By Robert Gamer
How I found myself driving a casket truck for a living remains quite a chronicle.- Now don’t get me wrong! I have nothing against truck drivers in general. Nothing whatsoever! The simple fact remains that unless there continues to be jockeys for those rigs our economy would certainly come to a virtual standstill. Nevertheless, given my background and education, driving a truck would not be thought of- well, as the proper, plausible career path for me.
To give you a snapshot of my rearing, born in Marblehead to a long line of Talbots dating back to before the Revolution, after St. Margaret’s Episcopal School, I attended Phillips Academy Andover followed by Yale. A bona fide blueblood, I was slated to follow in the wake of my WASP antecedents. Had I, for example, chosen to become a corporate lawyer, there is no doubt that I would today be a partner in my late father’s Brahmin law firm on State Street. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen that way, not by a long shot.
I wish that I could blurt that it was drugs, booze, or even a congenital mental defect that brought me to my present state of affairs. These however would only be convenient excuses. No, the reason that put me behind the steering wheel of the diesel I am driving had to do with a phenomenon far darker, baneful and perilous. Her name happened to be Aurora.
I first ran across Aurora in the swank confines of Bond on Franklin Street in Boston. I had gone there with some fellow members of the Scroll & Key who had gotten together for a boisterous night on the town. Huddled in a booth, after the third round, we were debating where to have supper, when, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted the person who would change my destiny. Although I freely confess that I have no tolerance for alcohol, and was as tipsy as I could get, one look at her sobered me completely up. Never in all my life had I seen a sight so stunning, so outrageously gorgeous. My breath taken away, I found myself gaping at her like an awkward lummox.
Sitting directly under the chandelier at the bar in one of those plush red leather seats, she seemed to radiate a nonpareil iridescence. A goddess would have forsaken Mt. Olympus to have a face like hers. No sculptor could ever have duplicated the graceful lines of her full, supple body. The plain fact was that I could no more resist her than the pull of a magnet. That’s simply the way it was.
When no one joined her, I realized that it had to be now or never, my moment for action had come. Rising right in the middle of a conversation, I felt as if I had been possessed by a spell. Splashing what was left in my drink in one hand, I reeled in her direction. Feeling my heart thumping, as I reached her chair, I caught the exotic scent of her fragrance. Thankfully, the seats to both of her sides were unoccupied. “Are you-are you expecting anyone,” I somehow found my voice.
Turning to face me, I thought that I would fall into a feint. I was staring into the layout of matchless beauty, itself. “You, dear,” I heard her gaily returning.
With those raisin black eyes gleaming, a welcoming smile lighted on her face. One glance convinced me that she couldn’t have been a day over thirty. Barely noticing that she was a person of color she was so light skinned, her honey blonde flowing hair, done in a short straight layered bob, seemed to highlight the contours of her comely features. The make-up had been so expertly applied from the rouge lipstick to the eyeliner that it appeared muted, hardly there. Gliding down into one of the seats, I lingered in my absolute enchantment. Not thinking of any other starter line, I asked if I could get her a drink.
“Yes dear, that’s very gentlemanly,” I could see her languorous lips moving.
The bartender hovering nearby, I motioned him over. “I’ll have a refill, “ I put forward when he had approached. “An extra dry Bombay Sapphire martini up with an olive.” Throwing caution to the wind, it didn’t bother me that I already seemed to be over the limit. “And the lady will have-“
“I’ll have another,” she picked up the cue. “An extra dry Hendricks martini up with a twist, if you will.”
“I’m Aurora,” she introduced herself as the bartender scuttled off.
“Is that Aurora as in Aurora Borealis?”grinning, I couldn’t resist wondering.
“Heavens no dear,” she chuckled, “that is Aurora as in Aurora St. Abbey. But, if you like, or dare, I can be the magical light in your life, poor boy.”
The meaning of her last escaped me at the time. “Pleased to meet you Aurora,” I gushed. “I’m Alistair-Alistair Talbot. My pals call me Alice.”
All at once I realized that I shouldn’t have confided my sobriquet straight off for fear that, getting the wrong idea, she’s brush me off at once, but this revelation appeared to be taken right in stride. “Very well dear, Alice it is,” she pronounced with a wink.
The bartender had arrived with our drinks, setting them deftly on bar napkins. As Aurora reached for hers, I couldn’t help noticing the diamond cut bracelet, what looked like a Millefleur. The reason the bracelet looked familiar was that my mother had one that looked exactly the same, and recall her mentioning at one point the cost, $140,000. Apparently, Aurora had most expensive tastes.
“I propose a toast,” Aurora was going on. “Let’s drink to your trying to hook up with me, dearest.”
As she lifted her stem glass up, I hesitated. “I’m not-I’m not trying to hook up with you!”
“Oh please, Alice,” she reared her head back, a warm smile spreading across her face. “Shall we agree to be honest with each other from the start? If there’s one thing I appreciate in a person, it’s honesty. A rare quality, I’m afraid.”
My face must have reddened. “I don’t know whether hook up is the -“
She laid a hand on mine. “There’s no harm in calling a rose a rose, is there, dear? As Romeo put it quite nicely, you can call a rose by any other name but it’s still a rose…Are you going to raise your glass?”
Lifting my own stem glass, I gave in, clinking hers. That, I confess, became the moment which began my catharsis. It was my dumb subservience, my acquiescing to every whim and want of this astral attraction, this stick of dynamite, that threw me cascading into a psychic and physical whirlwind.
“They make a swell martini in this joint,” I had to say after swallowing a sip, although at this point my taste buds must have begun to dull.
“At the high price they charge they ought to, dear,” she commented. “Speaking of charges, you should know that my services aren’t for free either, dear.”
I almost fell off my chair at this discovery. “Are you a-“
“Companion would be the politest way to put it, dear,” she finished for me. “I’m making a pile, getting filthy rich, meeting clients in places like this. Anyway, you get what you pay for, and I promise you that it will be worth every last penny… So dear, what’s it going to be?”
Flabbergasted, I watched as she began to sip her martini. Although I certainly would never refer to myself as a prude, this was my first meeting, much less experience with a call-girl. The very idea of paying for sex was completely anathema to me. “What do you mean, what’s it going to be?” I stammered.
“Depending of course on what your preferences are,” she shot back,” the going rate is $2000 an hour, $5000 for the night.”
“Yes,” I gurgled. “Will a personal check be okay?” Being propositioned, I couldn’t believe my brazenness in accepting! I was doing the unthinkable, the unpardonable.
“A check will be delightful. You look like the sort who has decent enough credit. Do you want to have dinner first, or go right at it?”
With the alcohol working on an empty stomach, I decided to take her up on her recommendation to dine beforehand.
“Very well then,” she brusquely retorted. “I have a place in mind that I’m sure will be your standards.”
When I stopped to retrieve my coat at the booth, all faces turned to us. Noting the attention my companion was getting, I had to break the ice. “Gentlemen, in case you are wondering , this woman by my side is a prostitute. I am contracting her for the evening. It’s been fun. I wish you all a pleasant night!”
“Courtesan, please,” Aurora chipped in. “It has such a more civilized ring. Office hours are open so you would like me to suck your dick, you better check how much cash you have left in your wallet. Any takers?”
We were out the door before they could close their mouths.
The place Aurora knew about turned out to be The Bristol at the Four Seasons Hotel, so we were able to kill two birds with one stone, dinner and a room. We dined like pigs. Sharing the seafood sampler for appetizer, I had the bone in rib eye, while she selected the filet mignon. The sides of Yukon gold potatoes and grilled asparagus filled our plates. Naturally, the cocktails and wine flowed.
As I lurched upstairs to our room afterwards, Aurora took the pains to guide me. I suppose that was part of her job, in the ministrations she provided as part of the package. Once in the room, it was all business. She delicately prompted me to identify which particular positions I had in mind. Never having thumbed through the Kama Sutra, or, for that matter, accumulated much in the way of experience, I pleaded ignorance, that I knew only what I called “the basics.” If she appreciated honesty, she was going to get it.
What I had in store for me, blew me entirely away. Starting with an enticing strip tease as the water was going in the tub, I could have expired that moment. Her body was so shapely that I thought that I would ejaculate before I had my clothes off. How I restrained myself before entering the bath is beyond me, nothing short of a miracle. As she daubed my privates with a washcloth I thought that a geyser was about to erupt. I literally had to hobble protectively toward the bed.
As for the lovemaking, Paradise, itself, couldn’t offer more gratifications. I had had sex before but never realized what I had been missing. I was in the hands of a master, a true artist, the Rembrandt of a romp in the sack. Whereas if I came once during a tryst, I would call it a productive day, this time I lost count, although I’m sure that it was in double figures.
When I opened my eyes the next day, I felt as if I was waking up from an orgasmic dream. Fumbling around in the covers for Aurora, I figured that we were going pick up right where we had left off as part of the deal. Her side of the bed, however, was empty. In fact, she was nowhere in the room. All that remained was that exotic fragrance. I found that she had picked up the $5000 check I had written out. In its place, was a calling card. That’s all I had left of her. There went the thought of a room service breakfast topped with a chilled bottle of their best champagne.
In point of fact, I do not care for champagne, it being the only alcoholic libation that gives me hangovers. But I no longer felt guided by reason. No longer did I think of myself as a slave to logic. I had found Aurora. Although I couldn’t quite articulate what exactly had transpired, I had been transported to a different place in body and soul.
Returning to the Beacon Hill apartment that I shared with a former Silliman roommate, Tommy Blackborne, I took a shower, shaved and changed my clothes. As I stared into the mirror, reflected there I beheld an expression I had never in all my years glimpsed before. Startlingly, I would say that I looked genuinely happy. Of course, the whole idea that a night’s session with a prostitute, even of the high-class variety, could have this kind of influence was sheer poppycock! Perhaps the time had arrived to get some help, begin seeing a therapist. A good number in my circle already had succumbed to treatment. Standing in my way was the proscription that Talbots don’t do that sort of thing.
As best as possible, I tried to return to my normal routine. Work was a position as editorial assistant at Binebeck Publishing in Cambridge. Confined to a tiny cubicle, I got a charge helping authors develop their manuscripts in esoteric topics, such as the 16th century English poet, Sidney Godolphin’s role in stabilizing the British financial administration in the 20 years after the Revolution of 1688. The way I looked upon it though, it beat practicing law. I at least still had a conscience.
My quarantine from Aurora lasted less than a week, however. Like any supposed momentary fixation, I fully expected the whole thing to blow over. It didn’t. The simple fact is that I couldn’t expunge the image of her from drifting into my mind, as hard as I tried. Ridding myself of my infatuation with Aurora was like trying to check an invasive virus immune to drugs. Imagine my consternation when there was no answer on her number and I had to leave a voicemail. What was there, a waiting list?
Curiosity got the better of me and I decided to Google her name. Although given her line of work it should have come as no surprise, nothing came up. I was finding myself in a different universe entirely.
Don’t form the wrong impression. It’s not as if Aurora happened to be the only woman in my life at the time. Speaking of Google, there was Calanthia Hodson, who I had been seeing for 6 solid years. I met her at a Myopia polo match. Scraping the horse dung from the field after a chukker, I backed into her by mistake. There we were, each holding a shovelful of shit. What an idyllic way to start a relationship!
Calanthia worked in Cambridge as well, employed by Google as a software engineer in android applications. After Harvard, she had earned a Ph.D. in applied mathematics from another neighborhood school, M.I.T. We took to each other at once. After 4 dates, we slept together.
Satisfying each other’s needs, coming from identical backgrounds, pretty much clones, we had been very much a steady thing ever since. Although never mentioned, it’s fair to say that marriage was going to be in our future.
At any rate, three days after I had tried calling Aurora, I was pedaling my Cannondale bike along the Charles when I heard my phone buzzing above the noise of the traffic. Braking to a stop, I pulled out my IPhone. I don’t know if it was my sixth sense or what, but I felt convinced that it had to be the call that I had been waiting for. “Alice, you sound as if you’re breathing hard,” I heard at the other end. “Whatever are you doing, you naughty boy!”
I can’t describe the euphoria I felt hearing her voice. It seemed as if the blood had begun to flow into my veins again. “If you are cheating on me, I will never forgive you,” I heard her tittering.
“No-No,” I assured her. “You caught me bicycling, really.” That I had to justify myself to a hooker boggled my imagination.
“That’s a convenient excuse if I do say, dear. I’ll attack with claws if I think that I’ve been wronged. You realize I am the creeping jealous sort.”
For a woman who made her living the way she did, that was an awful odd thing to say. “Then I have nothing to worry about.”
“You left me a voice mail,” she redirected the conversation.
I could feel myself coloring. “I’d like-I want to see you again.”
“ Are you asking for an appointment, my dearest?”
“If that’s what you call it, yes. Right away. Tonight, if possible.”
“At a moment’s notice!- You realize dear that I am not a parcel that you can wheel and deal at your convenience.”
“The fact is that I don’t have the slightest idea who you are. I just know that I have an overriding, insufferable desire to see you. I hope that that will suffice for the moment.”
“Get whatever pleases me-wine, women, song-that is the credo of men of your type, isn’t it, Alice?
Not of course that I deserve to complain, having profited most handsomely from such a predilection.”
“Are you free?” I kept up.
“Poor dear, my calendar is full. In fact, I am leaving town for a couple of weeks. Off to Tortola with a client. He has a a 160 foot yacht there ready to cruise the high seas. If you like, I’ll text you when I return, dear.”
My spirits sunk. I was flustered beyond description. “Yes-yes, please do. Bon voyage and all that! I hope that you have the dandiest time with your benefactor, Aurora.”
“No you don’t, dear,” she laughed. “Don’t ever lie to me! I will forgive you anything but not being true…Any way, in the mean time, you have my complete approval to have wet dreams galore about me while I am gone, you horny beast.” The phone clicked off on her end.
Time is relative. The days Aurora were gone seemed to stretch interminably. My mood reflected my angst. I became crusty, harsh, and petty. The worst was taking my frustration out on poor Cal. On the slightest pretext, I would start blasting away at her. In bed, I made her do things that before were off limits. I just didn’t seem to care anymore. In all truth, I’m surprised that she didn’t dump me for good during this interlude. I could argue that it wasn’t the real me acting in this way, but that I’m afraid, in all honesty, would be misleading.
Sure enough, two weeks to the day after our conversation, Aurora rang me up. I had been sitting in my cubicle at the office, bored out of my ever loving skull. “Are you happy to hear from me, dear” her voice sang out. My life passed from the depths of utter darkness to the golden sparkle of sublimity in an instant.
As it turned out, the earliest she could arrange to see me was the following Friday night. The interval of three days proved oppresive. I was literally tripping over myself in exasperation. At last I arrived at the Taj. Making the reservation, I had made sure to ask for a room overlooking the Boston Common, paying the going exorbitant rate. In preparation for her coming, wanting nothing to be left lacking, I had room service deliver a bottle of the choicest champagne, Boerl & Kroff Brut, along with beluga caviar.
When I heard the knocking on the door, I swooned. Trembling, I let her in. That I could put myself in this state for a hoe defied belief. “Alice, you have not forgotten you manners,” she observed, noticing out of the corner of her eye the refreshments set out. “I can see that you know how to treat a lady.”
“A little something,” I quipped, taking her coat.
As we took our seats on the cushioned chairs, I tried to keep from fidgeting. “Well, aren’t you going to pour me a glass?” she prompted me.
“Of course.” Going through the motions, I popped the bottle, directing the spray away. Filling two glasses, I offered one to Aurora.
“Fais ce que tu voudras,” she raised her glass in a toast.
“Do as you will,” I translated.
“I can’t fault you on your French, Alice,” she commended me. “Yes, this happened to be the motto of the notorious Hellfire Club in London, a club incidentally that Benjamin Franklin was reported to frequent. At the Hellfire, women in my profession were called nuns. Club members, who included some of the leading peers of the realm, were called devils. Are you a devil, Alice?”
“Complete with horns and tail,” I retorted, clinking her glass. “To my cloistered nun.”
The bubbly champagne tasted marvelous, even though it was bound to go straight to my head. Aurora scooped up some caviar on a cracker. As she took a bite, my eyes bulged looking at her. Her exquisitely shaped body snug in a cherry floral dress, the design must have been destroyed after creating her. She had the kind of sultry beauty that was totally bewitching in its attraction. She was the kind that dogs break chains for.
“How did your cruise go?” I tried to make conversation.
“I had a smashing good time,” she chewed on her cracker. “Imagine being alone, with the exception of the crew, with a 68 year old zillionaire. He’s made ogles of money in E.T.F.s. If you haven’t been following the latest happenings in finance, exchange traded funds are the new craze. In fact, my tycoon has invited me to cruise to the Turks and Caicos Islands next month. His flagship is equipped with every amenity you could name, a beauty salon, cinema, gym, outdoor pool, helicopter pad. The right way to describe such a life style is wanton profligacy. I tell you that I adored every second of it!”
My competition had deep pockets all right. For such high class merchandise it was no wonder. I took another sip of the champagne.
“You better stop me, Alice,” she took another helping of caviar. “This stuff is positively addictive.”
Picking up her glass, she downed the contents in a couple of sips.
“Another?” I asked.
“Maybe later,” she crossed her legs provocatively. As I’m on the clock, you might as well get what you are paying premium dollar for.”
And get it I did, in excess. Making love to a true professional, I never realized the many fine points that I had been missing. In going from adolescence to manhood, there indeed was a gap having to do with the art of sex. I had never been exposed to the refined aesthetics. Certainly in my home there had never been any mention of intercourse. Although there had been the usual horseplay on the subject in my circle, that’s all there was. As far as the women I had slept with, they could be counted on one hand. As far as what went on under those covers, it had been purely rudimentary. I did what was expected of me and left it there. That was being changed now in spades.
As a sign of how elated I felt after Aurora and I had gone at it, I called to order another bottle of Boerl & Kroff Brut. Opening the door to the room service deliverer, it didn’t even bother me that I was stark naked. For that matter, so was Aurora. Nor did her undress seem to bother her in the least, either. It’s not that I felt above caring about conventional decencies; it’s that they no longer seemed relevant to the kind of life that I had embarked on, thanks to Aurora..
It was after our second session that it became apparent that I was beginning to live the life of a schizophrenic. I was exhibiting one personality around work and Calanthia, while together with Aurora I was exhibiting quite another. Although the simple explanation was that I could indulge in fantasy to my heart’s content patronizing a hooker, the truth turned out to be far more complicated, run far deeper. There was something inside of me that was plucked by the bow of this maiden, a core that had never been tapped.
On the practical end of things, I should have had forebodings that the expenses for my indiscretions were bound to escalate beyond control. The awful reality was that I should in fact have had forebodings about a range of related issues. But the point was that, for the first time ever, I had begun to act without a moral nexus. How thrilling it all was!
The kicker was that, with Aurora, I was actually having fun-pure, unadulterated, irresponsible fun. That may sound like a rather juvenile, sophomoric statement, but to me, such indulgence meant the world. It’s not that I was in any means or matters deprived; just the opposite, I had every advantage in the book. What I hadn’t done however is let loose, as if released from bonds. It was Aurora who gave me this precious gift.
An outgrowth of dual personality had to be my compulsive lying. To explain my whereabouts I had, for example, to invent excuses, cover stories. With Cal I had to pretend everything was normal, when indeed it was not. I was becoming a two-faced man. More than just passing deceit, this was cold, calculating subterfuge. The clincher is, though, that I didn’t feel a pang of guilt, no remorse whatsoever.
When I booked a room at the Ritz-Carlton for our next assignation, I realized that I was stepping unto thin ice. This was a place that I thought I would avoid at all costs. When in town, my parents had been accustomed to staying at the Ritz-Carlton. The staff virtually knew us on a first name basis. Although this familiarity should have bothered me, it didn’t. Maybe it was a blind spot. Maybe it was a self-destructive impulse. The plain fact remains that I was mining for things in myself, rare, priceless gems, that I never before realized existed, and that proved to be enough.
It was after we had made feverish love that I made a declaration that startled even me. As I watched her regain her breath, I burst out, in sheer exhilaration, “I think that I’m in love with you, Aorora! In fact, there are no two ways about it.- I am in love with you!”
Darting her eyes over to me, her face showed no reaction, as if my statement had completely washed over her. “Alice dear, it’s not of course that I don’t very much appreciate such a profession, but darling, you’re not supposed to babble on like that to me. As you ought to understand, it’s simply not good form. You pay me handsomely for a service. Shall we leave it at that?”
All that was in me rose up in defiance to this injunction. “Most assuredly not! You have become the epicenter of the world for me, the driving force. I simply can’t get you out of my system, no matter how hard I try. I’m no longer afraid of being in love. I celebrate it. If you reject the term, love, then how else would you describe it?”
“Try pure scurrility,” she giggled mischievously. “Please! You know the story line as well as I do: rich wastrel falls for alluring concubine. It’s the age old story…The facts are the facts: I’m a pricey cunt, no more, no less. You’ve got to take me with no strings attached. That’s part of the deal, my dearest Alice.”
There was something about her contention that struck a hollow chord. “Go away with me.”
She met my offer with a dumbfound look. “Go away with you?” she repeated in astonishment.
“Yes,” I pursued. “Anywhere. It doesn’t matter. I want us to be together-for a stretch. You go away with clients. It’s not as if the idea will be new for you. Please Aurora, consider the proposition. I implore you!”
Aurora studied my face for a few moments, as if trying to gauge where I was coming from, my sincerity. Then her face broke into a captivating smile. “Really Alice, although I’m truly flattered, have you forgotten that ours remains a totally professional relationship. The truth of the matter is we are hardly even on a first name basis. Besides, forgive my saying this, but I doubt that you are in position to afford what you have in mind. These excursions have lofty price tags. Frankly, I doubt that someone in your situation has enough in the piggy bank.”
As I marveled at her statuesque loins, I didn’t have a shadow of a doubt that there was no price too steep. To attain her, I was willing to pay anything, in capital of cash or of the soul. “Then accept my proposal as a pure transaction, Aurora. I must have you one way or the other. It doesn’t matter to me which.”
“Must have me?” she blurted. “Alice darling, you don’t know the first thing about me, who I am, where I come from, or anything like that. You are having nothing more than a one of those old-fashioned crushes.- Not that I can blame you of course.”
“Bother with all that! I’ll get whatever it costs. One week- one lousy, stinking week-that’s all I ask for.”
“All right I can’t complain, it’s a week’s pay,” she gave in. “Any way, I’m tired of talking. Do you want to go to sleep or have at it again?”
Curled up in bed, I was contemplating Cal busy at the roll-in desk laboring over some papers from work. It had been pretty much a conventional evening. Meeting her after work at The Elephant Walk on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, we had enjoyed a late dinner, and afterwards, walked our repast off on a stroll along the Charles. Returning to my place, we promptly adjourned to the bedroom, where we made love. As usual, I wore a condom, so there was no risk of impregnation or transmitting a sexual virus.
Utterly methodical, a stickler for organizing down to the minutest detail, Cal had made sure to bring over a full wardrobe the moment it became clear that we were going to become steadies, so that on overnight stays she would have a change of clothes ready. The neatly ironed clothes had been arranged in neat parcels, color separated. Even the floral butterfly kimono hiding her delicately proportioned frame was part of the ensemble.
Enveloped in her endeavors, she blocked out everything in her surroundings. A giant in math, that came as no surprise. If I had started beating a kettle drum, I’m sure that she would have continued unruffled. I was kind of an afterthought, somebody to fill in the time after work with. This is not said in a demeaning way. She was very much the same to me. Thorough intimates, we knew each other inside out. Living in a hermetic insulated world, we came of the same stock, went to the same kind of schools, circulated with the same kind of people. In our own way, I’ll even say that we had deep feelings for each other. All we lacked seemed to be the flame of a great love, the yearnings of a burning passion.
Speaking of overwhelming love, I’ll return to Ambrosia. I don’t understand if she was merely trying to test my pluck or what, but after our subsequent bodily exchange on the bed, she announced the only destination she would accept. It was Decker Island in the Caribbean. “It’s one of those private get-a-ways,” she explained matter-of-factly. “You’ll find this lush paradise between Tortola and Anegada. Sailing by on one of my cruises, one glimpse of the place made me promise myself that I would have to pay a call. At his time of year, I hear that you can get it cheap. I believe that it goes for $40,000 a night…So what do you say, Alice dear? Shall I start packing?”
I looked her straight in the eyes. “I accept. Don’t bother to pack a bathing suit. We won’t need any.”
As may be imagined, the kind of money being talked about defies the imagination. It certainly defied mine. Even for someone in my position the sum was certainly not easy to come by. All expenses considered, I calculated that this jaunt was going to cost me in excess of $400,000, including tips and gratuities. The numbers were so high that I needed someone with the facility of Cal to do the math. It was time to empty the coffers of a good number of my trust funds, in addition to unloading stock. My savings account was not going to get spared. But being on a do or die mission, I was heedless to the complications. Siphoning off a sizable slice of the liquid assets pie I had left did not concern me one bit.
It did however concern the lawyer, Sam Atkins, who handled my estate. An old Andover chum, he read the riot act to me. “Be sensible, old sport,” he charged me, sitting behind his plated Versailles desk. The plain fact remains that if you want to get laid by a pro, frankly you can save yourself a shitload of money the old-fashioned way. There are escort services available that provide for their clients most discreetly, not to mention bordellos that cater to the likes of you and me… In all honesty, Alice, I never knew that you had it in you, Alice!”
“I’m not going to budge,” I insisted. “Please take care of the arrangements.” “And not a word of this out,” I hastily added.
“In case it’s slipped your perverted mind, you’re protected by the attorney-client privilege. But the bottom line is this: if you persist in throwing away what you have like this, relatively soon you’re going to have nothing. Sadly, you don’t belong in the super rich club. Gorgeous call-girls really are a dime a dozen. Take my advice as a friend: If that’s your thing, before it’s too late, find some booty that meets your budget.”
Our stay at Decker Island confirmed the reasons this utter paradise had become the preserve of the loaded, the mega tycoons. Staying at the cliff-side Balinese villa, we were pampered beyond description by a full retinue of round-the-clock staff of 70. Every whim was fully catered to. Enjoying Hemingway Daiquiris, El Papa Dobles, on the terrace with the expanse of the glittering blue Caribbean in view beyond the coral reefs, I could have happily expired then and there. For victuals, we could choose between the floating dining pavilion or the formal dining room, replete with silver, lace, linen and crystal place settings. And If we wanted a particular wine that did not happen to be in stock, they’d send the helicopter straight off to Virgin Gorda to fetch it. A tennis instructor was on call, ready to offer us pointers while volleying on the manicured grass court. Our range of water activities included snorkeling and scuba diving. Nothing however beat just lounging au natural on those secluded sandy beaches. Under the basking sun, for all intents and purposes, we could have been Adam and Eve.
Of course, from the moment she arrived, Aurora pranced around as if she owned the place- which fit in perfectly with my master design. Rest assured that, for $40,000 a night, I was going to get my money’s worth. And get it I did, in dividends. But I wanted what was beyond one-night stands. I wanted to see what it was like to live with her on a day to day basis, to see if, in fact, given this glimpse into the every day, my infatuation would rub off. Surely, in this week together, I’d see the real Aurora, not simply the front she put on during her “appointments.”
The bottom line was that after a week, I had found that there was no other Aurora; the real Aurora struck me as identical to the one I had met before, the same bouncy, breathless, wild, uncontaminated spirit. If anything, I fell deeper in love.
I should also mention deeper in debt. My resources had shriveled. There wasn’t much longer I could keep this up as far as the financial side went. What I could keep up though was my commitment. It wasn’t as if I had a choice. Logic played no part in it.
We were lying face up on towels in the beach soaking up the sun. “Do you ever feel anything toward the men you see?” I thought I’d ask.
“What a stupid question!” she quipped, giggling. “To them, I am no more than a sex object. What do feelings have to do with it in the first place, Alice dear?”
“You are more than a sex object to me,” I protested. “Much more.”
I had to wait while she let out a laugh again. “Oh please Alice, come back to the real world, will you? For the life of me, I thought you had a head on your shoulders. Take me for what I am and leave it there if you know what’s good for you. The truth of the matter is that it’s getting to the point when I am no longer in your price range. That will sadly be it for you and me. Business is business. In the meantime, let’s have a ball! What do you say to that?”
“You talk as if you are nothing more than a commodity.”
“Why don’t we change the subject, dearest? I think I’d fancy a light lobster lunch under the shade of the pagoda.”
“Will you marry me, Aurora?” I offered out of the blue. I could not believe my own words. They just came out.
“Decidedly not, Alice…As to lunch, I believe an Alborino would be a nice complement to the lobster. From Galacia, it’s perfect for shellfish.”
“You don’t think that I’m being serious, do you?” I countered.
‘Really Alice, if you continue to dribble on like this, I am going to get quite cross at you. I feel a good mind to leave you on the spot.”
“I find it amazing how you can wrap yourself up inside. This whole facade you show hides-no camouflages would be a better characterization-the real Aurora. What have you to lose by coming out? I’ll still pay you… I stick by my proposal of marriage.”
She pulled up her Lugano leopard print frame pink lenses sunglasses. “I tell you Alice dearest, the sun must have done a number on you for sure! Let’s go to lunch.”
“Fine. May I suggest a Pinot Gris? One from Oregon would be suitable I think.”
Assuming we would return to our room to change into clothes for lunch, demonstrates the fallacy of making assumptions. When I saw Aurora had not picked up her wrap, I had no choice but to hurry after her. I kept crying out but she completely tuned me out. When we arrived at the pagoda, neither of had on a stitch of clothing. We were sitting for minutes before the waiter got up the nerve to approach us. “Good-good afternoon,” he stuttered.
Aurora gazed up at him. Sitting erect, she did not attempt to shield any part of her anatomy. “Good afternoon, Harold. Before we order, I’d like to take you into confidence, dearest. As you may have gathered by now, I’m a lady of the evening. This gentleman sitting across from me in fact has hired me in the amount of $25,000 to spread for him. But here’s the corker: he insists that behind the shell of my professional demeanor lies the real me. So it’s time for me to come out. Here goes…The real me happens to be a scraggy military brat, daughter of a regimental sergeant major in the Army who moved from camp to camp during her girlhood. When I was 17, while living at the base in Mainz, I ran away with a lance sergeant. He was the handsomest man I had ever seen. He also turned out to be a drug addict. Going AWOL, he fell into a bad crowd. That’s when I started selling myself. Doing tricks, I could feed his habit and myself. Unfortunately, he didn’t last long. Mainlining bad dope, he went into convulsions and was dead within 10 minutes. The stars were looking out for me, though. While cruising along Reeperbahn Street in Hamburg, a coal black Bugatti Veyroni pulls up beside me. Inside sat a dashing looking fellow wearing a scarf and an Alpine hat. “Jump in, meine liebste,” he hailed me…Harold, that was it in a nutshell. The man in the car turned out to be Count Adalwulf von Gluckner, one of the biggest high end pimps in Germany. He happened to be out on a talent hunt. To make a long story short, I went straight to the top… There you have it, Harold, in a nutshell, the real me.”
I was trying to determine who looked more dumbfounded, Harold or myself. We were not prepared however for what came next. “Liar, liar, pants on fire!” she broke into a hearty laugh. “I made up that story as I was going along, “she caught her breath..” Actually, the real came from a quite different background. The bastard child of the founder and owner of a razor company which is a household name and one of his help, I was reared in a gated estate in Palm Springs. Being the sporty type, Dad gave me every comfort in the world. To make sure that I had the proper refinements expected of a person with my pedigree, I was dispatched abroad to Switzerland to attend the Leysin American School in the Swiss Alps. Well, it didn’t turn out as dear father expected, did it? Capitalizing on my extraordinary eye popping looks, with the proper contacts among the well-heeled, I began my meteoric career in my present line of work. Here I sit today… There you have it again, Harold, the real me.”
Talk about a jaw dropper. Harold appeared as if he would like to shrink away, disappear into space. As best he could, he tried to keep his eyes trained on her face rather than dropping down. They did drop down with Aurora’s following comment. “Alice sweetheart, do you realize that you have a boner? Judging by its dimensions, one for the record books I would say.”
Call it visceral instinct or whatever, but Cal sensed that something was in the air. I first saw it in her eyes as she was examining my highly bronze tan. Maybe it was in my manner or disposition. How could it be argued that after my tropical tryst with Aurora that I would not be different? Changed? I read a bad omen in her response. The sad fact remains that, as hard as I tried to maintain our status, the worse off our relationship seemed to be.
As it turned out, this disintegration also affected my performance on the job. In a people-person position, I had become aloof, distant, moody-the opposite of what was expected. There began to be murmurings, a few negative reviews filtering in.
Did these developments deter my drive to see Aurora? Not at all. I only became more intent, more resolved. I had to have her, bar nothing.
I even had to survive her cold shoulder. She didn’t answer my calls for over a solid month after we had got back. Imagine my turmoil after one day without her, much less this passage of time. A torrent of questions passed through my mind: Had she tired of me? After all, it wasn’t as if I was the only one in the market for her, the only fish in the sea.. She could have easily exchanged me for any on a long list of super wealthy magnate possibilities. Was I not worth the trouble? My avowals of love, my proposal of marriage-did these cross the line of professional obligations? Or was she being purely mercenary in her outlook. She after all must have suspected that I was running dry, that I no longer would be able to afford the going rate regarding enjoying her divine pleasures?
On the last, unhappily she would have been correct. Brooding way at the office, my phone began to ring. The dial ID identified the caller as Sam Atkins. Picking up the receiver, I expected the worst. And the worst was what I got. “I need to meet with you ASAP, Alice,” I heard Sam’s strained voice.
“This isn’t a social call I take it, Sam,” I mouthed.
“I wish that it was. I’m afraid that we need to talk about your portfolio.”
“That bad, Sam?”
“We need to talk, Alice.”
Sam tried to be as delicate as possible, but the facts were the facts. Even he wasn’t prepared for the avalanche of bills that came due from Decker Island. In effect, he gave me an ultimatum; either drop my paramour at once or start finding which homeless shelter had a current opening. I wish I could assert that I departed his office chastened, but that wasn’t the case.
That afternoon, Aurora got back in touch. “Take me to Venice, Alice,” she demanded right off, as if we had just spoken yesterday. “I have a sudden desire to glide in a gondola through the canals by night. Aboard, you can read me Mateo Maria Boiardo’s magna opus, Orlando inamorato, in the original Italian. I managed to purchase an old volume. Not that we’ll understand a word of course, neither of us speaking Italian. The mood created by listening to such splendid poetry however, the acoustics, will be well-worth it. “
“You want to go to Venice?” I marveled, although by now nothing coming out of her mouth should have caused me undue attention.
“Yes, as soon as you can make reservations. We can stay at the Bauer Il Palazzo, an 18th century palace run by a family generation after generation. Talk about a place that represents the spirit of Venetia. Do call when the arrangements are made, dear. And we’d like a suite overlooking the Grand Canal, with a balcony if available.”
The line went dead.
I made sure to take full advantage of my first class seat on the Alitalia flight over to order drinks, as they were complimentary. Half-way across the ocean and I already found myself in a haze. I was in fact so wasted that I hardly touched my dinner. Aurora not only finished her own not leaving a crumb, but she began gobbling up mine. With such a goddess-like figure, I don’t understand where she put it.
I was in such a stupor that I don’t remember the ride from the Marco Polo Airport. Appropriating my wallet, Aurora paid the driver as well as the bellhop who shuttled us to our suite. I fell into the cushioned bed dead drunk.
When I awoke, Aurora was gone. I was seized with terror. Had she abandoned me? Consorting with a floundering alcoholic, did she want to save face? She must also have been aware that my line of credit was dwindling, in a nose dive. Was I no longer worth her while? I feared that the light of my life had been snuffed out.
With the sunlight streaming in from the fenestra causing me to squint, I took notice of her suitcase still on the luggage rack. That didn’t necessarily mean anything, though. To someone of Aurora’s moxie, she had the verve to up and walk out, without a second thought.
Hurrying into the bathroom, I started filling the bath. Cutting my wrists and bleeding to death in the tub would be the Roman way to go. I was spared such a fate when Aurora came bouncing in. “Aren’t you going to ask me where I have been, Alice dear?” she asked breathlessly.
“All right, where have you been? Dove sei stato?”
“Shopping. Look what I picked up.” She held up a glassine bag. “Coke refreshes you best. It’s the real thing.”
I was left to wonder how she was able to score so facilely under such circumstances. But then wondering about anything relating to Aurora remained an exercise in futility. It would have had the disastrous consequences of my trying to do a front flip while doing a backside 540, a McTwist, in snowboarding. “I’ve never indulged in that white powder. Enjoy.”
“As you wish…You hulk, is there room in that big old bath for me?”
For lunch, we wound up at Harry’s Bar. The place more than lived up to its reputation. It was worth going just to enjoy its trademark drink, the Bellini-a chilled mix of Prosecco and white peach puree. Fallen on hard times because of its debt, Harry’s Bar was in a bind just like me. The aged owner, Arrigo Cipriani, came to our table and greeted us as if there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. It seems a shame that he probably will be on his way out in a short time. That will likely make two of us.
I don’t understand how Aurora did it, but, as busy as it was, she managed to get us seated in the Concordia room, Hemingway’s old haunt. Aurora chose the Shrimp with Rice A L’Harry’s, while I went with the Tortellini “Harry.” We washed out victuals down with a Chianti Classico reserva. Paying the bill I had the first intimation that things had begun to go awry. The waiter returned and stated that my credit card would not be accepted, that I had maxed out. With a sinking feeling I gave another card only to find that I got the same tidings. Thankfully, I had some travelers checks that covered the bill.
Although I should have got the message, and seen the writing on the wall, I allowed myself to be dragged afterwards to Peggy Guggenheim’s old villa on the Grand Canal, now the home of her collection. It’s not that I was oblivious. I was being manipulated by an irresistible force.
A true character, Peggy Guggenheim had accumulated treasures, masterworks in cubism, surrealism and abstract expressionism. I got goggle-eyed wandering around admiring the works of such greats as Klee, Miro, Ernst, Picasso, Giacometti and Calder.
After our tour of the gallery, we had strolled hand and hand through the aged magnificent byways, transported in spirit back to the era when Venice stood out as one of the greatest centers of commerce in the West. Neither of us saying a word, it seemed as if we were locked in a time capsule. Evening fell over us at last.
Boarding a vaporetto, Aurora must have known where she was going, as she led me off at the San Marco stop. I let her take me to Quadri, right on the Piazza San Marco. Without a reservation, our chances of getting a table at this time were nonexistent. However, after a brief huddle with the host, he led us not only to a table, but a choice location. I will never get how she did it, how she had such pull. Full from lunch, we decided on just having desserts. We both ordered the uova suppeso, a white chocolate and apricot puree medley. I was indeed taken aback when Chef Massimiliani, himself, came directly over to greet us, not stopping at any other table.
Fate happened to be watching over me, probably for the final time, as I managed to cover the bill and tip with my last travelers checks. Other than spare change, I was flat broke. I had succeeded in finally empting the piggy bank. Never even in my wildest dreams envisioning this happening before, used to the natural right of privilege, I was at a total loss, a state of shock. I had crash landed.
“I am not going to forgo our gondola excursion,” Aurora humphed after being informed that I was tapped out. And forgo it she did not. At the mooring, she immediately hailed a gondola. Boarding, I had no idea how the gondolier was going to take my not being able to pay the fare. As we cast off, and were settled, Aurora removed from her Hermes handbag the decrepit copy of the Orlando inamorato and began the recitation, as if there wasn’t the slightest concern. As she lay in my lap, by candlelight, staring up at the twinkling stars high above in the archway of heaven, it seemed as if I was caught in an eternal interlude, as if time was suspended.
Coming back to earth when the gondola came to rest at the mooring again, I realized that reality was about to again intrude. With not a euro in my pocket, I feared the worst. The only thing I could offer in terms of payment was my Omega watch, worth over $1000. That should about cover the less than an hour ride. To my surprise, upon landing Aurora went straight over to the gondolier, and after whispering some words to him, approached me. “Let’s go,” she announced.
“But don’t I need to-“
“It’s taken care of,” she interrupted me. Grabbing me by the arm, she swept me away. I didn’t see a bill or coin change hands.
All I can say is that the lovemaking reached a new pitch that evening. It appeared as if we had put into practice every nuance of the art of sex in our repertoires, and then some. Totally limp afterwards, I immediately drifted off into a deep sleep. When I awoke, something was telling me that Aurora would not be there. My intuition proved correct, as, not only was she gone, but her valise as well. From all signs, it seemed that I had been left in the high and dry.
What I also found were 4 €500 euro bills on the bed stand. No note, just the bills. Figure that out! I had yet to pay for her professional services. Had she abandoned me as a liability not worth troubling with? In her haut monde, the debit would be considered piddling, not worth a second thought. That buoyed my feelings.
On the first-class Alitalia flight home I once again took advantage of my first-class seat by ordering a steady stream of drinks. Arriving at Logan, I had to call Tommy collect for a ride home.
Upon my return, things swiftly swung into motion. The dominos had started rolling. First off, Aurora wasn’t the only one to remove her things. On the drive back to Cambridge, Tommy informed me that Cal had arrived to cart off her belongings. He didn’t ask for an explanation, nor was he given one.
Neither of us had to wonder of course as to the motive. I accepted the loss fatalistically. It isn’t as if I didn’t deserve the outcome. There was no point trying to win her back. Not that there was anything to say. People like us have our own way of communicating. The simple fact remained that the Alistair she knew and cared for no longer was.
The first day back on the job, I walked into the executive office to tender my resignation. Heading for the chopping block any way, I figured that I may as well beat them to the punch. The fizz had gone for the job. The fizz in my life had apparently evaporated, too.
Without any visible means of support any longer, I had to move out of my pad. Sam’s admonition had been borne out in reality. For all intents and purposes, I was stock broke, my liquid assets gone to the last red penny. The ultimate degradation should have been moving my things back to my family home in Marblehead. We Talbots had been making this our residence since before the Revolution. The only child, barring nothing short of a miracle happening, as things looked, I was likely going to be the last of the line.
Word about me had gotten around. It had certainly reached mother. Fortunately, we had a staid expansive colonial built on a tract of land we had owned since the time Massachusetts was still a colony. Mother stayed in one wing, while I holed up in the other. We rarely ran into one another.
It wasn’t as if I didn’t try to reach Aurora. At first I averaged about a dozen phone calls and texts a day. She answered none. I also tried the spots we had met, on the hope that she would turn up, escorted or unescorted, it didn’t matter which. There were however no sightings. Being totally unpredictable, my best guess was that, like before, she was going to let me go through a dry spell before resuming contact. After a couple of months though, the prospect appeared bleak. I had been left in the dust by the one person I adored-the only person I not only believed that I truly loved, but had given up everything for.
Word had reached my circle, too. Friends-or those who I would call friends-didn’t answer my calls or texts, either. From all appearances, I had become the persona non grata. The height of my downturn, my moment of social infamy, had to be The Myopia Club closing its door to me. It wasn’t as if they were revoking my membership, as the Myopia Club doesn’t do such things. I was simply discreetly informed that my presence would no longer be welcome on the premises. That did it. My reputation in tatters, it was bad form now to be associated with the likes of me.
Altogether speaking, the dominos appeared to have been all knocked down in succession.
Developing a grizzle for the first time in my life, I virtually had no prospects. I didn’t want to return to my present line of work even if I could. It came down to the plain fact that I didn’t know what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. There was no niche that I felt I could fit into. Above all, I didn’t understand that inner me, my own chemistry. I was a stranger unto myself. Call it an identity crisis for want of a better description.
Oddly, there was just one thing that I was sure of-my feelings for Aurora. Despite what had come to pass, it was like I had been left with a gaping hole inside without her. Something essential had been torn from me, the spark. All this is with the certainty that, in the final analysis, she had been simply playing me, exploiting me for what I was worth, ransacking my emotions without a care. I had been a doomed victim of her magical allure from the very start. All told, she had been as false as her blonde wig. This didn’t matter to me. I took the scars as the price of being with her.
t occurred to me that, although she seemed to know me inside out, the fact is that I hadn’t the faintest idea about who she really was, her true identity. Nor for that matter would any of her conquests. These stories she gave about her upbringing-they were probably complete fabrications,too. But wasn’t that was her winning secret, what she had over us. The real Aurora would forever remain a mystery, supremely beautiful, fetching, beyond human reach, like those southern lights blazing in the northern sky after which she is named.
In awhile I took to commuting in the morning to the South Station. There I could sit on a bench unnoticed through the day while the crowds came and went, the passers-by going to and from trains, all on their way to some place, unlike me. As far as the newspapers, I’d pick up the copies that people left on the seats, and browse through them. I always brought canteen money with me to buy coffee. With a public bathroom available, my needs were satisfied. I seemed to have found my roost.
It was in fact while I was leafing through the Herald that I can across an add advertising a trucking company class for student drivers intent on getting a Class-A CDL. Although getting behind the rig of a truck would have to be the last thing I would ever picturing the likes of me doing, I had never in a million years ever thought that I would be one day idling away my time at the South Station. My trajectory had taken me where I never thought that I’d be. I decided then and there to sign up.
The experience of driving a truck opened me up to a new world. I took to it at once. There was a geometry, a precision, that I found invigorating. Communicating with my mother though became an issue since I had started to adopt the trucker’s lingo. “Passed a checkpoint Charlie on one of my runs today, Mom,” I’d greet her. Or, “Passed a Jimmy haulin’, Mom.” When I said that I was following a reefer, I remember she gave me a look of total shock. She didn’t in truth know what to expect. To say that I became totally estranged with her would be an understatement.
Acing my reviews from the mentors, the written test at the Department of Motor Vehicles proved a breeze. I graduated at the top of my class. I tore the first job posting I saw on the bulletin board. It was for a company that delivered the caskets. I made up my mind to apply. I flatly declare that I got more of a high from the notice I was hired than from my acceptance to Yale.
With a new source of livelihood, I could afford to move out. Looking at the listings, I discovered a stately old house in Dorchester Heights that needed a bunch of work. I’m sure that mother advanced me the down payment to get rid of me more than anything else. The black sheep of the family, she wanted me gone.
Living in Dorchester grew on me. The commute to and from work isn’t that bad. I have formed genuine relationships with my neighbors, who come from a diversity of backgrounds. I have even begun dating a local, Moira Potter. It’s not what I would call love yet on my part, but we’re having a lot of lively times together. Working on the renovation keeps me busy as a handyman.
Mostly, I look forward to coming out to the back porch with a cold one or two and sitting on an armchair to admire the view. Looking out to Boston Harbor, Dorchester Heights played a decisive role in removing the British from Boston. Commanding a view of the harbor, Washington fortified the Heights. With the cannons within range of the ships, the redcoats had no choice but to pack their bags and evacuate.
My kin had been part of it, having fought in the redoubt on Breeds Hill under the command of Colonel William Prescott. Strangely, being in the mortuary business, I feel the presence of my forbears’ ghosts lingering with me as I gaze across the settled waters. I also feel the presence of Aurora, a ghost now, too. Accustomed to privilege, the real privilege had been finding her. Just as my antecedents had been inspired by their dreams of gaining their freedom to take action, the same had been true for me. The long and the short of it is, through Aurora, planted in me has been the seed of the timeless, the eternal. As I behold the point where the open sea dips into the horizon, the realization always hits me that I should consider myself in every way to be the luckiest person around.
About the Author:
After living in Stockbridge for awhile, Robert Gamer moved to Arlington. Got a job bartending at a bistro on Mt. Auburn Street in Cambridge near Harvard Square. Found a used bookstore called The Annex and read about everything on the shelves. Resettled in Dorchester. Started writing and got the bug. His oeuvre includes a collection of short stories. Living now in Danvers, he is working on a novel.