There are several moments in Bloom’s past that could account for that toughnessand that could also be set to maudlin violin music. He was a good athlete as a boy, the captain of his soccer and field-hockey teams, an avid rugby player, a vocal teammate who would mercilessly rib his fellow players. He is dyslexicwhen describing the condition he spreads his arms wide and says here are words, here are images and sounds and names, and then he makes a small circle with his hands inside that imaginary map and says he can see only “that much” at a timeso “school was a challenge, put it that way.” At the age of 13, he learned that his dad, anti-apartheid lawyer and activist Harry Bloom, was not his biological father. His actual father was a friend of the family named Colin Stone. “Think about that,” he says. “Think about finding out when you’re 13 that your dad is not your dad. It’s like, okay, take it on the chin and keep going. No choice, really.”
And then there’s the much-retold tale of Bloom’s three-story fall from a window when he was 21. He broke his back and was told by doctors that he might never walk again. “For four days I was thinking this was it, that I would be living my life in a wheelchair, and then I thought, no, and I knew I would walk. I just knew.” Twelve days later, he walked on his own, astonishing his physicians and therapists. He still has a scar, a long, uneven groove down his back.
It’s almost as if the adolescent Bloom was in training to become a big-screen hero. “Take it on the chin and keep moving,” he repeats. “Use it. Use it for fuel.”
His back, he says, is his internal speedometer; it tells him when he needs to slow down. Because of lingering pain from the fall, he has a half-dozen stretches, twists, bends, and swivels that he does to loosen up. There’s the one where he holds on to two chairs and lowers himself between them, bouncing on his toes. Another where he holds his arms over his head like a diver and then wiggles from side to side. A third where he extends his arms clasped behind his back and thrusts his chest out. He’s doing that last one on the balcony when the buzzer rings. A room-service waiter has brought a steak salad and another pack of cigarettes. Bloom signs the bill, sits down at a glass-topped table, and starts to slice the beef and push the vegetables onto a fork. He chews methodically and quietly, with his mouth closed. After each bite, he dabs at the corners of his mouth with a napkin and takes a sip of water.
He lights a cigarette, looks at me, and sighs.
“I suppose now you’re going to ask me who I’m dating?”