever, and was possessed by a sudden and desperate urge to reach into the coffin and take her hand one last time. I stopped myself by realizing that her hand would be cold and stiff, and more than a little horrifying. She was gone. Her body was there, and her face and her hair and her clothes and even a trace of her smile; her voice remained in her films and her thoughts lived on in the books and articles and diaries that she wrote, but her self, the being that possessed those physical objects and spiritual dimensions–whatever it was to which “her” referred–was gone.

I want to say that that realization destroyed me.

Maybe I just need to blame something, to tell myself that if I hadn’t had the first thought then I wouldn’t have had the second one and then everything would be okay and I would be fine.

It might be true. It could be. After the funeral I stood and received the long line of kisses and condolences on her behalf (in my capacity as co-owner of the Galeria, of course–Mary Margaret had no immediate family and was unmarried save her “brief marriage to the physicist Bertram Vaughn,” as one and only one reporter saw fit to mention). I made a statements for reporters, shared heartfelt embraces with others who cared for her deeply, and then went home, to be alone.

Crushingly alone. It wasn’t just the emptiness of the apartment; she and I had lived apart for years and I was accustomed to my home being empty most of the time. All the same, the myriad activities of death had ceased all at once when she was in the ground, and I was alone for the first time in days, maybe for the first time in decades.

I had lost many friends over the years. It was only natural in our line of work. Young talent burned bright and then burned out. In the seventies it was drugs, in the eighties AIDS, in the nineties and beyond it was a combination of the two plus the diseases and bad luck that pile up with age. Good friends, spiritual compatriots, personal heroes, all lost too soon.

None of that compared to this body-blow of grief. That evening I stayed up all night. I drank a couple of bottles of wine and flipped through all the articles that had been printed. The repetition of names and dates and details comforted me.

Mary Margaret Elizabeth Callanan was born in Hawthorne, California, and grew up in Encino…She was discovered working at a car wash in Los Angeles…Received attention for her first role in the “The Killer Doves” when she was nineteen…Breakthrough in 1968’s “Moonlight Sonata”…Moved to New York in 1971…Founded Galeria 22 with the painter Andreas Toledano…Director of the Callo Foundation in Venice…

I read the words and strove to make them real. I spoke to her in the dark. The next day I stayed in, re-reading the articles she had published, starting with the most recent and working my way backwards. By evening I had downed three bottles of wine and had only made it as far back as 1993. I turned on her movies with the sound down low and let the images of her flicker over me while I drifted in and out of a blue-black sleep.

This went on for days, until Kamilah came by. She had a key and let herself in when I didn’t answer the bell. Lucky for me I was properly dressed. Mary Margaret had always insisted that no matter what you planned to do with your day, you should always start by getting dressed. If you want to spend all day in bed, fine, the clothes won’t hurt, but if you change your mind then you’re ready to seize that impulse and just walk out the door.

I heard Kamilah’s voice and scrambled out of my room. My apartment served as my living space, my studio, and my office. The front door opened to a suite of rooms that I used for visitors and strangers. It wass part office, part gift shop, and part museum to myself. This was where I stopped Kamilah. I was dressed, showered, shaved, and hoped my breath smelled like breakfast and not booze.

“You haven’t been answering your phone,” she said to me as I directed her to an armchair, as if she were a potential client. I grumbled something in the way of an answer and watched as she discreetly tried to look past me into the apartment. I moved a little, to block whatever view she could get and to let her know that I was onto her.

“I just wanted to make sure you’re okay,” she said at last.

“I’m fine. Just need some time.”

Kamilah was a good kid. She had adored Mary Margaret, and was happy to adopt me as her ersatz parent in her stead. Having performed her duties, she got up to leave. “Promise me you’ll answer your phone at least,” she said, and I agreed. She knew that I always kept my promises.

Not twenty minutes later, that promise was tested and I regretted having made it. Bertie called. I could see his name of the phone screen from across the room. I walked over as slowly as I could, hoping he would hang up before I got there, though I knew that if I didn’t answer he’d just call back.

“Hello?”

“Andreas. I need to see you. I’m at Cafe Montparnasse. Can you get here?”

“Bertie, I’m…”

“It’s about Mary Margaret. Hurry.”

Bertie was the first thing about Mary Margaret that made an impression on me. I met her at a party in Malibu. I’d never liked LA but some wannabe big shot paid an absurd sum for one of my paintings and I decided to go out there for a few months and see if there were more suckers like him. There were plenty of brilliant people in LA then, but there were even more suddenly-rich beautiful empty vessels eager to appear brilliant. When she came up to me I assumed that Mary Margaret was one of those. She was twenty-three years old and tipsy; I couldn’t help but prejudge her. She mispronounced my name, praised the overpriced painting that had brought me out west, and insisted that I show her more of my work. In the way that Californians tend to do, she immediately became over-familiar and took my hands in hers. “You have to meet my husband.”

I made a joke that no man ever wants to meet a beautiful woman’s husband, but she dragged me along. I expected a rock star or a surfer dude, or maybe some elderly film producer or playboy to keep her as a trophy. I was surprised, then, when she introduced me to Bertie. He was an inch shorter than she was, and she was not a tall woman. He probably didn’t weigh much more than she did, either. He was visibly uncomfortable to be at the party and to be introduced to someone.

That a woman like her could even know, let alone marry, a guy like him caught my attention. Good or bad, there was more to her than I had thought, and I was suitably intrigued. We ended up talking for a long time, the three of us, and during the rest of my time in LA we became friends.

Or at least she and I became friends. Bertie and I became whatever passed for friendship with Bertie.

“Come to the Cafe Montparnasse. It’s about Mary Margaret.” What could he possibly have to say? I hadn’t seen Bertie in at least a year. As Mary Margaret had grown sicker he’d become more withdrawn, which was fine by me.

“You hate him,” Mary Margaret teased one day, early on, when we were still in LA and she was still married to him.

“No, not at all,” I protested feebly. “He’s a good guy. Just not…you know, likable.”

I could hear her laugh. I missed it so much. I missed her. I didn’t know that I could miss anything as much as I missed her then. I stood in my apartment and surveyed what I hadn’t been willing to let Kamilah see. Since the funeral I had taken every picture of her that I had and laid them out. Every picture: personal ones from my albums, professional ones from books, those four lousy ones form the obituaries. I cut them out of books and newspapers and pulled them from scrapbooks and laid them all around. Then her words: articles, letters, notes, marginalia, all of it, cut out and arranged. The aggregate of all of this–her face, her thoughts, her loves, her her her her she was somewhere in this, somehow somewhere in some way the intangible her was here. I was going to find it, or go crazy trying. Or maybe I already had.

Better to go see Bertie. He had gone crazy long ago. He might have always been.

Even though it was raining I walked up. He would wait. This was my petty revenge.

“Christ, what took so long? Did you walk? Why are you so wet? You can’t take a cab? What’s wrong with you?”

I could never believe that the same sun and soil that produced Mary Margaret had also produced Bertram Vaughan. They had grown up next door to each other and had been playmates since they were toddlers. They never dated, never kissed, never did anything romantic with each other until one day he asked her to marry him and she said yes. The marriage lasted a bit less than two years, though they remained in each other’s orbits for the rest of their lives.

“How are you holding up?” I asked him. He blinked at me as if the question made no sense, then shook his head.

“No, no, I’m fine, what about you? How are you doing?”

I wanted to tell him that I was okay. “I’m a mess, Bertie.” I stared off into the middle distance, my thoughts suddenly unmoored. He just stared back, restlessly drumming his fingers on the table. The moment ended when a waitress asked for our orders. Bertie had already eaten, probably several times. He asked for a glass of wine and I asked her to bring me one, too.

“Can I get you gentlemen anything to eat?” she asked. We both said no. As soon as she turned around Bertie leaned towards me.

“I saw her,” he said.

“Who?”

Instead of answering, he sat back and smiled.

After the party in Malibu I spent a lot of time with Mary Margaret and Bertie. I watched their marriage fall apart. It surprised nobody, least of all Bertie. He was very intelligent, probably brilliant. As small kids he and Mary Margaret had enjoyed a friendly rivalry in school. Both were thrilled by math and its possibilities–I, who never understood much beyond arithmetic, was treated to endless impromptu lectures about advanced and exotic mathematical principals. When they were still kids it became clear to both of them that as smart as she was, he was operating on a whole different level. Mary Margaret was drawn to people who excited her intellectually–it was (and here the New Yorker in me smirks) why she left Hollywood at the peak of her career–and nobody she met ever excited her mind more than Bertie.

Of course, marriages are built on more than just excitement, and Bertie provided precious little else.

I didn’t provide her much myself, either. After the divorce she came to New York and together we opened the Galeria. I had been toying with opening my own exhibition space for years, but the money I made from paintings was never enough. Her Hollywood money bought us an abandoned warehouse on 22nd Street; on the ground floor we exhibited the most exciting artists we could find, and on the floors above we provided them space to work.

We were lovers, but only from time to time. Sometimes happiness demands a physical expression, and in periods where the Galeria was operating at its full potential we let those feelings take their course. I loved her, yes. Loved and adored. I took great satisfaction in being a solid business partner, an intellectual equal, and, when it happened, a lover. We never spoke of marriage, though, or children, or our obligations to each other. Nonetheless, I saw her nearly every day for forty-five years.

Bertie moved to New York a little later. With his nasal voice and nervous mannerism he looked like one of the squirrelly types who grew up in the city, and he fit in just fine. He became a professor at Columbia, and in the world of physics he became something of a boldface name.

“What if I told you that this cafe doesn’t exist. What would you say?”

I looked around. Cafe Montparnasse looked like it had been decorated by an overly-imaginative French grandmother in the late 1950s. “I’d say no big loss.”

“Har har,” he said. “I’ve been working on a problem for years–Mary Margaret used to help me sound off ideas so I should say that she and I worked on it together. Some grad students, too, but they just did the monkey work, mostly. I won’t get into the details because I know this is hard for you.”

“Thank you, Bertie,” I said sarcastically.

“Don’t feel bad. I can’t draw a stick figure for shit, but you got stuff hanging in the Louvre. We all got our strengths.”

The waitress came back with our drinks and complimentary bread. Bertie started working on both right away without stopping talking.

“You know anything about many worlds interpretation? No? Quantum tunneling?”

I sighed. “Bertie, I’m sorry, we’re planning the new season at the Callo and I have a lot I need to catch up on.”

“Of course, yeah,” he said, going for more bread. “Mary Margaret used to ask–you remember this–if all the avenues of possibilities of the universe were open, which way would you go?”

“I remember.”

“And then she’d say all the avenues aren’t open, right, so we can tell ourselves that we’d go back and change things, or transform ourselves, or whatever, but in the end the only path that was open to us…” He motioned for me to continue. I sighed and did.

“To go forward.”

“Right.” He shoved a whole piece of bread in his mouth. “But she was wrong.” A huge grin spread across his face. “More interesting than your show in Venice, right? Want to order a soup or something? Let me get the waitress.”

“Bertie–“

But the waitress was already there. He ordered the soup of the day for both of us, and another plate of bread. “And more wine. Just bring the bottle.”

I protested feebly that I needed to get to work. I didn’t, though. I needed to get back to my room, to her.

The Galeria had been an overnight success. The amount of money that she poured into it ensured that it would be, at least at first. That kind of money didn’t normally just appear in contemporary art. It attracted attention in and of itself. The quality of the art did the rest. By the end of the decade our spaces upstairs were overflowing with the artists that Mary Margaret had started calling her kids, even though at that point many of them were close to her age or older.

She took acting and modeling jobs to raise funds. In 1978 we expanded to Europe, buying the Palazzo Callo in Venice and turning it into an Old World version of the Galeria 22. For the rest of her life she shuttled back and forth between the two, growing older and grayer and plumper and somehow more glamorous.

I expected that it was only a matter of time before Kamilah demanded that I come into the office and help her parcel out Mary Margaret’s share of the work. She hadn’t yet, of course, but Bertie didn’t know that.

“If you could go back in time what would you change?” he asked me once the bottle was on the table.

“Kill Hitler,” I deadpanned. He shook his head.

“No, that’s too messy. Too many repercussions, things you can’t even understand. Without Hitler there’s no World War II, no Holocaust, forty million killed in Europe, end of imperialism, yada yada. Without Hitler there’s no me, for example–my mother emigrated from Munich in ’36. No, Hitler is too complicated. Probably on balance killing Hitler is a good thing but the world we have today would be so unthinkable that we would never appreciate the difference. Think smaller.”

“I wouldn’t have answered my phone when you called, then.”

He clapped excitedly. “Yes, good. You could be at the office right now looking at designs and fonts instead of here. Something easy to change. It will have repercussions down the road, but not today. Today is still today, but better.”

“I don’t get what this has to do with Mary Margaret,” I said to him. Now it was his turn to sigh.

“You don’t get it? This is my work, my life’s work. And I’ve solved it.”

“What, time travel?” He smiled again, a catlike grin that unsettled me. “What are you going to do, bring her back to life?”

“Andreas, be serious. What good would that do? She’d just die again. Look at you and me, how much longer do we have? Forget that.”

“So what, then?”

“What would you change?” He asked it emphatically, enunciating each syllable separately. I didn’t like where this conversation was going. What would I change? Lots of things. Any of the myriad things that I’d let get between me and her. The foolishness that convinced me that being around her was enough, that we didn’t need to be romantically together, that our relationship was somehow better by being cerebral. Anything that would let me hold her now.

“What would you change, Bertie?”

He narrowed his eyes and whispered. “Little things. A little bit at a time. I’d leave myself notes, try out the changes. Go back and tinker some more. I know how it all ends, so I could make the journey better for all of us, you know?”

He was so serious. This was even crazier than my room of obsessions. I resolved that once I got out of here I would go to Kamilah and tell her to clean my room for me, put all the pictures back where they belonged, before I ended up like Bertie.

In the meantime, though, I needed to be careful. Crazy people can be dangerous.

“You’re saying you can do this?” He smiled. “Why are you telling me?”

“You’re my only friend, Andreas. You should know.”

“Time travel,” I mused as I poured another glass. “How? Do you have a device? A time machine?”

“That has to be my secret, you understand.”

“Is it dangerous? Should I worry about you exploding into antimatter? Or destroying this world somehow?”

“No, no,” he laughed. “Don’t be absurd.”

A glint formed in his eye. “Have you tried it?” I asked. His smarmy smile told me his answer.

“Let me ask you this. Do you remember when this place closed down?”

“What place?”

“Montparnasse. This cafe. It closed.”

“For renovations?”

“No, permanently. It closed and was replaced by a Chinese restaurant. The owners moved to Florida. You remember?”

I shook my head.

“Let me ask you this. Do you remember Bastille Day, 1984? You and me and Mary Margaret and a few of the kids wanted to celebrate, and Mary Margaret wanted to come here, do you remember? There was that graffiti kid in the group who got shot by the cops a few days later, remember that?”

I thought about. I knew the kid he was talking about, and could dimly remember that we tried to celebrate Bastille Day in New York sometime in the eighties.

“We walked all the way over here, the seven of us, and when got here we saw the sign that said it was closed. And you pretended to kick the curb…”

“And twisted my foot. I remember that, now that I think about it.”

“It was closed.”

“But it reopened.”

“Think hard, remember. The sign was down, it was papered over. It was done.”

“So you went back in time and rescued a cheesy French restaurant?”

He laughed. “Baby steps, Andreas. Baby steps. The Chinese restaurant never opened but that couple found other things to do. The world didn’t come crashing to an end. And truth be told, this cafe failed again in ’87, and then in ’92, and again in ’93, and in ’04. I keep saving this damn place, just to see if I can. I find out what made them fail, then I go back and fix whatever needs to be fixed. Then they carry on.”

The waitress came with the soup, and he stopped talking while she served it.

“I gotta be careful, though. I’m learning that going back doesn’t rewrite everything right away. Like, I can still remember the old timeline, and others can, too, at least for a while. I mean, I think that most people don’t notice the changes I made because it’s just on the edges of their lives, right? Like who cares about a restaurant except the owner? But the owner–I can tell you, I’ve talked to him a bunch of times, every time he wakes up saying he dreamed the restaurant shut down.”

I tried to change the conversation and spent the next few minutes talking about the kids from that dinner, and my stupidly busted ankle, memorable as the most serious injury I had as an adult. Bertie was jumpy and nervous, and it was making me the same. I ate as fast as I could, certain that he or I or maybe both of us needed help.

“I miss her,” he said during an uncomfortable pause.

“I do, too.”

“She was my life, Andreas. I never should have let her leave me. I… I should have been better. That’s what I’d change.” His voice grew smaller as he spoke, and began to worry that the waitress would come and find two old men weeping over their soup.

“Don’t do this to yourself, Bertie.”

“I tried it. Once. I saw her in her chair. She didn’t see me. Her eyes were closed, she was looking out into the garden. She closed her eyes and let the sun shine on her face and then her breathing just stopped.”

I stood up. Friend or whatever he was, I couldn’t do this with him. I made my excuses and dropped a few twenties on the table, more than enough to cover soup and half a bottle.

It was still raining outside but I didn’t bother with my umbrella. At my age, I hoped this would give me pneumonia and kill me.

My first goal was to follow through and get ahold of Kamilah. She’d be at the Galeria now. I’d tell her about my room and sit there while she took care of it.

Then I decided against that. I’d still go to the Galeria, but because I really did need to check up on what was happening in Venice. Kamilah would probably be planning a special memorial for Mary Margaret there, and I should probably approve.

In the end, though, I just went back to my apartment. Thinking of Venice made me think of her, and thinking of her made me need to be back in my room, surrounded by her. I was going to take all those memories and turn them into a fitting memorial. Maybe a collage on the walls, and then turn the whole room into a work of art, an installation piece that I could live in and that others could appreciate after I was dead.

I arranged the pictures and words again and laid down on the floor, surrounding by a thousand images and consumed by a darkness I couldn’t escape.

*

Kamilah called me the next day, and true to my word, I answered the phone. She wanted me to look at the plans for Venice, as I knew she would, and wanted to know if she should bring them to me or if I’d be able to go to the Galeria. I told her I could get there, that I needed to get out of the house anyway.

Mary Margaret had been dead for two weeks now, so I supposed it made sense that Kamilah had redecorated the office space. There had been three desks in the open pit area that we used as our main office. Now there were only two, mine and Kamilah’s. I understood. I wouldn’t want to spend all day staring at her empty desk either. I wondered where her things were but trusted that Kamilah had found an appropriate place for them.

The main hall at the Palazzo was to feature a few of my pieces, including a big-ish installation that Kamilah felt I should help set up in person. I agreed and she said she’d book me a flight. Normally I would go to Venice and only stay as long as necessary, but this time I asked her to book me there for an extra month. I needed a change of air.

Proofs for the new catalogs were ready, and although I didn’t really need to review them, it gave me something to do. I sat at my desk and pored over each page, making minor suggestions here and there to show that I cared. It was welcome therapy.

In the evening I went home and surveyed the wreckage in my room. It was crazy, but I could see the beginning of something positive. At the very least, I could reject the idea of turning this entire room into an installation about Mary Margaret. That would be considered strange, both for its obsessive quality and for the fact that this had never been her room. We never lived together. The explanation would invite more questions than I intended to answer. I had to be careful that in my grief I didn’t become Bertie.

The next morning I woke up, dressed myself, and went to work. With an arched eyebrow Kamilah showed me the bill from the liquor store. I sheepishly assured her that I had worked out my grief and was now fine. A long day in the office helped. I met with artists, called clients, surveyed the spaces, proofed whatever there was to proof. When I went home in the evening my room had been cleaned up. Kamilah again, I could safely assume. It was embarrassing to think that she had seen it all, but she was at least discreet about it. Anyway, for all I know she hired a maid service and never saw it herself.

The pictures were back in their books, the books back on the shelf, and the newspaper cutouts presumably recycled.

Raw hurt gave way to a dull ache. Progress. Mary Margaret always said, you can only keep going forward. I sat with a sketchpad and made real progress on the tribute I wanted to make, a mixed media piece exploring and demonstrating her growth and transformation over the yeas, and the void she would leave behind. In a way, it could be an elegy for myself, too. At least I wouldn’t discourage anybody from reading it that way.

I asked Kamilah where all of Mary Margaret’s things went. “I sent them to Bertie,” she said matter-of-factly. “It seemed like the best place for them, give them to her husband. ‘Widower,’ I guess. What a strange word. Oh, and Christine is here for you. She’s wandering around the gallery somewhere.”

I wasn’t sure who Christine could be, but there were only two people in the gallery, and one was a young man. I assumed the other one was Christine. She had her back to me, admiring one of our “kids'” works. I must have been having a senior moment because I wasn’t sure who she was.

“Christine?” I said, and she turned around. I felt ridiculous once I saw her face.

“Mr. Toledano, it’s so good to see you!” she said, and stood on her tiptoes to give me a hug. I had long ago stopped asking her to call me Andreas.

“I’m sorry I haven’t called you,” I started.

“Don’t worry about it. We’ve all been busy. And Dad said he had lunch with you the other day. How do you think he’s holding up?”

“I think he’s fine. He was in good spirits. As good as you could expect. What about you? Did you bring the kids? Gosh, they must be huge by now.”

“Parker is ten now, growing like a weed. Heather is seven. Not growing as much,” she laughed, indicating with her hands that her daughter remained short for her age. “They miss their grandma.”

“We all do.”

“Anyway, they stayed in California.”

“How long are you here for?” I asked.

“I’m leaving tonight. I was kind of hoping to bring Dad back to California with me…”

“Yeah, right. I don’t think Bertie ever belonged out there.”

“Maybe you should come out, too.”

I playfully waved the suggestion away. “Thanks for coming by. I’ll let you know next time I’m out west. Will we see you in Venice this year?”

“Of course.”

She gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek and left. She wasn’t quite the spitting image of her mother but similar enough that I found her sweet face comforting.

At home in the evenings I worked on my sketch. Mary Margaret Callanan had been a beautiful actress for a remarkably short period of her life: nine years elapsed between her first and last movies. She lived another forty-four, all of which were more productive and consequential. Still, it was the image of young girl that dominated coverage of her death. That was how we wanted to remember her.

I began to consider her death as a way to examine the whole generation, at least that now-elderly segment that could never stop talking about the heady sixties. My sketches grew more ambitious but less personal. Mary Margaret, and my connection to it, were fading from the subject, but maybe that was for the best.

I called Kamilah to let her know that I wouldn’t be in for the rest of the week, but that I could be reached at home if she needed me. She reminded me of my flight on Saturday.

I needed to do research. I was never a big part of the social milieu in the sixties–I didn’t fit in with the Warhol scene in New York, or the hippie scene out west. My paintings kept me afloat but I didn’t really become a thing until later, when Galeria 22 made me something of a house pet.

Bertram Vaughn invited me to dinner and I agreed, hoping that he could provide some insights. He was still in mourning, though, and I thought it best not to press.

“Fifty years, Andreas, can you believe it? The best thing I ever did was marry that woman.”

“She was wonderful,” I offered politely.

“I never told you this, but I was always a little jealous of you.”

“Me? Why?”

“She always admired you. Respected your work. Never mind that you kept the gallery afloat a lot of those years. I could never get over the feeling that in some way she was deeply attracted to you. Like you guys had a special connection.”

I blushed. “Nonsense, she was devoted to you.”

“I worked hard for it, you know. Remember that party in Malibu? If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t have let her go.” We both laughed. That party had been the beginning of my long and lucrative friendship with both of them.

“I’d be broke without you guys,” I joked.

“I’m sure you’d find someone else to buy your work. You’re the great Andreas Toledano! On the contrary, we were lucky to find you.”

Saturday morning I flew out to Venice. I was invited to the annual exhibition of the Vaughn Foundation at the Palazzo Callo. The Vaughn family matron, some actress from the sixties, had died recently, and apparently she was an admirer of my work. Her personal collection was on display, including two of my pieces. Some friends of mine in New York thought it curious that she and I had never crossed paths before. I told them it’s a big city, and I was never comfortable around Hollywood types anyway.

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