by LJ Frank *
“To understand the actual world as it is, not as we should wish it to be, is the beginning of wisdom.” Bertrand Russell
This story is in part from my most recent writing that’s being edited. My work is essentially a fictionalized literary biography.
I’m not sure if one can extrapolate anything about a person’s life from one experience or event regardless of its nature and consequence. Our personalities and beingness are never to be equated with a singular affair even if it affected our view of life from that moment forward, whether it occurred fifty or twenty-five years ago or yesterday. Some things and some people enter our life and remain an instinctive thought away. Shakespeare’s Hamlet once intimated to his friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, that there’s nothing in life that’s either good or bad but thinking makes it so; I wonder, is that an absolute or relative truth or other philosophical position altogether?
That which occurred is as follows.
I was attending a conference just outside a midwestern city in the United States. During the rather mundane conference I was approached by a woman who introduced herself as if she knew me from someplace else. While walking and chatting with uncommon familiarity we both entered a conference room where she was a guest speaker. As she gave her presentation neither of us could take our eyes off the other. When she smiled, she glanced my way, and I returned the smile. I looked away and when I turned my focus toward the dais our eyes met. The room began to feel warm. I noticed each time she took a drink from a glass of water she then glanced at me. She brushed some long hairs away from her face.
After her presentation we purposefully encountered each other in a large hallway. Our conversation was lengthy and provocative – we took in each other – every word, syllable, body and eye movement. She listened carefully to each of my thoughts as I did her every inflection. Nothing was said by either of us about our physical differences, except noted by a few acquaintances. I bring it up as I’m 5’7” in shoes and she was 6’ in bare feet as she mentioned she needed to go shopping. She also enjoyed wearing 4” heels for the effect on her tallish colleagues. She was enchanting.
At one point in our conversation she asked, “Would you like to go for a walk in the park? It’s a five-minute walk from here.” Her voice was seductive.
“That’d be nice. The weather is beautiful.”
“Isn’t it though.”
Yes, for a moment we reverted to small talk. Yet, we just kept listening, looking and thinking. We started towards the park, stopping by my car and picking up a wool blanket I kept in the back seat. Somewhere deep in the park and approaching some pine trees, she spontaneously leaned over and we French kissed and found ourselves embracing each other and then lying down on the blanket underneath a tree seeking the unquenchable. Time was lost.
“I love how you taste.” I whispered
“I’m glad,” She said. “It’s so desired and wanted.”
We exchanged numbers, spoke to each other every day over the next week. Ten days later she stopped by my office on a Monday morning dressed in a pinstripe suit and wearing new open toe ankle strapped heels.
“What do you think of a long-term affair?” She propositioned.
My eyebrows rose, “I’m open….”
She came over to my desk and kissed me. “I need to ask you.”
“I care about you. Us. Together. You know…” We kissed as if it was our last kiss. Then she said something remarkable. “If you were to rob a specific bank with me as your accomplice, I’d drive the getaway car.” She was serious. She drove a sports car.
“Isn’t your father…I mean as a bank president he’s in a better position than I am.”
“He’s an arrogant bastard. And Jesus, I don’t mean going in at gunpoint and robbing the safe. That requires too much precision planning and too many variables. Things can go wrong quickly. The best is digital transfers. But my father oddly is a Luddite…he detests machines. He loves manual. His mind is living in the early 1900s. He likes paper and ink.”
“Really? Strange…I think I understand.”
“I’m talking about a particular safety deposit box he has in the bank. It’s where he keeps his personal valuables and papers, of which he doesn’t want anyone else to know about. My mom filled me in before she left him. It contains money, documents and at least two good sized velvet sacks filled with diamonds according to my mother. I’d like you to get your own safety deposit box and while you’re doing that, I’ll get the key from my father’s hidden desk drawer. Then we’d exchange the valuables in the bank the following day – we transfer the contents from his box to yours. It’s simple and to the point.”
“Why not just directly remove them yourself? Why another deposit box?’
“To confuse and deflect my father and my husband. And most of the bank employees know me except the person at the safety deposit box entrance. She’s older, doesn’t like to make waves. Interestingly, he has a personal insurance policy on his deposit box.”
“What about your husband?”
“What about him? He’s abusive…mentally and physically. That’s what I get for marrying a macho professional athlete. We’re in the process of getting a divorce. And now you’ve entered the picture.”
“How did you meet him?”
“He came after me. I was a model in my younger days, and I had a magazine photo spread. He saw it and sought me out. Problem is I get tired of a man who plays his mind games and being literally hit and having things thrown at me. I’m looking for another kind of man, as you now know on a very intimate level.”
“If he finds out should we be concerned about our safety.”
“We won’t let him find out. And you’re not the violent or jealous type.”
“No reason to be. I possess very little in life.”
“Good. How’s tomorrow?”
“You get a safety deposit box tomorrow. While you’re doing that, I’ll borrow one of my father’s two keys. It’ll be a short-term loan. The diamonds are another matter. I question how he procured them. Anyways, the very next day, Wednesday, we will make the transfer during the late morning just prior to lunch.”
“Of course.” She then walked over to my office door. She turned and said, “If we wait too long than we’ll start second guessing. Besides my father is out of the office this week. It’s our chance.” Click. She locked the door and approached me with a seductive grin spread across her face. “This is my version of shaking hands in agreement.”
The next day we met at the bank and I rented a safety deposit box for longer than needed and received a key. She retrieved a key from her father’s desk where he kept two keys. Her name was perhaps somehow on her father box. I didn’t ask. We met afterwards to review our next steps in a motel room she rented. We kissed. We undressed each other in slow movements ensuring that nothing was left untouched with our hands and our mouths.
The following morning, we met at the bank, retrieved our respective safety deposit boxes. She entered an alcove separate from mine, opened her father’s box, retrieved the diamonds and placed the two sacks of diamonds in a vinyl bag with a local university name on it which she handed me on her way out while I was standing at the opening of a different curtained alcove. I in turn placed the bag in my safety deposit box and departed the bank while she returned the key that she took from her father’s desk.
We met afterwards at our usual coffee shop and planned to return on Friday. I would take a taxi with my empty leather brief case to the coffee shop where we would meet and afterwards, I’d walk across the street, retrieve the contents from my safety deposit box, place them in my empty briefcase, then meet her back at the coffee shop. We would then walk to her sports car at a nearby parking garage. She would have an oversized leather bag packed and ready to go in her car. I decided to travel with the clothes I had on my back and a classic raincoat. We planned to travel light to make our movement unnoticeable. My heart raced. We made love that afternoon in the backseat of a sports utility vehicle that was her second car.
In a variation of the Scottish poet, Robert Burns – the best laid plans of a woman and her lover.
She didn’t show up at the coffee shop on Friday. I waited. I hesitated from retrieving the contents of my security deposit box. Why did I hesitate? What happened to her? She didn’t answer her phone. I called her place of work just in case. It was her day off. She seemed to have vanished. I waited a little longer. I went back to the bank, walked in, didn’t see her and walked out. Something was terribly wrong.
The next few days there was no reporting or theft or loss by the bank president. There was nothing in the local news. What happened? Was it a set-up? Days later I learned that she died of an apparent heart attack at her home through an obituary published in the local newspaper. Yet, she was physically the picture of good health. Was she murdered? The thought crossed my mind.
I placed a single rose on her grave and took a job in another state.
The question that walks back and forth in my head like an animal pacing a cage is should I return to the bank and check my safety deposit box? Of course, my visit would be recorded. So, what. Who would recognize me? Were the diamonds still there and can the bank president access any deposit box? I hauntingly recalled our embrace. What was my ethical position? I was doing it for us to be together. That particular rationale was no longer in play.
Today, as I sit at my computer typing I glance over at the empty briefcase in my office and remember the seductive smile on her face and her last words over the phone the night before our planned rendezvous, “Trust me, my love.”
*from my writings: The Margaux Affair © L J Frank