I’m an “In between engagements” kind of guy: a man who has taken many jobs to keep the wolf from taking too much interest in his lack of circumstance. Still seeking my calling, my destiny, the true expression of myself, I have passed the time by becoming friends with many occupations which some describe as “An insult to your abilities” without truly defining what those abilities might be.
A turn of phrase perhaps, one or two observations about the frailty of the ego and a collection of aphorisms which draw occasional interest from people who have led a more directed life than I; someone higher up the food chain, and with a closer relationship to money than any I have ever enjoyed. So it was with Jane, a noted business guru who I met while I was cleaning her room as part of my job as a staff member at a conference hotel in Switzerland.
I am not Swiss myself, but the country is a good place to hide from your creditors, of whom I was never in short supply, so I had gone to this retreat where my ability to speak both French and English and fold sheets neatly regardless of the time of day obtained me employment, if not social standing. When in a room one afternoon, tidying up the surprising quantity of mess for someone so prominent in her field, the lady guest surprised me by coming in herself when, I presumed, professional duties would have demanded her attention.
She seemed somewhat on edge and anxious to engage someone, anyone, me it seemed, in conversation and we got to talking, crazily, intimately, as if we were equals, and I had no idea what was in her mind but in this room, alone in this space, your last phrase or observation was all you were judged by and, somehow in that sphere I garnered her respect. “When you end your shift come back to me” she implored, and I said I could not, but she said, if I wanted to I would find a way and to look at her, competent and fragile, strong yet full of doubts, I found myself too weak to refuse. Perhaps this was the start of something; some preordained connection touched by angels. At the very least my head was turned so, three hours later, there I was at her door, and she was opening it dressed in very little and already offering up a glass of wine.
We kissed of course, crazily, as if some force larger than ourselves had made puppets of us both and briefly I felt swept up in some new magical existence. Later, exhausted from our physical activities we faced each other across the bed, and now she was naked in that careless way which says “We have no secrets” but of course we always do. I remember my father, a wiser man than his son ever became, saying to me, “If a women is good at sex she’s often bad at life, approach with caution” and his words came back to haunt me as I raised my eyes to hers and saw that almost drunk sense of euphoria found in those who think “Moments” will be worth any indiscretion.
Having paid for my attention with herself and a glass or four of wine she told me of her life: her controlling parents who wanted her always to excel, her husband, “That useless lump,” who worked as a “Life coach” on some disregarded magazine and then the woes and regrets with which she’d packed her life until she seemed almost sobbing with anguish and regret. “You are so wise” she said, “Why do you live like this?” and sadly she was not the first to make that observation, but I nodded and said, “Every life is perplexing when you get too close to it” and so we talked on and she shared her private chaos until, scared at last, I said I’d better be off or my wife would wonder where I was. Perhaps that was a reckless thing to say.
In an instant she became another women: one who looked at me with arrogant distaste. “Another married player are we, another cheat.” Suddenly her voice was full of venom, perhaps forgetting that she herself was married. I dressed as quickly as I could and hurried down the corridor and then the staff back-stairways but still there was Jennifer, the senior house keeper, smirking in her unsettling manner and saying, “The manager wants to see you,” and I knew that once again I had been my own undoing.