“He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” John : Somewhere in the middle.
I woke that morning assured that my life would indeed be eternal. It wasn’t all bad. I don’t have a world-class theory to explain how dreams work, but I’ve found that the most intractable problems of my life have been solved in my sleep. For expedience, let’s accept Freud’s theory on dreams and in this way we can agree that dreams are a form of wish fulfillment. From this, we can deduce that my most coveted wishes are to be able to solve various problems. Since I actually do manage to solve so many problems in a dream state, my life always seems to be much less complicated after I’ve had a good night’s sleep.
Despite the previous night’s drama, my sleeping brain had been carefully mitigating the damage from my infuriating bout with rage. It then set to the task of putting my new literary forays into context. I did not remember the dreams, of course. I rarely do, but I could sense that my brain had been trying to fit Dante and Nietzsche into some sort of a universal context. I could also tell that I had been trying to fit them into the context of my present life.
Dante was a simple fit. The Inferno begins with a semi-involuntary trip though the gates of Hell. After many twists and turns, it ends in the center of hell where the Beast is discovered chewing eternally on the most infamous of the betrayers of man, Brutus, Cassius and Judas. Two Romans and a Jew; I’m sure that is significant, but I don’t know why it’s significant just yet. I did know that my life had been furnished with my own personal beast and it was doing a fine job of chewing on me, though I hadn’t betrayed anyone. It wanted me to betray to justify itself. It taunted and tempted me.
In The Inferno, Virgil and Dante eventually made their way to the center of Hell. They climbed over and down the beast to escape into the next book and the next part of their adventure, Purgatory. My dreams assured me that I would also climb past my beast. I only had to survive two more weeks without incident. Was it possible? If so, I could enter my own purgatory and with luck, repair the damage to my marriage through repentance and the prayer of others.
Nietzsche made less sense and at the same time he was the only thing that made sense while I was awake. The idea of taking a copy of Thus Spake Zarathustra door-to-door started to appeal to me. I could talk to people about morality and explain to them that they no longer need to be wicked to one another to be happy. Nietzsche changed everything. He changed everything over a hundred years ago and only a few people today are even slightly aware of the change. I wanted to shout his message from the rooftops.
I suppose that the reason so few people read Nietzsche begins with difficulty in reading his work; even his name is a little hard to pronounce. I’m sure that if he had a name like Smith or Jones he would have doubled his audience. As for the writing itself, I wasn’t certain that I had entirely understood what I read. For me, it was new and exciting and different and as I mentioned before, it changed everything. I’d have to get back to this later, however, as my home situation flushed up to remind me of itself.
Svetlana and the beastly one were still sleeping. All was quiet. It was Friday morning and after last night’s events, I was not eager to have any communication with either woman. I showered and dressed as quickly as possible and slipped out of the apartment without waking anyone; perhaps on this day they pretended to sleep. I strolled downtown toward work, where I decided that I’d finish off my book and take the rest of the day off for “personal use”.
I went through my new beast-inspired morning routine. I greeted my co-workers at HANIC, responded to a few unanswered emails, posted sundry witticisms on facebook and checked up with my online friends. When my routine was complete, I fetched a fresh latte from Starbucks, re-read a few sticky chapters of Nietzsche’s book and called Candy.
“Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!!” she answered gleefully.
I arranged to take Candy to lunch. A long lunch would provide some good preparation for an even longer evening away from home. I didn’t know how long I was going to avoid returning home, but I was not eager to go back soon. Candy and I met up at our usual Starbucks. She ordered her usual Candy Special frappuchino and I had my predictably boring latte and a sandwich.
It wasn’t long before Candy noticed my general level of malaise. I don’t have any particularly effective techniques for hiding my emotions and even if I had, Candy would have laid them bare. I explained how my mother-in-law’s extended stay had overwhelmed me and that I wasn’t sure what to do about it. I was not about to reveal that my marriage was anything less than perfect, not this early in Candy’s training, but I could hear her alarm bells go off when I told her about my mother-in-law dilemma. I did not want to end up as one of those all too common advice-giving hypocrites who fail to follow their own advice.
So far in my relationship with Candy, we had actually managed to keep our pledges to see one another every day. So far, I had instructed her as best I could in the etiquette of secular life. I had even done so without casting disparaging remarks about her relationship with Jesus and the faith, which I can assure you, required all the willpower I possess. I had instructed her in the way of conducting various kinds of marriages and relationships and the merits and pitfalls of each brand of relationship. Most of all, however, I had instructed her in the Way of the Perfect Marriage, using my perfect marriage as an example. I explained how Svetlana and I had accomplished this miracle of perfection through love, patience and complete soul-reaching trust.
Candy’s lunch alarm went off in the middle of one of my pontifications and she signalled that she had to return to work. It had not been the extended lunch hour that I had hoped for. It was clear that Candy, for lack of knowledge of many things in secular life had learned the skill of punctuality. All indications in her speech pointed to the fact that she showed up to work on time and never shirked her responsibilities there. I decided I would not teach her otherwise. I bid her goodbye and warned that I would be at Le Baron Noir after work. She said she’d try to join me and after a careful goodbye kiss, she skipped out the door and back to work. I thought about whether to return to my own job. “Fuck work,” I thought, decisively.
Taking along a fresh latte, I wandered into Chinatown. Honolulu’s Chinatown is decidedly small, having seen San Francisco’s and Vancouver’s massive Chinese enclaves. It was also decidedly Hawaiian in many ways. All cultures on the island get a twist of Hawaiian added into them after a time. A Chinese restaurant in Honolulu, for example, might serve dim sum, but have a little mixing bowl for “shoyu” (the Japanese word for Soya sauce) and hot mustard. I wondered if a council of Asian eateries had decided long ago that all Asian foods must be served with shoyu and hot mustard.
The rest of Chinatown was largely made up of food sellers with fresh produce. The ones that interested me in particular, however, were the curio shops filled with various Chinese artefacts like mahjong tiles and ornate little carvings. I’m a sucker for dragons in particular, having been born in the Year of the Dragon. I had created my own quirky superstition where I required myself to have a dragon in every room of my home, office, or any place that I might frequent.
I searched three or four curio shops and came up empty handed. The only dragon I found was one for which I had an exact replica. Luckily, I had successfully squandered the afternoon without doing any work and started toward Le Baron Noir for the first drink of the day. Arriving early had its advantages. Rather than sequestering myself to the back bar as I did when Svetlana was with me, I took the point; the front bar-like table next to the door that overlooked the sidewalk. From the point, I could see who was walking by and who was coming in to the bar.
I was committed to a good evening and decided to start it with good champagne. I ordered a bottle of Taittinger. Tatties is one of my favourites because of its total lack of aftertaste. You can take a sip and forget what you were drinking before you can even set down your glass. This can be remedied, of course, by taking another sip. Soon, your glass in empty and your palette is ready for anything. After a few glasses, your mind is ready for anything. I often refer to it as sorbet for the brain.
No sooner had tipped back my first glass and started to reflect upon the day, than Candy appeared in the doorway. “Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!” she cooed and gave me a kiss hello.
“Bienvenue ma princesse. Champagne?” I asked, gesturing toward the champagne bucket.
“Oh, perfect!” She nodded. “I can certainly use some today!”
I started to pour her a glass from the bounty of glassware that the waitress had left with the serving. “What was your afternoon like? Did you miss me?”
“Oh it was all downhill after lunch.” She lamented. “It seemed that changes needed to be made to every contract in the whole office today. This has never happened before. I didn’t think I would ever be able to leave. I can tell you that I’ll be very busy when I get back to work on Monday.”
“I can’t believe that you work in an office, Candy.” I said earnestly, “Seriously, how it is possible that you don’t make your living as a singer?”
I knew the answer to this question and Candy repeated it faithfully. I suppose I just wanted to hear her answer it again or maybe I just wanted to hear the lyrical caress of her voice. I would have been happy to hear her read the menu, just to listen the magic of her song. I thought of a new question; well an old question really, but one that I like to ask people of all ages and professions.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Candy puzzled. “I think…” She puzzled some more, almost making me laugh with her acutely puzzled expression, but I resisted temptation.
“Well you know that I want to sing… But I would also like to…“ She puzzled a little longer and I swear that if I didn’t know intuitively that this didn’t happen, I would be telling you in all honesty that a light appeared above her head.
“I really need to move away from Hawaii. For my career, I need to be in a bigger city; Los Angeles or New York. I did a little bit of singing in California before, but it didn’t work out and I have wanted to go back ever since.” She sighed with relief after finally inventing her answer.
“I agree with you, my dear. I think that you would be a hit anywhere in the world with that voice of yours. Anywhere, that is, with a large enough audience to hear it.”
“It’s going to be hard to do.” She explained. “I don’t see how I am going to get out of Hawaii and start my career back up in an expensive city. I’m not like Svetlana where I can do whatever I want.”
“Perhaps you could be my ‘femme le matin.’” I joked, unthinkingly.
“What is a ‘femme le matin’?” She asked.
Candy did speak a little French. She could not have helped but to have learned some French from the operas that she sang. She would not know this term, however, because I was its inventor. I pondered whether to give her a real answer and decided that it would be safe.
“Remember the story I told you about the kissing archaeologist?” I began.
“One of the character’s in that story was Roxanne, a friend of Svetlana’s who was visiting from France. Do you remember? She was the blonde one with the FM radio voice? Maybe I only mentioned her in passing.”
Candy looked up and to the left for a moment and nodded again, but looked unsure.
“It’s OK if you don’t remember.” I consoled. “When Roxanne was visiting, she adjusted to Hawaii time very quickly. She would wake at 6:00 am with the sun and by the time I was up and showered she would have coffee prepared me, just the way I like it. We would have some light conversation, half in broken English and half in mutilated French and then I would head to work. It was a very pleasant way to start my work days and I honestly wished that her visit could have lasted for months.”
“Wasn’t Svetlana jealous?” Candy asked, knowing the probable answer.
“No, of course she wasn’t; she loved having Roxanne close at hand. They were best friends in France. One day, I remarked that it was nice to have a ‘morning wife’ to see me off to work. Svetlana marvelled at the term and ever since, she and I have shared this inside joke about how I should get myself a ‘femme le matin’. Some days, I honestly think that she might really let me have one, since she has rarely awoken before noon; at least since I’ve known her. I think that she feels a little guilty about that at times.”
Candy and I both laughed. I could see her processing what I had said quite visibly after her initial round of laughter had subsided. I sensed that she was visualizing what might have been like, had she had been in Svetlana’s place. She would not have had to take a job or worry about rent or food or any expense whatsoever. She could have spent every moment of her waking life advancing her musical career. Why, she might have even struck fame by now.
“Jamie!!!” I shouted.
Jamie presented herself in Le Baron Noir’s doorway and was carefully reading the menu specials sign. She looked over, happy to see me, but seemed to turn a little timid when her gaze fell Candy’s way. I beckoned her to the table and she came without hesitation.
“Jamie, Candy; Candy, Jamie! Oh I’m so glad to get you both together at last! Jamie? Champagne?”
Jamie gave a quick nod and I poured her a glass. I topped up Candy’s glass and my own.
“Santé!” I toasted loudly.
“À la votre.” Candy added cleverly with a raised right eyebrow as we all clinked glasses.
To this day, I have no idea how Candy knew to add that extra line to the toast. The waitress came round and I asked for another bottle of Taittinger. Jamie ordered one of the specials and I ordered twin sets of pommes frites, a favourite of passers-by. Jamie and Candy exchanged pleasantries while I retired to the facilities to talk to a man about a dog. I returned to find the table set perfectly, with arranged napkins and the knives and forks arranged in perfect symmetry. Jamie was putting the last knife in place as I sat.
“So how is your job going, James?” I asked.
“Oh, not so good.” She said, shaking her head a little. “The company I work for is so fucking disorganized that I can’t believe that they are still in business.”
“Oh no! That must be driving you mental! How are you dealing with it?”
“Well I’ve been putting out resumes on monster.com. I know that I can’t stay there much longer. It might not even matter, since I think they will lose all of their contracts.” She added.
I couldn’t imagine any company being organized enough for Jamie. Organizations, by definition, should be organized and anyone in any company that has Jamie on staff should promote her to the position of Chief Organization Officer immediately. She would organize the shit out of things.
I did check to see what was going on with Jamie’s employers. They were defence contractors and I knew a lot of people in the defence department, having done defence contracting in the pre-9/11 days; for some reason, Canadians could no longer be trusted after those attacks. Regardless, I learned that her company was indeed disorganized (possibly due to a shortage of Canadians) and truly was about to lose some very large military contracts. Armed with this information, I started priming the pump at HANIC for them to hire some new computer talent. They were not in the market for anyone with Jamie’s skills at the time, but I suspected that they might have need of someone like her one day soon.
Champagne and conversation flowed and as the night went on more friends arrived. Amazon, my tall redhead friend swept in and after a set of introductions, breezed into the growing crowd. Australian Jamie arrived too and sat with us for a while. Once Jamie had carefully eaten her entrée, I suggested that we break up our table and mingle our way the crowd around the bar. I had friends all over the Baron and was starting to feel confined, still sitting at the point.
Despite not being a First Friday, many of Honolulu’s who’s who were in attendance. I greeted each in turn, but the most interesting conversation of the evening was the one with Heather. Heather was a tall, attractive woman approaching 40. She had a rounded face, dimpled smile and curly sandy-blonde hair that fell past her shoulders. She was also a fellow Canadian and worked for one of the liquor distribution companies in town. I would see here and there and while we had a great rapport, I was thinking that I had not seen quite enough of her, especially considering our mutual heritage.
“What are you doing now?” I asked. “I haven’t seen you in an age!”
Heather showed me her hand, upon which was set a rather large diamond ring. “I’m getting married! Can you believe it? Next month!”
Despite the marriage news, everything about Heather was flirtatious. She walked, talked, nodded and blinked in a flirtatious manner. She was gifted. I expect that her profession gave her the means to practice her craft to perfection. When she kissed hello or goodbye, she would give you that little extra squeeze on the arm and the kiss would linger just that fraction of a second longer than it needed. It made you feel as though she would have rather given you a real kiss. When she looked at you, she looked at all of you. In conversation, if she would use physical contact to emphasize her every point, a touch here, a squeeze there. I didn’t smoke, but after a conversation with her, I felt like I needed to.
We chatted about her upcoming marriage plans. Her husband was a US Marine and would be spending months on end in Iraq or Afghanistan. She had left her job to become a kept woman and expressed how ‘bored’ she would be while he was away. Candy, both Jamie’s and a few of my other friends bobbed in and out of the conversation, but in an uncharacteristic fashion, Candy lingered trough to the end.
“We MUST spend more time together.” She implored, twirling a ringlet of hair in her finger.
“I agree. I don’t know how it is that we haven’t.” I replied. “I think that whenever I run into you, it is in a professional setting and I never get to really talk to you at length. Now I’m sorry that it has taken so long to spend any real time together.”
“How could you ignore such a pretty girl?” Candy interrupted.
“Well here is what you must do.” Heather said, giving my hand a squeeze. “My wedding is coming up in a few weeks and I’ll get you the invitations. Also, you guys should come and see my new place up on the North Shore. It’s very small, but the view is incredible!”
“We will.” I assured her, glancing quickly toward Candy. “But there is something I should tell you. I’m having just an awful time with my mother-in-law. She’s been visiting us for four weeks now and it is not good. I’m at the end of my sanity. I’m literally afraid to go home.”
“Come to Bellow’s Beach tomorrow morning. A walk on the beach will fix everything. You’ll see.”
“I’ll see what I can do.” I said.
Candy lit up with an inquisitive look, clearly wondering if the invitation extended to her as well.
Heather looked at me, eyes patient and glowing. “Look, Robyn. You have this amazing gift for bringing beautiful women together. You will be fine. You will be better than fine. Come to the beach with me tomorrow.”
A successful flirtation is made up of three parts. The first part is the compliment. This part gives acknowledgement to the other person that sexual desire exists. The compliment can be straightforward and sincere… even truthful, or as subtle as a casual glance across the room. The compliment is only successful if the flirtee truly understands and accepts the compliment. The second part of the flirtation is the excuse. When the flirtee accepts the compliment, they must be supplied with a reason why the flirtation is limited to a flirtation. A common practice for experienced flirts is to use the phrase, “If only…” Examples might include, “If only I wasn’t married,” or “If only you had more teeth.” The last and most important part of the flirtation is in its failure to lead to sexual congress. If a flirtation leads to anything sexual, then it was never a flirtation; it was a seduction.
Heather was a master flirt. She was complimentary and charming and invited me into all corners of her life while simultaneously showing off her brand new engagement ring. There were no contrivances. She flirted as naturally as she spoke. I was alarmed at having been so wonderfully, so terribly out-flirted this evening.
With Heather’s strange compliment still on my mind, I bid my ‘beautiful’ friends a good evening, and complimented them with a series of goodbye kisses. I saved my last goodbye kiss for Candy and asked if she’d join me at the beach the next morning. She was delighted with the offer and accepted.
When I arrived home, a constant flow of Macedonian and cigarette smoke still poured from the lanai. I skipped through it and into the bedroom as quickly as I could. I was undressed, in bed and asleep before either of them had a chance to speak to me. The truce had lasted another day.
As I slept, I dreamt of something foreboding. I dreamt that something was coming for me; something huge. I knew that this was not going to be a dream that would go unresolved.