Destiny

We went to the Clark in Williamstown to see the big Renoir exhibit. It was fantastic — and fun.

As we walked through the gallery, I whispered to my lovely companion — in a terrible faux French accent —  things I imagined Renoir and his models may have said to one another. She made me feel good by laughing at my stupid jokes, which is one of the reasons I love her so much.

“Ah, OK — put your hand in your hair.”  She resists. “But, Auguste, again? My arm gets so tired!”

We were reading about Renoir’s wife, Aline Charigot, who was the model in many of his most famous paintings. I commented on how Aline was 14 years younger than her husband, and an older man standing nearby said, “Just the opposite of me and my wife.”

Excuse me?

“My wife, she was 14 years older.” He launched right in, telling us about the woman to whom he was married for more than 50 years. They met when he was a 22-year-old student in Paris, and she was a painter. He took out a wallet and showed a picture of the two kissing. He had an eccentric air to him and it was a mildly strange encounter — but his story was so romantic.

I’ve had experiences like this before, brief encounters with strangers that feel like something more. They drop in at certain moments in unlikely ways, bearing what might be some sort of message. In the hospital just after my father died, a nurse appeared from nowhere and said she was, “here to take care of him.” To me, during that time of such intense emotion, it was like an angel descended on the dim room and I’d interrupted her work.

Because I’m always curious about this, I asked how the man in the gallery met his wife. He paused. “Destiny.”

Destiny, indeed. How else can you explain some things?

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