…and time itself took wings…
The only reason why Paul started working as a waiter, was that the world still hadn’t discovered his self-proclaimed, outstanding talent as a painter. However, fifteen years later he was still waiting tables at the same restaurant. By then, his certainty of being the world’s next Picasso had transformed into a conviction that he was its leading expert in Italian Renaissance Art.
His interest became his obsession. The only thing he cared to talk about now was his upcoming trip to Florence. While saving his tip money, he confidently shared his book knowledge with anybody who cared to listen.
When the day for his departure came, everybody was relieved. By then, the patient old dishwasher could have dabbled as a tourist guide in the Medici Chapel, some bright servers could have taught classes on Raphael or David, and the restaurant’s steady customers could have found their way from Ponte Vecchio to Palazzo Strozzi.
Once in Florence, Paul was extremely excited. The very first morning, he started out with his favorite, Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus at the Uffizi Gallery. When finally there, facing the exquisite painting, everything suddenly seemed unreal to him. He felt dizzy and the room started spinning. An intense, bright light exploded in his head, the world turned white, and time itself took wings and flew backwards. As Paul disappeared into nothingness, he heard Venus’ voice: “Time for Re-birth! Happy Re-naissance, Paul!”
He woke up at the local hospital, where a doctor sat down with him. “You suffered from Stendhal syndrome,” he explained. “It’s a psychosomatic condition, which can include heart problems, fainting and hallucinations. It happens to some people when exposed to art objects of great beauty.” The doctor warned him that it might happen again and Paul decided to stay at his hotel until it was time to go back.
It was a different Paul who returned to the restaurant. When asked about his experience, he quietly mumbled, “Botticelli’s painting really spoke to me.”
Paul continued working at the restaurant until his retirement, appreciated by customers and colleagues alike for his humble and modest appearance.