Nicolae bears an uncanny resemblance to Maria Luciano the actor who starred in many of Sergio Leone’s Italian Westerns back in the Sixties. Nicolae wears bespoke clothes that don’t need conspicuous labels. He still has a habit of holding his cigarette at waist level between two fingers with his thumb sticking out; it adds to the air of rueful disdain he now wears – along with his expensive clothes.
I first met him two years ago at his mother’s funeral. The only son, he promised to take on the family’s lucrative real estate and printing businesses and keep them going despite having zero experience. He was twenty-two.
I introduce Nicolae to Dimitris’ souvlaki then we head off to listen to Daniel playing the piano at the Art Bistro. I ask Nicolae what how it’s going, running his family business. He puts his car keys on the table and tells me he drives the most expensive car in Kronstadt. Sounds like you’re doing well then, I say. Nicolae lights another cigarette. He tells me how every woman he meets is only interested in being seen at his side in his Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG and walking down Republicii arm in arm; and how every guy he meets either wants to buy him out, cut him in on an exclusive land deal or needs to borrow money. I can’t imagine everyone’s like that, I say. Yes they are, he says, when you’re rich.
I point to the bar and tell him about the mysterious painting that turned up recently.
Footnote: meeting Nicolae again inspires me to make the influence of Spaghetti Westerns more explicit in Zen Ambulance, including the showdown with Cherokee and the Truths waiting at the station for the train to come in.