A few weeks before the allied invasion of Normandy is the only time I can remember any details. I asked Anatoly for help with another project I had developed—as always he said yes—then as always he stole my ideas, my completed materials, bashed me in the head and left me for dead. The upside was he was on that freighter out of Brest the Germans sank in the North Sea instead of me (he had my ticket and papers). He went to the bottom of the ocean rather than me. That memory always makes me smile. A bit of poetic justice I think.

And when we were hiding out in the Carpathian Mountains trying to escape the Black Death I vaguely remember him doing the same sort of thing. It just seems like some people—or I should say—some souls—are born to betrayal. It’s apparently their contribution to the self-weaving fabric of human evolution and the unfolding tragedy of the human condition. He did it with Impressionism, he did it with Cubism—he even did it with the Hudson River School, Dadaism and Post-Modern Abstract but I don’t remember any more than that. It’s just as well I guess.

And some souls are born into this world to be betrayed—I guess that’s my contribution.

Once or twice a month I come by the gallery—sometimes I step inside when he’s talking to a customer but leave if it looks like he’ll finish and come my way. Sometimes I just stand outside looking in like right now—it looks like he’s finishing up for the day. His little mannerisms never change—from lifetime to lifetime—the way he walks—especially if he’s carrying something—that habit he has of clearing his throat and twisting his neck at the same time. Ah, there, right there—the way he hunches his shoulders and stops still whenever he’s trying to remember something.

Every time I come it’s the same thing. I hesitate, vacillate—can’t make up my mind to actually speak to him—ask him for help on the current project. I come, I decide not to ask knowing full well what will happen and leave but even as I’m walking away I know I’ll be back. I’m as big a fool as he is a bastard.

I see he’s going into the back room now where I suspect there’s a hidden safe—always a part of his closing ritual.

He’s the only one in this world who would fully grasp and appreciate what I’m doing—that’s always the case. If I ask him he’ll say yes of course then—just when he thinks he understands the underlying concepts and I’m thinking this time it’ll be different—he’ll stick it to me. He’ll kill me (or try) then take the project and call it his.

But the problem is—I desperately need to share what I have coaxed from the darkness with someone who can grasp what I have and what I’m doing. The relief and exquisite joy of sharing pure art and mystical illumination is almost more than the mortal heart and mind can tolerate. It is transcendent. There truly is no one else but the eternal bastard Anatoly to share it with. Talk about “The only game in town.”

I made eye contact with him a few days ago—that was probably a mistake. He didn’t recognize me except possibly as someone who has come into the gallery previously. Then there was the time I followed him after he left the shop to walk home. I almost caught up with him and tapped him on the shoulder.

If I had spoken to him—as soon as he looked directly into my eyes and heard my voice—the memories would have come flooding back to him then it would be too late for me. The love and communion of spirit would crush all sense of separateness and self-preservation and I again become his willing prey.

Ah—he’s locking up. He glances at me as he closes the door then looks at me again. He regards me apprehensively—he’s suspicious—he’s walking toward me—his pace quickening now. That’s it—the game is up.

It’s over. The bastard has me again.

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