EDINBURGH, THIS TIME (MORE OR LESS), ELIOT, RACH
Gordon was sitting, without motive and unarmed, in ‘the Final Drop’ enjoying a quenching bevvie, when a noticeable stranger walked into his universe. He watched him closely for a few moments; he did rather resemble Thomas in many ways. The object of attention became aware his presence was being recorded, so the observer transmitted one of his irresistible smiles. About half an hour later, he went back to the bar to get another half; Gordon followed.
“I’ll get that,” he said forthrightly, “I’m Gordon, by the way.”
“Thanks, nice to meet you; Eliot,” offering his hand and added, “I always accept drinks from strangers!” They sat in the corner and swapped introductory stories; some time elapsed.
“... I work at the Gallery of Modern Art, started there recently actually, in marketing…” Eliot explained.
“Sounds interesting; I’m quite into modern art,” Gordon said, keen to impress.
“Pop in some time, just ask for me.”
“What do you do?”
“I’m in the wine business, a merchant down in Leith.”
“Nice one – I’m a big red fan.” His eyes lit up, shining and naive. He continued: “lived in Edinburgh long?”
“No, not very,” Gordon lied, face surprisingly straight; then again, he must’ve got pretty good at telling lies by now. “I moved here a few months ago from St. Andrews,” he plumped up the fabrication then added a 100% spoonful of truth; “I’m staying in a flat in the New Town, off Dundas Street.”
“I was at uni here, decided to stay. I love Edinburgh,” Eliot elaborated affectionately. “I’m sharing a flat in Bruntsfield.”
Gordon found Eliot very easy to talk to and was probably a little too forward that night, what he told him about himself. But enough to get him curious, hooked even. The two companionable men moved on to Campbell’s and on to the red; good choice, Gordon thought.
“Do you fancy going to a club later?” he asked.
“Club, err, where?”
“‘The Red Bar’, off Broughton Street,” without sounding too familiar with Edinburgh’s geography.
“Oh right. Heard of it, never been there though. Don’t know why not.”
“Too intense an atmosphere perhaps!”
“Ha! Yeah, let’s go for it.”
They did. Then back to Gordon’s place, having opted for the nearest, much later. Then the 1787, the old smoothie. Eliot had crossed the threshold into another dimension, he didn’t regret it, and signed on the dotted in purest red. Gordon was ecstatic about having a new soul mate and relished telling Eliot about many of his previous adventures; he always appeared to be interested. He was particularly jealous when Gordon mentioned the artists he’d known; one night, as he revealed his collection of red wines, that cellar of souls so to speak…
“… You met David?” Eliot strained out.
“Yes, he was a friend of Marat and president of the Jacobins; well, for a few weeks at least.”
“Our party, the revolutionary party. Do you like his stuff?”
“Yeah, some of it… in a certain way.”
“Well, you know, it’s a bit dramatic and posed; stylised propaganda.”
“On the right side though, our side,” Gordon countered, all high and mighty.
“Caught the mood of the times, no doubt?”
“Aye. I remember when Jacques-Louis was arrested after Robespierre, in Thermidor… I mean August, erm, 1794, and held prisoner in a studio. It belonged to one of his pupils, an… acquaintance of mine…” He laughed at the way he’d unconsciously stressed the word but didn’t divulge his thoughts on this mystery person. “… Anyway, I took him some painting materials, to apologise for going against Robespierre and explain why. He seemed to understand.”
“How long was he locked up for?”
“To the end of the year. He was eventually pardoned the following October, I think.”
“What was he like?” Eliot, excited to know more.
“A big bloke actually, quite fit and active. Hell of a fencer too. He had lovely bright eyes.” Gordon paused for a second or four as he briefly jumped time barriers. “He painted a remarkable self-portrait after he was imprisoned in this studio; most unlike any of his ‘grand classical myth’ stuff,” gesturing suitably flamboyantly, “very simple and honest. Shows the essence of the man, still shaken by Marat’s death, as I was.”
“Yeah, I know which one you mean. It’s in the Louvre, I think. Lots of browns, quite romantic in fact.”
Eliot joined Gordon in relishing the moment; the hazy French red rendered the night as fluid as those memories and quietly closed it down.