The found him 227 days after he failed to make the 2 minute walk from his office to the meeting room. What he was doing in a small caffé in Tuscany posing as a down and out Italian student named Mario Lombardi was a bit of a mystery. So was how he managed to pass himself off as a student from the north of Italy. After all, his Italian was nowhere near as good as his year 7 German. By and large, the caffé owner didn’t care. He spoke good english (as a fourth generation Melbournian should) and worked hard. Ideal for small caffé in a tourist area.
So why did Curtis Fitzpatrick fail to walk into that meeting and end up on the other side of the planet posing as someone else? And how did he manage to do it without anyone finding him? He doesn’t know, but for the most part he puts it down to the existential dread that meetings caused in him. The constant discussions, the lack of any really work being done, discussions by committee. He detested meeting at a cellular level, and for whatever reason, this meeting was the one that did him in.
As for posing, it appears that Curtis did indeed believe himself to be Mario Lombardi. At no point in the six months that he worked at the caffé did he ever waver from the fiction he had wrapped himself in so completely. His tales of growing up near Lago Maggiore, of swimming on hot days. Of hiking in the mountains as soon as he was old enough. Of his nonna stuffing him until he couldn’t walk. Story after story, related faithfully, none of it real.
Looking back through his childhood, the threads began to emerge that he would have used to weave the whole cloth of his illusion. A boy in his class named Mario, a girl with the surname Lombardo, both children of Italian migrants from the north of Italy. Curtis had been friends with both, especially Mario. Most of the tales he spun had probably been imported to Carlton by his friend’s parents, the reminisces of a land left long ago.
Curtis has no idea how he ended up in a foreign land, imitating his schoolyard friends. A fugue state, perhaps, triggered by yet another pointless meeting. A need to get away from his life as a programmer, to try something else. To be someone else. A want to escape the pressure of his life and take on the small pleasures of another. Whatever the reason, Curtis doesn’t particularly care to dwell. All he knows is that he got up from his desk to go to the meeting and ending up serving espresso.
The story of his discovery is one of happenstance, of serendipity. As things often are, the threads of his past connections came to entwine him in his reprieve from his world. Into his nondescript caffé walked one Camllla Lombardo, on a holiday to the world her nonna left so many years ago. The last few months of being Mario ceased the moment she asked if she knew him. From primary school, maybe. Wasn’t he Conrad, or Brutus, or maybe even a Curtis?
The fugue fell away at that, indeed he was Curtis. The mask he didn’t know he was wearing, had been wearing for so long it had become him, it slipped and fell. Much to the amazement of his regulars, his boss, the other staff, he ceased being Mario and stepped back into Curtis. He stood there in his black apron and vest and after spending the last months there, recognised none of it. The last thing he remembered was heading to that meeting, 277 days earlier.
It would be nice to think that the subconscious choice to take on Camilla’s surname would have resulted in a life of happiness together, but alas, Camilla’s husband of the last few years would have had something to say about that. Her husband was, however, not unmoved by Curtis and his wandering, and paid for his return airfare to Melbourne. It helped that his restaurant was understaffed and Curtis hand the experience and no desire to return to the corporate world.
And so Curtis’ sojourn into the world at large came to a pause. He managed his flight from the land of desks and timelines and future goals, and found a new calling stalking the tables, juggling plates, and fixing drinks. He was once again Curtis Fitzpatrick of Melbourne, more so than he had been before.