The horizontal man twitched at the first ring and jumped up at the second; his naked feet stood snugly where his body had just lain, on a hand-woven carpet: Konya, Turkey, 1963. Carpets were still cheap in ’63, before mass tourism, and the lady of this house had certainly got a bargain. A master weaver created the carpet; and although she had ruthlessly cut the price beforehand, he, with the loving help of his family, had still put his heart into it and woven a work of art. Now it lay on the floor of a small room in her big Manhattan apartment, one of many items collected during decades of world travel.
Madame Boursicot began her sojourns in the 50s, when a moderate fund, left to her by a deceased relative, suddenly, and to Mme Boursicot inexplicably, enlarged itself many times, allowing her to cease gainful employment and become something of an aristocratic nomad. She unshackled herself from a pesky husband, who was unsuited to such living, and started with deltas; then deserts, high mountains and tropical islands; and finally, just a few years ago, third world cities — monstrous, sprawling metropili, the poorer the better.
The vertical man now straightened his clothes, pushed his hair around, and took a lighter from an upturned silver bell: Jaipur, India, 1971. Mme. Boursicot had bought the bell on a desert trip to Rajastan. She had been more interested in the apprentice silversmith, a dark-skinned, turbaned Rajastani, than his wares, and she paid a large sum to impress this young man. Despite his inexperience, in his eagerness to please, he had etched around the bell exquisite dancing Krishnas, bare-footed and flute blowing. Now, unfortunately, the bell was nothing more than a depository for knickknacks and the Krishnas danced on their heads. It had been hanging from the underside of the top shelf of a hand-carved cabinet: Moluccas, Indonesia, 1990. But recently, feeling cluttered, Mme Boursicot had relieved herself of this cabinet and other items in an attempt to unclutter herself.
Forty years of collecting had filled the rooms. Space was one thing, but what bothered Mme. Boursicot even more was the lack of themes. Everything clashed. Chinese brush paintings were unsightly behind Masaii tribal woodcarvings. Pakistani hand-woven drapes looked peculiar against Lebanese urns. Everything was at odds with each other: tables did not match their chairs; sofas did not match their cushions; carpets their rugs, and so on. The mismatching was so upsetting to Mme Boursicot that she finally decided on single themes for each room, shifted pieces in and out where themes permitted, and ejected all else.
The man used the lighter to ignite a cigarette and put it back with Krishna. He was wanted — the bell was a summons from his wife: Mme Boursicot. The man paused outside of his wife’s office and stubbed out the half-smoked cigarette in an ashtray perched on the head of a stone-carved, rice-paddy god: Bali, Indonesia, 1989.
Mme. Boursicot sat regally behind an ebony desk: Montevideo, Uruguay, 1984. The desk was a monster but fitted the theme of her office: South American jungles. Hardwood furniture took up the floor space; stuffed birds, animal skins, snakeskins, and tribal handicrafts took the walls and ceiling. She even played sounds-of-the-jungle CDs to fill out the ambience. The man closed the door behind him and stood before the desk, like an employee about to be reprimanded by his superior.
Fifteen years of marriage had not bonded this couple. The man was happy enough, although sometimes he did feel like one of her prizes. His life was simple and mind uncluttered. Mme. Boursicot, however, had never successfully filled her emptiness and had nothing in her with which to touch her husband. She had run to every corner of the earth and brought back treasures to please a king but had never escaped from or filled that gaping void deep inside of her. And her recent spate of rearranging, which was about to come to a climax, had not changed much.
Looking up at him, she said, “Darling, as you know I have recently been rearranging things here, putting things right that should have been put right long ago. Everything was so mixed up and nothing matched, but now everything, I think, has its place — everything except you”.
She fell silent; she had blurted out the words in a barbarous fashion and now felt remorse for her lack of tact. She felt dirty and kept her mouth shut. Everything was supposed to have been ordered and right.
The barefooted man dropped his head, turned, and left the room. She knew him as Loggi: Zanzibar 1985, part of a delta tour of Africa.
© Paul S. Davey, 2000