That I hadn’t heard from him in a while wasn’t so unusual. After all, we had a somewhat stormy relationship. I found his charm hard to resist and was awed by his class and culture and old-world gentlemanly manner, which few people I’ve come across have ever had an inkling about, never mind possessed. We met cute one day at the fish market, when I asked him, surprised at his huge order of oysters, why Malpeques specifically. “Mais parce que ce sont les meilleures!” (“why, because they’re the best!”) he’d answered, turning to me with a half-kind, half-roguish smile. “Would you like to join my sister and I to sample some tonight?”. He didn’t miss a beat. He’d had many long years of practice. I desisted. For one thing, I was picking up shrimp for a dinner date, and for another, he was much too old of course. Could have been my father, my grandfather even. He was tall and trim and distinguished with his silver hair and general demeanour denoting a man who was admitted in all the best circles. Or rather, a man who had probably founded quite a few of those circles. A girlfriend called on my mobile. I took that call and he said, “Please tell your friend that if she’s as beautiful and charming as you are, then I’d like to speak to her”. It could have come off as obnoxious, but he just made me laugh. “You could come tomorrow night; I’ll have plenty of oysters left, and a nice white wine to serve with them.” He named a great wine, though I’ve forgotten which now. “Just the two of us?” I said, obviously suspicious. “Why yes, but I assure you I’m completely inoffensive, and besides, I know too many people in town to risk my good reputation at my age.” He took down my number. I honestly didn’t think it would go any further. But he did call the next day, while I was freelancing as a graphic designer at a women’s fashion magazine. He made me laugh some more, and when he asked me again to his home for some of those delicious left-over oysters, I found I could not refuse. I was quite a bit more adventurous in those days.
His manner was beyond reproach, and the pleasure of my company was more than enough to satisfy him, he said. We remained friends over many years. From the very beginning, he had this idea that we would get married. But I had very different priorities then, and the thought of being married to a man that much older than me seemed absurd, out of the question. He promised to take good care of me and guarantee I’d be a very well provided for widow someday. He wanted to finish his last years with a memorable love affair with a passionate woman like me, he said, and go out with a bang. I wanted to go out with young lovers who promised nothing and treated me badly. Silly, silly girl.
I hadn’t heard from him in a long time. The last few times we’d seen each other were quite tense. He kept bringing up this issue of marriage and living together, was possessive and jealous and upset that I didn’t seem willing to let my guard down, while all the while I was having it out with myself, wishing, if only he’d been thirty years younger. Twenty maybe, or even ten. I’d seen a picture of him as a younger man—he had once looked like a cross between Paul Newman and James Dean. A truly gorgeous man. It wasn’t surprising; he still cut a very handsome figure. Had broken many hearts, obviously. I was their avenger, he said. He never did want to tell me his age. Star crossed lovers? I guess we’ll never know. Many times I thought of picking up the phone and saying I’d love to see him, and I know he wouldn’t have begrudged me the fact that I’d turned him down for simple movie or dinner dates countless times before. But I was struggling with my own demons, and any kind of flirtation was more than I was prepared to deal with. When I got Coco, I was delighted to adopt a dog who looked exactly like Phillip’s. She’d been a female, but they were the same size, had the same colouring, both incredibly sweet and affectionate. So of course, Coco made me think of him often. But I had a bad feeling these past few of years. I thought I should look him up on the internet to see if anything turned up, but I kept putting it off.
Today is a beautiful, sunny, crisply cool autumn day. It made me think of Phillip for some reason. One of the times he’d asked me to drive his Mercedes to the Eastern Townships to spend a little time at his cottage. The same kind of weather. I drove extremely fast. He was a bit worried, but also delighted that I was enjoying myself, and assured me he’d pay for the speeding ticket, if we got one, adding though that the policeman would probably recognize him and let him go. He got away with a lot of things like that. He knew I loved horses and had taken riding lessons long ago, and he offered to bring me to the local riding school for a private refresher course. We had an incredible meal at a local restaurant later. The kind that takes reservations months in advance, though they always had a table for him. All the years I knew him and whenever we spent time together, I tried to figure out if I could genuinely fall in love with him, or whether I’d always simply be infatuated with his clout and his bank account. But there was no separating the man from what he had become, had cultivated for many decades of his life. So today I came home after walking Coco and decided I must look him up on the net, must know for certain. If nothing turned up, then I would call him and ask him to pick me up so we could do something together, anything. A drive, a movie, a meal, a walk on the mountain, anything, but always, great conversation and wonderful stories. But I had a premonition I wouldn’t be calling him today, or any day.
And there it was. Gone. Over two and a half years ago already. Gone, and no more tomorrows to make up for lost time. R.I.P. Phillip, I’ll always remember you, you were a good man.