The Long Game

Monday morning. I’m in my office, at my desk. My door is open (company policy). A female employee, in her mid-twenties, enters, sits herself down uninvited (lack of education). She’s been with the company for about two months. She’s pretty; the short-lived prettiness of being young and new to working in an office job. I’ve been there. But right now she looks depressed. Another abuse case, I think. Or worse, she’s going to announce a sex change. That’s where I will draw the line. With the rough patch we’re going through as a company, a change of hairstyle puts people on edge these days. I recently sat with the works council for half a day after our HR director had suddenly turned up with two axes tattooed in the way of an Andrew’s Cross on the top of his left hand. “Why on earth?” I yelled at him. Then I wrote him an email: “Your services are no longer required.” He was a self-employed interim person. I know my rights. HR I can do myself.

The girl (?) starts hemming and hawing:

“I’m here… erm… I thought I’d drop in to… uh… to tell you something… erm…”

I try to come across encouragingly, but not too encouragingly. I’m not ready for just anything. I have my boundaries.

“It’s about Patrick… Oh God, I’m so embarrassed having this conversation with you… “.

I’m not aware we are having a conversation. Patrick is a senior legal counsel, and a prick. The girl is a junior in his team. I don’t like where this is going. The company needs Patrick. I need him. He’s ambitious. Briefly, he is the perfect person to delegate things to that I should be doing as a CLO, but mostly lack the energy to lift a finger at.

“Patrick, you know, he has this body odor. I mean… uh… it’s very natural of course… I mean, I think it’s wonderful and so on that he doesn’t use deodorant and stuff. It does show independent thinking… it’s very advanced, but… erm… an entire room has this oniony smell just minutes after he has joined a meeting. And it’s still there half an hour after he has left. It’s… you know… It makes me feel sick… and…” (suddenly miraculously coherent) “I don’t know how to continue working with him that way!”

I stifle a sigh of relief. This is not about sex, or change of. As for Patrick, yes, he is a natural. Like an organic onion going bad, except much worse. I avoid as much as possible being in my office with him. People might think I’m the one stinking up the place.

Assuming a conspiratorial girl gang tone I say to the girl:

“Look, Chloé. It’s a problem he has. He has such a pretty wife. You saw her. You were at the wedding too. In the Twiggy range of models she’s more spectacular than Twiggy or any of her epigones.

(Twiggy? I think I see Chloé’s eyes glaze over).

“Look her up on the internet. Patrick’s wife has better hair, too. And a prettier face, or better make-up. I think she’s Bengali. I always wonder what discussions concerning his smell they have between them. What’s the sort of advice she would be giving him? What do you think? What do you think we can do about this?”

“You could, uh, like, speak to him about it?”

“Confront him?”

“Well… “

“I guess it’s pathological though.”

(Seeing the girl’s stumped look) “Meaning he can’t help it. It’s a disease…”

“… like.” (I add, trying to reconnect at her level).

“Ah, yes… What about confidential counseling?”

I don’t think this kind of thing is in the contract we’re having with the agency providing employee counseling. Could I ask Chloé to look into this? See if the agreement ought to be amended, the scope? It might take her mind off things. Getting to work on something instead of shooting your mouth off complaining usually does. But what scope would include counseling a person’s stink away? I decide this would be too tall an order for Chloé.

“Patrick must have tried all antiperspirants you and I and a counselor can possibly think of. Probably has been seeing specialists about this. I don’t think he needs someone to confidentially tell him that he has this problem and how people normally deal with it.”

“Can’t you ask him to work from home as much as possible? Do his meetings in Teams?”

Yes, Chloé, I could to that. But telling him what for a reason?” I’m getting pissed. A person dropping a problem on my plate should at least have an idea of how I can solve it for them. Chloé isn’t delivering.

“Or you could give me permission to work from home? On days I have meetings scheduled with Patrick?” She sneezes. C-O-V-I-D? I think I see a way out of this. But it is a long shot.

“Chloé, do you have a cold?” I reach in a drawer and hand her a tissue.

“No”, she says, “just an itchy nose. Sorry.”

“Did you test for COVID, Chloé? Don’t tell me you never even tested!”

“It isn’t a cold. I was just an itch inside my nose. And COVID isn’t even a thing anymore.”

“Yes, Chloé, it is a ‘THING’!” (I do agitated air quotes). “In this company, all COVID is considered long COVID, perennial COVID. Go see if Patrick is in. Then bring him to my office. I want you both at my office.”

Enter Patrick, preceded by Chloé, who tries to avoid being in the wake of his smell. Both remain standing. There’s just one chair across from me. The company offered two. I declined. I don’t want employees to overestimate the reach of my hospitality.

“Now look, Patrick” (olfactory signals intensify), “I’m so sorry I asked you to step into my office. Chloé here has a running nose; she has a sore throat. And a headache. And she has shortness of breath. No, Chloé!” (cutting her off the moment she opens her mouth). “Let me finish! Patrick, you know the symptoms. This has written COVID all over it. Checks all the boxes. I’m going to send Chloé home. She will take a test. I’m sending you home. You must take a test. I will go home myself. I’m going to take a test.”

“Are we sending everybody home that you and Chloé and I have been in contact with in the past week?”

“No, Patrick, just the three of us. I don’t want this to get blown out of proportion. Go home, take the test. Stay home until the end of the week. All your meetings will be in Teams. Stay online. Keep yourself available for when I need you.”

“Why did you want me in your office in the first place?”

Wise guy. I let that go.

The next day Patrick calls me on my cell. “I tested negative.”

“Good for you”, I say. “A self-test?”


“I’d like you to re-test at an official test site. Go see your physician. Give it until the end of the week. Then get the test. There’s no need to be jumping any guns on this one. I haven’t been able to get a test appointment myself yet.”

I call Chloé: “On second thought, I think you should return to the office. I may have been interpreting your symptoms wrongly. Did you test?”

“I did.” (she sounds bitchy). “Although it was hard to find a shop still selling self-test kits. Clean bill of health.”

“I couldn’t take any risks. Patrick’s situation is unsettled. He said he needs another test, a doctor’s test. He didn’t sound well.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. He looked just fine yesterday when we were at your office.”

“I’ve not been feeling well myself lately. I still have to take my test.”

I’m not taking any tests. I’m feeling relaxed. I’ve never been feeling better in my whole life. I text the CEO: Dinner with brother on Saturday. He just called, saying he tested positive for COVID [grimacing face]. I have symptoms. [puke face]. Keep you posted [placard].’

CEO texts back: ‘Bummer [wilted flower]. Get well soon [bouquet of flowers].

I call the CEO the next day. Then I call Patrick. Then I call Chloé. Email exchanges and formal announcements follow. There are going to be some changes. Chloé is promoted secretary to the board. She’s assigned the annex to the CEO’s office. Patrick is asked to keep working from home until everything is arranged for his transfer to our Kolkata office as Global General Counsel. We opened that office, our only foreign presence, two years ago, hoping to regionally spin out from a project the company picked up in West Bengal. This never happened. In fact, the project never happened. The office is just a room in Spaces with a laptop and a wireless conferencing system. Patrick is instructed to keep himself available for when I need him. It’s not very different from having your IT done at a faraway service center by people you wouldn’t miss if they didn’t exist.

I return to the office four weeks after I had sent myself into quarantaine, a time well spent on looking up old friends and overseeing some home redo. I have our COVID policies deleted from the HSE section on the company’s intranet. I defend the decision in the board, saying it took me weeks to get a test, and that it returned a negative result.

“It turned out my physician had to order a test kit from China! COVID just isn’t a thing anymore. We have to put a stop to employees going AWOL invoking these outdated policies.”

What was not to agree to anything I said?


In the C-Suite

I’m on the Board of a company. We employ a workforce of about 120 and operate 2.5 billion in client capex. We have a CEO, and I’m all the other Cs (OO, FO, LO, IO).

The CEO has a few strengths that speak for him (he is a man, of course), but he is no match for the combined Cs that I represent. Still, being a man and a CEO and an amazingly effective self-promoting narcissist, he is generally considered everyone’s boss, including mine. Although this isn’t the case from a governance perspective (this is the CLO speaking), and although I have to keep him from committing the one stupidity after the other (this is all my Os speaking in unison), being a woman, I’m perfectly fine with the consensus that the company would fall apart without our CEO at the helm. Besides, I’m a narcissist myself. It is just that, being a woman, my narcissism expresses itself differently. What about the chip on my shoulder? I would not accept the appointment of a female CEO anyway. I would resign from the Board instantly. Unless it was me that would get appointed CEO of course.

We have a management team, or MT. As Board we are part of the MT. This is what the Shareholders had wanted. But as Board we have a final say in all matters that need to be resolved. This is what the Law says. Board resolutions can only be adopted with the combined vote of me and the CEO. Including ourselves, the MT consists of six people. I’m the only woman. The CEO and I decided that I would be chair of the MT. But in practice the men discuss issues among them, leaning in, eying each other intensely, and avoiding to include me in their ophthalmic exchanges. The CEO endorses this behaviour, if only by exhibiting it himself. When I cut discussions short, or call a resolution, they say I’m being bossy. If the men are aligned, it is impossible for me to veto the decision, even if, in a Board of two, I have that position. I accept that. I’m a woman of independent means, I read books which are not about management, I write stuff anonymously, and I’m getting paid a decent amount of pocket change by this company for effectively having no say in its daily affairs. “Choose your battles, girl!”, I say to myself after yet another MT meeting where I was ignored, overruled, or accused of authoritarianism.

Another strong point in favor of the prevailing situation is that I’m close with one of the MT members. He is divorced, he has a girlfriend (bringing children of her own), and we have each other. We hired this man about half a year ago to head one of our departments. I didn’t think a great deal of him, intellectually, and in terms of effectiveness and vision. The procedural type, a little soapy, going on about communication and persuasion and leadership stuff. Others, our CEO among them, were of a different opinion. Given that this was one of the most attractive men I have ever seen in management, I easily concurred that we should offer him the position. Showing some persuasive leadership myself, I soon maneuvered him into having dinner with me, and before we knew it, he was sharing my bed.

Here is a conversation we were having before or after we had sex (I don’t quite remember).

“What do you think of [here I mentioned the name of our CEO]?”
“I don’t think a great deal of him.”
“Meaning about him, or of what he brings to the table?”
“I’m too busy managing my department. I don’t have much time to think about anyone or anything else.”
“Except me.”
“I don’t think about you when I’m busy with my department. I can’t afford to get distracted. A lot has to be done to get that department back on track.”
“I’m aware of that. But during MT meetings?”
“What is it you want me to say? My focus is on the agenda, the discussions we’re having.”
“Speaking of the discussions, and the “we”: last time, when I challenged an argument of yours in a discussion that went on over my head, you directed your response to everybody in the room, except me. You didn’t even look at me once.
“I didn’t think you were invested in the issue.”
“I challenged you, for fuck’s sake! I’m the chair! I call the resolutions!”
“Why do you keep harping on this? You don’t have to be involved in everything!”

Reading back this reconstruction, I realize I am wrong. This must have been after the sex which, being intense and memorable, I distinctly recall we had. Because, before the last word in this conversation was exchanged (the bracketed dots), I had kicked him out of my bed. I told him I never wanted to see him again. He resigned from the company the next day, and the CEO re-assumed his former position as interim head of the department with a great show of feigned reluctance.


“Keep Your Heels On!”

Each time my emotions threaten to run away with me, she would say “Keep your heels on!” This somewhat obscure admonishment, to add to the mystery, is rooted in my style of driving. I drive like a guy, only faster and a lot more aggressively. I drive a sports car, a cabriolet, or should I say, since it’s French, a décapotable. It is quite fast and it produces a deep roar when I rev the engine up. I lose weight driving this car.

The one I have is the second I bought in this type. I bought it following two years of burning the value as well as a few tangible parts of the first at more than two times normal economic and technical depreciation rates. I exchange my heels for flats when getting behind the wheel. There is no relation with female to male driving style travesty. The way I drive it, this machine is simply impossible to operate in heels. My friend got fed up with it. After our last ride together, which had seen some very challenging maneuvers on my part, she refused to be my passenger ever again. “No thanks, but do keep your heels on!”, she would say a next time I invited her for a ride.

Once upon a time, in summer, driving into a town, I passed a car, a BMW. Going by the license plate, I estimated it to be 8 to 10 years old, meaning close to total shutdown. Approaching a red light, I overtook the BMW at moderate speed. I looked inside the car. Behind the wheel was a man with curly black hair. As far as I could make out from my less than perfect vantage point, he was in his early thirties, not unattractive. He looked back at me. He had been driving sloppily before I overtook him. He had seemed glued to the left lane. I had decided to cut past him on the right. But when I made to execute the maneuver he veered to the right and started hogging the middle of the road. I had a distinct impression he didn’t do it on purpose, that, rather, he just wasn’t paying attention, as if car driving weren’t so different from beach bumming. Only when we approached the traffic light, did he move all the way to the right. He never used his blinkers to signal a lane change. Soon after I had pulled up from the lights I signaled and merged back into the right lane traffic. Checking my sideview mirror I saw the BMW steer out to the left – no signal; it passed me slowly but at a speed which was in excess of the speed limit. Having reached city limits I moved back the gear shift, pressed down the gas and speeded up at maximum acceleration. I shifted up gears, shaving the rpm’s rise just before they peaked, provoking the engine’s thoroughly satisfied growl from deep down that I coveted. In seconds I found myself behind the BMW again. This time the driver, on my approach, fell into the right lane, throwing a brief glance at me as I passed him. I imagined I could feel his frustration at his decrepit BMW being no match to my fast little convertible, driven, to add insult to injury, by a woman.

A week later he called at my door. I invited him in. He was perfectly at ease. He took in the interior design of the large hallway with interest. I didn’t know what to make of him. We sat down at the large table in the dining room, which is where I receive all my guests.

“How did you find out where I live?”
“I guessed”, he said.
“You guessed”?
“Not the exact address, of course”, he replied. “but I saw you take the exit in the direction of O**. I guessed that’d be where you live, and that it would be in this neighborhood, with all its detached villas. It’s just a couple of streets. It didn’t take me 15 minutes of cruising to spot your car. If I’d erred on the first step of my little deduction, I wouldn’t have traced you in 15 years of course.”
“It took you a week to call at my door. Are you sure you didn’t spend a week working from the license plate?”
“I didn’t. I just wasn’t in a hurry.”
“To do what?“
“To look you up.”
Look me up?”
“I saw you in your car. Keep your hat on, girl, I thought. God, you looked so uptight and angry behind the wheel! I came… to convert you.”
“You came … to convert me?”
“To love.”

I looked at his face. It was not the face of a madman or a charlatan. It wasn’t the face of an adventurer. It was the face of a boy giving it a shot for the hell of it, a soft and uncomplicated face, honest, under the nicest and most beautiful head of hair I’ve ever seen on a man. He wasn’t guilty of anything. I didn’t think he ever would be.

He smiled.
“I ran a quick scan on my risks”, he said.
“I’m not perpetrating. I haven’t asked to be let in under a false pretext. I’m not threatening you. I’m not harassing you. I’m not really even here to convert you to love. It’s just that I suddenly found myself saying a foolish thing like that. I’ll leave this place the instant you tell me to. But see that old BMW outside? It’s a car I have. Someone told me it’s between 8 and 10 years old. Can you believe there are people who can tell such things by what’s on the license plate? Probably a matter of where you put your priorities in life. Anyway, it’s an old bum of a car. But it takes me from A to B, like from me to you. I wasn’t really coming to visit you though. I made that up. I was on my way to the beach. I took a shortcut through this street. Well, it’s a shortcut if you ignore the one-way traffic sign. Ah, sorry about that! Seeing your car, that was pure coincidence. Then I thought it might be nice to call in. I felt it’d be such a waste of the glances we exchanged not to. Do you want to come with me?”
“Yes”, I said, rising.
“Good, but you better take off those heels. They won’t take you far, not on the beach.”
“I think I’ll keep them on, though”, I said. “I’ll bring a pair of old flats. Give me a minute. They are in my car. I’ll change when we get to the beach.”

We drove to the seaside, less than ten minutes from where I live.

“You’re driving in the middle of the road”, I said. ”I think someone’s behind us who’s anxious to pass.”
“Oh boy!”, he exclaimed, unconcerned, and, looking over his right shoulder, his black curls swishing against my cheek, he pulled into the right lane. He didn’t signal. I leant over to him. I brushed his cheek with my lips. His warm curls caressed my nose.
“I don’t mind that”, he said. “I don’t mind that at all.”


Go With The Flow

Some years back my friend and I queued to get up the Empire State. I was wearing a Burberry Prorsum light gray cashmere caban (Net-A-Porter, S/S 2014 runway pre-order) over skinny jeans by Victoria Beckham (Luisa Via Roma, 2013). Although we were inside, lined up at the elevator section, I had kept on my Chanel black framed cat eye sunglasses (Galeries Lafayette, Paris, 2012).

“Are you an actress?” a security guy wanted to know.
“Yes”, I answered, not looking at him, but straight ahead, as I imagined an actress would, and I followed my friend into one of the elevators.

Some other time – I remember this was in Houston, Texas – I walked with my friend into a Neiman Marcus store. They had Calvin Klein branded heels in snake-effect leather for something like $120, which I thought of as suspiciously inexpensive.

“Are those genuine CKs, at that price?” I asked.
“Are you a model?” the salesgirl asked in return.
“Yes”, I said, “but how does that answer my question?”
“What was your question?” she asked.
“Are you serious? I said, and I walked out the store erect and hips swaying, like a model, my friend following, as, no doubt, the salesgirl’s stare to where she lost sight of me.

Out on a stroll in my home town in the country of my exile, where my friend had taken the trouble to visit me, I said to a man trimming the hedge fencing off a large garden, who I felt looked at us as if we were of a lesser breed: “I live in a bigger house one street up and my inner world is much more interesting than yours!”, the former a fact, the latter conjecture. I had barely checked my pace, which I then notched up to jaunty, and my friend, catching up, cried out: “Have you completely lost your mind”?
“Yes”, I briskly said, “and good riddance.”

I left her standing dumbfounded, wondering if she had missed out on the full range of life’s possibilities. Or so I imagined.

A Take On Neuro-Linguistic Programming

My neighbor friend has become an NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) practitioner. She studied hard for about a year to become certified. No offense, but if my neighbor friend is capable of becoming certified in NLP, that is proof that NLP is not science. If you need more proof: she is also a student of necromancy and scrying.

Let’s give my neighbor friend a name. She has grown to be my BFF. In fact, she is the only friend I have in the country of my exile. She is kind to me, she has unexpected leadership qualities, she is not destitute, I walk her dog, and, if all this were not reason enough to name her, a short name is a welcome macro to save me the trouble of typing “my neighbor friend” each time composition requires me to be more specific than the use of a pronoun allows. I call her Shaena.

Shaena is extremely entrepreneurial in NLP on social media, publishes and distributes training materials, and sells classes which require a minimum of 7 and cap at 10 participants. Participants pay $ 3,750 for a 15-day course. Accommodation and victuals are not included. Results either, but that isn’t mentioned in the promotional material. Shaena is a great networker. Her very first class sold out. At a tax optimized hourly rate that would be about 30k in EBIT (the DA being irrelevant to an NLP practitioner). I can relate to that.

She has also booked a stage in one of the main theaters in the country of my exile’s capital (where we both live, and outside of which I don’t move about a lot). She will do a one-woman show in the summer. I’m invited.

Shaena is well aware of the favorable cash position I’m in. She has been accepting thousands of dollars worth of shoes on my behalf that I ordered online (at, mostly) but whose delivery I was unable to stay at home for, since just the beginning of this year. Thus, in order of ordering, Victoria Beckham, Michael Kors, Tod’s, Phillip Lim, Jimmy Choo, Gianvito Rossi, Gucci, Burberry, Roger Vivier (4 pairs, after I found the first pair to be so damn comfortable), Manolo Blahnik. I took her to a silly millionaire’s fair late last year (which I only visited to get to talk to a live person at the Tesla booth about my Plaid order), where, at a high-end jeweller’s pop-up, she witnessed me buying off the shelf a Jaeger-Lecoultre Reverso Classic Duetto. If we go out, all expense is on me. And, of course, I book high-end gigolos, that I’m having sex with in the best rooms of expensive hotels following compact diners in Michelin star restaurants. These are just the fleeting examples of my wealth she has become privy to.

It is only logical, if not inevitable, that Shaena has been trying to sign me up for one of her NLP classes. So far, I’ve been able to resist this assault on (and insult of) my common sense. But she managed to sneak a tiny booklet in my purse recently: NLP for Entrepreneurs. Its cover was so ugly I just had to open it to protect my aesthetic feelings, if not my very eyes. Inside was a questionnaire. In four steps the questionnaire will determine your “preferred representational system” (a.k.a. “primary rep sys”): Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic, or Auditory-Digital. I love questionnaires and tests as long as they don’t measure performance. The NLP primary rep sys test meets that requirement one hundred percent. I will not go into every step of the questionnaire but just mention the outcome: 25 points in Auditory-Digital, 19 points in Kinesthetic (which I didn’t even know is a thing in the first place), 18 points in Visual and a mere 8 points in Auditory. Auditory being a lower outlier would seem to be consistent with impaired hearing in my right ear following a stupid heroine experiment induced accident in my twenties, or my deafness to arguments running counter to what I have predetermined to be the conclusion regardless of reasoning.

I sent Shaena a text with the results. I asked her what she made of them. She texted back saying I think you need to see a psychiatrist as a matter of priority. Listing her qualities above I forgot to mention that Shaena has always been perfectly straightforward with me.


The Project

I have been with a gigolo for the first time in my life. Following financial arrangements with his agency, I met with him in an expensive restaurant. I made him choose the best dishes and gave him free rein on the wine (quality, not quantity, for obvious reasons), but said we would not do the five-course dinner because that would take too much out of our hotel room time. I didn’t say that exactly. I didn’t want him to form an unfavorable opinion of me. He got my drift alright. The restaurant was inside the upscale hotel where I had booked the most expensive room, called the King’s Presidential Suite, as if it was decided that the suite’s name should resonate with the entitled parts of societies in kingdoms and presidential jurisdictions alike. The double door, 120 sq ft, 5-room suite closed off a hallway with rooms on either side, like a terminus at the end of a rail track.

The gigolo worked under the name of Marcus. Scrolling through the agency’s database, I had been struck by his handsome and personable face and his superbly worked out body parts. Marcus was in the premium price category of $800/hour. This was exclusive of food, drinks and lodging, which were the client’s responsibility, obviously, as were, less obviously, travel expenses, which came at a fixed price. Only after I had booked him – 6pm to midnight, including restaurant time – did it occur to me to check his height, which I found to fall short of mine (I’m a tall girl) by more than 3″. I texted the agency, but they reassured me that I wouldn’t be bothered by the difference in bodily length. Picturing myself on my knees, on all fours, or prone or supine most of the time anyway, I decided to take my chances.

Marcus was as handsome in real life as I had imagined him going by the pictures on his profile page. I could only hope his body would not be disappointing. As we were being walked to our table by the maître d’, I allowed myself to fall behind to get a good view of his buttocks, which stood out in his black pants as if molded from the smoothest of natural resins. He would be wearing manly underwear – boxer shorts – per my instructions to the agency. He was broad shouldered, straight backed, and walked effortlessly erect like an optimally humanized humanoid. This went a great deal to reassure me that I had not been looking at photoshopped pictures of him online.

Marcus is part of a project of my neighbor friend. I’m that project. The project is to get me out into society, among the people, work less hard, and get laid (as a matter of urgency) rather than procure the umpteenth vibrator. I had been discussing male hardbodies with her when she came up with the link to the premium male escort agency where I had happened upon Marcus. Other parts of the project plan included visiting a superleague soccer match (soccer is a predominantly male sport in the country of my exile, and it is at least as violent as any American football game), dancing in a beach house (with music played by a Neanderthal DJ whom my neighbor friend was inexplicably obsessed with), seeing a live band led by a once famous radio personality, performing depressing hits from the 1980s, and watching a musical, loosely based on the American original (The Prom), about a teen lesbian relationship, in whose closing scene fabulous looking male actors, who had been playing dumbass squares throughout the show and that I had secretly been feeling very much attracted to, unexpectedly re-entered the stage in drag for no reason at all, or that reason should be to teach hardened squares like me a lesson. Execution of the project plan has been going on for just two months as I’m writing this – I still have ten months of scope to deal with.

In the suite, after a percursory exploration of its five rooms, we shed our clothes, embraced and French-kissed. I felt pale and frail, a mollusk, against the muscular bulk of Marcus’ ebony body. Marcus was XL in circumference, never mind length. It was impossible to introduce him via the main entrance, and it was impossible to sneak him in through the backdoor (not my favorite anyhow, because, if it may broadcast reverberations, it doesn’t connect to the inner sanctuary; it’s a dead end). I blew him twice, swallowing the jizz to at least have that of him inside, we spooned in the big bed, I ordered champagne and snacks, which we consumed, we went to bed again and cuddled and fumbled and kissed passionately. Then we dressed, I tipped him and we said goodbye. I made a tour of the suite and collected a condom, which he had worn but contained precum only, from the floor in one of the rooms. It was crumpled like any condom that makes you feel sick when you see it in the streets, but this had been worn by Marcus. It made me horny and I took it in bed with me. I solved Wordle #588 in less than two minutes (DITCH TRIBE FLIRT), texted the grid to my friend in New York as proof of life, and fell asleep, clutching the condom.

I had my breakfast at the hotel. Shortly after I had arrived home, my neighbor friend called at my door. I let her in to subject myself to a debrief. I bragged about the beauty of Marcus and our lovemaking. I didn’t tell her that Marcus had been too large for me and that, technically (in a Clintonesque way), we hadn’t fucked. I said I missed Marcus already. I tried to book him again in two weeks’ time on the spot, but he wasn’t available. My neighbor friend suggested a vibrator she had recently discovered and thought the world of. I looked it up and said I needed an extra parking spot in the garage for that. I made the purchase anyway. My friend told me she and her boyfriend had broken up the day before. After a sexual relationship that had lasted for months he had explained that he felt remorse at deceiving his girlfriend, whom he had consistently referred to as “the other woman”. From now on he just wanted to have coffee with her at her kitchen table. He had disclosed the name of his girlfriend’s dog, which was Gus. Extremely dexterous at piecing social media and general internet data together, it took my friend no trouble to dig up the other woman’s name: Alice. She had never told him she knew the other woman’s name. To know the name, or his knowing that she knew it, was not the point. The point was that he had never disclosed her rival’s name to her. A man has no idea of the analytic power of a woman’s mind. When a man, if inclined to soul-searching in the first place, has no more than started to scratch the surface of his clumsiness, a woman has already established with infallible certainty that she has every reason to feel insulted beyond repair.


At A Funeral

I was invited to a funeral. The deceased was a person, a former priest, that I was related to through my husband, who had been related to this person by law. My husband had told me the former priest had molested his younger sisters and that his mother had allowed this to happen. After a halfhearted TS, the mother had walked out on her family to marry the defrocked priest, leaving my husband and an older sister of his at the despotic hands of a crazy and dangerous woman, on the way of smoking herself to an early death. This harpy had somehow managed to talk my husband’s father into a second marriage, after which the younger sisters were shipped to the depravity of the house that had meanwhile been set up by the former priest and their natural mother.

The mother, when I first met her, was fat and disgusting. She kept her hair very short to conceal how little of it there was. She did not just believe in a god (viz. the christian, catholic god), she was a religious fanatic. So was the former priest, who was extremely ugly to look at to boot. They had spawned their own child, a daughter, who grew into a very pretty and intelligent girl and obtained a university degree in pharmacy. But her natural beauty waned as early as in her mid twenties, because she, too,was a religious fanatic. She jilted her very handsome and free-spirited boyfriend, and married a churchgoing uneducated pill instead, who successfully inseminated her three times in three years (and probably would have continued doing that if he hadn’t spent himself for the remainder of his life). She never acquired, or even applied for, a paid job, and related to humans, her husband and children not excepted, through her catholic god only. Her oldest child, a girl, turned out as sorry a human being as the mother, always wearing shapeless long skirts and opaque stockings, and her two sons became churchgoing pills in keeping with their idiot father.

The former priest died wiped out by Alzheimer. The mother has Alzheimer too. I had learned that they had become complete strangers to each other years ago and were taken care of in the closed wards of separate homes. The mother, as fat as she had been when I first saw her, but even more disgusting, was wheeled in to sit in on the obsequies, even if she was unable to relate to anything going on outside her now completely bald pate. I felt implacable hate for these people. Their brain degenerative disease seemed the perfect retribution for their self-absorption during their conscious adult lives. My hate and disgust were vicarious. My husband had died years ago. My love for him was undying.

The once beautiful daughter, now a prematurely aged hag with an emaciated physique and dry, completely gray hair (in abundant quantity though), failed to recognize me at first (as did her dull husband, but he is immaterial). True, I have changed quite dramatically in the past decade, which was how long ago I had last seen her. My face had melted in an accident, which, even if it had been tolerably repaired, made it difficult for past friends and foes alike to recognize me. My posture was more erect than ever and my figure had developed into near-perfect proportions. My hair was thick and lustrous as that of a woman in her fourth month of pregnancy. I had arrived in a fancy-ass car. These are the words of my friend with the loft on Union Square. I had sent her pictures of dashboard, displays, consoles, steering yoke, a camera rear view shot, dome, dome lights, rear seats, door panels etc., which I took and sent going full-Plaid on autopilot. Generally, I exuded success which stuck out like a sore thumb in the humble gathering I had found myself introduced into.

At the walking lunch after the funeral I offered my condolences to the hag and her family. They were all clearly less than inconsolable; I’d say they looked rather relieved. The demented mother was left to grapple with whatever nightmares were raging inside her fogged up brain. I estimated the family’s relief would spike if she commanded her spirit to the God they had traded in their humanity for, right then, smack on the spot, at the funeral of the unsightly gnome she had been in cahoots with as he abused her very flesh and blood.

Among the people I thought I might have to be polite to, standing apart from the others, was a handsome man who even in the atmosphere which tradition ordained to be depressed struck me as the swashbuckling type, and I thought I remembered I had actually had him in my bed. I made a beeline for him.

– Family? I asked.
– Not even a friend of, he said.
– Did we meet before? I asked.
– And fucked, he said. We played truth or dare. Whether truth or dare, it had to have to do with sex, bodily parts or any object in your bedroom. I didn’t recognize you at first. What happened to your face?
– It melted and was reconstructed. How did we meet?
– I dated the daughter. (He turned and tilted his head in the direction of the wizened girl).
– You oughta have saved her, I said.
– Impossible. No marriage, no sex.
– You oughta have married her.
– If nature wants people to be together as enduring as is implied in the concept of marriage, then we can stick to nature and skip the concept. If not, then people who marry are fools who ignore nature.
– So you two broke up because of the sex issue.
– The way I think about marriage and she about sex, I would never get laid, and she would never be a mother. How would we not break up.
– Do you have children?
– Your son. A dare. Remember?
– I think I do, yes. He is a fine young man. I’m glad I chose dare.
– You only played dare.
– There was no truth worth sharing. Playing truth would have killed the sex. Even now there isn’t a true fact about me that you’d be interested to learn.

I took his hand and led him further away from the pockets of mourners.

– Truth or dare, I said.
– Dare.
– Ask the daughter to take you to her mother, then tell the mother there will be no god waiting for her on the other side to restore her brain.
– What’s it to her? he asked. She has lost the ability to confide in the figments of her own mind. There’s nothing left to disabuse her of.
– I need the daughter to hear you saying it.

He ambled to the daughter, spoke to her in a subdued voice and together they proceeded towards to the amorphous mass huddled in the wheelchair. I could not hear what he said, but it was loud enough for the daughter, who had a hand on her mother’s arm, to hear it. I saw her recoil. She spoke in an agitated tone to the boyfriend of her youth. People turned their heads. The husband, clearly embarrassed at his own indecisiveness, started towards the intimate scene, a half-smile on his face. Before he had made it to his wife, my partner in crime had started sashaying back in my direction. Stopping just briefly where I stood, he said under his breath:

– Truth or dare, quick!
– Dare, always.
– Tell the husband I dated and fucked his wife, that she climaxed, and hollered: “Goddamnit, that was so good!”
– What’s it to him? I said, as he turned to walk to the cloakroom. He’ll think he saved her.
– Yes. But I need his wife to hear it. Then he’ll know he is wrong.

The daughter and her husband were still with the mother. Funeral guests had moved in a protective circle around them. The circle opened to me like the Red Sea did to Moses. This happens to a tall and attractive woman in a tailored black suit.

– Did that person say something to offend you? I asked the daughter. You see, he accosted me. He seemed like an extremely rude person to me. Did you invite him to the funeral?
– What did he say to you? the husband asked.
– That he fucked her (I nodded in the direction of his wife) before you two met, that she climaxed and hollered: “Goddamnit, that was so good!” I’m so sorry, I added, but those were his literal words.

I saw something of the daughter’s former beauty return to her face. Cavities filled out. Lines smoothened. Color came to her cheeks. But most of all, her kind and beautiful eyes with the silver-grey irises emphasizing the vertiginous depth of her larger than average pupils started to radiate, and I saw the brightness, ten times my own, lost inside. She looked at her husband.

– You heard her, she croaked. I think you should ask her to leave.


Abolition Of The Decent Society

Right! Who are they, the Roe vs. Wade abolitionists?

Pro-Lifers. They are the people who would, if they could, hand out free weaponry for gunmen to shoot up schools, shops and public spaces. They are the opponents of euthanasia who kill themselves in captivity, overcome not by remorse for having destroyed the lives of the women and girls they molested, but by the insufferable prospect of having to spent the rest of their lives in jail.

Occupational Moralists. They are the nihilists who, fundamentally cynical of any morals, wil buy, sell and watch child pornography if they felt like it or thought money could be made off it, who raise their sons to become next gen’s misogynists, who can be fact-checked to have said things like “I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. … Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”

Supreme Court Judges. They are the body politic (not the impartial and independent judiciary worthy of a clear headed person’s respect) who would, if such case made it to their high altar some day, based on the First Amendment, rule that a domestic mogul made potus may not be denied the right to endorse the mob lynching of his bigot VP, who only came to his senses after his boss, even in the analysis of the VP’s dithery mind, got voted out.

Men. Who rape women. Or who say, it’s our decision too, and then walk out the door to pursue their careers, or worse.

Homo Economicus

2015-2017 Portfolio (Restated)

With affluence come kindness, humility and self-sacrifice, and the economy lying prostrate with emaciation, I was convinced that my purchases in luxury shopping could have a measurably positive effect on it. So on the one day, visiting out capital, where I had been working for many years, at a 20-minute drive from where I live, I entered the Burberry flagship store and came out less than an hour later with a pair of lace-up boots, a pencil skirt and a cashmere sweater, a complementary F/W 2014 lookbook slipped into the oversized bag along with my purchases, and a $ 2,000 charge to my AMEX. The next day I visited a recently opened Dolce & Gabbana store in the same street where Burberry are fitted out (and where many other big names in fashion are roosting) and spent $1,800 on a pant suit and a blouse. On the third day I returned to the Burberry flagship store to collect the skirt, which I had asked to be altered in the waist and through the darts because its size 40 (Italian; which would be a US 4), the smallest they stocked, was a little too big on me. Although (obviously) the alteration was free of charge, I found myself set back another $ 1,600 in exchange for a S/S 2014 clutch convertible to a handbag (or the other way round, at the discretion of your salesperson’s approach in talking you into the buy), whose composition – it was made of python (outer/main), calf (trim) and lamb (lining) – was a tribute to biodiversity and a testimony to the importance of preserving it. On the fourth day, I re-entered the Dolce & Gabbana store to claim the pant suit which had had to be altered to the effect that the pants would be hemmed at maximum length, because I stand quite tall, and taken in at the waist, because my waist is nimble, and the jacket’s sleeves let out an inch each at the cuffs, because (but you would have gotten the picture by now) the length of my arms is somewhat above average. That was free of charge too. Unfortunately though, the other day I had noticed a fitted light blue jacquard dress with jewel buttons and silk lining (spring 2014 runway), pinned to a mannequin, which sold for $ 2,600 (all amounts mentioned in this recount are rounded off down to the nearest unit of hundred). I had not been able to set my mind to rest about that dress and I bought it one size smaller than the one on the doll, subject, this item too, to alteration – but I will not go into all that girl stuff again. Then I asked the shop assistant whether he knew of a place nearby where I could have a decent lunch and he managed to telephonically book me at the Conservatory Hotel, one block away, where, as I could construe from his contribution to the exchange, the girl answering his call started out saying they couldn’t take any more reservations, but then said (I don’t know by operation of what leverage my man wielded to decide the matter) that they were happy to free up a table for the customer.

The Conservatory Hotel had a doorman, black. At first I didn’t recognize him for a doorman. It was cold outside and he was all huddled up in his coat, his head buried deep in its collar. In fact, I mistook him for a homeless beggar. But when I got near he straightened himself and now I could fully appraise his stately doorman attire and posture and his handsome and well-groomed face. His case roused me to the awareness how badly the cold messes up appearances (to the point of reviving obsolescent stereotypes). I set out to find a restroom to fix mine before proceeding to the restaurant. The latter was one flight of stairs down from the elevated ground floor (I had had to ascend a flight of stairs to get into the building) and, had weather conditions been more propitious, would have opened on a walled garden, visible through large glass panes, along its entire back.

As I sat waiting for my order to be taken and then for it to be served I chid myself for not having stuck a book in my purse as I am wont to. Without someone to talk to or something to read (other than the menu, which you can pretend to study only for so long or no one’s ever going to stop by your table and take an order) and there being next to no traffic on my smartphone (either text, in any mode, or voice) I soon found myself at loss as to where to cast my eyes at. I nosed out the room for famous people, but only discerned a bunch of overacting lawyers I happened to know, busying themselves around a man and a woman, youngish, whom I assumed to be liaisons of a corporate client of their firm, which I happened to know as well because I had been a partner there for over a decade. They never even once looked in my direction, or if they did I didn’t notice because I averted my eyes a lot quicker than it takes to describe the scene.

Lunch served brought relief from my predicament, it being perfectly natural to alternate between looking at what’s on your plate and picking at it, and casually looking around the room as you are chewing the food or sipping your wine. When the table had been cleared and I sat waiting for an additional coffee-and-pastry order to be served as dessert, I found myself fortunate enough to have received two email messages to keep me busy for a while, even if they were generic and appeared to have passed the spam filter only due to some technical glitch, or manipulation on the part of the sender, or coincidence.

A little earlier on, as I was still eating away at my main course, four women, whom I estimated to be in their thirties, bogged down in lower sales management or marcom careers, and at the apogee of their professional development curves, were seated for lunch at a table adjacent to mine. No sooner had the menu been handed to them than they forgot all about it but to start an inane and over excited chatter on tedious commercial stuff in the telecommunications business, which they seemed to think to be about the hottest on earth, and probably to be considered that by practically everyone else on earth. Even if it was hard not to overhear them, my lack of interest soon as good as deafened me to their conversation. But, the subject matter having shifted to weight and what caused it and how to lose it (with each of the ladies being duly apologetic about her own), I suddenly found myself picking up on it again as my neighbors converged on the position that skinny women – by which I thought I could make out (and I’m being deliberately cautious here) they meant anyone with a US catalog size from 8 down – are skinny because they hardly eat; as simple, they seemed to imply, and despicable as that. More or less at that juncture my dessert order consisting of a large latte and more than a trifle of chocolate cake was put down in front of me. I immediately dug into the cake and enjoyed every bite and every pause I took to sip from my latte with deliberation and intent. Halfway through these dessert items I got up to visit the bathroom, something I would never do, but did to prove to the neighboring table that a curvy size 2, standing at 6 ft. (exclusive of 4” heels), clad in a high-waist Burberry London pencil skirt and a cashmere sweater tucked in over a smooth belly, can coexist peacefully, even successfully, with food.

But when I got to paying my debit card bounced, and then my AMEX bounced too, and so did my MasterCard and my Visa, and that’s where I ran out of plastic. I began to feel hot inside and, although I did not sweat (I don’t easily sweat), this physical reaction to monetary pressure evidenced itself in a heightened expression of the perfume I was wearing (Roma by Laura Biagiotti), which didn’t do it any good as it made the powdery scent of this classy perfume heavy and overbearing. Mumbling vaguely something about apparently having botched the management of funds (and this would turn out to be not a complete fib either) I suddenly remembered that such a thing as cash, as good nowadays as gold bars used to be, still existed and, even better, that some of it would be sitting in my purse. And so it was. I handed over notes covering the expense, plus a $ 15 (i.e. 25%) tip to restore some of my credibility and bearing. And, barring a few coins which I tipped to the doorman when I left, this was where I had run out of cash, too. I considered myself fortunate for having filled up the car before sallying out earlier that day.

Frankly, the situation had me more than a little worried. When I got home I went online immediately to check my accounts only to establish that little under $ 20,000 (viz. $ 19,967.23) was in my current account, which all my cards draw on. I called my man at the bank and told him how embarrassed I had been at the restaurant. I asked him what the hell had been going on there. He said Hold please and I’ll check, and when he got back to me he explained that the balance of my current account was a negative amount, i.e. was what I owed the bank, i.e. that I owed close to $ 20,000 to the bank, and that $ 20,000 was my account credit limit, which would have been overstepped, if only by the narrowest margin, had I drawn on my account to pay the lunch. These limits are pretty rigid, I’m afraid, he said, and they kick in instantaneously and automatically at a max-out.

With $ 1.9 million deposited in accounts in the name of the LLC through which I had held my stake in the equity of the firm I had been a partner of, it took me less than 3 minutes to complete the necessary transfers to replenish my current account. But I recognized that it was time I took stock: I owed a lot more to my company than the $ 1.9 million registered in its name; I owned a 4-bathroom, 8-bedroom house (most of it paid with loans taken out on the company). which I hadn’t been able to sell in two years, let alone for an amount that came anywhere near the amount of indebtedness to my company; I was jobless and without a source of income. I realized I was technically bankrupt.

From this bold facedown I concluded that worse may befall a woman of talent, style and beauty, with great taste in clothes, who may be seen riding her 12-speed Koga Sportslady in a short skirt (Krizia, SS 2016) at high speed with both hands off the bars, even in curves.


2014-2016 Portfolio (Restated)

After I had fallen afoul of the powerful forces that, for close to two decades, had been driving me forward in society and propelling me financially ahead of the vast majority of my fellow human beings, the conviction grew on me that there isn’t such a thing as reality, whether or not of our own making, suitable to plot our lives on; that, even if we believe there is and consensus is assumed on what we mean when we refer to it, fiction is as valuable and respectable to help us negotiate and even shape our lives, and – but that’s a stretch – bring them to a satisfactory close when it’s our time. I’m not saying I will use fiction to deceive and turn my life into a lie. I’d rather die. What I mean is that in more cases than you might think fiction is a perfect means to make up for the lack of sense and morality and the manipulativeness and deceitfulness of what is commonly referred to as reality. If you’re looking for a Darwinian explanation of the power of imagination we have developed as a species, I offer you this: without it, given the way aeons of evolution have seen us, for whatever good to our survival, embrace the concept of reality to the point where it has deprived us of the ability to leave the facts to themselves, human life is impossible.

I’m alone a lot of the time lately. I may say things to my dog like: “It’s a housewife’s thing, Smith, that as soon as she has recovered from sickness [by this, in this case, referring to a migraine attack which lasted two and a half days, such as I come down with every six to eight weeks] she will start on the housework that she left unattended but has been unable to put out of her mind.” A thing like this I will say merrily, because after a migraine attack I feel wonderfully rinsed (and not just because I don’t eat anything and vomit all the time) and extremely lucid and very energetic; I can’t wait to get work done that mere hours before I couldn’t so much as lift a finger at. There is something euphoric in my voice, which I feel in my throat, rather than hear myself. But the dog registers it. Its tail goes up and it turns into that exuberant creature that follows me from the one room to the next I clean, jumps on every bed I make, yaps and snaps at sheets of paper swirling to the floor as I gather my daughter’s school books and papers from all over the place and arrange them in her room, and sits watching attentively (and a little impatiently, because there is nothing it can jump at or run after or stick its nose into) while I, precariously perched on a chair, clean the 1.3 ft. deep fish tank, which is mounted on a 4 ft. stand, which is also a cabinet for holding various fish tank paraphernalia. I’m not really a housewife, by the way. At the time my husband left me, I was bringing in most of the money. I worked 6 days a week, putting in 60 to 70 hours. He walked, or died; I don’t quite remember which. Perhaps he went to have a sex change. Anyway, the one thing (and never mind which) led to the other and now I am alone. But saying to myself I am a housewife – and no one will argue with me that I am as good as any – is strangely comforting.

Or I may say silly things, to myself mostly, rather than to the dog or, addressing them right through the thick glass walls of their tank, the fantails, that my daughter baptized Nemo, Mandarin, Minni, Molly, Tip-Tip and Silvy. I had better not write those things down, because they could strike a person as utterly offensive, improper, outrageous or outlandish, and so on. I have not mastered the skill to come across as being inoffensive or proper or moderate while I’m fundamentally none of these. But, at a cost, going a long way to explain my current state of semi isolation, I have learned to keep the dark side of me, which saying such things reveals, to myself. This may seem just as well for all practical purpose, except that it has me muttering to myself a lot of the time. I might be better off if I were able to soften up to my fellow human beings. But I simply cannot. Believe me if I say I’m not proud of that.

Or I may just lie in my bed on my back. To prevent the bright sunlight blasting through the French window style balcony doors, across from the footboard, from burning my eyes, I will turn either side of my head to the pillow or I may decide to turn on either of my sides altogether. But I will not close the curtains. The sun has a good case being out there, youthful and brazen and as bright as it can get, whereas I have no business being in my bed. But I will briefly doze off regardless and wake up an hour or so later, dazed and not feeling all too well. I do get up though and I shake off my misery because I will simply not allow things to get out of hand or worse than they have already. I will be there when my daughter gets home from school and make her that cup of tea and a sandwich or something, and I will ask about the homework she’s got and what’s her planning on it and help her with it if she lets me, and I will feed the animals (Smith, and the cats, whom my daughter ordained should go by the names of Cheat and Lucia, and the fantails) and think of what we will have for dinner and prepare what must be prepared in advance to cook it later and put it on the table at a decent hour. The understanding we have on this is I go to bed sometimes during the day because I need a little nap, not because I’m depressed or beaten up or desperate or anything. And there is more truth in this than I make it sound like here.

O, the way I spend, the way I dress, the way I move and keep my back straight, my shoulders limp and my head up! The way I make heads turn! The way I was destroyed, the way I’m myself destroying what is left of me! I could easily be the talk of many a town. But, if I act out downfall from stardom, what I never had was stardom. I am alone and all one sees of me are the consistent absence of a companion, my outrageous expenses, my expensive clothes, my slimness, my tallness, my erectness, and the impenetrability that I cannot shed if I wanted to. My motives are not pried into and my downfall goes unnoticed, fails to get recognized for what it is, and, stardom not being what I’m falling down from, increasingly falls short of affordability. What difference is there between me and the haggard looking woman of inestimable age I saw the other day from my car as I went downtown to shop more apparel, who struggled in the direction in which the gridlocked traffic I was in was headed, dragging a trolley shopping bag behind her, her eyes to the ground, wearing old jeans, a man’s coat, her face scarce that of a woman any longer, but gray and sexless? I’m pretty sure that I am not less clueless than she is. But having pondered the question I decided that, unlike me, she has given up and doesn’t care if defeat is all over her for everyone to stare at. I’m not saying I never considered giving up, that I would have never reached that point. But if I had, it would have marked the moment when I had taken my own life, not when I started to stoop, shambling along the streets.

There was this question of having four students from God knows where in the whole wide world stay for a couple of days with us. They take part in a model United Nations conference for senior highs worldwide. My daughter’s school is among the schools participating in this annual event, and so, even if my daughter is in junior high (she said she had been appointed to one of the admin positions for juniors), a ninth grader called me to ask if I would be willing to provide quarters to four students for just three days. I said yes, sure. I said we could lodge more, because I have a really big house with more spare rooms than rooms we use and four bathrooms etc. and that it’s just my daughter and I living in it. The senior girl, clearly a novice at this kind of thing, proceeded with a sort of questionnaire, and as I listened to her I could feel the effort to make sense of the questions as she struggled through the list. She asked things like can I cook vegetarian meals? (Yes, although I’ve never rustled up anything intentionally vegetarian short of leaving out the meat, but I can do better than that). Do I have a preference for males of females or a mix? (No preference, but FYI, we’re just two females living here). Do we own pets? (O, yes! And – diverging purposely as I added this information, because I felt elated and wanted the conversation to last – two mice and some stick insects, too, and an inchworm that came in from outside with the ivy that the stick insects feed on and that has outlasted two generations of stick insects already). What foreign languages do I speak? (French, German, Italian… No, not Spanish; désolée). And so on. My daughter is enthusiastic, but knowing she would be wasn’t the only reason I said yes. Another is that I so desperately, so desperately, want to reach out to people, even if I’ve hardly ever managed to get to be given anything lasting in return when I did, anything beyond a kind word, a thank you note, or a box of chocolates.

But now I’m here in bed with one of the students, a 17-year old boy. He’s from Brazil, where they speak Portuguese. His name is Adriano. He’s a meat eater, a naturally inveterate carnivore, if ever there was one. He has excused himself from the moot conference session today saying he was suffering from a nasty rash, like something from an allergy, he said, like they say is caused by cat hair, or synthetic nesting material for mice, although he wasn’t aware of any allergies that he would be suffering from. My daughter has gone administrating. I am aware the school will probably file complaint with the authorities if they find out I am sleeping with a 17-year old model United Nations Conference student who has been entrusted to my care. I will not be excused because he looks five years older, and there is a degree of sophistication in his lovemaking, which, if his passport would not belie the biological possibility, warrants the misapprehension that he has lost his innocence at least a decade ago and never missed an opportunity for erotic involvement since. After all, I did not simply pick him up from the streets. He was enrolled and registered at MUN, taken to my home and formally transferred to me with documents to sign.
“Adriano, you will understand how important it is that you do not speak to anyone, ever, about what we are doing here?”
“I will never say one word.”
But I can’t get my mind to dislodge and flush out the fear that he will, and that he will get a rumor started like a bush fire, which school officials will not tarry to get to the bottom of. When he restarts his lovemaking I tell him I have things to do and have to get moving.
“I can see you are worried about this.” He rolls himself on top of me.
“You mustn’t be.” He sits back on his knees and gropes behind him to grab my ankles.
“Please, don’t be worried.”
He squeezes my ankles. He releases his grip and moves his hands upward and when they reach my knees they continue to go up along the inside of my thighs.
“Do you think I would need to be bragging to anyone about this? Or that it would give me some kind of pleasure to expose you? Why?”
His right hand cups my vulva, presses it as the middle finger gently massages my perineum.
“No!” he says. And then: “O, no!” And still on his knees between my legs, he bends and kisses my lips.

You see, Adriano is not a stage prop or a bit part in this recount. He is a person, a principal character, and I allow him roundness, individuality, uniqueness. Absent Adriano’s uniqueness I am nothing in this scene. But when we are done I am being preemptive. I call school and ask to be put through to someone from staff involved in MUN and I tell that someone that Adriano, who is staying in my house, has reported sick and that I feel responsible for him and want to give a status update. I say that I had a call with our family physician, who, hearing of the symptoms, told me not to worry. I went on to assert that, in fact, Adriano, when he was still in bed in his room, called me from his cell phone to tell he feels much better already and that I, too, thought he looked better when he got downstairs to eat the lunch that I had cooked up for him and to which I had invited him calling him from my cell phone. When I have disconnected I return to my room where I find Adriano asleep, still and beautiful as in a genre piece of an Italian renaissance master. And looking down on him I think I see “O, no” still lingering on his slightly parted lips.

My daughter enters the bedroom, where she knows she may find me, resting a bit, when she returns from school. She is still in her coat. She is 12 years old. She looks at Adriano.

She says “I have a boyfriend and his name is Tom.”

Being A Condo Owner

Certain people in my apartment building take issue with insects and spiders. We are approaching that time of the year. Typically, the dominant threads in the apartment building’s group chat are about the sluggings and stabbings in certain parts of town (far away from where our building is), a police car that may have been seen (from a top apartment on the east side of the building) trundling by in a street in yet another part of town, and the recurring troubles with the car lift, which succeeds in trapping a car and the people in them like a giant mouse trap at least twice a week. But now the focus is on bugs.

A married couple kicked off the exchange, canvassing for the rehire of the Spider Man. I had so far been unaware of the Spider Man’s existence. I gathered that his lethal trade had been engaged last year as well. From what I could make out from the chat, the Spider Man sprays; I don’t know where, with what or how many times, but he sprays and the critters die. Quite some residents signed up at the local currency equivalent of $ 75 per apartment. One apartment texted it was too expensive and that they would deal with it differently; no specifics were provided. But an ecologically woke person objected, arguing (I’m paring down the argument to a simple syllogism; in reality it was so elaborate, it required three separate posts): (i) that insects and spiders are in a place in the food chain that has birds above them; (ii) meaning that birds eat bugs; (iii) ergo, that if bugs die, birds die. Birds are where the food chain ends in the country of my exile, so that is where the syllogism had to end; it doesn’t get worse than that. The female of the married couple doubled down, claiming she suffers from arachnophobia so bad it prevents her from leaving the apartment if a tiny spider is between her and the front door. She added that the Spider Man uses biobased, biodegradable poison. So would the ecologically concerned person kindly shut the fuck up – a pathology was going on here! Shutting the fuck up was what that person did; more than kindly: it took another two turns in the chat for her to cringingly express her politically correct apologies. Who would want to be noticeable for gainsaying a mentally imbalanced person? For suggesting that the earth’s ecology outranks a crazy person’s pathology?

Although I’m in the chat, I never contribute a single message. Nor do I contribute to discussions in the owner’s association. I’m totally uninvolved with anything going on in the resident’s group, except when the value of my apartment is at stake. Then, eschewing all debate, not saying one word, I blindly use my blocking vote, which I have because I’m in an apartment that is twice the size and four times the market value of the next biggest apartment. To monitor developments relevant to my apartment is the only reason I’m in the chat. Reading the exchange I was amazed at the bared-faced fallacy of the arachnophobic woman’s reasoning, and the other woman’s immediate resignation to it. Would biobased poison accumulating in a bird’s organs be less toxic to the bird than any old-school poison? Does it matter that once a bird has succumbed, the poison inside it will be broken down to environmentally innocuous substances? In other words, should not the question have been what “biobased” and “biodegradable” mean in terms of the danger that the poison poses to birds? It does kill bugs. Why not birds? To close the argument, I can’t think of pesticides or rodenticides, whether or not “biobased” or “biodegradable”, that humans are not strongly advised against to consume.

But of course, I hold my tongue.

The blatant lack of capacity for logical reasoning reminded me of my AVEDA hairdresser, who once pointed out to me that AVEDA products are “90%” organic (botanical), i.e. non-synthetic, therefore harmless to hair and follicles. I tried to explain, first, that a chemical substance can do harm regardless of whether it is organic or botanical or synthetic, second, that toxicity thresholds are not relative but absolute and that if an AVEDA hair masque contained a mere 1 ‰ (one per mille) of something that, in that relatively tiny amount, is harmful to my hair or skin or follicles, then the remaining 999 ‰ of components are entirely irrelevant to the consequences. But this was something I could not get across. I put a pin in it and surrendered to the delicious if unnatural smell of the AVEDA scalp and hair treatment instead, blissfully aware that I could afford the best of permanent wigs if it ever came to that.

Because, let’s face the age-old truth, for those justifiably skeptical of human intelligence, it always boils down to the same thing: wealth – how to amass, protect and increase it.

A New York Reading Guide

I’m in New York, where I watched a David Byrne show at St James Theater. Due to a certain pandemic this was not the show that I had paid for, but I’m not complaining. My friend, the BFF from Union Square, and I were seated Orchestra near the podium, i.e. outrageously expensive. I’m still not complaining. The show was very good. I had never seen David Byrne in real life. His legendary Talking Heads are from well before my time (in terms of age of reason). David Byrne has been around for a long time, and a sizeable part of the audience consisted of such as have been around for similar periods of time. A number of them, notably a tightly knit group of oldtimers occupying a row of seats directly in front of us, clapped their hands like monkeys in a Bimbo Box each time the beat of a song was basic enough to allow mechanical execution, like they were on quantities of acetaminophen, or attending a Vienna New Year’s concert. The difference with an automaton being that these people also clapped their hands for no reason at all, such as when Byrne had only announced a song but not yet even performed it (I’m very strict in these things), or when he said something trite but endearing that anyone of us could have come up with. But Byrne was incredibly sexy, and I fantasized quietly and intensely over him, much in keeping with his age, with satisfactory outcome, after I had gotten back to my hotel. Towards the end of the show, encouraged by Byrne, we got up and danced within the narrow confines of the space allowed by the allocated seats. This forced me to move my body in a way I felt made me the envy of the old French couple seated in the row directly behind us. (As we moved out of the theater, we were behind the couple as it laboriously worked its way up in the direction of the exit signs. People starting to mildly push the people in front of them to get traction, I cussed, after Louis-Ferdinand Céline (Mort à Crédit), Nom de Dieu de sacré saloperie de Nom de Dieu de merde! Tonnerre! This was meant to impress the couple. But they didn’t hear me. Or they may have had no sense of highlights in French literature, in which case they would have just been extremely embarrassed by my rudeness).

During the performance Byrne mentioned that he lives downtown Manhattan, but less downtown than he used to. My hotel is fairly downtown (on 40 something street and Madison; I’m not giving everything away), and so the next day I ventured out uptown to increase the chance that I would run into Byrne. I walked along Fifth Avenue, a couple of times veering off into a block, all the way up to Central Park, where I booked a horse carriage ride. Having comfortably settled in the cushions and provided instructions to the coachwoman, who promptly declined the same for being outrageously out of scope, I pulled a book from my purse that I had bought at Barnes & Noble (together with seven other books) and started to read. Byrne, whom I had in fact run into as I walked to Central Park, had slunk into the carriage’s seat across from me. He asked me why do you pay for a horse carriage and then read a book. I explained that reading books – fiction of course; non-fiction, if sadly produced in great quantity and the subject of unwarranted review, is not worth reading – is the only thing that matters in a woman’s life, and that everything else that I do – earning heaps of money, buying expensive clothes, using two laptops at the same time (one for the company I’m in the board of directors of and one for the company that I own myself), thumbing away on an iPhone (IOS) and a Samsung phone (Android) alike, demonstratively ignoring or staring down my fellow human beings, etc. (the etc. including taking a horse carriage ride and read a book) – I only do to impress other people. The amount of detail of my explanations was less than suggested here. I think novels are your poison, Byrne said. Yeah, he added musingly, I did drugs (something he had also volunteered during the show). I can relate to that. Btw, I said (still not meaning to complain), you owe me 50% of the fare for the ride.

On the way back to nowhere in particular I entered St. Patrick’s. Tourists were swarming all over the place as usual. Ethereal choral music was loop-playing over the PA system, confirming my suspicion that this was a place not of worship and contemplation but of contemptible mass culture and bad taste, i.e. of the kind that led Jesus to crack his whip in a temple turned shop (John 2:15). Not looking in any particular direction and avoiding to gaze ahead towards the crossing and the altar in particular, I moved into a pew and started reading my book again. I think I did this to impress on people my loathing for their cheap, groveling and ephemeral bout of religiousness and that even in St Patrick’s to read literature is far superior to anything going on, being suggested and being imagined in that knock-off neo-gothic building. After some 15 minutes I started to feel I had made my point. I got up and wriggled out of the pew. I walked out of the church building still refusing to cast any glances around to enjoy the aspects of the magnificent interior of St Patrick’s that I would have enjoyed had not so many tourists been cramped up inside and an overriding urge to separate myself from the crowd (that I so depended on for my act and my ego) not gotten in the way of the capabilities of my aesthetic mind.

The particular book I had been reading is Conversations With Friends (2017) by Sally Rooney. A long time reading I thought it’s a great novel if not great literature. About three parts of the way in, I began realizing that the author should have prepared the run-up to an ending at about the point I was at at a much earlier stage. But the narrative dragged on long after this point, even digressed to a mawkish church scene interlude, while fighting an increasingly desperate fight to retain my attention against a loss of interest and curiosity. Seemingly in an attempt to instil the novel with a “Vision”, a “Big Idea”, the novel only succeeds in becoming fuzzy, confused, blah blah blah-ish. If the finale provides any insight it is that Rooney, in writing Conversations With Friends, proves herself an accomplished light-prose writer in search of a plot, or focus, a wrap at least. I had a very similar experience reading My Year Of Rest And Relaxation (2018) by Ottessa Moshfegh, ten years older than Rooney but at less than a writer’s generation’s distance from her. The novel takes off brilliantly, plateaus at a high level of sparkling darkish humor, but fails to develop and disappointingly drops off to a life philosophy kind of mishmash. I see a school of writing emerging. A school in need of a stern teacher. I also read Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House (2019). It bugs me why this book has not remained unwritten (I’m not content with the answer that it had to be written to warrant the question). But I guess she could be that teacher.

I’m not complaining, I told Byrne, whom I had remained friendly with following the horse & carriage tour and sat sharing above reviews with over a dinner in his downtown-ish Manhattan brownstone, but, damnit, that show of yours was worth a hundred conversations with friends. Which is a fair approximation of the price I had paid for the tickets.

The Directress

A door in the main hall opens into the spacious kitchen. The kitchen gives to the dining room. Sliding doors separating the kitchen from the dining room are in open position, giving the impression they permanently are. Another door in the hall opens into the middle room. A doorway connects the middle room to the dining room. At the other end of the middle room is an arched passage to the front room, open.


“You wear pretty dresses”, he said.

The days being hot from mornings through late evenings it was true that on every day he had come she had been wearing a different summer dress. On none had she been wearing anything expensive, even if she possessed many expensive clothes. She was tall and slim, her waist markedly slimmer still than her slender hips. She was rather large-breasted. Any summer dress catching on those physical characteristics would flatter her, and each she wore on each of those five days did.

The first time he had called at her door after she had phoned him straight off a flyer he had distributed personally, months ago in fact (she must have kept it all this time), in her very upscale neighborhood, the flyer proffering any and all fixes around the house that residents can think of being in need of being done but for some reason or excuse never done or made to be done. She needed the rain gutters of her house and the detached garage cleared from debris that came from the many trees in her enormous and largely uncultivable garden, the grounds of which back of the house sloped steeply upward to protected dune forest. He easily identified other sores, and angled in $750 worth of work (his calculation, which she neither contested nor, even, discussed), which he performed, and got paid for, on that same day, that first day.

That day and the days following she had impressed him as pretty, meek, dependent, and, if only because of the enormous monumental brownstone she lived in, affluent. She spoke softly, she was generally acquiescent. Her many smiles were defensive and wrangled. He knew that, intellectually, she was beyond his reach. He didn’t think that anything that would interest him would interest her, and vice versa (the latter not words he would use, or even know). But from what she told him – and (this not being an analysis he was capable of consciously reasoning out) she clearly had a proclivity of pouring out her heart to someone, like him, whom she depended on to perform an odd job from time to time – he gathered that she had got beaten up by life, in years more recent rather than long past, and that her apparent wealth might be flotsam in a sea of trouble (a metaphor, with a whiff of Shakespeare, representing his gut feeling of her situation, but one which he would never think of).

In a matter of days, if not on that very first day, he had “fallen in love” with her, though, with acute erotic desire into which his gentler feelings towards the other sex inevitably devolved, and to graft off her never crossed his mind. By nature he wasn’t a grafter. Principle had nothing to do with it. He wasn’t a man of any principle, high or simple. He lived the best he could, in terms of foraging, not of ethics or estheticism, or of intellectual curiosity and advancement. He had a wife, children. He would grow old, die. His being was nature all over him. By a stroke of luck he wasn’t dishonest by nature. Nature inculcated his love for her, as it, as nature, would to him for any woman exhibiting her distressed prettiness. She fitted the type.

If he wasn’t dishonest by nature, neither by nature was he faithful. His marriage and his children were chattel he had gathered along the way.


Yes, she was in trouble, and her wealth was a façade fronting the ruins that remained after a rapid collapse of her 20-year stab at being a wife, a mother, and a careerist.

But that is not something we must delve into. What is told here is about the interaction between him and her, with the application and the benefit of the Directress’s comprehensive perspective, which we have seen instances of already in this story. Vetted by the Directress’s omniscience we can consider her predicament a given, and that it had caused her to gradually withdraw, not from what we can reasonably (i.e. using reason) establish to be facts, not yet (she had not lowered the shades, flipped the slats, retreated to the immured world of her own mind, not yet), but from the struggle for the only kind of a life that she wanted to do life for: art and splendor, the vindication of her resistance to all religion and creeds, and of her stern morality.

It was because of this withdrawal from her aspirations that she impressed him as she did. The interaction between her and him was predicated on her withdrawal, and on how she impressed him because of this withdrawal, this loss of faith and drive.

Today (the day, as you will recall, when he complimented her on the dresses he’d see her in on every day he came to her house) she sank to her knees before him (this was in the kitchen), certain of his sexual desire, undeceived of her own. She could never have made out with him first, so much as have kissed him first, come close to his face and whispered words in his ear first, looked into his eyes and breathed his breath first. Nor would he have known how to deal with such things. If it were to be done, as their interaction over the past days suggested (the frequency of his visits, the sexual tension between them, the wondering, that they could almost sense in one another, if this wasn’t the situation when these things are expected to happen between a man and a woman who weren’t lovers, and never could be), then it could only be done raw and peremptory, blind. Penetrative and ejaculatory sex she saw as their only common ground, anywhere outside of which they would remain strangers to one another, probably find disgust of one another; which is why she would not look him in the eye, or talk, or kiss; which is why she would not allow intimacy a part in what they would do to each other.

So, on her knees, unspeaking, not looking up (or down; she would not add a display of humility to the act of self-humiliation implied in the sexual act itself: such erotic playing would bring them closer to one another than was her desire; than, she gauged, was his, too), she undid his button fly, and she made her hand grope for his penis in his underpants, and take it out – now it became huge and hard with a purposefulness of its own, taking control over him (the Directress’s perspective), and effacing him (her perspective) -, and she took it in her mouth and made him come, and she kept it in her mouth until it went limp and, silent, her eyes steady on his groin, made her hand take it out and away from her and snug it back into his underpants and, her other hand made to assist, button up his pants.

But now, on her knees, never looking up, she turned and positioned herself on all fours, waiting for him to grow hard again, as she knew he was bound to, unbutton himself, hike up the skirt of her dress, and penetrate her, and, spending himself, satisfy her. She did this for herself, because a woman’s sexual desire can be kindled (as was her motive) by what she had done to him before but not quenched as a result. In simply, from her kneeling position, turning around and huddling at a short distance from his feet, she had foreclosed the interlude she did not want, the intermission that lovers, which they were not, use to affirm their longing for closeness to the point where their bodies crave to join once more; on all fours before him she had merely waited for his sexual ability to be restored as she knew it was destined to be at the mere sight of her.


Yet, when the unavoidable scene had played out and she had gotten up, she stroked his face, briefly, brushed it with her fingers, feeling kindly towards him. He went outside. He worked hard around the house for a time. He rang the doorbell. She opened the door. She wore her wrangled smile. He remained standing in the doorway. He said he’d call it a day. He said he’d return the next morning to finish what he had been doing.

She said: “Will you bill me?”

He said he would not. He said he would return the next day to finish the work.

That night, before she fell asleep, she imagined hiring him, keeping him on as a hired hand, and that she would pay him with sexual favors. But, she thought, imagining the situation, could not I be said to have been hired by him and his doing odd jobs to be my recompense? Would we not be trading services? I don’t want that, she thought. I pander to my needs. I’m rendering a service to myself. I will pay him money.

She dreamed that she had a house resembling a citadel, which, in her dream, she could only see the outside of; clad in what her brain, collecting her life’s icons, must have adopted as Brontë-novel period attire, she closely skirted its circumference, certain of her title, spreading out her arms, as she walked, towards the brindled walls of tightly laid slightly polished rocks, as if to demonstrate something – her isolation, her security, her wealth? – to a man standing nearby, whose face, in her dream, was indistinct, whose presence was passive and harbored no menace.


He arrived early next morning, minutes after she had seen her daughter off to school. She let him in. She offered him coffee. He declined but he sat down at the table in the dining room where she had led him, for the first time. It was the airiest room, the lightest room. It was rectangular. A rectangular table with twelve chairs with straight backs was in its center. In one corner was a fire place. The walls were painted a caperat lichen green. The walls were exempt from furniture. On the walls were modern paintings (oils and watercolors) with food themes. It was the room which imposed its order on people in it.

She wore a dark green silk pleated skirt, which she gathered and smoothed emphatically as she moved to sit in the chair at the head of the table, the deliberate fastidiousness slowing her down. She asked him how long he would be, finishing the work. He said it would take another hour or two. He said that he thought the house should keep well for a while. He would move on after this. He had contracted a large assignment in a nearby town, a condo refurbishment. It should keep him busy through fall.

She felt lost. She knew she impressed him as someone looking for clues, directions. She was silent. She sensed his impatience, already, at her uselessness. He rose.

She said, preempting him: “Come, please, there’s something…”

She crossed the middle room, pointing at books, works of art, baubles, details, things. She entered the spacious front room, where she halted. He was on her heels. She stepped backward, quickly, and now the small of her back was against his groin. She arched her back, which made her buttocks rise against his groin. She pointed at the woman sitting on the large window bay sofa. She turned her head. He was slightly taller. Tilting her head she looked up at him, easily avoiding his eyes, which took no interest in hers.

She said: “She decides. Everything.”

My Neighbor Friend

The woman living next-door is a friend. Our apartment building is a new build. It has apartments in various sizes. She and I bought a two-storey apartment of the largest type. My apartment is bigger than hers. It has an extra room. But category-wise we are, well, in the same category, if on either end. Socially we’re in different stratospheres. She has a mini-Tesla, I drive Tesla. She has two children, boys, about 12 and 15 years old. I think I have two, a son and a daughter (mater certa est, but even a mother can’t be certain about numbers; not regardless of circumstance). Mine have moved out. They’ve finished school, they went to college. They have their own lives. My friend is divorced. I’m a widow. I’m in love with my husband, as much as I was ten years ago, when he died. We would never have divorced.

I found out that my friend has a penchant for spiritualism. One day, when we left our apartments at the same moment, she told me that she was on her way to a necromancer class. She said it with an undertone of self-derision. Even if our acquaintance goes back just a few months and interaction has been intermittent since then, her instinct told her that I have no sympathy for that kind of nonsense. Sharing this information with me was unsolicited. But I was glad she had. During our brief encounters, and in online meetings of the Owners Association, my friend had struck me as a strong and independent character, a bold and decisive person, a leader; all of which I’m not. I felt awed by my friend. This information restored the balance. So I reacted forgivingly, volunteering something that included reference to adventure and inquisitiveness, and that I hoped she would enjoy class.

A next time we met my friend said she had menstrual problems. This was in a convenience store, subprime, not the kind where one would typically run into someone of my social class. I happened to pass it. It was warm. I thought a bottle of white wine would be nice when enjoying the evening sun on my balcony. And so I went in. I saw my friend browsing the vegetables section. It’s near the store’s entrance. For a moment I considered the option of pretending I had not seen her. But, aware that she must have noticed me (I stand out in the crowd), I thought this was risky. I didn’t know where the wine section was and searching for it we might suddenly find ourselves coming in from opposite directions in the same aisle. So, bravehearted (socially I’m a failure), I stepped up to my friend and asked her if she knew where I would find the wine. Wine, to me, is about the concept, not the actual product. In fact, I hate the taste of wine, and the alcohol contained in just half a glass knocks me out flat. I told her this. I said I don’t have a talent for addictions. I think I felt I should explain my entering a low-end convenience store just to buy a bottle of wine. My friend smokes (but only outside of the house, and she keeps the stubs to throw them in a bin afterwards). She said Oh yes, you do, but you don’t know it. She said that lately, when having her period, she was bleeding hard and long. Her ob-gyn had suggested to have an IUS inserted to boost progesterone levels. But she had done her internet homework and concluded from her research that her estrogen levels must be too high. This made sense, she said, because these past months, due to stress (divorce, children, moving), she had been drinking too much. As her research bore out, this affected the liver’s capability of breaking down estrogen. She had immediately gone cold turkey on all alcohol. These doctors, she scoffed, they rather shoot up a woman with hormones than do some decent research and analysis. Yes, I concurred, they think a woman is a machine and hormones are its levers and switches. One has to be very careful with hormones, especially at our age, I added. I wasn’t serious about this. I’m very regular. I never have any trouble in this particular area, or in any other where physical health is concerned. I’m without age. She said that she was retaining fluid. I didn’t think it explained the potbelly, but, knowing that this was exactly what she wanted to explain, I said, yes it’s a thing, sometimes. I didn’t want to refer to menopause either. She might find that offensive.

A package was delivered to me. It was a small cardboard box, completely weightless. It was for my neighbor friend. She hadn’t answered the doorbell. I accepted it on her behalf. She called at my door a couple of hours later. I gave her the box, which I had dropped in a chair without giving it another thought. I said that there could hardly be anything in it. Panties, she said. I could only get them online in my size. I order vibrators online, I said, unsure why I volunteered that information. The exquisite Lelo Ina Wave, the third vibrator I had purchased online over the past weeks, had been delivered the other day. Did I expect her to share similar intimate information? Did I feel that panties ordered online are a very intimate thing already, perhaps not less intimate than a vibrator, and that I should respond in kind? My friend stared at me dubiously. This may be a misinterpretation. She may have been silently confirming to be part of the women’s guild of vibrator users. We turned inside.

I spent tons of money on interior design. But the inside of my house is a desert, a very cold desert. I don’t have the eye. I can’t make a home for myself. I’ve moved seven times in the past twelve years. Mere months after I’ve moved I feel that I’ve been put behind bars, that I must break out. I have been inside my friend’s house. It’s clean, warm and decorated with great taste. I saw a photo of my friend when she was younger. She was very pretty. Her name is the same as my daughter’s.

As I’m making these notes I see my friend pass by my house. She walks with some difficulty. She is obese. She is a much better person than me. She is in control of herself and the lives that depend on her. I love her. She will be dead when I’ll be continuing my ageless life. That aside, I would donate my lungs and my liver to save her.

O, Those Incorrigible Romantic Minds Of Women!

My oldest daughter, then aged 17, and I had rented an apartment in Edinburgh. This was two and a half years ago. The apartment was at Learmonth Gardens, which is a 30 to 40-minute walk from Edinburgh town center, and another 25 minutes from the Castle. I had considered the use of a rental car to get us around during our stay. But, people in Scotland driving on the left side of the road, I thought better of it. In the country of my exile we drive in the middle of the road, and I no longer felt confident at navigating traffic rules based on the principle that motor cars shall press to a particular side of the road, be that left or right. My daughter and I, we share a disgust of cabs and public transport (the latter mostly too complex for our lazy and feeble minds), and so we ended up walking long distances every day.

We made an exception for the train to North Queensferry across the spectacular cantilever Forth Bridge. That is a trip we did twice, both times losing more than an hour over matching the slew of ticket, payment and platform options, offered at Edinburgh Waverley railway station (1.5 mi. from Learmonth Gardens), with our humble objective to get to North Queensferry Railway Station. The train takes one across and away from the touristic hassle of Edinburgh town. My daughter and I have a penchant for the quiet and the indigenous in foreign nations that we visit, notwithstanding our equally strong penchant for flagstore shopping, fancy drinks on terraces of bars, and diners at upscale restaurants or other eating places that are interesting enough to separate us from the crowd.

During our second visit to North Queensferry, as we sat recovering at the charming tiny (“wee”) Rankin’s Café from a half-hearted attempt to walk out as far as we dared over a footpath along the Firth of Forth, we decided that a next time we would hike the trail all the way to a far-away town that we could see from a certain vantage point near the Forth Bridge’s base and seemed to consist of very light-colored, almost white buildings, which struck us as irresistibly romantic and fairytale-like.

But we never did. Back in our apartment at Learmonth Gardens we consulted various maps on the internet and decided that the town that we had seen from afar, as we were standing near Forth Bridge’s base at North Queensferry, must be Inverkeithing. In view of what follows and to protect my daughter and me from the wrath of the Inverkeithingers, I should stress that both my daughter and I are extremely poor map readers, and that I have a bad memory for names of places and people alike, as well as train stations. So even if, as I checked just now, there’s little to be found on the map between North Queensferry and Inverkeithing, and even if Inverkeithing isn’t the kind of name that is likely to come to one’s mind by coincidence, in the recount that follows I may be confusing names, dates and places.

A few days after our second visit to North Queensferry we took the train across the Firth of Forth a third time, but to Inverkeithing this time, which was just one stop up from North Queensferry. We found the area around the train station, located well outside of the town’s borders, singularly drab and depressing. The overcast skies and temperatures struggling not to drop to the low 50s did little to improve our sentiment. But we thought this would change when we would be sallying into the town itself. We had left our apartment early to walk to Edinburgh Waverley and by the time we had arrived at Inverkeithing Train Station our first thoughts were very much with finding a place to have hot chocolate over some pastry.

We started out crossing empty roads and roundabouts towards what looked like Inverkeithing’s outskirts. We arrived at a residential area consisting of featureless sludge-colored homes on gray asphalt streets. We explored this neighborhood for about two hours for food and drinks. But whichever direction we took there wasn’t a café, bar, supermarket, convenience or grocery store or shop of any other kind to be seen. Having spent all this time out in the cold weather looking just for a place to sit down, use the bathroom and get our bearings – one of my many issues being that I’m incapable of timing the moment when to cut off a hopeless campaign – our lust for romance and adventure had deflated to a point where we no longer felt a desire even to find our way out of this suburban hell towards an “old town” with cobbled streets, pubs, diners and, well, just any kind of life. Instead, we made our way back to the train station. We did not stoop so low as to head back to Waverley by train straight from Inverkeithing though. Following directions on my daughter’s smartphone we descended to Inverkeithing’s end of the footpath along Firth of Forth that we had explored some of the way from North Queensferry and that should take us to that charming old hamlet at the foot of Forth Bridge with its restored “light tower” (i.e. lighthouse), where we would have our hot cocoa after all, at the “wee” (i.e. tiny) Rankin’s Café, and take the train back to Edinburgh. This we accomplished.

We had found that the descent from Inverkeithing Train Station to the beginning of the trail back to North Queensbury and the hike along the Firth of Forth over that trail were beautiful and gratifying to our non-linear minds. Those beautiful, romantic minds, that could be so easily duped at any time by the lure of a thing shimmering in the distance, arguably named “Inverkeithing”.

Our Son

It was a Saturday. I visited my father in the care home where he’s living his letztes Kapitel. I took him for a walk in a nearby park. I would repeat this the next day, Sunday. I visit my Dad every Saturday and every Sunday. What I’m about to write here I might write about any of these visits. The exactness of facts, including time, is completely irrelevant to anything going on in relation to my father these days. He is suddenly showing the unmistakable signs of dementia. I’m talking here of a period of mere weeks separating the “before” and the “after”. Well, he’s 96 years old. Why would dementia not catch up with this stubborn man eventually, even if it might have done so less abruptly? Save that the more logical connection is not with age but the various forward falls from his wheelchair smack on his head before he was assigned the reclining wheelchair, now three weeks ago.

In the park we took a couple of different turns than usual. On Saturdays people in this country, rather than visit their old folks and take them for a stroll in a park, tend to amass in the narrow streets of city centers to spend as much money as possible in the shortest time possible on stuff that they look at dejectedly and helplessly after they have carried it inside their homes. Sundays, especially the empty time between late afternoon, when people have completed their second round of weekend shopping, and early evening, when the TV sport broadcasts start, are for things they hate but feel obligated doing, such as paying attention to people who have been craving for it at every other hour of the week. Except when such Sunday is a hot Sunday in summer. Then people in this country tend to gather on the beaches, like walrus, or clog the roads stuffed in their cars all day long in a desperate attempt to get near to one, aggression growing to a point where they would kill a person for pitying them. Then they will not visit their folks even once during the weekend, thinking they have nowhere to go anyway and can easily be held out on another week.

But this was a Saturday, and, people busying themselves aimlessly in the city streets, the park was quiet in spite of the brilliant weather, warm, not hot, the sun prettily veiled, off and on, by just the haziest of clouds. My Dad was enjoying himself tremendously, repeating every other minute or so how agreeable the weather was, and actively looking left and right (as much as the stiffness in his neck would allow him) to take in all of nature’s unobtrusive wonders around us. He even commented on the ice-age boulders bordering the entrance to a restaurant that we ignored as we had no business going there. I felt happy and proud to procure such bliss in my father.

We arrived at a patch of green where a group of young women and a young man, students I gauged, dressed in what looked to me like white karate or judo outfits, were practicing various rolls and breakfall techniques under the supervision of a teacher or trainer. They were at quite a distance from where we were. I thought I recognized my son in the young man. Particularly the impressive head of curly hair (something he has his mother to thank for; if I wash, towel-dry and brush my hair in the afternoon, which I do once every two weeks, I find it still damp on the back of my head on the morning of the next day) and the awkwardness of his rather unathletic movements reminded me of him.

I stopped pushing the wheelchair and started to peer at the group in their white martial arts fatigues, as if riveted by some extraordinary public performance. It was impossible to make out the face of the young man. I turned the wheelchair and I pointed in the direction of the group. My Dad declined to look. He said “You hear the tits?” It took me a few moments to realize he was referring to a species of birds. Then he said, calling me by the pet name he had used for my Mom, who passed away two years ago, still not looking where I was pointing: “No, Doll, that is not our son.”

The Photo On The Upright.

On the pitch-black upright piano is a photo of my mother. It is a portrait. It was taken in the 1950s. It is in black and white. She is in a houndstooth jacket and a white blouse. She would have been wearing a matching skirt. Her hairdo is contemporary. My mother looks very pretty in the picture. There’s a beautiful light in her face and in her hair, coming in from the right. My mother looks like a 1950s movie star. The photographer was an established artist at the time. His work grew to even greater fame in later years. He’s now celebrated as one of the nation’s greatest photographers. The photo must have been composed and shot when he was still an accessible person for less than famous people, such as my mother.

It was my mother who made me happy and proud to be of her sex at an age when a child becomes conscious of the essence of the divide and which side they want to find themselves on.

My mother died two years ago. She was 89. I was in New York when it happened. I flew out the next day. My mother was buried, not cremated. Not a week has passed since my mother’s decease when I have not asked myself what the corpse would be looking like, what the rotting of it has turned the body into.

My husband died ten years ago. He was cremated.

I prefer cremation. Not for me. It’s irrelevant. Death will not happen to me. It will always only happen to others.

My Dad

Today was a warm and sunny day. I mounted my Van Moof X2 to visit my father, who is in a care home (cf. previous posts). I was wearing a Vivienne Westwood (Red Label) skirt. The skirt is an old favorite of mine. It’s tight through the thighs, but manageably narrow further down. It’s just as constrictive a skirt as one can ride the X2 with.

Riding the bike like a crazy person, and as dangerously, it took me 25 minutes to arrive at the care home. I kicked the rear wheel in its electronic lock and chained up the bike. I went inside, registered, dutifully put on the facemask handed to me at the reception desk and ran up three flights of stairs to arrive at the open ward where my Dad has his tiny room.

Since last week my father is in a new wheelchair. He was no longer able to keep himself erect in the one he had before. The new wheelchair can be tilted. It had taken two forward falls of the 96-year old, several poorly stitched-up headwounds and contusions all over his face, for the former wheelchair to be replaced. He never even complained. There is one nurse in particular who is kindly disposed to him, and someone in housekeeping. I, his youngest daughter, look him up every weekend, Saturdays and Sundays, barring force majeure. If one is 96 going on 97, unable to piss, shit, go to or get out of bed by oneself, or to keep one’s saliva in one’s mouth when eating, and hardly capable of making understandable speech because of a muscular disorder, that is nowhere near bad for company.

I decided to take my Dad out for a stroll in a nearby park. We rode down in the elevator. I was facing the backwall. The upper part of my body was reflected in a full-length mirror. The lower half was behind the wheelchair. I was wearing the facemask. The facemask concealed the scarred and molten part of my face. I thought maybe I should wear it forever.

I bought vanilla flavored ice-cream for my Dad and myself at a pop-up kiosk. The girl at the counter told me her granddad, 93, who could still walk, if with some difficulty, lived just across from the park. He didn’t want to be taken for a walk in the park with her, or anyone. He had never been inside the park. He had been living at a stone’s throw of it practically all his life, but he had never set foot on its grounds. I asked her if she knew of a specific reason for his refusal to visit the park. She said she didn’t. Perhaps something having to do with the War, she offered. Everything here, in this country of my exile, seemed to have “something to do with the War”, I thought. I told her my father wasn’t even from these parts. I told her I had my father moved up to this town to be able to look after him after my Mom had died. My Mom died two years ago, when I was in New York for business, pleasure and catching up with my friend on Union Square. My Mom died right after the business part. I didn’t get to enjoy the rest. I didn’t even get to meet with my friend.

Afraid the ice-cream would melt I said goodbye and joined my father, who was in a shadowy spot. Very old people have a tendency to eat greedily, as if Death might put a sudden end to everything, ignoring the fact that the chosen is still eating and might just as well be allowed to finish, ice-cream in particular. But it is not greed. It is the lack of coordination, the effort of getting the spoon in the cup, then, unevenly loaded with the food, to the mouth,, then chew (as applicable), then swallow, and keep track of where one is at in the cycle to repeat and not interrupt it. It is the concentration required to pull it off that may strike one as greediness. As a matter of fact, I finished the cup twice as fast as my father. I’m not greedy or intemperate. I’m just impatient and incapable of thinking of food as being more than something to be downed and done with. I’m easily bored by food. I said we were going back. He said he had to piss. He used a nicer word, a word that he taught us when we were kids. I told him that it would have to wait.

I rolled him back to the care home. The wheelchair was about twice as heavy to push as the previous one. I exaggerated the effort to exercise my gluteal muscles. We got back in time for my Dad to discharge. I helped him with the urinal. My Dad is so old, I can stuff his cock in the urinal’s opening as if it were just minced meat in a condom. It looks like a lot of meat. But I found myself unable to imagine what its size might have been in times and on occasions it would have been prouder of.


Boat Ride

Yesterday by close of play, as I was trying to make sense of bits and pieces of information even at that time of day still being thrown at me in a Teams meeting with seven other participants, one of my smartphones signaled receipt of a text message in what looked like a group chat. “You guys wanna go for a boat ride Boards back of Hilton!” I had no idea whose chat I had been included in, intentionally or by mistake, or which of the three or so Hilton hotels that I knew of was being referenced. I immediately lost all interest in the Teams meeting and thumbed on the smartphone in question “Sure, what time?” No sooner had I pressed the send button than another text came in: “Hey guys, don’t you think it’d be nice to ask Ding to tag along?” Before anyone could respond “Not the tightwad with the screwed up face!!!  (three puke faces), I texted: “Already got the invite. Happy to.” Departure was in less than an hour from that point in time. I started backing out from the Teams meeting saying one of the cats had spasms, then, reading the faces on the screen, that both cats had spasms (“Must be food poisoning!”). Then I just clicked the Leave button. I went to the bathroom to do up my hair and make the best of my damaged face, changed from blouse and pencil skirt, that I had been wearing for no reason but to feel corporate even in virtual meetings, into a breezy yet body-con summer dress, asked in the chat for an address my satnav could work with, and raced off to the venue.

The boat was a nicely refurbished diesel-fueled wide-beam barge, perfect for navigating the canals of a certain town in the country of my exile. My arrival completed a company of five men and a woman. Three of the men and the woman were partners of a small corporate litigation boutique. The two other men were bigshots at a corporate client of the boutique. One of them owned the boat and was at the helm. He also commanded the music system from his smartphone. I had meanwhile recollected that some three months ago I had offered legal expert services to the boutique in support of litigation they were in the process of preparing on behalf of the client. This had occasioned the invite. Due to a certain pandemic we had thus far never met in real life and I had all but forgotten about the services I had offered. Providing expert legal advice to law firms is the kind of work that I do as a sidekick to my work for the tech company whose board I’m in. My contract says I’m not allowed to, a prohibition which I admit to myself is the more compelling in this particular instance, the litigation being against a client of the company. But if I smell an opportunity to make some extra cash, you bet I’m on it. One can reach that point in life.

The boat ride was enjoyable. The evening was warm. The atmosphere all around was calm. Set. The music mellow. We had wine, which we drank from plastic cups. I don’t like wine, but the idea of having it on a boat appealed to me, and I downed four cups one shortly after the other. I was light-headed for a while but soon recovered. Many other boats were out on the water. We moored at a restaurant on the waterfront, locally known as The Gilbert. We were served preordered sushi on deck and restocked on wine. The helmsman then took us back in the direction of the Hilton, but, following general acclaim of his suggestion to the effect, we detoured to navigate the inner canals of the city. We commented on the houses and apartments we chugged by. At least one of us knew the architect or the value or the owner, or that the interior had been recently redone, or that it had seen a tragic death such as a suicide, or that it would be on the market soon, etc.

The day had darkened and unobtrusive lights, mounted on the brick structures of the low bridges that we passed underneath, had turned on. The laidback boatman had notched up the music to an ambient techno and we started swaying slowly and soundlessly, like ghosts, in the vein of dancing. We moored at another Gilbert (debating in our woozy condition whether, if there were two Gilberts, there might not also be a George around the bend), where we took in another two bottles of wine. The men had started talking about a thing they knew nothing about. Although I knew everything about the particular issue, I declined to join the conversation because I wasn’t attracted to any of them and the issue was extremely boring anyway. I sat down with the only other woman on board. She’s an acclaimed litigator and a professor at law. We talked about our lives and our children. In subdued voices we exchanged very personal information. I lied discretionarily and without restraint about my own life. She told me she was divorced two years ago and that she had completely given up on her oldest son who, following the divorce, had dropped out of the school system, did drugs, drank too much and, at the age of twenty, had been convicted of several felonies already. She was quite short, her body was shapeless. She looked prematurely aged. At the video call months ago, where we had discussed the case and my services, I had just seen her pretty, digitally enhanced face.

Streets of London by Ralph McTell was playing on the music system as we approached the jetty where we had boarded. We alighted. We parted. The boatman steered the barge back to open water in the direction of where I supposed it would be docked. The woman was still on it. It was completely dark now. There was no music. She sat erect and motionless.

Widerhall Meister

A friend, whom I shall call N., not a female friend this time, but, to his credit, a homosexual (i.e. we’re not erotically invested in our relationship), and black, poor and a Christian (all of which, being white, entitled, inveterately heterosexual, and a fanatical hater of religion, creeds and, generally, anything that isn’t proven fact or cannot be falsified, I merely mention to show off my humanity), this person, N., who I’ve let in on this blog, asked me yesterday, point blank: “Ding, can’t you write a single story which has a beginning and an end to overarch a plot?

N.,” I said, “most assuredly I canI’m a writer. A writer can do such things. But bear with me. First, I’m going to republish a short story. It is called Widerhall Meister. It’s the first that I got published. You may find it boring. You’re a man.”

Widerhall Meister

I wrote this because, at the time, you asked me to, rather imperatively as I’m sure you will remember. I think you meant it as therapy, although I knew even then you didn’t think I had a mind to deliberately ski into a ravine. I’m not much of a skier. Aiming for a ravine I might miss it. I started too late in life to allow for hope of becoming anywhere near accomplished.


I broke off less than halfway through the day yesterday, feeling cold and miserable. I returned to the hotel. I wrote, I read, I slept. I woke up feeling hungry. I went out. I’m in a little town, at a one and a half hour drive from the capital. I ordered a coffee and pastry in a bakery.  A section was fitted out as a café. A man walked into the shop. Our eyes locked. He walked up to my table. We had been travelling up the slopes in the same cable car this morning. I had been struck with the beauty of his face. His hair, I had noticed, was not thick. It would be very easy to comb through. But it was planted densely in places men are most worried about. It had occurred to me that he would probably not start losing his hair at the age most men do, if ever.
– I saw you in the cable car this morning.
A foreigner looks it. The signs may be subtle, but they are always multiple and unmistakable. Of course he would address me in English.
– Ich Sie auch. He smiled. He extended his hand. I shook it, careful not to press. Widerhall Meister, he said. The strangest of names.
– Dingenom Potter. Playfulness on my father’s part, the family name a given.
Sie waren mit einer Frau. Ihr Weib?
– Freundin, he said. Your German is good.
– I get by. You speak English well.
– I use it in my work often. Where did you pick up German?
– What work do you do?, I asked him, not allowing the moment for the obvious question to pass unused.
– Balls, he said.
– Balls?
– I dance at balls.
– You dance at balls?
– Professionally. I’m a professional ballroom dancer. I get paid to dance at balls, in the capital mainly.
– Who do you dance with?
– Women, obviously, ladies.”
– Women pay you to dance with them at balls?
– No, the organizer of a ball pays me. I appear as a guest. I invite ladies for a dance… ladies who look like they need a dancing partner… In fact, I am often the one to kick-start a ball, or prevent it from collapsing halfway, or to resurrect it. There have been instances when I was hurried into a car and taken to a ball at high speed, like an emergency doctor, to revive it. I dance in shows, too, sometimes. But they’re not my main line of business. I thought this over for a while. If I didn’t suspect him of engaging in anything unseemly I cannot deny I was rather disappointed.
– That is interesting. How does it involve you speaking English a lot? Even if he danced with English speaking ladies mostly, he surely would not dance with them every night, even during the ballroom season?
– Contracts and contacts are usually in English. I’m managed by an agency. They’re British. And, then, somehow, it’s mostly women visiting from abroad who find themselves stranded at balls they thought would be interesting to attend… as a tourist attraction… Balls are that in our capital, you know? Plus, I travel a lot. Would that be enough for an explanation? He smiled again.
– It seems I should have praised you for still having command of your native tongue.
– You just did. Thank you. So, your German? Where did you learn it, or how?
– Oh, nothing bohemian, I’m afraid. Junior high, books, visits, and love of language.
– Language? The language, German? Or languages? I had deliberately left out the article and yet not used the plural. If I was already impressed with the fluency of his English, I was quite surprised that this had not escaped his attention and that he had rightly surmised that I must have had a reason to express myself the way I had.
– No, not German in particular, or languages in general. I love language, not any particular tongue. Because I love language so much I want to make the most of what I have learned of a language, too.
– By extending and deepening what you’ve been taught of a language? I nodded. I was much too impatient to allow a question I could not have thrown in earlier to be brought at the risk of being interfered with by a further exchange on the topic.
– Widerhall Meister… is that your artist’s name?
– I’m not an artist… No, my parents gave me Widerhall as a first name. I don’t know why, or whose idea it was. It’s hardly likely they thought of it both at the same time. A smile had passed over his face again. It doesn’t run in my family; as a matter of fact, it’s not a first name that a research I carried out has established to have been given to anyone else, ever. I would have been much surprised if a result to the contrary should have turned up.
– But it must have occurred to you, surely, that the reason that name was given to you is because of its absolute beauty in combination with your family name? Absolute, I mean, as opposed to in relation to a meaning, motive or reason?
– You’re very kind. But the person growing up with a name is the last to whom the beauty of it might occur.
I liked his unimposing brightness. He would not easily allow mere words to force a conversation off the mooring of its substance.
– I am a tourist, you know?
– I do, now… I guessed as much before… Do you dance?
– Only if I would be stranded at a ball that sees you produced as a guest by your agency. Is there a ball you would recommend my getting stranded at?
My words having facetiously abstracted some of the information which our conversation had yielded, this could, to the embarrassment of neither of us, still pass off as a joke if he chose to blind-eye the obvious flirtation. I didn’t really care which direction my words would take me to. In my situation, I would resign to either.
– Don’t you agree that it would be very impolite of me to make a suggestion to you?
– For a ball?
– Oh, I would be honored to suggest a ball to you! I would just hate to advise you getting stranded at even the best.
– But if you would show up and save me from that predicament?
– I’m here now. I would rather prevent the predicament from occurring. He produced a pen, then took a coaster from the table, tore it to pieces and scribbled something on one of them. He handed it to me.
– For tomorrow night. An address and a time. If you wish. Don’t say. I will be there anyway.
My hand resting in the hand he had extended, his fingers folded over it, we said goodbye. He walked up to the counter, bought something and left. That night I danced with him. During our second dance I clasped my arm around his waist a little harder. Then I allowed my head to rest itself against his chest.

Widerhall Meister. Liebe Freundin, ich war sprachlos.

“There Were Six Days Of Labor And One For Rest And Devotion” (And Masturbation)

On Sundays a decent woman buys fresh flowers, arranges the same in a vase she keeps for such things, and plays Wendy Sutter performing Philip Glass, Songs and Poems for Solo Cello, on her soundlink system. After that, anything may happen. She (i) may mark up the direct agreement and guarantees sent for review, and then prepare Monday’s board meeting, and hate to have to be doing the one and the other. Or (ii) she may sneak up to her room and procure Tarzan and the Womanizer to perform their team effort on herself. Or (iii) she may do the sensible thing, stretch out on the freshly made bed, start reading from any of the three novels sitting on her nightstand, doze off within 5 minutes, wake up healthy and invigorated 30 minutes later, and double back to option (ii).

The Artist

On an uncommonly bright and warm early-autumn day a friend of mine and I visited a Marlene Dumas retrospective at a museum in the capital of the country of my exile. I greatly admire my friend, who is a trained and exhibiting visual artist herself, not for her work though, which I have simply not seen enough of to warrant my forming an opinion on it, but for her power of judgment and distinction. It was she who acquainted me with the minimalist art of Dutch artist Jan Schoonhoven and others (mostly non-Dutch) commonly associated with the so-called Zero Movement. My favorable response to their work had encouraged my friend to suggest joint excursions to exhibitions or art events with greater frequency. Until then each of us had pretty much considered such affairs as pertaining to the privacy of her own predilection.

After we had seen the exhibition my friend suggested that we walk across the park to another museum (as renowned as the museum with the Dumas retrospective) and pass by an exhibition of sculptural art by the American artist-engineer Alexander Calder (1898-1976), which for the main part unfolded in that museum’s freely accessible gardens and for a smaller part in its newly built atrium, before the toll gates, i.e. free of charge as well.

Once in the gardens we first sauntered by a number of standing mobiles. My friend elaborated on the layout of the gardens and pointed to the patches of lawn which could be uprooted for specific purposes and turned back to virgin lawn in a matter of days. When we got to the next segment of the gardens, exhibiting stationary sculptures (“stabiles”), my friend said: “And now on to my favorite.” It was at this juncture that she volunteered that she was all but partial to the standing mobiles, the loose (“mobile”) elements in her opinion having a minifying effect on overall structure, subverting it. This was typical for my friend. She would explain what she liked and captured her interest, and simply not comment on things she disliked, or not bring those up until an occasion presented itself where comment was apposite. Her tepid reaction to the standing mobiles echoed what I felt about them, and not just aesthetically; in those days a lot seemed to have become unhinged within me. My senses could well dispense with the jading stimulus of stout structures impaired by dangling elements. If anything, I needed stabiles! I had kept my feelings to myself though, immensely enjoying the stroll and very much inclined to be over- or underwhelmed, as the case might be, by whatever we would run into.

My friend’s proclaimed “favorite” was Le Tamanoir (the anteater), which struck a note with me, too, that note being the impression it gave of unfettered massiveness and unquestionable presence, played down, as if effortlessly, to elegance of form (the particular form of this sculpture) and of balance, a balance, however, not precarious but sturdy. Other stabiles equally appealed, and for similar reasons, to my aestheticism. We left the gardens and entered the museum’s magnificent atrium. Here we found a reduced-size, if still quite sizable, version of the 60-ton Homage to Jerusalem on Mount Herzl, Israel. This stabile, which we observed for a while from a raised partition of the atrium, then, having descended to the floor it was standing on, circled a few times, and finally (rather uselessly) sallied right into, is – well, beautiful, and as we left the museum to head back in the direction of the former museum I carried inside me the reddish-and-burnt-orange glow of the warming and comforting bulk of Homage to Jerusalem.

On our way to the Calder exhibition, engrossed in the inconsistent rippling of my D&G S/S 14 polka dot skirt (fitted through the thighs and knees, but flouncing at the calves), I had nearly bumped into a golden statue standing right in the middle of the walkway. My friend jerked me back by my arm just in time or I might have knocked it clean off its base. The statue was a man of flesh and blood, a living statue – a standing mobile! Everything of him, his face, his hands, and on him, his attire, the palette and brush he was holding, was painted in gold. Even his hair, if most likely a wig affixed to his plumed hat, gold painted of course, was golden. This man, as I immediately grasped, intended to impersonate a Dutch/Flemish painter in the so-called Golden Age, or, rather, the statue of such a painter. I think, more specifically, that the reference was to Rembrandt, the gold paint again being a giveaway (how smart, too!).

To my enormous relief the artist showed far greater liberty with his self-imposed role than is often seen in living statues, whose rigorous rigor seldom failed to revive in me the memory of various obsessive-compulsive disorders I had suffered from as a young girl. This was a personable living statue! He leaned over to us from his pedestal and asked, rhetorically I should say (I was carrying a transparent signature bag of the museum through which a catalogue I had bought was visible), if we had visited the Dumas retrospective. My friend confirmed this and added that we were on our way to the Calder exhibition at the museum across the park. The latter piece of information he acknowledged, appeared to vet even, with a slight nod.

Unsure whether it was quite comme-il-faut to address a living statue I didn’t say a word, but merely smiled at him. He smiled back, doffed his hat, and made obeisance. One has to be careful with a face thickly smeared with gold paint, but I found myself very much warmed to his smile, his traits, and his gallantry. I chose to ignore the modest bowl at his feet. The truth is I felt awkward at the idea of giving this peddler of personal statuesque qualities his meed. I think I felt it would be condescending, almost a debasement (even if I were to use the gold-color coins which were plentiful among the country of my exile’s legal tender) – and one doesn’t want to debase a statue.

As we turned to continue our way I muttered something about perhaps having to have given the artist his due, which my friend met with that sibylline smile of hers which I always thought of as indicating that she wished one to come to one’s own conclusion. But if I had, and if it would have been favorable to the artist, it was useless, because we had moved on and to return would definitely be impossible. Yet, I turned my head and saw that the man-statue had turned his head too and smiled at me, and made obeisance, despite the risk of marring his act (and, by implication, all he had for a business case) with other strollers approaching him in our wake. This living statue was as unstinting as it was personable.

We followed the same path back to the museum where we had started our cultural jaunt. And, sure enough, there he was again, the living statue, the artist, the golden Rembrandt, right in the middle of the walkway! My friend nudged me and said “Now make up for it!”, and I took out my wallet, culled out all gold colored coins and dropped them in the bowl. The artist smiled at me and made obeisance. I didn’t know what to say. We walked on. When I felt we were at a remove which for any gold paint in the world we would not go back on I turned my head. I could still see his golden face gather into a handsome smile and his body fold into a courtly bow.

The Perfect Bond

The first time I met him was in a dream. He was standing near the back door, preparing to leave. My dream suggested I had met him earlier at the party which served it as a backdrop.
The man was in casual dress, wearing a light-colored jacket with a faint check pattern, no tie. He would be in his late thirties. His hair was blond, his head balding. He had a short-trimmed beard on a smooth, well-groomed face. He was of medium length, slim, well-proportioned. He was homeless. He said he was going to look for a place to sleep, under a bridge, in a street, a shelter maybe. He was beautiful. He was clean and fresh. Only a dream, in mere seconds, can hand you other facts which an entire life does not suffice to establish: his soul was untainted; capacity for evil, dishonesty or dissimulation he did not possess; he was unambiguous; he was safe for me.
Taken with a deep love for him, which the dream suggested had announced itself earlier during the party, I kissed him. I kissed him once, on his right cheek. His perfection made my kiss the purest act, an act of purest love. A kiss more chaste, no one, dreaming or awake, may ever have given. O, I felt the giving of it was fundamental and in giving it I felt my being pour out in my love for him, so that nothing was left of me but the love I had given him.
I wanted to explain how ridiculous the idea of his going out on the streets was, that surely I could find a solution. That is where my dream ended. This man, whose face I could have drawn on a sheet of paper, his pureness and the pureness of my love for him, my kissing him, it all felt so real that, awake, I just could not, did not want to, believe that he was not with me.

– The second time we met, I said to my friend of recent times with whom I was having afternoon tea in the splendid gardens around my house,
– Ah, give me a break! she half-laughingly cut in.
– and every next time, I continued unperturbed, was in my recollection of that dream. I remember him as he was in my dream. Remembering his dreamt image, I feel love for him as I had felt love for him in my dream. The image of him does not fade. The feeling of love does not wear off. The enduring image and the feeling that comes with it, they are not a dream.
– How long ago did you have the dream?
– I was 22.
– I don’t believe you!
– Wait, I said, I’ll not be ten minutes. I walked up to the house. Inside I collected a sketchbook, a soft pencil, chalk, charcoal.
– I have done this so often, I murmured sitting down with my friend again. Less than 10 minutes later I showed her the drawing.
She looked at it uncommenting.
– I only started doing these sketches after his decease. I never told him of the dream of course.
– How could you suffer such love and love your husband?
– I couldn’t. I used him as a vessel in which I poured out my love for the dreamt and never-forgotten image. Never has a woman filled a man’s life with truer love. Never has a man been made to feel deeper love. It didn´t matter what created the love, whether to me, knowing, or to him, blind to it. That is the essence of its purity.

My eyes went out over the gardens stretching out before us. The slightest haze had intervened to soften the brilliant sun’s hold on the land.

– Our marriage was perfect.

Adult Conversation

Many years ago I dined out with my daughter, who was 12 years old at the time. My children and I have been dining out a lot, since when they were quite young. But at this occasion I suddenly found myself in an adult conversation with her for the first time. This must explain why I had kept notes, which this post is based on. I was wearing my hair shorter then. Now it drops all the way to the small of my back.

My daughter broached the subject of reincarnation, which she said she liked to believe in. Oh, there are so many things I like to believe in, I said (leaving open whether reincarnation was among them). But to actually believe in something is a different thing altogether. You can believe in a person’s goodness, her wisdom, her sense of responsibility. It means you have reason to assume she is good, or wise, or responsible. You can believe a person telling you a story. It means you have reasons to believe the story, or that you are willing to accept its veracity, let’s say because you trust that person, or because whether or not the story is true is irrelevant to you. You can even believe in a theory, on the ground (subject to falsification) that, in your estimation, the indications that it is correct outweigh indications that it is false. But believing as an act of faith is destructive. Every religion, every creed, every penchant for the super- or preternatural, is nihilistic in its contempt of reason and human potential, its contempt of humanity.

We went on to talk about the importance of Popper’s falsification principle, the hilarious if rather abundant argumentation Dawkins stacks up in The God Delusion to refute the existence of a god, Darwin’s evolution theory, the Alma Whittaker character in the Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert, and Gilbert’ s elegant playfulness in dealing with 19th century natural science.

My notes say the night out set me back $135. But I taught my daughter a thing or two.