"Do you believe in fate?"
It's a question asked from nowhere - unexpected in nature, traveling from the furthest point in the left field naked and alone. Vulnerable.
Leo sits waiting for an answer to this question asked in his best 'this isn't all that significant' air, while the air crackles around him, betraying the importance of the moment to this silver haired man.
I work with Leo, and we've been thrown together for a week as we travel from site to site, updating computer systems across the north of Australia. It's just the two of us on this leg - both a long way away from home, the only familiar company we have until the flight back. At times I feel terrible for the knowledge that when Leo asks what time we're going to meet up for dinner tonight, the answer I desire most goes something like "I'm going to do my own thing tonight."
I'm perfectly happy spending hours walking the streets alone. Leo wants company. Leo wants to talk.
"No, I don't. I don't think everything's connected, I don't think that there's some grand plan governing our lives. Fate...it's nothing but an excuse to take your hands off the wheel, to stop trying, because after all, it makes no difference anyway, does it? If fate is governing our lives, if the script's already been written, why bother? It's not going to make any difference in the long run - won't fate bring it all back together?
Leo seems surprised, and that surprises me. He has hundreds of ideas, this man who constantly offers his opinion on current events, and how things should be handled. Give Leo the reins, and the world would be a better place. Give Leo the reins, and he'd collapse in terror. The idea of fate has made Leo the puppet. A puppet with ambition and ideas, bound by the strings he embraces. Held above the water by driftwood, Leo forgets that if he swam he may just reach somewhere.
Leo spends time reinforcing his position with stories of digital television receivers arriving just in time, of drivers on deserted roads arriving soon after his collarbone breaking motorbike fall, of random moments strung together to mean something. For hours, I was trying to remember the word 'Synchronicity', but could only remember 'Serendipity'. I guess that when it comes down to it, the difference was pretty minor - Leo's looking for anything to take him somewhere else.
Leo doesn't trust himself with a beautiful woman. He'd never spend time like he and I are spending now - a simple pub meal, and a couple of glasses of beer - with a woman. He explains - "The second most important thing in life, for me, is sex, ok?" He waits for a second, and somehow I feel Leo's waiting for a reaction of some sort. "But more important than anything else, is that feeling of self-worth." I ask him why, if this is true, he refuses to trust himself in a situation where temptation may exist - surely if self-worth is the most important thing in his life, he has no reason to doubt himself? He won't hear of it though. The whole time, I'm struck by the feeling that Leo revels in the conflict within - a small thrill, amplified to be far more than it should.
"That's not a good look" said with a grin and an expectant tone, waiting for confirmation, "especially for an old guy like me", said with a laugh. We've just gotten out of the lift, sharing it for a couple of floors with a young woman, wearing a singlet top that didn't do anything to hide her nipple erection. Looking at me, waiting for the reaction he wants, something that allows him a vicarious experience - lust without guilt, a chance to simply nod, knowing he's not exceeded his self proclaimed values of self worth. Maintaining his illusion of propriety by creating a weak spot in his barriers, and waiting for someone else to breach it, Leo feels no guilt when someone finishes the sentences he's started.
As Leo fights the circumstances of his life, as Leo dyes his hair from silver to jet black, as Leo plans a tattoo on his 50th birthday, Leo watches as his life slowly slips in directions that make him unhappy. Fate hasn't been kind to Leo - yet he can't fight this thing. He was a bit of a hell raiser as a child, so walking in on his 15 year old daughter screwing a guy in his house is something he can't possibly fight - all that's left to do is recount the way she said "daddy!" when he walked in the room.
Leo is an intelligent man, he is supremely confident in his ability, he gives the impression that the position his career is in, is entirely of his own choosing - he could be at a much higher level, but chooses to work in the place he finds himself now. With the world seemingly at his feet, the ability to take his life wherever he wants it go to, Leo wonders how things got so difficult.
Leo believes in fate.