I was caught mid-stream yesterday and had to discontinue before I was seen. Good thing I was sitting in the corner facing out, otherwise I wouldn’t have seen her before she spotted me. She, is my ever fruitful sister-in-law. “Of all the bars in all the world, she had to walk into mine.”**
It was just co-incidence, or so she claimed. And I have absolutely no reason to doubt the truthfulness of her assertion. I suppose you could say that I felt guilty because I was guilty. You could say that…and I might not disagree with you.
We were sitting across from one another, the pure white table-cloth stretched between us. Crystal wine glasses, shining silver, white napkins in silver rings, a single rose in a crystal vase.
She was wearing pink lipstick, otherwise her face was devoid of make-up, and there was suggestion of Ralph Lauren perfume that would have been outside of most people’s budget; including mine.
She had her long legs crossed at the knees her hands with ring-less fingers resting on her thigh.
“Strictly speaking I’m a bit too heavy boned and wide in the hip to make a top model, but there’s enough work, even for us girls with a fuller figure.”
“There’s hope for me then,” I joked.
“They’d be fighting over you, darling,” she said.
“If I ever consider a change of profession, I’ll let you know; although I’m probably a little old now.”
“Perhaps,” she agreed with a smile. “I was seventeen and still at finishing school when I was spotted in Cannes while on holiday with my parents. Back then I was a naïve, idealistic, pristine virgin, with my head in the clouds and no idea that wolves didn’t just hunt in the woods. My parents tried to talk me out of it, but when they couldn’t they gave me advice, which I turned a deaf ear to. They were upright citizens who worked fucking hard to give me the life I had. My father was…is a banker and had made a ton of money. If I’d wanted to, I could’ve gone on travelling and partying until I found a husband who could afford to keep me in the same manner. But I wanted the glitz and the glamour, and most of all the illusion of independence.”
“Did you get it?”
“Yes…no… as I said, it’s an illusion; there’s always someone pulling your strings. Initially it was a very exciting life, being taught how to walk, turn, show, strut, glide, bounce, how not to smile; living out of a suitcase and in hotels; flying in just to fly out a few days later to the next place, and then on to the next.”
She lifted her glass and looked at me over the rim as she sipped.
“It was a bit like being a little girl,” she continued, “dressing up in my mother’s clothes, wearing her high shoes, plastering her make-up all over my face. The clothes and the shoes are someone else’s, make-up and hair was done by smiling professionals. There were men too; fit handsome sophisticated men; photographers and models, agents and designers, gays, studs, users, pushers and those who didn’t seem to have any tight being there. There are also a lot of other things that I wasn’t prepared for.”
“Bitchiness, back stabbing, coke, alcohol, heroin, uppers, downers, men and women who prey on silly little, naive girls too full of virginity and pride.”
A twisted, bitter smile played with her lips and then was gone. It was costing her something to talk about her life. But for her own reasons she needed to.
Christian had been right.
That was one of his talents, he knew how people ticked; knew what they wanted and how to give it to them. But he liked to play games with his friends, leading them into situations to see how they reacted. That night at the party where I’d met Ingrid had been one of those situations. He’d taken me there intentionally to drag me out of my comfort-zone, and for his own perverse amusement. If it wasn’t for the kindness, sensitivity and neediness in the other side of his character, he and I would never have been friends.
“Everybody has their own agenda,” Inga continued. “Everyone is out for themselves, and if you are too trusting and turn your back someone will stick a knife in it.”
“I had no idea it was such a rough world,” I said. “From the outside we see a lot of people who smile a lot and kiss each other on the cheek.”
“It’s all for show, the lips are generally coated in poison and the smiles as genuine as a Rolex you might buy on a Thai market stall.”
I’m having so much fun recounting this part of my history, I’ve completely lost track of the time. He went to bed more than an hour ago. He flew in from New York this afternoon and is too tired tonight to indulge in baby-farming. Perhaps he’ll be up to it after eight or nine hours sleep.
** from Casablanca (old black and white movie with Humphrey Bogart). It was one of my mother’s favourite. She cried every time she watched it. I probably know every word by heart.