|What became known as Sandy's Room|
Richard and Peter were a couple. They had run a hotel in southwest France before their Provence hotel. And before that, Richard was an accountant - or something of the sort, something... well, stuffy but successful. He became besotted with Peter, the artist, from the moment they met. Which was many years previously. It was Peter who dragged them off to France, and I’m sure Richard’s life was much more settled before they met. But he loved him.
|Peter Cuff, officiating|
One day I arrived and Peter was in a bad mood. Acting foul. Very out of character. I told him so. "I have to be the Bad Cop," he retorted. "Richard’s not around."
Peter also collected dogs. At one point they had three, who more or less had the run of the restaurant but most especially of the terrace.
Then in the summer of 2009, after maybe fifteen years, Peter decided to clean the pool after lunch. It was a quiet time. Guests were still out touring the wonders that are Provence. Lunch guests had headed off. Richard went to their home across the road to do some book-keeping. The staff drove off on their break before the dinner rush.
And when the maid came back, she found Peter’s clothes folded neatly on a chaise-longue and Peter floating, face down, in the pool. No one knows how long he’d been there. His body too hot from working in the sun, he had died instantly of what the French call hydrocution upon diving into the pool to cool off.
Richard was never the same. I just happened to call shortly after the accident, to ask if there was room at the inn because I needed to get away from Paris. He said there was, and just before hanging up, told me that Peter had died. That’s all.
I still have the e-mail he sent me three months later. It ended, "Despite the fact that you and I have always had verbal jousting sessions, I must say that your visit came at the right time for me and helped me to unload a lot of my stress. Hope it wasn't too hard for you!!" Typical Richard. Very understated. Very guarded. Very cards-to-his-chest.
From that point on, every time I came down, we’d have almost every meal together, the dogs (now only two left) lying under the table. He invited me to his home, although only briefly. We went on several food runs together. We exchanged Christmas cards. And every card, every e-mail, from that point on was signed Rxxxx. Kisses from Richard.
About a week ago I flew back to France. And before I could get down to see him again, I got an e-mail from someone I’d met down there, a fellow guest at the hotel. He was sorry to tell me that Richard had died.
It took me a week to screw up my courage. I called the hotel. The kidney had been removed... but the surgery caused a double pulmonary embolism that got the better of my favorite old curmudgeon. In classic black humor, I remembered an old doctor’s joke about the operation having been a success but unfortunately the patient died. I’m sure Richard would have enjoyed that joke.