Who knows what paths lead us back onto the one for which we might be destined? I would see them regularly in a cafe I usually spent a couple of hours in several afternoons a week when I was living in the city. I would have been in my early to mid-twenties. They would have been, I would discover, around sixty. It was a part of the town I both liked and disliked: I liked that the language school wasn't far from my flat, and I liked that there were galleries nearby, the Botanic Gardens, a river, a few charity shops that sold good books and cheap quality clothing. But I didn't like so much that many of the people who lived in the area seemed to work in finance, law, real estate. It felt not so much stuffy as vaguely stuffed, with many of the cafe regulars and the people I would pass on the streets those who didn't wear the expensive clothes, clothes they no doubt bought not in the charity shops I frequented but the expensive stores on George Street, but flaunted them. I couldn't entirely complain, I suppose, since, further down the clothes chain, I could pick up their superior goods second-hand.
It wasn't as if I was poor though; in my teens I was in a couple of films and several TV shows, and most of the money I earned my parents put aside until I was twenty one. It was not long afterwards that I decided to move out of London and up to Scotland, and I had enough savings to pay for the flat I bought in cash, no mortgage at all. Why didn't I continue acting and make even more money, one might ask, but that is another story, or rather one for later.
During the five years I lived in the city I made almost no friends except those I happened to teach. Every month or two the language school would have a party, usually predicated on the departure of some students, and it was there I would talk and create what I once described as parametrical friendships: friendships with the clear parameters of the job I was doing and the inevitability of the students leaving. The students often studied for about six months, occasionally for a year, and then were absorbed into the city or moved onto another one, or another country, or back home. I never swapped email addresses with anyone, indeed was one of the few people I knew who didn't have an email account. I would see them in the class, sometimes arrange to meet them in the evening after a tutorial, or meet them at one of the parties. Was I lonely? It is a word I have not used since I was seventeen, a word that I feel is the absence of the social within the expectation of the social. Once I removed myself from that expectation and found my own rhythm, it was as if the order of my life saw much socialising as an intrusion rather than its absence as a loss.
However, I would get immense pleasure from observing the social interactions between others, and maybe liked the vicarious element because it required so little commitment from me. As I would sit in cafes and watch people talk, laugh and occasionally cry, I knew I could get up at any time, and go to the bathroom, get myself a cup of tea or coffee, a piece of cake or leave the cafe altogether. It was closer to television than to cinema, and certainly far removed from the theatre. The former required no more than a switch of the controls to exit the world that was being shown; in cinema leaving always seemed like a mildly aggressive gesture against the rest of the audience who were staying, and in the theatre this was additionally troublesome because there were also of course the actors whom you would be offending. I seemed to need to live as close to my own pace of life as possible, and most social interactions I reckoned possessed a sort of compromised rhythm, a rhythm that belonged to no one.
What interested me about this couple, or rather these two people who would seem to meet up most days in the late afternoon, was that they appeared to possess an almost identical rhythm, with almost no sense of compromise, awkwardness or irritation. Whatever their relationship happened to be, it was one that gave me a sense of hope. I must have seen them in the cafe over the years at least a hundred times, perhaps many more, and I don't recall ever seeing them with anyone else, and only occasionally did I see them on their own. Maybe they were waiting for the other person to come and I left the cafe before they did, or the other person had already left when I arrived. Initially I thought they were a couple who met after their work, and would have a coffee before going home. Then, after a couple of months, I surmised they were lovers, and after that assumed they might simply be friends. What I found so unusual about them wasn't only that they were so rhythmically in sync, but that I couldn't work out exactly what type of relationship they were in. With most couples I didn't find the same sense of rhythmic compatibility, but it was nevertheless clear they were together.
Sometimes at the language school, and then at the parties, I would watch as students would become attached to each other; either creating friendships or developing closer ties. I was also of course part of this process, as I made friends and even occasionally took lovers, but I always felt removed from the process because I was teaching. Some may have found it unethical that I would have dalliances with some of the young women, but was I not also a young man? Some of the students were older than me, and were looking for some entertainment before returning home to Chile, the Ukraine, Venezuela and Russia, to name but four of the many countries from which they came. Sometimes, with the people I slept with during those years, I was hardly their first choice, but it was as if they wanted to have a passionate affair with a local, found no one, and settled for a brief fling with their tutor. Nobody ever reluctantly left the country because of me, and for them it was also finally parametrical, contained within the confines of the geographical borders that they would soon leave. I suppose I remained a stranger; they certainly remained strangers to me, and yet I was not cynical. I was realistic. I yearned it seemed for the type of relationship I saw in the older couple, or perhaps for the one that had led me to give up acting.
So I shall say a little bit more about my brief acting career, and say that it ended because at the youthful age of seventeen I fell in love with my co-star, who was my age but emotionally worldly, capable of extricating her feelings when she knew that I had strength of feeling but weakness of character, and shifted her allegiances to someone whom I suspect was more the other way round. Alice had been a child star, and the role she played opposite me was to be her first adult part. I was very much the second lead, having mainly appeared on television and in two films where my roles had been much more minor than hers. During the rehearsal period, and the first week of the shoot, we slept together, and then when she pulled away saying we ought to be professional about it, I couldn't sleep, couldn't remember my lines and the producers decided that I should be replaced.
I was indeed replaced, and the person who replaced me became both the leading man in the film and, as I saw in pictures at the premiere, the man in her life also. He was less well known than me when the film was shot, but he would go on to become famous, an actor better looking, with more technical training and probably much better instincts. The one thing I knew he would not have in greater abundance than I had, that I would always possess, was observational skill, the ability to focus on the details of an occasion and extract from it the many and myriad motives and gestures that would take place.
But perhaps these are skills that have come to me after the event, after the emotional fallout of losing a young woman whom I had slept with no more than a few times, and whom I promptly lost to another man as he quite literally took my part in love and in film. Of course how can anybody take seriously a seventeen year old's emotional crisis after a girlfriend leaves him for another boy; is this not the inevitable learning curve of a person's burgeoning maturity? Perhaps usually this is so, but for whatever reason, and possibly for reasons connected to my small-scale celebrity when I was in my early to mid-teens, the rejection was nothing less than catastrophic.
Before meeting Alice, and after her, what I have always believed in is purposefulness, in my daily life being full of activities that would help augment whatever I wanted to become. When I was younger this would have been to become a successful actor. Everything I would do was towards this end, and even at the age of ten I would be running or swimming every day, reading various playwrights whose plays I would eventually appear in, and reading out loud from books improving my diction. I was an absurd little figure, but a contented one as I knew that since the age of seven I wanted to be an actor, and indeed from the age of ten I managed to get parts in film, and parts in a few TV shows.
The film with Alice was supposed to make me a star, an idea not only in my own head but also a statement that came out of my agent's mouth. Working with Alice Marquez I could move into leading roles in films and ignore TV altogether he believed. Alice had never been in television, her family reckoning it was a medium beneath the gifts of their daughter. Her parents were very different from mine; her mother was an English actress who had appeared in various plays before retiring in her early thirties to have a family and to teach at an acting school. Alice's father was the son of a diplomat, and became a well-known novelist, famous for following in the Conrad, Nabokov tradition of writing beautiful prose in what was not his first language: his parents were from Argentina. He was born in Buenos Aires and settled in the UK in his mid-teens when his father had a diplomatic appointment here, and made it his home even after his parents returned.
And what was I, or rather who were my parents? Both my parents came from the Isle of Skye, and both worked for the council, and we left the island when I was eleven when I started getting acting work, and based ourselves in London where they both managed to get similar jobs: my father as a repair man for the council again; my mother working in a benefits office. They knew no one in London, and when I asked if they were happy they would usually reply that they were happy that I was happy, that their only child had at so early an age found point and purpose. As they said it though I couldn't help but wonder if the move had left them devoid of point or purpose themselves; indeed whether their life had ever had point or purpose beyond their son.
I could go on to describe how they looked, what Alice's parents were like and so on, but instead I will devote descriptive space to Alice alone. She was as pretty as a picture, or rather as pretty as her publicity photos, which justified the all too fallacious claim that the camera never lies. Her pictures were honest, and so when I saw her on the first day of rehearsals I wasn't quite prepared for the beauty that she emanated. She didn't so much give off an air of beauty; her looks left a trail, with everyone on the set awkward in her presence and slightly drunk in the wake of it. It was a mildly concussive beauty, and all the more so because it had so recently appeared. The previous year she would have been a girl, and now she was a woman.
Alice was of average height, with the black hair of her father and the pale skin of her mother, the full lips again of her father, and the long-lashes, small, ever so slightly-upturned nose, and appled cheekbones of her mother. Her parents couldn't have asked for a better distribution of their own attractiveness, and one would sometimes see pictures of her two older brothers and an older sister and see how beauty is the gene pool as physical lottery: none of the others would have been described as more than merely pretty or mildly handsome.
I was of course utterly smitten from our first read-through, but so was everybody else, though I assume they haven't spent years recovering from the after effect of a brief affair with Alice. My problem lay not in my fascination with Alice, it lay in Alice's very brief fascination with the figure narrating this story: her beauty seduced me, but it was her curiosity that destroyed me. For three weeks, only three weeks, we were together, and she insisted that what she wanted was for one person to understand her, that to see in her what no photograph could capture, what no autograph hunter would ever understand.
So for three weeks I was the person who understood her; I was the person who would lie next to her in bed as she would cry and tell me how neglected she felt as the youngest child, as her father would busy himself writing the most perfect sentences written by a foreigner in any language, while the mother insisted in concocting an acting method that would lie dead centre between Stanislavskian emotion and Laban's bodily techniques. Alice said she could only reach them by trying to be like them, and so that is why she became an actress. She admitted she possessed none of what seemed like my huge ambition, and hoped this might be her last role. I said I hoped it would be for me the first lead role of many, that she would continue to act, and that we would become a famous acting couple, known for the adventurousness of the roles we took and the life we would lead.
However, after less than a month she said that was enough. I did not understand her, she insisted, I could not know her, nobody could probably ever know her. We would play our roles and be good professionals, but she would not share a bed with me again. So of course I consequently became a hopeless professional: fluffing lines, showing signs of distraction, being off-hand with people on the set. I hated myself not only because Alice had rejected me, but also because I was rejecting the kindness of others and the values my youthful self thought he possessed. I was brought up to believe one should always be courteous to strangers, to view everyone as equals and to keep any moods to myself. I was failing terribly, and after a week of my truculence and amateurishness the director and producer decided to replace me. Retrospectively I am glad they did: now my feelings of that time are less feelings towards Alice than those of shame concerning myself. Yet what happened I believe was that I got caught in her rhythm and felt bereft without it. Her strength of personality destroyed my own, yet there was no moment that I could recall where Alice was difficult or demanding on set, or with people around her. With me she was never cruel or rude; all she said was that it was over, and said it politely and gently.
Why couldn't I have walked away from the situation and yet continued playing the role? I could not escape it would seem Alice's rhythm, and so every movement she made seemed stronger than my own, stronger than that of anyone around me. For example whenever she would leave the set during that terrible week, and I would be left there and an assistant would turn to me and ask if I needed a glass of water or anything else, I would glare at them as if they had no right to exist in the same space that Alice had vacated. Her body movements, her voice, her hand gestures all contained a seductive rhythm that made me feel everybody else's body language and voice inflections were clumsy and coarse. Perhaps had I never shared a rhythm that was also intimate and sexual, these other rhythms would not have affected me with such intensity. I was after all the only person on set acting so disgracefully.
After that I gave up acting, did the TEFL course, and taught for a couple of years in Turkey. Nobody knew who I was there and that was partly the intention: to find work amongst people who would not be wondering if I happened to be a person they had seen in a couple of films and in TV shows. I taught mainly in Istanbul, teaching rich children whose parents would arrive outside the schools in cars that indicated the children would be mastering the English language with the intention of expanding on their parents' considerable wealth. Sure enough, most of the students weren't interested in the culture of Britain but the language of commerce, and the school, with a few students excepted, was a dispiriting experience. Only an occasional trip out of the city and the awareness that soon enough I would be able to access my teen earnings and buy my own flat helped me get through those two years. Of course most of the other teachers had to get through their time there with no such hope, and I would occasionally see a teacher quietly sobbing in the tiny staff room, aware, presumably, that she was little more than a house servant. I would often witness, sometimes towards myself but much more often towards the foreign female teachers, an attitude not unlike that I displayed during my difficult week after Alice and I split up, and it was during one of these occasions I half witnessed an event that seemed to mirror my own pain from years earlier.
It was one afternoon when a father came to see a colleague of mine and I was teaching in the class next door. He knocked abruptly, presumably walked into the room, and I overheard him saying, in English, and to all the pupils, that they should leave the room. He then said except for my colleague who would stay. I overheard a few other words, but as I asked my pupils to be quiet a moment while I went next door, while I was coming out into the corridor I saw the man pull the door shut so firmly that the glass panes in the top half of the door shattered. My colleague was no less so when I saw her sobbing over her desk. I quickly went and made her a cup of tea, asked her to wait there and drink it while I finished teaching my class, and that we could talk about what happened.
That afternoon we went to a cafe not far from the school, which was near Istanbul's busy Taksim square, and she explained that the father had told her his daughter must get a good grade.His concern was that she succeeded. The grades were inadequate, he said, and the C that she had received for a recent piece of work was entirely unacceptable. She then asked me if I saw him leaving the classroom. I said that I had, and she asked what I thought of him. Even though he was someone I saw for only a moment, and even though I was more concerned with how my colleague was than how he looked, I admitted that even that briefest of impression, during the most difficult of circumstances, nevertheless revealed that he was a physically handsome man. He would have been in his mid-thirties, and his daughter would have been between eight and nine. My colleague, whose name was Elaine, said that his wife had recently left him for another man: they were all actors. This other man was equally handsome, equally charming, and a lot richer. She had heard the news from the secretary a week earlier.
Three months later he withdrew his daughter from the school, and supposedly he moved out of the city altogether. His family had farm land in the south, and someone said that for a number of years he had intended to take it over and open a Pension - the land was near the sea. During this period Elaine and I became friends, but I was never very attracted to her, and chiefly I think because I could not find in another person the sense of movement in space that I found so elegant and enticing in Alice. I enjoyed talking to Elaine, would frequently eat with her, but during the meal she might get up and go to the bathroom, and the movements seemed so without grace I found myself mildly irritated, wishing that it had been Alice who had left to go to the toilet, knowing that she would have done so without brushing against the table, without leaning her head forward as she walked, without feeling as she walked whether she was overdressed or underdressed for any occasion. But I knew that this was not Elaine's problem, but my own. It was that I still hadn't found my own rhythm that I couldn't abide anyone else's, and it was as if the acting training I had been given over the years made me critical of the ineptitude with which most people moved.
Now the incident took place shortly after I had started teaching there, and it was around eighteen months later when I was thinking of taking a couple of weeks off and going back to Britain for the first time since I had arrived. Previously when I took time off I went to the Aegean coast, but this time I wanted to get further away from Istanbul, and yet didn't quite feel ready to go back home. Instead I went to the south, and to the very place where Elaine had said the father moved with his daughter. I went not at all with the expectation of seeing him there, though it was when Elaine mentioned the area in relation to him that I first became acquainted with it. After she did so I read a little about it, and thought it would be a part of Turkey that I would like to see before going back to the UK. Famous for its natural gases coming out of the chimera, and the Olympos village nearby with its ancient ruins, Cirali was also a protected area with no clumsy hotels blocking the sea front. I booked into a pension for ten days and walked each day between Cirali and Olympos or would go for walks up by the chimera. It was on one of the walks, on my way back, that I stopped off at one of the pensions which also had a fruit juice stall, when I saw serving there the father who had angrily turned up at the school.
As I ordered a juice made up of banana, orange, mango and pineapple, I got a better opportunity to study his face than I had when he passed by me so quickly in the corridor in Istanbul, and it was a visage that easily justified the back story to his life that Elaine had supplied me with when we talked about him that afternoon. He was an actor for much of his twenties, and he and his fiance appeared together in a well-known soap opera: though their characters were never lovers in the show, they played brother and sister in fact, after a couple of years of working together they got married, and the young girl whom he took out of the class was their only child. He supposedly got bored with acting and went into real estate with the money he had made, but the wife continued appearing in the TV show, and then became a star of another one. That would have only been around three years before, and she was known to be having an affair with her co-star. He asked for a divorce and managed to get custody of his daughter. His wife initially didn't challenge this, but latterly, around the time that he took her from the school, there had been stories in the paper saying that as the mother she thought she should have her daughter living with her.
Most of what Elaine knew she had gleaned from Turkish newspapers (she was quite fluent), and from colleagues at the school, and she never talked any more about if after that day. However seeing him now serving fruit juices at his pension, I wish I had asked her more questions, yet realised that maybe I would comprehend far more by observing his behaviour.
Over the next few days I would stop off at his pension after my walk, and order the juice and sit in cushioned and carpeted raised seating in the garden, reading a book and sipping my drink. Usually the people working there would be what I assumed were his parents and also his daughter. What I noticed in them was a marvellously collective rhythm, with the parents cooking in the back, the father serving in the front, and the daughter usually taking the food and the drinks over to where the customers would sit. Sometimes the father would wait on the customers, the mother work at the till, but one reason I sat each day at their cafe was not only because I wanted to observe this man who was himself a former actor, but also because I felt relaxed in their sense of calm: I might not have been sure about what I wanted to do with my life, but sometimes in these moments of quiet anxiety it feels good to be around people who do.
After a couple of days, and realising that his English was better than I first anticipated, I would speak to him a little about the business, and after a couple more days, and not long before I was due to return to Istanbul, I said that I recalled his daughter had studied where I was teaching. I didn't say anything about his angry removal of his daughter, but in time he told me anyway.
As he asked me how I ended up teaching in Istanbul, and I explained that I needed an alternative profession after giving up acting, so he started talking about his own acting career, in time about the relationship with his ex-wife, and eventually to removing his daughter from school. He believed that she could get as good an education here in the south, and he would feel much more relaxed knowing she was with his parents, rather than with an ex-wife whom he didn't want to speak badly of, but of whom he could not in good faith speak well.
They had married very young he said, and married perhaps almost because they felt professionally obliged to do so. They had both become successful while still in their early twenties, and appeared in several films together, though they were never so suitably attached he supposed than when they were on screen. Away from the cameras they didn't quite know what to do with themselves, and they both admitted, years afterwards, when they knew they shouldn't be together, that it was as if they required the complicity of the camera to function as a couple. One reason why they had their daughter was to see if there could be more than a camera that could keep them together, and found that their daughter could not. His wife he thought loved the camera more than Ebru, and that is why his ex-wife was in Istanbul, still in films, and why he was with his daughter in the south of Turkey.
I asked him when he last made a film, and he said shortly after his daughter's birth. He didn't need the camera anymore; he had Ebru. Eventually, one day at the school, after his wife and her boyfriend with whom she was then living, were supposed to pick her up and said, not for the first time, that they couldn't make it, he angrily arrived early and removed her for good from the school, and shortly thereafter moved to the south. His wife accepted that Ebru was better off with him and his parents, than with her and her boyfriend. At first when we started conversing I thought that he was being very revealing, but by the time we had finished talking an hour later I realised that he hadn't so much revealed himself as narrated a story I suspect many people would have already heard. He was of course a reasonably well-known former actor, and there would have been over the last year or two numerous people visiting the south who would have known his work, and who would have asked him why he had given up acting. I was given the story that he had no doubt offered to many others.
I thought this for at least two reasons. Firstly, he asked me almost no questions about my own acting career, even as I mentioned that I had been an actor too. Secondly, I knew that I could not have as smoothly explained my own extrication from acting. He had created a story that was like a protective layer: a plausible tale to insulate the chaotic feelings that he felt no desire to share, and the troublesome questions he might have otherwise felt obliged to answer. If he had been interested in exploring his feelings, I am sure he would have enquired more into mine.
In the remaining days I would say hello but we didn't talk again. I believed that what was interesting was to observe his life rather than ask questions about it. The information he gave might have been superficial, but the life he was leading contained its own rhythmic density - its own undeniable meaning.
I returned to Istanbul, taught for several months more, and then went back to London. I was then twenty two, and decided I wanted to move out of the English capital and up to Scotland, and that is when I bought the flat in Edinburgh and taught English there for five years. It was near the end of this period, after watching the couple in the cafe on many occasions without knowing anything about them, that I happened to see a long article in the newspaper where they were interviewed. The article was headlined 'Complicit in Art', and explained how Michael Dillon and Miranda Houston had acted in numerous plays together in the seventies, but retired from the acting profession in the eighties for various reasons. They had appeared together in productions of Hamlet, Macbeth, A Doll's House, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf and numerous others. Michael said he stopped acting because he wanted a family and preferred to give up the profession rather than compromise doing TV and advertising that was the antithesis of his stage work. He retrained and became a secondary school English teacher. Miranda said she also went on to have kids, but probably gave up chiefly because she couldn't find enough interesting roles. She sometimes would appear in a play if a friend she knew was directing it, or writing it, but as she got older she said she wanted to write about theatre as much as work on the stage, and she became a critic, a job she was still practising for the very paper I was looking at.
I realised I would have read her reviews occasionally, no matter if for reasons I've already mentioned I didn't go to the theatre much myself, and I would read them because she seemed someone well-attuned to the nuances of body language, and would write on theatre as if more interested in its capacity to imitate life than for its formal properties. She wouldn't comment on the quality of the performances; more on the dynamic of the situation. It was as if she was writing not on theatre as a form, but using theatre to work through various life problems that theatre happened to contain. I recall in one review she mentioned that love is an attraction of opposites, and that is why love inevitably destroys or fades. In another review she said one finds very few people with whom one is comfortable, and drink, drugs and tobacco will continue to be popular as long as we cannot find within ourselves these inner alignments of our body in relation to others.
Yet I don't think I had ever seen two people who seemed more aligned to each other than this couple whom I would see several times a week in my favourite cafe. Near the end of the article, after the interviewer provocatively asked if they had ever wanted to be more than professionally close, they both seemed to agree they found that closeness in working together, and that sense of affinity remained with them all these years later. Michael had been married three times, Miranda twice. Michael was now living with his third wife, while Miranda was living with her partner. Again the interviewer was provocative as he asked whether, as a consequence of all these marriages, was their closest tie with each other. Perhaps each answered cagily, aware that people to whom they were attached would be likely to read the interview. Michael said there are different ways in which a person could get close, and that from a certain perspective it was with Miranda that he had the deepest bond: he had never found another actor he was so drawn to working with. Miranda believed that Michael never understood the way she thought, but nobody anticipated better the way she moved, and occasionally, when somebody understands the way you move, perhaps on a very deep level they do understand the way you think. Michael laughed and said he didn't understand a word of what she had just said, while Miranda replied, saying exactly - but that Michael responded in a manner that said on another level he knew precisely what she meant.
The purpose of the interview was to promote a collection of Miranda's reviews and essays on theatre, and Michael had provided the book's foreward. He said he was honoured to be asked, and he loved the thought of one, last collaboration even if it wasn't on the stage. He admitted he missed more than anything working with Miranda, missed the rhythmic manner in which they second guessed each other, a sense of rhythm he suspected was very difficult to find in life - and he should know having gone through three marriages. I wondered, as I read this, what his wife might think if she happened to look at the article, but thought even more about how she might have felt if she would see Miranda and Michael sitting together in the Stockbridge cafe, finding a rhythm in life equal to the rhythm they presumably had on the stage.
Could they have sustained that rhythm as a couple? I suspect not. Yet it was an apparently small detail that led me back into acting, and a detail not entirely unconnected to this couple, to my relationship with Alice, and also, finally, perhaps to the actor in Turkey and his messy relationship with his wife that led to the peaceful existence he seemed to have found for himself in the south of Turkey. After reading the interview in the newspaper I went online and did a little research into Michael Dillon. He was a good enough looking man when I would see him in the cafe, but I suppose people would have called him striking when he was younger. Where in the cafe his eyes appeared gentle and wry, in the pictures they were assured and mocking, while his now grey hair, then, was almost black. His skin looked like it took a tan easily, and his body seemed like it could move more quickly than any around it. I looked for footage of his acting career but there wasn't any. A couple of interviews were available, though, and they described his looks and his body language not unlike how I have imagined them above. But there was little that surprised me in the pictures I saw of him when he was young. He was, like Miranda, someone who had obviously matured well, moved into late middle-age without collapsing into another face or body shape: they were easily recognizable. Miranda though was never youthfully beautiful, and I could understand why he never fell in love with her, and maybe at the same time why she wouldn't have fallen in love with Michael. She seemed in the cafe to have the measure of him, whatever that relationship happened to have been and that I couldn't quite work out. Maybe getting his measure happened early, and she knew that this was a man whom she could act opposite, but not a man with whom she would have wanted to share her life.
No, the surprise came in noticing that one of Michael's leading ladies in a play happened to be Alice's mother, and in one interview there was a description of their affair when they were both twenty one. It didn't last for more than a few months, but Michael referred to it as the relationship he might spend the rest of his life recovering from, even though it was Michael who believed he had done the hurting. I recalled a comment that Alice once made to me when we were lying in bed together, and she said that she had to be very careful: if one person had to do the hurting she would prefer it be her rather than anyone else. It distanced me from her that night, and the next morning she apologised for the comment, saying it said a lot about her insecurities, and nothing about her feelings for me. Was it a comment her mother had once made, I now mused, and a comment that came from Michael after the pain he had inflicted upon her?
I could not answer that, or at least wouldn't be able to do so without contacting Alice, which I felt was not what I wanted to do. What I did feel the need to do though was somehow find a way of returning to acting. Perhaps not television and film, but definitely the theatre, and to find in it something of the grace and rhythm I felt so evident in the anonymous couple, who now went by the names of Michael Dillon and Miranda Houston, and who would never know how unusually and subtly they may have influenced my life.
© Tony McKibbin