[If you have not already done so, you must
read the Introduction
Prologue 001-002 Chap 1 003-005 Chap 2 006 Chap 3 007-008
Chap 4 009-010 Chap 5 011-013 Chap 6 014-017 Chap 7 018-019
Chap 8 020-023 Chap 9 024-027 Chap 10 028-031 Chap 11 032-041
Chap 12 042-048 Chap 13 049-055 Chap 14 056-063 Chap 15 064-074
Chap 16 075-084 Chap 17 85-95 Chap 18 96-110 Chap 19 111-123
Chap 20 124-131 Chap 21 132-133 Chap 22 Chap 23 Chap 24
Chap 25 Chap 26 Chap 27 Chap 28
Revenge Should Have No Bounds
Chapter 29: Reengaging
During late November I revisited my old life for the last time, with a surprising, sexless twist.
My mind was made up to get out of the life, but something new and harder in me insisted that I quit on my own terms. I wanted it to be my decision to move on. My retirement was not something to be taken refuge in as anodyne to the forced trauma of the trial and the wringer of doubts and indecision I had put myself through during the subsequent months. Michelle had been delighted to hear from me and, though disappointed that I would be quitting in a month, immediately made an appointment for me. There was no lack of specific requests for my companionship.
The truth is that after serious deliberation I could see only advantages henceforth to just living my life for myself. By the criteria of probably ninety-eight percent of the American population I was quite wealthy, and I would never want for financial resources. The idea of loafing, traveling, dining out, and spending the rest of my life reading Greek and Latin and other classics appealed to me. I’d plunge into the Iliad of Homer and the lovely lyrics of Horace and swim leisurely in that vast sea of incomparable literature. I’d read all of Shakespeare, listen to every Cole Porter musical, and buy tons of art books.
But first the way of all flesh!
Not surprisingly, Roy Rany, our new mayor, was at the head of the line. We met at the Momiji around one in the afternoon the Monday before Thanksgiving.
I was waiting in the suite when he arrived. He looked like a winner: dressed to the nines, tanned in winter, confident, the big smile on his face that made the women vote for him. He gave me a big hug, more friendly than erotic, and marched into the living room as though he owned the entire hotel. He was carrying a small valise and pulled a gift-wrapped box out of it.
“Here,” he says. “This is for you, Mazarine.” He smiled boyishly.
I was taken aback. Clients did give me gifts, quite regularly, but Roy had never done so in the past. “How sweet of you,” I said with genuine enthusiasm. I bussed him on the cheek.
“Well, it’s from my sister Rae, too. I understand you two had a nice chat a while back.”
“Yes, we did,” I agreed. “Sounded like a very nice lady.”
“That she is. Taken care of me ever since we were kids. And she was right about this little gift,” he added, indicating the box in my hand with a token nod of his head. “You more than deserve it.”
He had walked over to the table and poured himself a drink from the Chivas bottle I had ordered. Then he hefted the Grand Marnier and asked me if I wanted a drink. “Sure, sounds good to me.”
We settled down opposite each other across a small glass-decked table held up on tubular steel and each took a sip.
“Congratulations on the victory, Mr. Mayor,” I said, holding my glass up to him in salute.
He gave an aw-shucks shrug. “I’m glad that’s over. These things are exhausting for everybody involved. Believe me!” This with utter conviction.
“You looked great on TV the day after. I was surfing the channels all morning, and there you were, everywhere. I gather the new term will get off to a strong start.”
“That’s the plan,” he said.
After a little while this relaxing chitchat started to seem as if it were serving the primary interest of deferring our primary business. He was a little fidgety.
“Is everything O.K., Roy?” I asked. Usually he was in a passionate rush to get on with it so he could get back to his tight schedule.
He looked at me. “No, nothing is wrong, Mazarine,” he says. I sensed more was coming. “But I’ve decided to stop seeing you,” he said.
When he saw the surprise on my face, he quickly moved into explanatory mode. “Don’t misunderstand this, Mazarine. It’s not you. You’ve always been sweet to me and given me a lot of pleasure. You’re a great person, and I have no complaints. It’s not you,” he repeated, “but me. I’m the one who has changed.”
I was still digesting this bit of news. I had never had and did not now have any illusions about the nature of my relationship with Roy Rany. I liked him – but I basically liked most of my clients – and would have been happy to continue seeing him if I had not myself decided to retire. And his taking the initiative here did not upset me, but it did puzzle me. If he had expressed some personal dissatisfactions or reservations about me or my service, I could have understood. But that, apparently, was not the case.
“What happened?” I asked.
“”It’s pretty straight-forward,” he said. “But maybe not so easy to explain. To put it bluntly, I’m fulfilling a vow.”
“Sounds hokey, doesn’t it?
“At some point during the campaign I got it into my head I was going to lose, and that would be the end of my public career. But I have political plans for the future after I finish this next term as mayor. And I started feeling guilty about my family. It’s got nothing to do with you, as you must know, but my relationship with you is … isn’t righteous on my part … as far as my wife is concerned. Anyway, the long and the short of it is I made a vow I’d stop seeing you, whether I won or lost.
“I had a long talk with Rae – my sister – last summer, and she made this point: suppose Mazarine had put her little notebooks into the public domain. Would I get reelected? No, of course not. And I would have hurt my wife and kids. And I don’t want to do that. I really do love them.
“Rae is kind of merciless, and it took her to make me see the hypocrisy of my strong-families rhetoric at the same time I was seeing you. Again,” he was at pains to let me know, “it’s got nothing to do with you.”
I got up from my seat and went over to sit next to him and gave him a long kiss on the cheek. “I think that’s wonderful, Roy. I really mean that.”
He seemed astonished.
“Of course I do, Roy. I never did understand why a good-looking guy like you with a great career and a beautiful wife should risk it all just to see me.”
“It’s complicated,” he admitted.
“Well, I’m glad you’ve uncomplicated it, Roy. Trust me, it’s a great move!” I knew that part of his reason for seeing me was the same reason a lot of married men had for seeking surcease from anxiety with me: the often unfounded conviction that their wives couldn’t and wouldn’t do the things with them that I would and could. And in some cases they were probably right. “For what it’s worth, go home and talk to your wife and ask her about doing the things with you that you like to do with me. You might be surprised at her response.”
“You think?” he said, eagerly, as if the proposition had never occurred to him before.
I caressed his cheek. “Sure, Roy. What have you got to lose?”
He got up and prepared to leave. He paid me as usual. “There’s a little extra in here,” he said, flapping the envelope up and down, “kind of a final thank you.”
“Thanks, Roy, that’s really good of you,” I said.
“And if you ever need anything I can help you with, you get in touch with me, O.K.?”
We were standing. I nodded to him and give him a heart-felt hug. “I’ll do that, Roy. And you take care, now, hear.”
He walked out of the room, stepping lightly.
I decided to sit for a while, have some more Grand Marnier, think about transformations. His to a softer self, mine to a harder one.
Somehow my encounter with Roy Rany left a deep impression on me. I kept hearing his words repeating themselves in my head. It was as if they were sending me a message and I was having trouble decoding its true import. Well, whatever that may have been, it definitely soured me on the prospect of engaging clients. That was the unexpected twist. Yes, I had planned to go out in a kind of glory, but I thought if Roy could stop, so could I. It’s not that I would have been doing it in order to make money that I needed. Clearly, I had enough to last, and more. Perhaps it was an illusory effort to romanticize a past that, for most women so engaged, was anything but. Even to toilers at my operational level, so to speak, nasty things did happen from time. I had just been lucky. Why push it? It had been a good past and it had set me up for the future. I needed to prove nothing, and in spite of all the years in the business I still enjoyed the thought of sex with the right man, or woman. Something about Roy’s visit made me sensitive to the potential fragility of this feeling if abused too often. Just as I thought the thought it struck me as a bit late to be entertaining such notions, but not past repair. So much had changed already: what harm could there possibly be in stealing a march on the course of action I had in any event already resolved to adopt within weeks?
On the spur of the moment I pulled out my cell phone and called Michelle, explained my sudden change in plan, and asked her not to book me any further clients. She was disappointed but gracious, as always, and assured me she understood. She wanted me to come by and say au revoir, and I promised I would before I left town on my cruise.
It was a giddy feeling.
I was beyond the entanglements of the past and open to fresh beginnings. The chill gloominess of the afternoon could not dampen my spirits. It seemed an appropriate confirmation of my mood that the cheerful decorations of Christmas season were already being mounted on lamp posts and public edifices by squads of city employees, a confirmation further confirmed as it were by busy merchandisers creating their magnificent display windows in preparation for the sacred buying season whose formal debut would take place this Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.
As I lingered, despite the cold, along the happy streets of the City I fell into one of my reflective moods. Was it possible that I was looking for love as love now that I was abandoning sex as sex? I believe I had experienced that with Yukiko. In my new-found liberation I pondered the rôle this emotion that seemed to rule the waking worlds of men and women so imperiously might come to play in the days to come of my own life. I was momentarily uncertain, but then worked my way through it.
We women say we want to be loved. What we mean is that we want to be admired. We want to be admired for our brains, for our intellectual accomplishments, for our positions in the worlds of law, medicine, business, and academia. It is actually more important for us to be admired in these terms than on those of physical beauty. I suspect it is because, by and large, we evaluate ourselves more realistically than men do. We have a percipient awareness of not only those aspects of our identity over which we have some measure of active control but also those in which our practical influence is more circumscribed. It is in a sense easier to put forth hard intellectual work in the interest of superior achievement than it is to change your facial structure and body type – even a good plastic surgeon can do only so much.
What you are you are, and for that you may perhaps expect to be loved; but for what you do, you deserve to be admired. And since so many of us – even highly accomplished ones — have great confidence problems about our inherent worthiness, it would follow that we find it much harder to imagine ourselves loved for our intrinsic natures than to be admired for what our conscious application has enabled us to achieve.
Men, who in general age better physically than women, seem much more prone in my rather extensive experience to want to be loved, even babied, than admired.
I do not suggest that the desire for admiration is the be-all and end-all of women’s motivations, but I do believe it is more important to a great many of us than most of us are willing to admit.
It was perhaps an odd kind of thing to be pondering, but exhilarating nonetheless. I felt it as a not entirely, well, admirable quality of mine, and I wanted to change that, too. I wanted to secure for myself both admiration and the freedom to embrace love, even romantic love, precisely because I had become hard and, as it says, put away childish things now that I was no longer a child.
In the course of gliding time the autumn did at last verge with full fury into hurtful winter. Shortly before Christmas it snowed 15 inches in the City and the northern suburbs, and I took the train for New York from where I would fly on to San Francisco to begin my month-long sojourn throughout the South China Sea and the Indonesian archipelago. Agung had helped me arrange a pukka booking on one of the magnificent Norwegian cruise ships that plied those waters for people like myself who just wanted to ‘get away from it all’ for a while. I’d be spending both Christmas and New Year’s in first class luxury on the high seas, and I wouldn’t be near the City again until late January, at the earliest.
TO BE CONTINUED