I’m an “In between engagements” kind of guy who has taken many jobs to keep the world from taking too much interest in his lack of circumstance. I am still seeking my calling, my destiny, the true expression of myself while passing 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, and one or two observations about the frailty of the ego which draw occasional interest from people who have led a more directed life than I. 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. She surprised me by coming into her room when I presumed professional duties would have demanded her attention elsewhere.
She seemed 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 on her mind but in this room, and 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 challenged by endless 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 us puppets and briefly I was swept up in some 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 now” but of course we always do. I remember my father, perhaps unwisely, saying to me while he was staring out of the window and holding a large whisky in his hand, not his first, “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 destiny has raised a chalice to their lips.
Having paid for my attention with herself she told me about 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 dispair. “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 woman: 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 stairways but still there was Jennifer, the senior house-keeper, smirking in her usual unsettling manner and saying, “The manager wants to see you,” and I knew that once again I had been the source of my own undoing.