The transition from Sandrine to Rashida was seamless. Harry could care less if she was one or the other. He had made the decision to cross over. They had known each other on a level that had defied words. For two months, submerged in their unbounded desire as a matter of survival. No explanation however damning could interpose itself between as far as he was concerned. Not even the imminence of death. Harry had been to that cliff and had looked over the edge. What fears in this world could there be to intimidate him now? He was just glad somehow that his fingers had not been playing about inadvertently in her brother’s brains after all. What had happened had happened. Life was not a headline plastered to relieve the angst of another day with an even more potent replacement. People got themselves tangled up in gambits that they could not foresee the most obvious of probable conclusions that were evident after the fact life a stone bridge. It might be called destiny? Or its evil twin fate! Harry was wearing those kind of blinders too.
She had been recruited by her stepbrother who had become tired of being considered an unfortunate legacy of a colonial empire of the past. Inconvenient beyond the status of a carhop or eventually the owner of the ‘boutique allimentation’ on some nondescript block in an obscure ‘banlieue’ on the far edge of Paris. He had made the pilgrimage to Benghazi a few years past and had learned how to fire an AK-47 from the expert hands of a professional Jihadist who was a pawn of the CIA. Since then he had carried the family down with his clumsy exploits. This time he had half guilt tripped, half intimidated his half sister who was ‘trop bourgeoisie française’ to put on the hijab as a matter of cultural pride. He expected her to die by not telling her that the bag she was carrying was to be detonated while it was still in her possession. Two birds handled with one stone so to speak. “Mais la vache était si nerveuse qu’elle a laissé tomber et elle courut” He had called her a coward because she had discovered the secret and initially tried to throw it away. Her brother theatened to have her kidnapped tortured and raped if she didn’t go through with it. But she had failed to carry out his instructions. That was why Harry hadn’t died and why her best friend and her brother had. A terrified Raschida had tripped and dropped the bag when she had unexpectedly caught sight of Sandrine and her brother as they sat at the very place that she was to leave her lethal cargo. Had it not been for a tiny Fiat that she had jumped behind and had taken the brunt of the blast, she would have been dead and in little pieces as well. How she wished that she hadn’t made that mistake of diving behind, it but kept standing up instead!
The brother had been looking for her as she knew he would soon would. She had messed up his uninterrupted path to those forty celestial virgins as reward for dispatching Kafirs. She still had a key, one that fit to the door of her best friend’s place in town. Though she was beyond guilt for her act. She figured it was her best place to lay low until things in the press and on the street died down. Then, she would be out of here. Out of Paris and out of France. Away from anything remotely connected with Islam or North Africa or her part in the past. That is why she decided to descend upon Harry. She had run over to him right after the blast and that ‘demi-frère le mal’ had sprinted off running in full retreat. For all his talk and posturing violence, he wasn’t a martyr either. She had picked up Harry from the sidewalk and helped him over to the ambulance before the torn artery in his arm had emptied all his blood out onto the street. She liked him. His eyes appealed to her. And she had taken the risk of riding along with him to the hospital covered all over in his blood. A strange primal bond that she could not quite convince herself to break! No one at the site of the attack would be the wiser. They thought she was his girlfriend, Sandrine. She had staked him out so far as to have been a constant visitor in his hospital room while he was out of it pumped full of painkillers. Life as she had known it had crashed and burned for her.
The two of them had grabbed whatever they could find from Sandrine’s flat and quickly cleared out to another district of the city. They took the Metro following a loose path around the ‘gaufrette” of city districts looking constantly at the crowd about them trying to see any faces that seemed to be tracking them. Their meandering course leading them eventually to a forgettably small tourist hotel lost between two Gare’s. They lay naked, bodies enmeshed in the over-worn crevice of a dilapidated cot crowded within a tiny closet of a room in the tenth district. One that could barely sport a small table and a sink at best but not anything more. They had grabbed some luggage and a couple of rings that had been in Sandrine’s family before they had all been outted and died off. An impromptu ceremony of fidelity conducted by immediate necessity as a further act of survival through camouflage to throw that imagined packs of hounds sniffing out their fading trail from far behind. It was hopeless of course. But like rabbits, their will to survive together as one outdistanced their logic. Sadness and sex, one springing from the other, and the resultant despair! They seemed far beyond the cyclical tedium of coitus. Out of nowhere, Harry remembered that it was the same day as his mother’s birthday. She was dead and gone mislaid from another era that despite his best effort he had mostly lost an ability to recall. Now that door had swung shut he would have no claim to any former identity beyond one as a bookend to the woman whose face he now stared into. He couldn’t turn Rashida into the authorities anymore than he could hope to avoid the blame as a willing accomplice. Of too willingly going off with someone when she was just a stranger. An emotionally desolate strange woman with little more to offer than her pain. What had the two of them left to offer the rest of the world but their fragile mortality? The question was how to cease to exist for that artificial construct of society that stretched over outside world like a thorny bramble and remain together for that simple fact alone?
The dream had come once again. The man’s eyes riven with hatred were drawing a bead upon Harry who had turned for the briefest of instants upon his café chair. There were more eyes appearing at every instant like shrapnel, hundreds and thousands. He saw himself in a palace with his dead father once again young staring sternly silently at him. The abject pangs of inescapable loneliness undermined him and he bent over as if struck in the midsection and he suddenly opened his eyes into another restless gray dawn. The bed was empty next to him. Sandrine was gone. A sense of hopelessness overwhelmed him like an ocean wave. He realized that he was absolutely alone in the world, a stranger, with no one to care that might have once really known him. He rose from the side of the bed the sweat upon his body chilled by a draft from the outside. He went into the next room and saw the door to the front hall ajar and the distant patter of two voices down below. One was speaking in forcefully in Arabic and the other in a combination with same in French. He slowly approached the opened door and he thought he heard the male voice loudly utter, “Raschida”, several times. The voice responding was Sandrine’s.
Harry sank back from the door and returned to the bedroom shaking. His mind could not sort out the impression of fear that had spilled over from his dream into the waking reality of the voices in the hall. He climbed back into the bed and pulled the covers up over him for a moment not sure if he should feign sleep or depart immediately leave through the rear entrance of the apartment? The front door clicked closed and Sandrine entered the bedroom a moment after her face gone unaccustomedly pale. She walked over to the far side of the bed stopping indecisively as if unsure whether to carry on the facade of further pretense. She sat down on the edge quietly facing the window not moving a muscle. Harry pulled back the covers and slowly swung his feet over to the floor and rising walked around the end of the bed and stood before her. He stood there transformed from the previous effect of his staring at her, not speaking, his silence posing the question, waiting for an explanation. She looked up at him tears streaming down her cheeks with a look that bespoke both terror and a desire for forgiveness.
“They have found me . . .”, her voice quavered as she looked up at him imploringly. “They will kill me if I don’t help them!”, she sobbed almost choking. “Oui . . . Qui.”, he said softly now completely drained of emotion. Sandrine sobbed some more,” . . . ma ma mnon frère!” Silence reigned for an eternity of minutes until Harry spoke. “Then you are not Sandrine . . . are you . . . Raschida?”, he said in a matter of fact manner. Raschida uncovered her face for the first time to him. “No . . .!”, she hissed suddenly, “She was my best friend in childhood, ma soeur.” “You’ve been in love with someone who was already gone before you had the chance to know her.”, she sobbed again, “ . . . et puis je pris sa place. “ The spark of her anger drowning some more tears. Harry stood there struck by the futility of the situation. Whatever her connections, they were both in too deep in some undisclosed way. He could not tell if he was still locked in a nightmare or if this turn of events was real? It brought logic to the reason for her behavior of the last weeks in keeping to the apartment and off the streets around it. Perhaps the police National were on to something when they had torn his lodgings apart while he was still ambulatory in the hospital? He had to wonder were they watching both of them now? Listening in by some high tech device like a bug? So little had been said up to this point between the two of them up to now it seemed unlikely that they would come crashing through the front door if they had heard anything. “We must depart here, now, immediately!”, he said to her as he reached out to pull her hands away from covering her face. There was something within him that was fatally committed in the sense that he could smell the smoke of his own bridges burned. She was the only palpable thing in his universe now. He pulled up upon the warmth of her hands and brought her into his embrace. She held onto him like a scared child pushing her face into his seeking the reassurance of his kiss. They were somehow were both back where they had started.
There she is resplendent! Someone! A woman of what many consider extraordinary in appearance and charm and of course taste. Why, of course? Because she likes you. The effect that she has practiced for so long a time since childhood! To please and to look so! So that you, and no one else will dare to question any other possibility beyond the evidence before you of the same. Her face is fair and her breasts demand your eye’s full attention. Her dress is stylish and tight! And if you are a heretic, you might wonder how they would look bare in actuality unleashed at her age? No! You will continue to catch peeks from the most casual of side glances to further inflate your own fantasy the ivory goddess. The perfect woman that you have nursed in your imagination all along. That one who now serves you unquestioningly as your mother once did! But one that you don’t have to consult an analyst about later with any free ranging imaginings of free spirited intimacy that you would never dare to portray upon the memory of that solitary one who bore you. That safe sort of disconnection that might have once possibility led inevitably to future generations long ago in the innocence of youth. But over time during too many uncountable years lost in-between has become perverted by the disappointment of advancing age. So you come to places like these to live out an impossible dream for a short time of being served without fear of a need for reciprocation or the danger of reproach beyond of course the eventual transfer of a bit of your wealth to the benefit of the house.
How many ways could you find to worship these forbidden notions in this all too easily accessible false temple to assist the more destructive side of your lesser self? If you were complete and had not at some point long ago lost your edge you might have known someone like her. Back when you were younger and more physically able to do something about it! But now you hang across this pathetic piece of wood poisoning yourself to no reasonable purpose beyond a little temporal oblivion. You hold that cold glass of melting ice in an increasingly palsied hand forever. Or so it seems? Each juncture of each emptied receptacle the most important topic posed by her leading to the question of, “ . . . another?” That question at cross purposes with the possible interruption of the prolonging of your ongoing inner fantasy. Those do’s of cold reality, of business curtailing it, and of the evening ultimately wasted. That impossible dream shown up for what it is. And the only course left in light of same to stop this possibility ending too soon in inevitable defeat is to relent at the very last moment of doubt and nod, “Yes!!”, then order yet another. Those same sympathetic eyes and that warm nest of inviting cleavage presented once again for a little longer to distract you from the fact that there is indeed a tomorrow. And waiting beyond the discarded covers a swollen head to contend with rests in tandem with actuality of your own emptiness as the final most undeniable truth.
A month had past since Harry had been met by Sandrine at Gare Du Nord. Their routine together had settled into an ongoing reclusive death spiral of incessant lovemaking punctuated by sedentary tedium. The attraction that he felt for her became an obsession ranging far beyond anything expected within a normal pairing of man with woman. The small flat had become an emotional sanctuary that served to shield both from unwanted realities lurking in the street below. When they went out to replenish necessary staples it was only at odd hours when both vehicle traffic and humanity were at their lowest ebb. There was always the television babbling away to babble on about the inconsequential details of societies foibles and failings to round the edges off any remaining desires for reconciliation with the outside world. Harry had exhausted both his meager wardrobe and his overseas bank account. He wondered if he should bother to call back to make arrangements for the rescue of a pittance of material possessions that languished away in his own apartment almost two months past due in rent. “That was the privilege of the working poor.”, he thought. To disappear without notice and not raise any alarm beyond consternation at the monetary inconvenience of their continued absence. “Someone back at home might have caught his name weeks before in the brief article of a passing daily journal amidst a report of the injured. It was more likely that the topic of his whereabouts would simply lead in a month or two more of eviction of his official legal entity and the artifacts suggesting a corporal correspondence of a missing human being summarily disposed of. When he queried his inner thoughts he could not even bother to care. He was in a different universe now where such things had ceased to count. He was perfectly amenable to trading his longstanding personal fantasies for a more immediately palpable one however temporal. If perfection in life was accidental the fragility of the moment demanded immediate commitment. In his case, there wasn’t any argument necessary.
The matter of legality in the present sphere however had occurred to him that while through the fact of his notoriety in official circles might cut him some slack he would have to at some point declare his presence in France to local officials or face the eventual possibility of expulsion. The application of an extended visa seemed a reasonable solution though he had not been motivated enough up to this point to broach the subject with his new soul mate. Their commerce was reserved for a more animal realm of close physical sensuality of caressing and the general exclusion of anything that might prevent continued embrace. It seemed odd at times how this had become an almost narcotic attraction. Something by all rights, both should have wearied of in the first weeks. The bond between them seemed unbreakable like a steel padlock with no question of the misplaced key having to be sought. The only dissonant thoughts coming occasionally from the threat of something exterior that might interfere with their continued descent into their melding self. Harry’s clothing, when he had the occasion to wear the same, had descended into a pitiful condition. Constant rinsing in the sink had taken its toll in an unwholesome state that even a ‘clochard’ might recoil from. His curiosity about his surroundings had not led to any need for exploration but it occurred to him there might be some slim possibility of male clothing that would be an adequate replacement. Sandrine had as was her periodic during any given day wont disappeared to another room. He rose from the bed and pulled aside a screen to expose the doors of a large almost floor to ceiling armoire hoping to find a pair of misappropriated trousers. He past each of the garments from hand to hand, pulling each forward from the crush of same hanging within. As expected, the feminine contents ranged from curiously exotic to the occasionally formally severe. Items that he might imagine reserved for solemn occasions like funerals or church services. One seemingly formless flowing gown caught his eye. It seemed to be fashioned in the manner of the sort of dust coverlet that one might throw over furniture when leaving for an extended period of time except it was pure black instead of the customary light colored fabric. As he pulled it off from the enclosure’s wooden hanger he noticed a bit of netting providing an opening at its summit similar to the headdress of a bee keeper. “A ‘burqa’!”, a light within his own head snapped on. “What in the world would this be doing here?”, he breathed out to himself thinking simultaneously its discovery presented a certain sense of mild irony. He looked about the surrounding room wondering it there was any other artifact that might substantiate the necessity for its appearance in this setting. Unlike most French homes where might have expected to see some form of ancient sign of nationally shared influence of Catholicism in the form of a grandmother’s rosary or obligatory long desiccated Palm Sunday fronds retained from previous generations. The décor was remarkably absent of such trinkets. He stuffed it back between and dispelled the effect of the unexpected shock of his discovery back in place in oblivion.
The sound of Police siren tirelessly chiming from a far distance rose from down the avenue. Their occasional presence had been merely a reminder that threat of foreign chaos still reigned in different corners of the city. But now this rising sound seemed unusually annoying. Sandrine sat upon the small couch in her usual Sphinx-like reserve her dark eyes immobile and vacant before the montage of passing images upon the television screen. The space on the cushion just beside her presented a deep impression of the recent development of the arrival of his presence. Without hesitation or comment, he filled that void. Like two pythons in mating season they immediately entwined each settling relaxed into the narcoleptic warmth that the other provided. The sirens buzzed about in the distance like horseflies. The news reader bespoke of a new discovery just uncovered in the district. Some workers in the Metro on line 7 at Censeur Daubentton had discovered the tattered charred remnants of a suicide belt sans the explosives. The location being only a few blocks down where the tributary of Rue Monge fed the larger avenue. That was right near Square Adanson south of the Grand Mosque by us”, Harry thought to himself. The Police Nationale had cordoned off the area were now busily combing the area for clues and anyone of interest in the area that might have information the announcer went on. Sandrine had pulled away from their embrace and seemed unconsciously entangled within her own embrace. “Combien temps c’doit continuer . . . ? “, she breathed. He extended his embrace leaning over to encapsulate her curled form and found it had uncustomarily gone cold. “That tireless sense of irreparable trauma that they both shared,”, he recited to himself as he tried to warm her. Something deep within newly arrived within him kept its opinion quietly to itself.
The vista outside the counter posed weather beaten Beax Arts wooden doors at the bottom of the stairs to 76 seemed a postage stamp of much of Paris. A proliferation of ornate iron balconies protecting limestone framed openings, the uniformity of same in contradiction to the jumble of small businesses at street level. Odd collections of entrepreneurs and national franchises attending to every local need of the neighborhood residents anonymously sheltered within. A strange sense of privacy emboldened in unaccountably similar aeries pretty much the same all throughout much of the older parts of town. A long lasting ongoing fiction of a life lived within the context of “how it once was” dutifully appreciated. The prevailing goods on hand based upon ‘looking good’, ‘eating good’, ‘smelling good’ and having easy access to one’s finances to purchase it. That particular sense of national urban esprit in force throughout that demanded both wit and taste in every part of the experience of one’s life of a resident without outwardly ascribing to bourgeois aspirations.
Sandrine and Harry walked out nearly alone down the avenue together in the grayness of another Sunday morning haunting their footfalls the echo rebounding upon an otherwise empty street. Walking side by side over to the next block Harry choked with unexpected nostalgia when he unexpectedly caught sight of an Office Depot’s garish sign. Its banality plastered unrepentantly across a classic Parisian art Deco limestone facade. The two continued past without comment on the opposite side, the double story edifice of tall iron barred windows protecting the local neighborhood fine art college from potential assault. The architecture seemed to share much in common with that of a prison. Harry considered the disparity of his typically American romantic notions about Paris. The ones fostered in a hundred Hollywood movies. The reality of the place was inconvenient at best! Sometimes very strange overwhelming realities that were generally accepted by the indigenous population as mundane and without comment. He felt Sandrine take his hand in hers and he abruptly looked over. The simple act seemed almost psychic as if she was reading his mind and the turbulence within. Was this the reality of the typical French female persona he wondered, “To run both hot and cold at the same time in ceaseless contradiction?” Wanting intimacy and rejecting any overt demonstration of it outright!
A group of Middle Eastern adolescents suddenly came running down a side street gallerie. Harry reflexively swung and arm out and pushed Sandrine back against the wall behind him, preparing in an instantaneously cavalier fashion to take on the brunt of the onslaught. A swarthy ensemble of youths tumbled by dressed in the mismatch of the resident North African bargain goods. The fast approaching clatter of a slightly better accoutered posse of French youth hot on their heels. One of the tow haired lads tumbling carelessly hyperactive into the couple tossing off a rapid “Excusez-moi, madame !“ The erratic clap clop from the multiple hooves of these natural assailants diminishing almost as quickly as they had originally been summoned to the ear. “Où sont les flic?“, Harry heard his female companion hiss vehemently. He turned towards her seeing sparks flash from her dark eyes. “Chiens arabes baise!”, she spit out loudly for his benefit. The ironic counterpoint of a distant descending police siren passing far off as they cut back on the main Rue at the far end of the next block. “Rue Epee de Bois”, the street sign back at the corner had announced. The streets of Paris had not abandoned the panache of the potential of mortal danger long spoken through the characters of A. Dumas. Two large cafes stood like guard posts where the Rue Monge abruptly expanded into an avenue of double lanes. “Traiteur”, the ornate script imprinted upon the canvas ribbon announced at the edge of the corner bordering the change of traffic flow. People were restless milling about the points of the five corners. The tables at the opposing cafes conspicuously empty. “Is that caterer or traitor?”, Harry asked frivolously without measuring his tongue. The ongoing silence of the woman was becoming maddening. It was like being handcuffed to a steam boiler ready to explode but unable to find the proper valve to get it to vent.
The purchase of baguettes was scrupulously aseptic with no apparent emotion betrayed by either party. No extra words were wasted nor was the accompanying effort by the attendant superfluous in any sense of the term superfluous. The purchase was conducted with a level of competence demonstrated by the counter caissière that would have comforted the skepticism any naturally querulous owner. The walk back to the apartment was equally terse at the market that they had passed two blocks previous. Harry had not bothered to offer a word to his companion but simply by the opened his wallet and presented a few Euro notes at the second counter. When they returned up the stairs, his companion opened a bottle of wine. Once more without more than simple inquiries as to the details of his culinary peculiarities she cooked them an omelet. They watched the local channel BFMTV that hosted a number of bureaucrats attempting to keep their cool answering to customary accusations leveled at their organizations attempting to avoid further hint of scandal. The convenience of hindsight had encouraged the media to laser focus on the most vulnerable targets of responsibility who had to the context of the public ire had failed in their responsibility in some way. Well-practiced performances or measured outrage fenced with mock sincerity. Every gap in performance the authorities that had since been brought to light in the news was now being set upon by the moderator by whose rhetoric reminded one of a voracious eagle swooping down upon a frightened rodent. The televised similarity of the featured ‘accused’ was remarkably exact!
The spectacle on TV might have seemed hilarious to Harry but he felt himself becoming demonstrably nervous. A slight sense of nausea had quelled his appetite and he excused himself repairing without any hesitation to Sandrine’s bedroom to lie down. He lay upon his side there like an adolescent listening imperfectly to the conversation continuing wishing for the relief of a commercial. Her silhouette suddenly filled the doorway and she crawled into his arms curling up like an unprotected Armadillo pulling his arm around her tightly expecting his comfort like a temporary shell. “It kills me too!”, she said, “I’m sorry, I know that I am driving you crazy, but I need you right now!” The audio of the televised narrative continued uninterrupted in the next room. Point countered with a blocking comment. Official policy recited pushed back by even more wearing questions. Her heart beat through his forearm like an excited bird’s The crescendo of repressed emotions suddenly exploding into her corkscrewing around roughly cradling his face in both her hands her lips wet and violently restless upon his own.
I had traveled through the dead of night to a house that was located far south of the city where I had no experience of streets or directions. The snow still lingered in an unholy bargain with salt that had been spread days earlier by the city. The destination was a weary looking nineteen-fifties ranch home on a street of the same that was on its third set of owners. The walkway was only partially shoveled leaving my shoes wet and dirty by the time I got though the front door. They were the first article of clothing that I recalled removing, and later, the last to be found. I had hope to meet someone that I had some slight level of acquaintance with but was quickly disappointed. The rules of these affairs providing for a certain degree of acceptance even to those who were demonstrably far outside the usual circle permitting me to stay unhindered as well as for the most part, equally unacknowledged. The lights were low and it became apparent that the space was inhabited by several distinct crowds centered around a particular roommate. Each section being a sort of Balkan state where one couple or alternately a small ensemble were engaged in some form of intimate form of conversation or intercourse. I was soon happy to take refuge with the help of an unattended rocker in the living room a small drink tightly in my grasp.
I must have dozed off because when I awoke I was shocked to find most of the other guests had departed in the interim to other locales hidden within the space or to return to their own homes. That uneasy feeling of being a fish well passed its freshness setting in quickly within the room’s twilight. Leaning forward in the chair finding a couple of disrobed dispassionate young women going at it on the rug just beside me with an abandoned fueling my sense of indecisiveness to not attempt to disappear genie-like with a poof. The other end of the equation being to take a risk and follow through disrobing myself and throw caution to the wind by presenting myself, such as I was, to the equation. My libido nearly spun me physically around my own axis. Another maiden of extraordinary natural gifts was to my horror in residence just opposite lost in some narcotic bliss. Being the lifelong social coward timid of the uncomfortable possibilities of instantaneous rejection involving both scorn or succor from the police. I retreated towards the hall finding it equally disturbing that I no longer had either socks pants or shirt to comfort my distress. With as much stealth as possible I tiptoed away trying as hard as I could to create no disturbance that might give away my presence to any other recreationally foaling couples.
The bed and floor of the back bedroom was a confusion of scattered clothing. I rummaged incessantly about in the dark the only illumination coming through a narrow gap in the drapery. At any moment, another set of writing torsos might be unearthed beneath rumpled garments and a protest raised. But something was now evident that I had not counted upon. I was either high or dead drunk or both. My vision seemed phantasmagorical going in and out not reliably reporting with any verifiable accuracy the shapes and colors of articles of regular wear that might belong solely to me. Profound embarrassment was a phantom hounding me with the thought of an irate hand unexpectedly switching on a light and demanding to know what a barely dressed middle aged man was doing on his hands and knees going through everyone’s clothing? One by one I strangled socks and exhumed various garments from the gnarled piles of same strewn about. Almost attired save for socks, I brought my trajectory towards the exit at the end of the hall only to be shocked by the fact that a couple of the garments seemed ill fitting and were not mine. Secretly, though I was loathe to give in to admit it, I was still emotionally back in the lounge eyeing with wonder the unashamed nakedness of on of the ‘Scheherazade’s’ reclining in the shadows. Some sense of wicked secret delight told me to embrace the consequences, and tear off these rags and go stumbling forward, come what may! Had I not been so pathetic, or inconveniently a nuisance to a couple of the houses occupants, I might have followed through.
There in the light from an open bathroom door the two of them recently refreshed took very demonstrable pity on my plight. Under their watchful gaze, I redoubled my efforts to find the right combination of lawful garments, stymied only at the end by the elusive departure of one of my shoes. It took a long list of styles of men’s oxfords and women’s pumps till I realized that I was not looking in the front hall but a side bedroom and thereby leading to further confusion. Had there been a harlequin’s cap to don, I would have reluctantly accepted same at that moment. The bitter cold of the hour before dawn seemed a relief like some sort of just scourge for the inadvertent buffoonery that I had so foolishly fallen afoul of. My only regret being an unfulfilled desire to have risked reputation and plunged into the unknown of that lounge and straight into that unattended naked woman’s arms.
How much tougher can it be to have the impulse to create for its own sake but be hampered by the passive inclination to sit back and take it all in? To let life roll over you and accept it ‘as is’ against all your own best interests or goals or necessities for achieving survival. The inner belief of superior understanding that I have credited myself many times too often leading me to tumble down to a lower level of uncomfortable humility that beyond being disingenuous to others so often became denigrating to myself. Who then is the responsible party? To catch up with one’s self to shake out some semblance of the root of one’s being upon a table to examine yet so comfortably ignore it in plain view. It is so convenient!
With this sense of boundless ego I am debilitated. Much so as I have felt all along. Perhaps this was the source of fuel that hurtled me headlong into one of the larger career fiasco’s of my life. In emulation of the nerve of my late father I unleashed my most diabolical side upon those who were more adept at it than I was. I was the perfect tool to play the part of a shill who was actually foolish enough to believe in the sincerity of their own efforts and be was so stupid to be committed to it. I thought as I metaphorically pounded the desk with my best shot of demonstrating bravado that I was getting somewhere with offering a peach to be stolen in return for a greater reward yet not realizing how cheap I was ultimately selling myself. This has been the continual curse of my entire existence.
The first day at the office was a matter of pretense appearing as if I really understood my surroundings demonstrably observing and weighing implements that were useful to the task of what the job description of what I supposed I was supposed to be doing. In point of fact, a performance that was perfect considering my real task was simply to look the part. This went on for a week or two until I realized more and more with the approach of a deadline that I was helpless to mastering the task. My employers functioning to feed me with the requisite talent while I practiced my limited skills that centered around the assembly of the same. The presence of an ‘elder statesman’ whose task was to create a seamier sort of publication dealing with the artful display the more salacious dimensions of young women for public dispensation became my teacher.
Once more my sense of egoism convinced me that this was merely a necessary step to embrace his art and translate it into something more altruistic and meaningful to the world in terms of the promotion of the latest big-budget Hollywood space operas. It seemed the real drama for me was not in examining the actors but figuring out the story. Wisdom may come at a great price but the foundation of same is based within a sense of continuing tragedy of giving up something noble to be replaced by a lesser thing more sublime. An artifice of lead lined shininess that shams the audience rather than give them anything substantial to chew on.
At the juncture of every quarter of a year, new vendors were secured and old vendors were rebuffed. The pages assembled and the stills and diapositives duly categorized by page with blue pencil color indications for type and rubilith acetate backgrounds incised by X-Acto. The collective mess was shipped out and a week later the ritual of the Chromalin enacted wherein in ceremonious fashion the warm proofs summoned in wet ink from the press were acknowledge with loop to eye firmly in hand. As the main player in this drama I knew my limits both in what to ask for and what to demand. The end product produced and distributed in hindsight terribly drole but in no way much worse than other competing titles. This was in fact the source of my victory and continued claim to holding my position. Creativity and promise were passed over for a weekly check. Though there was no evidence apparent to class me with that of an axe murderer it was all too equally evident that I had once more betrayed my status as my parent’s best attempt at the ubermensch.
Perhaps this is how I and others like me have been trained all along? Not through any lack of resource provided by my upbringing or a form of unexpected neglect of a good example provided on the part of my creators. But by the inference of society that led me astray with false promises artfully designed to lead me astray? Perhaps that is how the vital nature of all aspiring geniuses is tapped until it too quickly runs dry? They say that you never recover from the enduring tragedy of the failure of your first love. But it is the desire to prolong the memory of its freshness that so much later does one in.