The day was just like any other day in those days. It was the autumn of 1969. We were just coming off the heels of The Woodstock Music and Art Fair, The Vietnam War was in full swing, and although we didn’t know it yet the internet had just been born.
I got home from school to see my mother’s car in the driveway. Jimmy, Donna and I had torched a J while walking home and I was a little bit buzzed. I was not expecting Mom to be home so I looked at my watch. I thought I might have been running late; but my watch confirmed that indeed she was home early. I headed up the walk and opened the front door. Laughter and conversation could be heard from the back of the house. It seemed to be a mix of English and Spanish. I headed back. I wanted to see what was going on.
We had a Formica table with chrome legs and matching chairs in the kitchen. That was where I found my mom. She was engaged in animated conversation with a man I did not know. He seemed to be small in stature. He was slim with salt and pepper hair, worn long for a man of his age in those days, although it was a good bit shorter than mine. His most striking feature was his mustache, a long waxed and twisted handlebar that curled upwards from the corners of his mouth. His eyes were wide, and mirthful. They appeared inquisitive and knowing at the same time. A walking stick with a silver handle leaned against the table, next to him.
The table was decorated with an overflowing ashtray and a half empty bottle of whiskey; I think it might have been ‘Cutty Sark’. A couple of highball glasses sat next to a Danish wooden horse and a stick of driftwood. It looked like these two had been there for a while. The stranger went quiet and looked at me when I entered the room and my mother erupted in uncontrollable giggles when she turned and saw me.
“Sun,” she said to me.
I should explain that my mother always called me Sun. She said it was because I was so bright but I think it was because she couldn’t spell. She was an artist – a sculptor and a painter, not a writer. Anyway…
“Sun,” she said, “This is my old friend Sal. He’s in town for a couple of days and popped by for a visit.” She seemed to be a bit more buzzed than I was.
My mother’s friend Sal stood and, when he stood, I noted that he was not as small as I had originally thought although he wasn’t exceptionally tall either. He appeared to be of average height, maybe eight inches taller than my mother who stood an even 5 feet. He walked around the table and his hands could not be still. He constantly flourished long thin fingers around his mouth unconsciously following the sweep of his flamboyant mustache. Finally he stilled and bent slightly at the waist extending his hand to me.
“Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech” he said as he shook my hand. He continued, in heavily accented English, “I am a friend of your Mother’s. We met in Paris. I believe it was 1934.” He looked at my mom for confirmation of the date and she nodded her head in assent.
Reaching into his waistcoat pocket he removed a small square of cloth. I believed it to be a handkerchief. When he unfolded it I saw that there was a clock face painted thereon. He stared at this clock for a moment and then folded it back up and put it in his pocket.
“Llego tarde, tengo que ir,” he said in Spanish. “I’m late, I must go.” He shook my hand again, kissed my mother on the cheek and breezed past me, out the front door. My mom was smiling and had a faraway look in her eyes.
“Well, shit,” she said after he had gone. “I gotta sleep this off. You’re on your own for dinner.” She headed down the hall back to her room. I heard her bedroom door squeak on its hinges as she closed it softly, then I went to the cupboard and got a glass of my own. I poured two fingers of Cutty and sat down to drink in the chair that my mother had recently vacated. That was when I saw the painting. It sat on the floor leaning against the wall.
I remember it well although I never saw it again after that night.