If only Dr. Dominic Missierna could arrange for a weekly dinner with Charles Filandreux (from “Siegfried’s Memoirs” in Coming Ashore) and Henri Grippes (from “A Painful Affair” in Overhead in a Balloom).
Every year weighs heavily on these men, even though the time seems to have passed too quickly to take notice: now they feel quite alone.
“Perhaps he seemed old, but he appeared young to himself. In the shaving mirror he saw the young man he had been at university. In his dreams, even his bad dreams, he was never more than twenty-one.”
Dr. Missierna (it feels presumptuous to address him by his first name) is looking back at his life, on the time devoted to study of Saltnatek and its population. Please don’t confuse the region with Malta or Madagascar: everyone does, and it’s so frustrating for our hero.
The people there once developed an unusual form of commerce, carving a message into seashells, which were sold to visitor: “When This You See, Remember Me”. (But all that came to nought. If you spot one online for sale, snatch it up—they must be valuable collectibles by now.)
After so many years of study and contemplation, Dr. Missierna shares this detail with readers (in the course of a few pages), so we are meant to notice whether and how people are remembered.