Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Stubborn dignity - Tioman island, Malaysia

(Spring 2008)
I'm the only customer at a restaurant on the beach, when a middle-aged foreigner slowly walks in. His outfit and appearance are dignified. It reminds me of Mr Higgins, the friend of Magnum, the private investigator of a television series.

He sits at a table that hasn't been cleared. He scoops with a used spoon the leftovers of an omelet and let them fall on a half portion of rice. He shoves with a fork the food into the spoon and with a surprising ease he puts it in his mouth. His posture is impeccable: his back is straight, the shoulders kept wide and the forearms are resting on the edge of the table. He chews every mouthful for about thirty times and swallows it with a gentle stretch of his neck.

He lets go a long sigh and looks at the hills, then turns to the pier and starts to think. He remembers of Scotland, when he was young, of the massive castle on the shore of the lake. Everything had belonged to his great-great-grandfather, an Earl by the name of Sir William Francis Higgins, whose portrait still hangs from a wall of the hall.

He thinks of the waiter who used to serve him the pheasants that he shot himself at the hunt with some noblemen. He can still feel in his mouth the wild note of the game and the metallic aftertaste near the hole of the shot.

He lowers his eyes and looks back at his plate. He might feel miserable for what he's doing, but at last his appetite gets the upper hand. William Francis Higgins III shrugs his shoulders and thrusts his chin forward, pouting his lips as if he didn't care.

The owner of the place hasn't come back yet. Higgins eats up his patchwork meal, he sips an abandoned orange juice and with a recycled napkin he wipes his mouth.

Then he stands up, pushes the chair forward and the same way he came, he slowly walks out.

Photos Pulau Tioman, by Fabio Pulito

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