Everyone has their nemesis. An unlucky few have more than one mortal enemy, but for most members of this spinning clump of debris that we call planet Earth, one nemesis is adequately sufficient.
More fortunate for the vast majority of us is that this planet is so vast, so enormous, that we are never likely to meet our own specially accorded foe. Indeed, if God were to keep tabs on such things he would need no more than two hands to record those occasions where such enemies met. Indeed, if there were such a God, a God who was invested with the power of omniscience, then he wouldn't need much provocation to recollect those rare occasions when such meetings occurred for they are so powerfully loaded, so charged with oppositional energies, that they would provide him with some of his most memorable celestial flubs.
Certainly, I wouldn't have met my own nemesis had it not been for a microscopic dewdrop of fat dissolving in the lower part of my colon; a single tear of cholesterol lodged at the thick end of an intestinal villus somewhere north of my rectum, awoken from its slumber of a decade or more. Such an occurrence would not have been momentous had this particular dew drop of fat not contained the last molecules of an intense LSD encounter experienced some years earlier. Psychedelic flotsam, so to speak, that had laid dormant in a cholesterol comfy blanket: protected, embryonic, and happy to remain until I died and the inevitable process of tissue dismemberment rocked it free without undue effect.
God knows what had dislodged it, but the effect was powerful nonetheless: room meld, carousel trails, the red rouge of the wallpaper flushing in time to my heart beat. The zenith of the experience bringing me headlong to a prolonged and hypnotic meditation of an ancient stereo that stood in the corner of the lounge.
I am not, I confess, a man of modern gadgetry, at least not now. It may be true that youngsters of today keep whole libraries of music on devices no bigger than a matchbox, that whole archives are transported in one's pocket, but here, in this house the CD still abounded. And so, in my state of profound mesmer, I was sucked into the internal workings of my ancient and jump prone disc player that had so entertained us since we bought it sometime circa 1989. And, once inside, I found myself scampering across the mirrored surface of a disc that was encrypted with David Bowie's infamous Heroes album. The rough red of the laser chasing as I slipped and circled.
It was the LSD that drove me forward, that and a Robert Fripp power chord whipping me towards the centre of a track entitled Moss Garden: layers of ethereal Eno, musical glass twinkling in the black quiet of the universe, the oblique pull of a Japanese koto pressed against a western jet burn. It was then, just as the last dog of the track barked, that a strange creature appeared at the edge of my vision. A shadowy something that beckoned me towards its home at the disc's epicentre.
I stopped running.
Who are you? I shouted above the dying strains of Bowie's Moss Garden.
I am the spirit of freedom, the voice called out, I have come to set you free.
Two years later, I found myself at the periphery of a well heeled cafe in the St. Martin district of St. Troupe. My dear friend, Harvey, bedecked in all his naval grandeur, having delivered me to the nearby port of Havrent some three months earlier. I can't quite recall how I met Harvey, but knew that it was some time after my divorce and the subsequent sale of the matrimonial home.
Regrettably, my wife left me the moment I publicly announced my intention to gender realign; my divorce sealed in almost the same amount of time it took to iron out the man who resided within. Only a trace residue of that homme sauvage remains now; little enough thankfully that I can live comfortably within my own skin: an overly jaunty jaw, a brow that is a little too pronounced, an overset stare that unsettles small children.
The sale of the house paid for the surgery, the remaining balance allowing me to resign my professorship and renounce all ties to a distinguished career as a disease hunter extraordinaire. Thus my great voyage of the soul commenced, despite the raised eyebrows of a few wilted colleagues and the approbation of those distant relatives who publicly acknowledged their bloodline connection after my surgery. The joy of my leaving tinged only by the sadness of having to relinquish all claims to the discovery of the eponymously named Haunt's syndrome. Although my own name had been officially given to the condition (a rare but debilitating breakdown of the cerebral cortex) there was a minor, but long standing, dispute with a team at MIT who claimed the disease as their own some three years prior to the publication of my research.
Bowie's Spirit of Freedom had given me a greater calling though. There was more to life than the naming of things that were toxic to the soul, and so I left my dreary existence in the Northern Isles to take up a new calling as a travelling flanneur, belly flopping in Southern Europe to mooch the arrondissement of the French Rivière wherein my comings and goings were less remarked upon than they were in my native land.
The coffee in France was markedly better too, and this particular cafe with its clumpy decor and uneven seating was pronounced for two reasons: firstly, it served some of the finest au lait that man or woman had ever ground and percolated, secondly, it beamed wall to wall wrestling broadcasts.
I had always loved wrestling, a fondness that bloated in childhood - its appeal resting not so much on any final outcome, but within the enfilade of spectacle that ensued within any given joust. Wrestling, I always contended, was an apt homage to the act of living itself, where tragedy and comedy invert as readily as the chiaroscuro lit contents of any wrestling arena.
This particularly cafe, I am happy to report, broadcast both British and French variations of the sport as well as a backlog of classic Lucha libra. Of course, a smattering of the now ubiquitous American WWF was inevitable, though the management of the cafe shared my own view that such entertainment was was a little too gouache, even by the standards of wrestling.
And so it came to pass that it was here that I would meet my nemesis. The denouement of this particular tale congealing during a mid morning caffeine fix and accompanying rerun of a 1970's showdown featuring the now deceased Big Daddy. The visceral pleasures that the match promised rudely interrupted when I sensed the presence of something so dark and alien that the very core of my soul shook with fear.
I sipped carefully before twisting a little to the right and was slightly disappointed to observe nothing more than a well heeled vieille dame some three tables away. The woman porting an intent stare that told me she too felt that same churning discomfort in the pit of her stomach that had so affected me. She grimaced upon eye contact, and it was then that I realised that it was no external object that had provoked our reactions, but each other.
Big Daddy dutifully paused, his mouth held open in a theatrical O; his on screen nemesis making for the ropes to effect a full frontal belly charge from atop the corner pillar, and, as he fell, all of time itself seemed to freeze.
"Hello," I stammered, knowing for certain that the lady some three tables away spoke nothing but English.
The woman furrowed her brow. "I've been looking for you for some time," she said with a sureness of diction that suggested something of a pre rehearsal.
"Have we met before?" I asked and the woman shook her head. I had to admit that something stirred at that moment, that the atrophied stump of my manhood glistened and poked itself free of the nest that it had made for itself between my legs. The woman too flushed, and before I knew it my nemesis had beguiled me into following her to a small basement flat situated on the outskirts of Montmartre Place.
The accidental meeting was, of course, a ruse - a setup designed to lure me into the clutches of my nemesis, and I, stupidly, had fallen for her charms. Once ensconced within the confines of her lair, the old woman shed her coyness, dropped the door latch and set about her plan to vaporise my soul so that she might exist in that curiously conflict free state of being that so alludes most of this planet. My captor, of course, suggested that I was free to leave at any time, yet the reality was far different. The door firmly locked while we slept, the nemesis seldom leaving to replenish supplies and always mindful to bolt me in when she did.