Already past the point of redemption, he sent an email of apology to all his investors, seeking forgiveness; and while his ego tempted him to wait for that first rely, he just couldn’t bring himself to do it. He’d given the staff the weekend off and spent the next hour in silence, wandering the halls and grounds of his kingdom. When the first call came in, he was sitting on the edge of his bed, pistol in hand; the incessant ringing sounding as an alarm, echoing through the house, penetrating his soul to the very core.
He couldn’t do it. He would not spend the rest of his life in prison. There was just no other way out. And so he ran from room-to-room, turning on every light in the place, then flipped the final switch on his way out the back, lighting the entire exterior and grounds. Calmer now that his decision had been made, he walked to the water’s edge, got in the skiff and motored it to the park across the river. He stood at the end of the dock, admiring the magnificence of his creation from afar, its beauty and light filling the night as something from a fairytale.
He realized in that final painful moment, that that’s exactly what his entire life had been, nothing but a fairytale, none of it real; as he put the butt of the gun to his temple and pulled the trigger; the brilliant light from his dark deception immediately fading to black.
We met by chance, at the New Orleans Café, listening to Sleepy’s Jazz Connection on the waterfront deck. He was a charmer and struck a chord all his own, on my then too tightly wound strings. We shared a bottle of Courvoisier, and I sampled one of his Behike cigars; becoming more fascinated with each passing puff, as he explained that only four thousand of the cigars had been released for sale; having been named after the sorcerer of a pre-Columbian Taino tribe; ten boxes of which he personally owned. I was already familiar with the drink – the grande champagne of cognacs, and at $1400 a bottle, I could only imagine how many clams he’d laid down on the stogies.
He snatched up the decorative art deco bottle in one hand and held his other out to me. We walked down to the marina and he gave me a tour of his yacht. As we stood on the deck he pointed out his home on the other side of the river. I told him I knew it well; for I had watched for months as they tore down the lovely Victorian that had graced the river bank and sat nestled under the canopy of live oaks for probably hundreds of years, then replaced it with a massive Italian Palazzo that he proudly told me was called, “Tutte le mine,” whose meaning he boasted, meant “All Mine” in Italian.
He was obviously intelligent, seemingly interested in my work; and while he admittedly could do nothing to improve my standings among the literati, he was confident he could take my royalties and turn them into a fortune in no time at all. He was quite possibly the most superficial, arrogant man I had ever met; yet I partook of his offerings and slipped his business card in my back pocket as a few hours later he walked me to my car.
I stepped hesitantly into his arms when he offered them up for a hug, thanked him for enlivening my evening and turned my head when he moved in to kiss me. He winked and told me he dug my spirit. I laughed and told him he knew nothing of my spirit. This only intrigued him further.
After a few weeks of unreturned phone calls he finally acquiesced. I thought about him every now and again, as I drove over the bridge that spanned the river and led to my own home, nestled deep in those same woods, only no where he would care to venture; his mansion perfectly viewed from the bridge, the largest by far. More than once I sat on the deck of the New Orleans café, dining alone, while gazing out across the water, as the crowd of people gathered at his Palazzo, for another seemingly grande affair. I never entertained the idea of seeing him again, though at one point, when my royalties were particularly paltry, I briefly considered contacting his investment firm.
And while the empty bottle of Courvoisier still sits on a shelf in my office, not for sentimental reasons, but for pure eclectic charm, it now reminds me on a daily basis, that no matter how much I thirst to taste the drink of sweet success, some cocktails are simply meant to be stirred and not shaken, sipped and savored slowly.
©2010 Jill Terry