Franc sat stirring his coffee, bored and frustrated. Wondering why he had agreed to manage his father’s art gallery.
Not one person had visited the gallery all week.
I’m going to stand up to him, he thought, and tell him that I do not have to jump at every command he gives me. I should be my own man. I shouldn’t have left my last job for this.
To his relief a tall blond man walked into the gallery.
He walked around the room studying the paintings which were mostly his father’s. Franc willed himself not to jump in and try and make him buy one.
He didn’t look like he could spend fifty dollars on a painting.
At last the American approached Franc at the espresso machine.
“Hi there," he said in a strong American accent. “So is this gallery is exclusively for Eduardo? He hesitated, “Do you accept other artists' work?”
Franc shook the American’s hand. “Hi, are you an artist?”
“Yes and I need to sell some paintings. I’ve got a baby daughter and I desperately need some money.”
“I can understand that,” he said, smiling warmly. “My wife has just had a baby my god we’re spending a lot on her.”
“Well I will have to speak to Eduardo. I could arrange for you to meet him.”
“That’s great. Say why don’t you come over to my house and view my work. Bring your wife and baby. We’ll make an evening of it.”
That evening Franc, his wife, Marian and baby daughter drove up the mountain to a small village untouched by 20 th century buildings. They pulled up on the cobbled street outside the American’s house.
The American opened the thick wooden door,
“Welcome to my home.” He walked them down a passage way to into a room that caught the last rays of the sun. “This is my wife Emma.”
Emma was holding a baby on one broad hip. She had pendulous breasts, covered by a loose shapeless tee-shirt, and a gentle face.
“Hi, what a cute baby. How old is she?”
They spent an hour eating the simple meal the American had prepared for them. Over coffee he suddenly leaned forward to Eduardo and whispered, “Do you want to drop some acid?”
“Yeh, why not!” Franc responded with enthusiasm.
The American and Franc went and sat on the porch, wondering at the clear mountain air and spectacular view of the valley below, leaving the two mothers to bond.
Two hours later Marian was feeling very sleepy.
“I’m going to tell Franc we need to go home now. I’m exhausted.”
“These guys are going to be up all night tripping. I suggest you sleep over."
Marian was too sleepy to be worried, breast feeding took a lot of energy out of her.
She and Emma and the two babies settled down on the double bed, the only bed in the house, and went to sleep peacefully.
In the morning Emma eased herself out of the bed and looked sleepily out of the window. Franc and the American were still sitting on the porch, laughing and chatting.
“This is all so wonderful,” Franc told her as she stepped through the patio doors into the sun. “You’ll have to drop some acid too. It’s amazing man.”
Marion felt very nervous. She didn’t know anything about the effects of LSD.
“You know I can’t. I’m breast feeding. Come on let's go home.”
Two hours later Marion finally managed to drag Franc away from the American and drive home.
“This is so amazing," Franc repeated again and again, somehow managing to keep the car on the road and bringing them safely home.
Whilst Marion settled the baby in her cot and did her chores, Franc wandered round the garden wondering at the beauty of each flower and many blades of grass.
"You have to go to work tomorrow, Franc. Come to bed,” Marian pleaded at 12 that evening.
“No this is too wonderful, you go to bed.”
Marian was led by her hormones to sleep.
She awoke suddenly. What was that noise? Franc was not sleeping by her side. She went and checked on the baby, still sleeping peacefully, and noticed a light coming from crack in the bathroom door.
“Franc, where are you?” she said pushing the door open and gasped.
Franc stood looking at himself helplessly in the wall to wall mirror. There was blood on the inside on both his wrists, there was blood all over the sink and some was smeared over his forehead.
He turned to Marian with a bewildered expression on his face. “Help me,” he said.
“What have you done?” she whispered.
He just stood there gazing at himself in the mirror.
This was too much for a twenty year old mother to handle. She saw that the cuts were not deep. She felt as though she was having a heart attack.
Marion rushed for her jacket, ran out into the street and two doors up to her father in laws’ house. Her brother in law was a vet. He would know what to do.
“She beat on the locked tall metal door set in the high wall around the front garden.
“Bruno, Bruno help me!” she yelled.
It was 3 in the morning. No one stirred.
She beat the door with her fist. “ Help me!” she cried.
Finally a sleepy head poked out of the bedroom window.
“Franc’s hurt himself. Please help me bandage him.”
“OK, OK I’m coming,” grumbled Bruno. Fifteen minutes later he arrived and went into the bathroom and shut the door.
Marion sat hugging herself trying not to panic whilst she heard the muffled sound of Bruno gently asking Franc to let him clean the wounds. What could she do? Should he go to the hospital. It cost so much to be treated here.
Bruno took Franc up to their father’s house. Marion followed when the baby had woken up and she had fed her.
Franc’s mother opened the door.
“Where’s Franc?” she asked. “Come in. Don’t talk on the street.”
Marion sat hugging her baby feeling very anxious.
“Don’t just sit their sniffling. Here take a duster and do some housework. It’s always good to keep busy when you are worried,” Franc’s grandmother told her.
Marion looked at her puzzled. When Bruno arrived with Franc and helped him to lie on a couch, Marion explained that Franc had taken acid the day before and he obviously had a bad trip.
“Just give him some time and he’ll come to his senses in a couple of days,” she pleaded.
That afternoon Franc’s father arranged to take Franc to a psychiatric hospital in Mexico City.
Marion was left behind caring for her baby.
“I need to talk to the doctors. What can Bruno tell them? Surely they want to talk to his wife?”
She was told later that day that Franc had been taken in as a long term patient. The hospital was two hours drive away.
Marion knew that her life now lay in the hands of Franc’s family. Would she ever see Franc again? Would they ever be able to carry on living independently from his family.
When Franc had been in the hospital for a week Marian took the coach up to the capital with her baby on her hip. She caught a taxi to the hospital and tried not to throw up whilst the taxi weaved in and out of the five lanes on the main city roads. The city belched smoke, dust and clamouring noises.
Feeling very nervous she walked into the room set aside for people visiting the patients.
She looked up full of hope as Franc walked in through the door. To her dismay Franc had a blank expression on his usually animated face. He didn’t look pleased to see her or show an interest in seeing the baby again.
"I’ve been talking to my friends here and they say I don’t need you now and you might as well go back to England. I don’t really love you now. Take the baby and stay with your parents. If you visit again don’t bring the baby.”
That really hurt her but she told herself that it was the residue of the LSD and the medication he was taking that had changed his feelings towards her.
She asked to see the doctor.
“Lets take a walk round the garden," suggested Dr Guzman.
He told her that as a result of taking LSD vital nerve connections in Franc’s brain had been affected.
“Too many of Franc’s brain cells have been destroyed. His present condition will never change.”
Marion listened politely but was not convinced. She had to believe he was wrong. She had read in Time Magazine that medical science was only just scratching the surface of how the brain worked.
After three more visits she had to face the fact that the bank balance was diminishing and she had no other source of income. She had to go home to England to make some money.
When she discussed her situation with her father in law he said gravely, “I am sorry I never got to get to pay much attention to my granddaughter Melanie, now I suppose I will never see her again. I keep on repeating to my friends, why has this happened to me?”
Two months later, Marion’s mother, father and sister, sat silently waiting for Alex, Claire’s brother in law to translate the letter Franc's father had written in French.
He stood up in the middle of the room prepared to read it out loud as he translated. He scanned the words and then hesitated,
“Are you sure you want me to read this to everyone, Marion? Frank is being highly critical of you."
"I’ve got no secrets from any of you. Yes go ahead and read it."
Alex cleared his throat.
“Franc has moved from the hospital in Mexico City to a clinic in Switzerland. I have to say I feel very bitter. Your daughter Marion is responsible for introducing drugs to my son.”
“Is that true?" her mother stammered.
Marion stood up and started to pace up and down the room .
“Of course I didn’t. He was smoking marijuana for years before I met him," she snapped. “It's his fault Franc was mixed up! Years of dominating him, misguided ideas of who Franc is. Why does he have to blame anyone!"
Two months later Franc phoned Marion.
“What’s happening? Where are you Franc?”
“I’m out of hospital and I’m staying with Uncles Bertrand in Paris,” he paused, "I’m going to do something crazy “
She heard a click and heard the dull tone of an empty line.
What is he doing to me? she thought as tears poured down her face. Trembling she phoned Franc’s Uncle in Paris.
“I just had a strange phone call from Franc. He says he's ‘going to do something crazy'.”
“I’ll go and have a look in his bedroom,” Bertrand told her.
One minute later he came back to the phone.
“He isn’t here. He’s left a note saying 'I’m on a train going to the ferry'. If you hear from him call me and I will do the same for you. Good luck.”
“Thank you, Bertrand.”
She returned to bed cuddling up to her two year old Mellissa.
Although her parents had insisted she return to England and live with them, their attitude had changed. They complained the baby was keeping them awake at night.
"It's time you looked for a place of your own. Move out," they told her. Marion buried the hurt inside her.
The only time she felt she was needed was with Franc.
At six in the morning the phone rang again.
"This is Customs at Dover. I have a man here who says he is your husband. Franc Cienfuegos. Do you want me to allow him into the country?”
Marion’s pulse rate went up. What a strange situation, she thought. She had the power to decide whether he could be accepted into England or not.
“Yes,” she said. “He is my husband and he has a home here.”
Why did I hesitate? she thought. Life is grey without Franc.
She made herself a cup of tea, bracing herself to tell her parents that Franc was coming to stay with them. Things had to change.
During the next three hours her parents decided to go out to give them time on their own. Marion took the baby to the child minders and raced back to wait for him.
There was a knock on the door. She opened it to reveal Franc clutching a bunch of daffodils. He looked so different. He had let his hair grow long and he had a full beard.
The twenty two year olds gave each other an awkward hug and she led him into the sitting room.
They looked at each other shyly.
“It's been a long four months without you.”
Franc whispered in her ear, “You are my wife still?”
“Of course I am.”
“They tried to keep us apart.”
“Yes I know that.”
“We can start afresh.”
“Yes of course. I only feel alive when you’re with me.”
“I kept on thinking of you and talking about you and missing you." Franc took a certificate out of his suitcase. “Um read this.”
“It's in French. Translate it for me.”
"This is to certify that Franc Cienfuegos is not psychotic. He has been treated for Anxiety."
Tears welled up in her eyes. “Not many people have proof that they are sane,” she joked. “I knew it was just a bad acid trip. I kept the faith that you would be ok. Get me out of here,” she whispered.
So much had happened to her since she had seen him. It felt as though it had been 4 years instead of 4 months. She was back to square one living with her parents.
She had found herself a job as a secretary to a tours operator in a travel Agency in Wigmore Street, earning enough money to support herself.
“I’ll find a job too,” Franc whispered, hugging her.
They looked for a place to rent whilst finding a permanent home.
To be continued...