"That's my car!" she pointed in beaming pride.
We strolled together in the warm Fall afternoon through the old East Dallas neighborhood approaching her rental abode and there in the crumbling concrete of a driveway a Toyota Corolla was boldly parked. As she toured me around it she filled me in.
The delight in her voice was musical and lyrical. It wasn't so much the car but what it did for her that she had not had before. Because it served her, it was special beyond all others. She bragged of its fuel efficiency, the famed durability of the model (which she had duly researched) and how well she had bargained on the deal. I grew more envious by the moment.
My own car was the latest Maserati - not known for its fuel efficiency. I loved my new toys, the immigrant salesman even chiding me, "Mr. Bond, you go through cars like tissue paper!" Meh. But as we sat inside the car, she showing me her little touches to personalize it, I realized hers was ten times the car mine could ever be. I had bragged before on the Maserati's Italian leather being so scrumptious it was "just this side of an orgasm", but here I sat in a finer interior I could never match. I started to feel lacking.
When we got out to go in her house I looked around the neighborhood. In the older parts of town there's tons of parking in the streets and even on the lawns. The number of over-sized SUVs bothered me. They use a ton of gas and are wildly impractical. I have friends who drive Hummers solely because they are a ridiculous waste of space. "That's the whole point, darling!" But trying to emulate that so you can think your life is something it's not, I had no respect for that. They weren't like she.
Her house was as I was beginning to expect of her: clean, organized, great feeling. She's the kind of person who wherever she went, she made it better. My penthouse view of downtown Dallas received rave reviews at my last party. I beamed as if I were somehow responsible for the skyline. How empty and hollow that seemed now as I compared it to her beaming about her car. As I sat down in her lovely space, my world began to tilt.
We'd met in an encounter group. Of all the people in the room, she stuck out to me, a shining light. "Why isn't everyone around her?" I wondered. Their loss, my gain! In mixed company (wealthy and not wealthy) I don't wear my $18,000 suits or drive my latest Italian exotic (to prevent fucking door dings if nothing else). I prefer to be anonymous, to play the Hiding Game. You know, I don't want you people feeling inferior or anything. The meeting place was just a few blocks from her place and frankly taking the time to walk meant only extra time to be with her!
During the course of the conversation I learned she had cobbled her furnishings together from Goodwill outlets and the like in the richer parts of town. She had an excellent eye and knowing she had basically designed the experience in which I was now ensconced duly impressed me. My penthouse decorating ran into the six figures with its Asian theme and high flying decorator who walked me through all her ideas. My contribution had been to nod my head in agreement to her suggestions. I was so proud of how it turned out, but now...
I sunk down in my chair a little intimidated. I'd never felt as good in my own home as I did sitting here in hers. The organic vibe of it, knowing that all the touches reflected the wonderful her, made this into a palatial paradise. Westminster, Versailles, Taj Mahal - eat your heart out! Man, I didn't want to leave but rather explore every inch of her place. I've been to Versailles and marveled at its magnificence but it came up short compared to this. I had been missing out on the true attraction.
Less impressed now
I thought of the futility of trying to explain this to my friends. "What's so special about a WWII shit-hole in some beaner neighborhood?" I suddenly realized I hung out with that crowd because of my need to feel morally superior to someone. They weren't even in the same universe as she in terms of class and refinement. Stick any one of them - and maybe even me - to live in a place like this and they'd throw a fit for the ages, bitter and resentful that anyone had more. I was getting smaller by the minute - and still playing the Hiding Game.
I think because she noticed the constant smile on my face she kept sharing about her life - and yes, that very much pleased me. She'd met a guy but was not serious yet. As she told me about him I began to feel a flaming jealousy. I hadn't meant this to be a sexual encounter! But then I knew it was the attention alone he received that so inflamed me. When she spoke of her recently acquired job that allowed her to do more of what she wanted, I felt jealous of that too! I thought I had everything, turns out I had nothing.
I had been so proud of my small witticism to the accountant. "Ha ha! Mr. Bond. You can't put "check endorser" as your occupation!" Oil royalty checks in Dallas carry a certain cache of snobbery among the boot and cocaine crowd. They were like my free pass into society, no soul (or personality) required! But shit, sitting here listening to her talk was better than any exclusive night club from Dallas to New York. Funny part was, she was starting to rub off on me.
I actually became somewhat witty around her, feeding off her drive and passion. How long can I keep this up!? I was both terrified and excited. I wanted to run back to my friends - or whatever they really are - and tell them of this fantastic experience. Sadly, I felt myself wanting to do this in the vein of desiring to one-up them. Yes, yes, you had your trip to the Serengeti, but guess just what real happened to me! And I bet she'd like me more than all the rest of you. That, to me, was the real measuring stick.
CODA, six months later: The gorgeous stranger slips from between my silk sheets perfectly nude with her flawless skin, hair drifting lazily past her shoulders, stepping towards the penthouse patio on her finely feminine feet. "Oh, wow," she gasps taking in the morning view. It's rare to see such thick fog in Dallas, the eerie air about the mountains of buildings shrouded in clouds is almost surreal. I'm thinking if I took a picture that moment of her naked form overlooking the city in fog it would go viral in a heartbeat - not that I would tell anyone she costs 1500 a night.
Instead, I stayed on my bed moping, my only thought: "What would she think, she whose time cannot be bought? Would she be impressed by this picture back in her East Dallas castle? No, she'd dismiss it as trivial knowing it had been a scene purchased not earned."
When it came time to end the Hiding Game, it came out all wrong. "Well, my car's a Maserati." I said it like an asshole, an effete snob, jerk of the ages. Every time I tried to tell her something more, I did it again! What possessed me to act like that!? Then I realized it was my fear and insecurity that I truly had nothing to offer and that like I had for all my life I used wealth as my reason for being, a character substitute. In my circles, that's little drawback since so rarely any of us saw a need for character and often philosophized on its irrelevance.
She grew tired of me and my sneering idiocy until she no longer answered the door. I ached to hear the details of her life. I never got the nerve up to ask if she'd take my money. You might think that's a simple thing to offer, but with a woman of fabric it's a delicate proposition. She taking my money would be the greatest gift of my sordid life. But first to do that she'd have to see the real me and that I'd never let happen. Do other trust fund babies have this problem, to be defined by their loserdom?
Every life needs direction. There's no way around it. I've seen the original "Thomas Crown Affair" 50 times. Rich man Steve McQueen is asked what he could possibly have to worry about. He replies, "Who I want to be tomorrow." The pressure is excruciating! The closest I ever came to doing anything was trying to recreate my own personal Blade Runner set in the abandoned warehouse district south of downtown Fort Worth. It would have been so cool, right down to the matching neon! (Yes, I really do have that much money. Thank you, oil speculators!) The zoning assholes wouldn't hear of it, though.
"She just wants you for your money." "That's the plan!" I'd always reply. I don't make that joke anymore. My taste of the good life has forever fouled me of my own. People look up here in envy at my penthouse luxury seeing it as paradise. But for me, it's a prison. I'm nobody, with nowhere to go and nothing to do. My once-in-a-lifetime chance to escape gone forever. What that guy said about the eye of the needle, he wasn't kidding. I just didn't think it would have been me barring the gates to heaven.