"Hey cowboy that will be 2 grand".
"I thought we were friends?".
"We are, that's just a tip from you?"
"oh is that right?"
"I thought we were friends?", she repeated back to him.
She pulled her jeans on and buttoned the top button.
"What I'm not worth that?", she said with a pouty expression.
He took her cotton shirt and threw it across the room to a couch.
"I didn't say that. I would never say that. I would never think that.", said with a certain perspicacity to his voice.
"Maybe I need a new friend", she said jokingly.
"He shoved his hand in her pocket, placing cash inside while simultaneously pulling her close and kissing her.
"If I wasn't a friend what would it be"
She had to laugh outload
"If you weren't you, I wouldn't be here. If you weren't a friend we wouldn't be talking. But, 10,000 would be nice"
"I can never tell if u are being cute, or telling me the truth, you're a mystery woman."
"Being cute, who has the time?"
she laughed again
"Why? I can tip u again"
"No, one tip is generous, another in one night is needy and excessively gratuitous, I'm not a call girl or a fucking prostitute for god sake"
"just a mystery, he said staring at her in awe".
"Please stop looking at me like that", she looked down and shoved the hair behind her ear. Her spiced amber hair easily hooked in the crook of her finger and placed behind her ear. Then her right hand slipping in between her hair to scratch the back of her head as she became aware of her slightly bed-head textured hair.
Ten minutes earlier she had sat in front of him legs open, looking in his eyes, no panties, trying to see how long she could make him wait before he had to grab her. Daring him. Now, his look seemed to caress her and it felt too intimate. Maybe she was a mystery, she didn't get it either.
"Stay for a drink", as he said this he put on calming music.
Fighting the words that still made their way out, she said, "okay, 1 drink"
"I need to do some work tonight though."
"okay 50's, but can you add a few more olives"
He presented the drink before her
She noticed him watch her eat an olive. She liked how he watched her eat it.
"effortlessly erotic", he said smiling, "you caught me, I'll try not to stare
The next olive she took and made more of a show of it. Eating slowly.
He pulled her chair closer to his, "stay, or at least a little longer"
She had teased him, it was her fault. Her shirt was still off.
He kissed her on one of her breasts and sucked her nipple. He was daring her to leave. He knew she couldn't now. He had hooked her in the feeling. Now any resisting would be for show, so what was the point. She took a sip of her drink pouring a little on her breasts.
"For you", she said
He licked her and kissed her
"Fuck it, come here", she said
Pushing her jeans off and pulling him to her. He knew how she liked it. He could get her to a place where no reason could enter or stop what then had to happen. She needed it. He had won and he would get his way. So spoiled.
While Vishal went to shower she gathered her things, then went to the bathroom and gave him a kiss goodbye. The shower sprayed dewy drops onto her face as he kissed her.
The next day her account had $10,000 in it. An email that read, "To a friend. From: Trying to be your best friend, am I there yet".
She laughed, he was funny, she'd give him that. AND generous. The money came at a perfect time. She needed it.
She didn't want to give the money back because she needed it, but she had been joking mostly. She had pushed and he pushed back. She felt like a devious child trying to test where the boundary is.
Cindy and Yesi were bickering over the latest celeb headlines and who they believed to be the hottest. As I walked in Yesi asked "Party tonight? My place? Say yes, say yes, say yes! Get sweet Vishal to bring you, so you can actually be fun. Saucy fun. 3 Amigas Sauce-ze tonight". She was already laughing at her own speech and talking about her plans for how the night ideally would go.
She couldn't stop thinking of the money Vishal gave her. She couldn't acept all the money. It was too much. She felt too bought. She would need to use some of it to get him a gift he actually needed or wanted. Truth is she actually liked being around him. She felt comfortable and received, whatever that means. She really wasn't even quite sure, that's just the words that formulated in her mind when she pictured him. She still wasn't sure why he was trying to be so involved with her. She couldn't figure out his motive. I mean in his culture prostitutes were more a common thing. She hoped he wasn't mis-reading the situation or trying to turn her into his personal prostitute, fuck buddy or property. She really hoped she wouldn't have to explain this concept to him either. Although being his personal prostitute kinda turned her on in a way she couldn't begin to understand. Freud, Piaget and other great psychological theorists would have a field day analyzing this one. The worst part was that she had fantasized about being his personal prostitute and used it to get off to. Maybe thats why she feared he was thinking this and the fear that accepting the money entered her into some agreement she was not actually agreeing to. She didn't actually require a tip, she had been joking, but when she saw him usually she needed a hotel bc they drank too much. Then she need a ride to the hotel and one back to her car. Food and drinks for morning. It was a whole thing. So the tip was expenses and mostly because time isn't free. She hadn't lied though. If he wasn't him, she wouldn't be there. If a friend of his, even more attractive, called her she wouldn't change her stance. She was not a call girl. Not that she looked down on actual call girls, that would be really hard work. Although, she had had a one night stand once in her life where she had pretended it was someone else the whole time. It was dark in the room and she couldn't help it. He probably was doing the same so she didn't feel bad about it. However, not as fulfilling as if it had been the real person she was picturing. The word call girl originated from brothels that had phones installed so girls could be called up for solicitation of sex. Vishal was a friend. A pursuit of knowledge and charm that permeated all senses. She still never dropped everything immediately at his calling.
Work was a pleasant distraction for the day. She was a receptionist at a small therapist office. Mostly her time spent answering phones, filing papers, filling out claims, and greeting customers. Her lunch break was spent deciding on an outfit for the party. She wanted something "effortlessly sexy" since that seemed to appeal to him. Why not dress for him, she thought, she didn't actually care what she looked like so if she could give him something he liked to look at why not. She decided on some rust orange slightly bell bottomed pants, a beige vintage T copying the 1979 knebworth Led Zeppelin concert design t-shirt. A long pendant necklace, cliché, but she liked the look. For shoes she chose some striped beige and tan wedges that she often wore for look and comfort. A small purse with a long strap so she could wear it across the torso. The pants were tight and fit in all the right ways. He would notice her. He would like this outfit. He would want to smoke weed, pull the clothes off of her and be alone with her, but the outfit would start the play. Yesi would be wearing a dress. Cindy either pants or a skirt. Either way she wanted to be comfortable so jeans were the choice.
After work she met with a friend who was a dealer for rare items. She knew what she would use some of the money for. The opportunity dropped into her lap as if the universe was saying here do this. She couldn't fight the universe. She called her friend Bev who worked at Cooper & Coopers Extraordinary Finds. Bev started telling her about a new object she personally obtained for the company. A 1928 5d Athens Academy inverted centre stamp. It contains an error in the stars. It is one of 16 examples in existence. She could have it for $5000 since it recently sold at auction for this price. Vashals collection contained a Sicilian error of color stamp. An 1859 stamp printed in blue. It was supposed to be printed in orange. There are only 2 in existence. This stamp would be a welcomed addition, but no where near the level of this one. But she knew he didn't have it. She bought it. Then she used some of the rest of the money to purchase a 3.5x45x stereo stamp microscope with 144 LED + 3MP camera. On returning home she felt excited to give him the gift. It was a strange feeling. She didn't feel bummed about the money she wasted on it. She just wanted to see the joy on his face when he received it. What an effect he was having on her. She had the gifts wrapped in silver paper with white ribbons. On the note she wrote, "signed, sealed, delivered Im yours". Your BEST friend. You can check it for yourself. kisses and much love, Ava.
After finishing the card and placing it in its little ornate envelope, a flashy ruby red color, she placed it on top of both wrapped gifts.
Next was to get ready for the party. Vishal would be here to pick her up at 7pm. They had promised Yesi they would get there early to receive guests and cut the awkwardness with interesting banter until more people showed. She turned a documentary on about carbon emissions and the environment. Not sure its interesting, but at least on trend with the times. Halfway through she switch it to a documentary about Marilyn Monroe. Her story always left her with an empty feeling stomach and a devastated heart. Such tragedy behind such beauty and talent. She would brush up on her facts. People love Marilyn, it would supplant any awkward silences.
Vishal arrived promptly at 7:30pm. With a soft knock at the door and then ringing the door bell, her mail she had neglected to pick up in one hand, while dusting his cloths of any wrinkles with the other as he did every time he arrived to her apartment. I loved this, loved his adherence to politeness, his quirky routine that developed naturally and persisted through the course of their friendship. She could see him park, hear when the car parked and watched him, watched his routine. After the first couple times she was hooked. There was some voyeuristic joy brought to her from watching this routine. As if she had some secret window to "good". He was trustworthy, simply kind. He never looked at what was in her mail, never hesitated to knock, then ring, then make sure he was presentable for her. Or at least as impeccable as he could be. She felt this meant he was putting trust in her, appreciating her. Kind and caring, qualities she wished to cherish. She went to the door, opening it and welcoming him in.
"Wow, so you are ready?", he asked with an impressed expression.
I felt my cheeks heat up, checking the mirror, my blushing was in full bloom. Any more and I'd have a rash, lovely.
"First I want you to open a gift I got you, I'd say after, but I dont want to forget or push it off if we get back late."
"A gift, you shouldn't have", he said jokingly in an effeminate voice.
I grabbed two fingers from his hand and led him to the dinning table where I had the gifts.
He looked curiously from me to the gifts. He moved towards them and started opening them meticulously. Saving the paper as much as possible and the ribbons so they could be used again. She loved he was like her. This is how she opened gifts. It wasn't exactly saving the environment or loads of money saving the paper, but a habit that grew out of their raising. It felt respectful. Once he had the two gifts open in front of him and he had read the card for the second time he sat down at the table intently looking at the stamp.
"Is everything okay? Do you like it?", I asked unsure of how to read his reaction.
"Its not fair, its just not fair", he was smiling.
I relaxed playing into it.
"what's not fair?"
"You, you dressing and looking like that, then giving me this and writing me this card and I cant have you right now because we have to go and I don't want to mess up all the time u put into getting ready. Are you trying to kill me?", asking her directly.
She went to him sitting on his lap straddling him.
"I'm glad you appreciate it". She had waited on the lip stick so she could kiss him and she kissed him.
"Nope", he said abruptly.
Then lifted her up, sitting her on the table, laying her back, unbuttoning her jeans and pulling them off. Then she felt sweet kisses on her thighs and his tongue, his hands, as if his love was unleashing all its magic trying to make her feel what he felt for her. It was magical. Then he was inside her. The whole time they were having sex she kept thinking, YOU ARE MAGNIFICENT. Just magnificent. A rare gem, she wished she could take a memento from each experience and selfishly keep them in a safe only for her viewing. When they were done she got up and gathered her things. Hurriedly getting ready for the part.
"We are going to be late now, Yesi is going to be upset, I'll just be a minute". She went to re-get ready.
He yelled after her, "this is my fault, you have no idea, just no idea".
He is so sweet, she giggled to herself.
Once in the car and on the way to Yesi's he said, "You know you didnt have to get me a gift. I love what you got me. I dont have that one in my collection, but that money was a gift to you. In the future dont feel obligated to have to".
"I know, I didnt this time. I wanted to, it was too much. Plus since it was mine, cant I use it as I like?"
" Yes, but more like not enough"
She was his, she knew it at this moment. Not because of the money, but because of the worth he attributed to her, to them. She had never felt so full of worth in her life, so appreciated for just being herself.
1 am, still not sleeping, still up reading about stocks and reviewing a merger. He wasn't sure when the change happened, but it had. He was all business now, always concerned with staying informed, staying ahead. More serious than his college years. He often felt that life had drained from his veins. He was now a efficient cog in the machine. That was until he met Ava. When he was around Ava he didn't think of work, didn't care what he was missing or getting behind in. He forgot time.
His family was always exceptionally wealthy. Although they were rich, his family was not lacking in family structure or love between immediate family members. They were close, supportive, and there for each other. He received the best education in existence, had tutors to support his learning and extra curriculars to further his experience with subject matter. He considered himself luckier than most. This kind of lucky came with high expectations and a pressure tied to cultivating a commitment to the process in order to succeed. A pressure he often felt in his chest. He ate Alive and Advil's consistently. Paired with regular business meeting drinks was beginning to be a problem for his stomach and digestive track. Something would have to give. However the combo of this concoction made his skin immaculately clear. He had always kept himself clean shaven, but recently he allowed a small full beard to grow. Making him appear less baby faced and more like a man. His appearance transforming and resembling his outward life.
Medium height, dark hair and dark eyes. Skin color not important, but he is tanned like a toasted almond. Ava once joked in the morning he was her perfect café amore. All she needed and she loved coffee. He smiled from the memory, knowing she meant it.
As a teen he got into stamp collecting. A remnant from his youth still with him and now heavily invested in. He boasted a collection that would make any collector envious. He still put a large portion of his free time into trying to acquire rare finds. His desk was an assortment of glassine envelopes and various other materials related to stamp collecting. His work was relegated to his laptop taking up almost no physical space. Maybe one day he'd acquire the 1856 British Guiana 1 cent stamp also called "the Mona Lisa of Philately". It would be the holy grail of finds. It was probably good it never came into his presence because he would spend all the money he had trying to obtain it for his personal pleasure and collection.
He was a model citizen, a culmination of all his raising. He rarely took chances and rarely made a purchase without thorough research and comparison. It wasn't about the money, he could have wasted his money and not been affected by it, but he saw integrity in caring. As loving as his family was he also knew, that love resided in him acting as he should. It could disappear if his acting disappeared. He liked life, but he couldn't help but feel like a well paid actor at times. If he wanted to punch a wall or throw papers he'd instead threw himself into his work or would go to a boxing class. He went to a boxing class at least twice a week. His muscles had started to look defined, which pleased him. The visible results also helped to improve his mood. A constructive way to let out his frustration.
The first time he encountered Ava she was politely disagreeing with one of his coworkers. She was a secretary for a therapist office his friend was being court ordered to attend. He had gone to pick up his friend from the appointment. He liked his friend, but he was also aware he was a bit of a prat. Unaware of how abrasively his opinions could come off. He acted slightly entitled, but in his defense, he wasn't usually that incorrect, he just wasn't supposed to say it in the graceless way he tended to. He actually respected his friend for it, and often found it humorous. Occasionally, his boxing practice classes had come in handy on a night out with him. It was also why he had to take a pause in hanging out with him. It was a night like that, that put his friend in these court appointed sessions. Ava had held her own during discourse with him, unfazed by the comments he was making for an obvious reaction. A split second smile and a glance in his direction, he wanted to know more of her. It was a desire to know more than that.
She agreed to meet us after work, I still don't understand why, but she did. She wore black jeans and a white and black blouse that fit her well. A simple classic look that was made flashier simply by her wearing it. She was a thing of beauty. A strange thing of beauty. Not model pretty, the hot eye candy in magazines and things, but beautiful. He was embarrassed to admit, but the kind of beautiful where the worst flaw she possessed added to the overall beauty. He stared, but didn't apologize or attempt to correct it. Any attempt would have been fugacious and appear counterfeit anyways. So he has stared. The only visible display of uncomfortableness she showed was whisking the hair behind her right ear.
She had agreed and met out at a restaurant. They chattered all night. Became friends, meeting often and regularly. Then one night they kissed. Since then they have been more than friends. Although she always seems to try to keep people right where she wants them, at a safe distance from her. That's my story, he thought, his story with Ava summed up in abridged version. Really, this story with Ava was just in the preliminary stages. He couldn't wait for the day when he'd look back and think to himself 'what a beautiful story they wrote together'. This is how certain he was, invested and confident in persevering.
Arriving around 40 minutes later than promised, Yesi looked relieved on seeing the two of them. Her relief quickly turning to annoyance once she realized there wasn't a worthy excuse for their tardiness. Luckily, there would be no discussion about it because the guests were already there. I would blazingly dazzle and charm the guests, Yesi would forget we were late by the end of the night. Vishal, always a gentlemen, already has two drinks. Handing one to me, we enter the living room. I actually feel invigorated to schmooze. We split, ending up on opposite sides of the room. Every once in a while, I glance up to peer at Vishal. He, doing the same, catches my glance. He waits until he can safely mime something to me without being discovered.
I'm talking with a gentleman who is very concerned with the environment. He started a battery manufacturing company. In the process of starting his business he became very educated on the environment. Not only from working with the EPA regulators and code enforcers, but also from his desire to create a cutting edge battery where all parts could be recycled and discarded safely with no impact to the environment. The ideas seem opposed to one another, but really are interconnected. His company specializes in creating efficient lithium ion batteries, as well as sodium and calcium ion batteries. "There is '1000 times more sodium than lithium' in the earths crust", he tells me. He was so enthusiastic about his business it was hard to not feel excited for the future. He admitted that Lithium ion batteries were at the moment cheaper and easier to make, but that the bottom line cant run a business, but more is needed for advancement of a business. He is constantly doing research on materials in search of finding the best way to store power. He is excited about a concept of solid batteries, that have the possibility of being safer. He is a Norwegian man, although the accent he carries is not strong. This must be from practice of speaking with Americans. I find him fascinating. He seemed genuinely concerned with creating a safer more sustainable battery.
I had neglected to look for Vishal for a couple minutes now. As I searched the room, scanning over all the people, I didn't find him. Then I felt a hand on my back and heard social salutations. Could he have been jealous. The Norwegian was a thirty something year old with a mature stature, but now that she was looking at him, not unattractive, but not her type. I had been talking to him for a good 30 minutes though, asking questions, listening intently, learning about the environment and the battery industry. Tuning back in I hear Vishal talking with him about his business and about a connection with a US based company that may have an interest with working with him. Of course Vishal would already know about this industry. He didn't seem to just know about it, he seemed to be well informed and attempting to broker some kind of deal. However, if he said he had a friend in the industry, I'm sure he is a legitimate source of backing or research. Vishal had high-jacked my conversation. I had been charming and inquisitively discovering and now the Norwegian had become her in the conversation. He seemed dazzled by Vishal. I was invisible at this point, while the two boys made plans and business play dates. Then tuning back in again, I hear Vishal excusing us, then him pulling me to the side.
"Nice guy, huh?"
"Well he was until you high-jacked my conversation, I said sarcastically.
"Yes, I guess I did, but you found him. You must have a radar for this kind of thing. A business shark! He was laughing. Besides I can't allow a gentleman to fully upstage me in-front of my date. I'm competitive, like business, and really I did like the gentleman and it helps me with the other client. If I introduce the two and business works out, I earn both parties trust and favor. I have a video conference on Monday with them. AND its all thanks to you". He was in his element and a little buzzed so he was unequivocally buoyant at the present moment.
I curtsy in front of him and say, "Happy to be of good service". We laugh, I chat about more of the information I learned about batteries as we walk to a room where people are playing shuffle board. I love the game, but am truly awful at it. I agree to play with Vishal, out of sportsmanship, but I'm prepared to lose. To my surprise, Vishal is mediocre at shuffle board. As he takes a turn, sliding the piece down the board, missing my pieces and his own to nudge it just slightly for higher points, I see he is frustrated. I've seen him annoyed, bothered, but this was obvious frustration. I smile, not because it is funny, although it kind of is, but because I can tell.
"Well that didn't place as I expected", he said looking out at me from his bent over position with his elbow on the side of the table. That didn't help me at all.
"Sorry", I say as I whip one of my pieces down the table knocking two of his off and my puck stopping at 3pts.
"Oh sorry, she says. You can't be sorry then make a play like that. Want to end this game, make our rounds saying good bye, clean up a little and get out of here?"
"Cant we finish the game?", I ask.
"We can, but do we need to", he replies.
"You don't want to lose to me, is that what is going on here?", I egg on.
"Please I'm not a child, but we already know you will win. So do we need to continue? It isn't my night with shuffleboard.", he tries to sensibly explain.
"Well I have not officially won yet. Where is your sense of sportsmanship, finish a game that was started", I implore.
"I could ask the same. Good sportsmanship is also respecting your opponent and not scoring doubly when they are already down and show no sign of being able to recover", he lectures.
"You just don't like losing", I take an accusatory stance.
"Is it just me you don't like losing to or is this a general rule for you", I keep poking.
"Are you serious right now", he says while staring at me piercingly.
"Are you?", I repeat back.
He takes out his phone, snapping a picture of the table. Then throws all the pieces off the aactive play part of the table.
"To be continued at another point. You can beat me embarrassingly next week or month whenever we come here next. Since you must win and defeat me", he states.
"I sent you a text with the picture, game points, and turns etc for the game. All the information needed to pick it up again", he said proudly. He thought himself clever, I could tell.
With that he picked me up throwing me over his shoulder.
"Put me down", I say as I pat his back with soft slaps.
He places me down in the living room, in front of Yesi.
"You have a shuffleboard shark here, she plays sweet, but I assure you she is cut throat in the game", he cautions Yesi.
Yesi is laughing, "She beat you that bad huh?"
Vishal makes his poutiest face and shakes his head yes.
"Well I would have", I reply, "but the innocent lamb wouldn't finish the game."
Yesi thinks we are a riot.
"Thanks for having us, it was fun, do you need help with anything before we take off?", he asks Yesi.
"I think it's all pretty no hassle, if you could just take those three bags of trash down to the dumpster on your way out I would very much appreciate it", she replied.
"Will do", Vishal answered.
I said bye to a few other guests who were mutual friends to us all. After that Vishal and I collect the trash bags and leave.
While dumping the trash we run into a guest from the party that realized they had left their coat. We take her back up to Yesi's apartment to help her locate it. Her name is May.
"It shouldn't be too hard to find it, I saw all the coats in one room", I reassure.
"It sounds distinctive, floral pockets and all", Vishal adds.
Once I go into the room with all the jackets I locate it within 10 minutes. Taking that long just because I wanted to take care while moving all the other coats still in the room. On leaving again, Yesi stops us asking for one more favor.
" I would very much appreciate it if you would help with a few dishes", her words. I couldn't refuse, I said we would help with whatever she needed. So reluctantly, we both agree. I wash, he dries and puts away. The operation should have been in reverse, but we went with it. When Vishal didn't ask me where something goes I laugh thinking about how confused Yesi is going to be tomorrow in locating her kitchen items.
"That doesn't go there.", I chuckle.
"The bowls like that are over there in the cabinet to the left."
"Oh right", he says acting like he knows. Then continues talking about tomorrow.
"You want to stay at my place tonight, since it is getting late?"
"I'd love to, but I can't. Remember what I was saying about my work tomorrow. I didn't bring any of my stuff. It's all at home. Bad planning on my part", he answers.
Slightly relieved, I don't bring it up again.
I fall asleep on the drive home because next thing I know he is pulling into the driveway of my home. It's funny how cars lull humans to sleep better than any medications. Babies, teens or adults, all ages and genders lulled into a sleep by simply being a passenger.
My home is small, but cute. It's one in a complex of three small units. He pulls into my spot, turns the car off and the lights. He gets out, goes to my door, offers a hand and says "my lady". I take his hand and allow him to escort me to my door. I let us both in. I'm exhausted from the party. My eyes are fighting for the ability to close and my brain craves silence and the solace of dreams.
"Thank you for a wonderful night and a exceptional gift. It will add to my existing collection. The scope seems too much to me, but it will provide a much more detailed image".
"Your welcome", I respond.
I felt joy from the positive endorphins travel throughout my whole body. The only feeling that exists through pure appreciation from someone's recognition of another's trying to do good. It had not been a waste. He appreciated it.
I repeated, "Your Welcome". This time giving him a kiss, a simple kiss.
"I'm going to change into my Pj's, do you want some coffee before you drive home?".
"Sure, I'm pretty tired right now", he responds.
"Okay, be right back".
I start brewing the coffee and then go to my bathroom to change and freshen up. Settling on a black silk shorts and tank combo. I pull my hair back into a pony tail and quickly splash my face with water. I dry my face and check my reflection in the mirror before going to see what Vishal is doing. I see him sitting on the couch. Then I hear it. A snore. He has the microscope and stamp in the gift box next to him. He is fully asleep. I set his alarm for 5am before setting my own. I move his gifts to the floor and push him so he's laying down, then place a soft throw blanket over him. He looks so peaceful and content. My sleeping beauty. I kiss his forehead to wish him sweet dreams. He is so angelic I its hard to pull myself away.
I go to my room and climb into bed. It has never felt so good to lay down and stretch out. My microfiber sheets feel soft and welcome sleep. My muscles finally get to relax. I momentarily feel as if I am falling, and wake startled, jolting my mattress. I have to resettle in. Hugging my pillows, thinking of Vishal, I drift to sleep.
Next thing I know my alarm is blaring. It must be 5 A.M. I silence it. It felt as if it has been a minute since I closed my eyes. I must have passed out into a deep sleep brought on from exhaustion and the alcohol we consumed at the party. I rub my eyes and gently pat my cheeks trying to wake myself up quickly. I grab my robe and head to the kitchen to make coffee to offer to Vishal. As I peek at the couch where I left Vishal I notice he is already gone. My angelic angel woke before me, made coffee, and left me a note. The note reads,
The early bird gets the worm. That worm is as good as mine. Off to a meeting. Call you later. Thank you again for the microscope and stamp, completely unnecessary, but completely appreciated. As they say "That which is not measurable is not science. That which is not physics is stamp collecting".
Putting the note down, his written words impinged unfeigned daggers to my thoughts. He is humble to a fault. Truly, he could easily be the most intelligent individual I know. He was not just intelligent, but able to know the right things to say in a given moment. He could lift the weight of a heavy moment and add joy to the already joyous moments. He always down plays his accomplishments, but not in an annoying way. In a way that showed fear in expressing his accomplishments and a real disbelief in them. His stamp collecting was strategic and well planned with inticate attention.
The meeting was long and tedious. I had watched myself tapping my pen like a metronome on the table. Hypnotizing myself while appearing in control, focused and slightly bored. The meeting went as expected. Gaining investors is easy. Its always been easy. Its all about the pitch. Planning and writing strategy is a skill innate in me from childhood maybe birth. Discovered during my first neighborhood business scheme and relied upon there after. A skill my parents championed and cherished. My parents always ask me why Im not a lawyer yet. I play it off everytime saying Im a lover not a souless arguer. Plus I make around the same salary, so what would be the motivation for switching careers now. Gaining investors is easy. Keeping investors, working with and appeasing investors is another beast. Delivering on promises not only a skill, but a modern day miracle when accomplished.
I sat in my office in between calls and paperwork. I sit back in my rolly office chair, leaning back into a break. My eyes roam from my public stamp collection to a framed artwork on my wall. The frame housed a stamp I had attempted creating just after college. A recreation of a common stamp from the year I was born. Far from being Jean De Sperati, the master artist and forger, I keep it up as a reminder of perspective. Some say Sperati lived life like a big "Got you". My framed stamp says so much: its one thing to collect but to make lends yourself to a different level of respect and understanding, even the best can be duped by someone with a great desire and skill, does it matter if it is forged? Does one love the money or the stamp? History? What it represents?, and lastly a step in my progression from a common stamp collector to an expert or master of a craft. No one entering my office knows this understated framed piece of art is depicting so much. I like it that way. Its my reminder of people and motives in business. A secret companion in the room keeping me leveled.
I couldn't stop thinking about Ava and the next time we'd meet. It always feels like a meeting because I'm always discovering more and she is always surprising me. It was strange how she was gradually becoming more important than anything else in my life, more beloved. More beloved than even my stamps. My stamps have until recently been my most prized possession and hobby or distraction. It wasn't just the prestige in owning something valuable or having something others couldn't; it was the rush of the treasure hunt, the knowledge behind it, the history, the story. Ava was someone to share this with, who amplified the joy. Making it seem important. She was completely unaware of her effect in the world and on me. Even when we had little squabbles, I later would think, she can do no wrong. I thought about her worst and I wanted to share in the blame. Since I met her, I couldn't go back to not knowing her.
On my worst days I had imagined myself buying a plane ticket and going on a stamp treasure hunt like the great Philip Ferrary de la Renotiere and finding a Mauritius Post Office Stamp. Sinking everything I own into obtaining it for my collection. Rounding out my collection, immediately gaining prestige while simultaneously probably joining the ranks of a broke beggar. Knowing, if I encountered this stamp, I'd do it every time without question and it would be worth it . Since meeting Ava I stopped plotting my adventures. Ava inured me from the daily trivialities and frustration impinged on me. Leaving stopped being an option. Stationary, but not stagnant. I did the work of researching stamps, other collectors and sellers in my off time. Leaving just stopped crossing my mind. Ferrary once owned 75% of the worlds rare stamps. Before I die I'd love for this to be my reality. After me, a decent inheritance for a loved one.
In my teens, a relative, a uncle on my moms side, left me a letter envelope with a single stamp. My teen brain thought my uncle must have been losing his faculties and forgot to put the note inside. A friend of our family pointed out the stamp was different than any she has seen recently. So, before tossing it, I looked it up. I was curious. That single stamp started my collection and could have easily funded my first year of college or a start up for a business. I was blessed with a well to do family, so I kept it, and my collection was born. The stress disappeared knowing I had a safety net if I ever fell. A ready savings that could be cashed in whenever I needed. Pieces of history paying for the future.
The only trip I'd thought of scheduling was one to Dublin. I wanted to take Ava to the Royal Irish Academy Library. Show her the work of a man that was one of the first collectors before collecting was a thing. 65 years before the Penny Black John Gregory Bourke created a book of revenue stamps. So amongst being a captain in the US army, a documentist, a writer and diarist detailing Native peoples; He was a man before his time. A trend setter. Maybe for dorks, but a trend setter none the less. Ava wouldn't know this, but she would be genuinely interested in it and not just for me. Thats just who she is. She is fun that way.
I pick up my phone. Im irrationally excited to share my unformulated plan. The ringing has never taken so long.
"Hello", a sweet voice answers.
"Can you get away with me?"
"Now? I mean, give me 20min."
"Yes, thats great too, but I meant for a trip. After our meeting this afternoon I'm sure you're owed a tip. How about a trip, plane tickets on me?"
I can hear her thinking. Picture her turning it over in her mind trying to decide. Fighting rationality with spontaneity and fun. She is conservative except for when it comes to me. I couldn't guess what her answer would be. Finally she speaks, "Where are we going?"
It would be our educational tourist adventure together. Our beginning.