The world seemed more innocent then compared to today, even when it was on the brink of a great world war. The difference between good and evil was less subtle, more black and white. A kiss is still a kiss, a sigh is still a sigh, the fundamentals of loving as time goes by. We look back on the past we never knew with rose colored glasses. The hopes of our future realities lie buried in the disappointments of our past. Let the dreamer beware. Preston Wallace traded in such stocks of the future, the market of hope, charity and change. His religion was the church of the impossible dream, redemption through struggle, salvation through accomplishment. His only mortal sin was that he never truly believed, that bit of Scottish ancestry held him back, made him doubt in the wee hours of his sleep.
I met Mr Wallace at a seminar he was giving. The woman I was dating at the time and who shall remain anonymous to protect me, a woman scorned and that sort of thing, had dragged me to this circus of happy feelings. It was a small group, perhaps twenty some odd individuals sitting on oversized pillows arranged in a circle with a small mat in its middle. for a small introductory fee of ten dollars a piece and fifteen dollars a couple, we would be introduce into the world of the eternal sunshine mind of existence. I must admit that his entrance was masterful. Preston was one of those men who are blessed with that eternal thinness that accentuates their average height. High cheekbones, not too broad forehead, and delicate chin gave him that aura of great intelligence and wisdom. Dressed as he was in a thin cashmere turtleneck top with white flair legged trousers, might have been a silk blend, for the legs, when he walked gave a sense of animation to his bare feet. One had the opinion that here was a man in tough with his feminine side and completely comfortable with such feelings. But the image projects was more force of personality rather than charisma, although the rich baritone voice certainly suggested as much.
Preston entered the circle at the prescribed time, punctuality matters in this line of business, and facing the east, sat down in the most graceful manner into the infamous yoga pose of the lotus. Arms best outward with hands outstretched and the first two fingers meeting the thumb gave testimony that a master was in our midst. A minute of silence with his eyes closed brought a sense of peace to the group. Without opening his eyes he began to speak. “I am Master Rumi. Let peace enter into your mindfulness of the moment. May the spirit of light enter your consciousness. Allow tranquility to rule your soul.” Master Rumi allowed us another minute to take it all in, then he rose as gracefully as he had sat. He was now wearing the benign smile all mystics wear in public, beaming his spiritualness as rays of eternal sunshine. In short, the man was good, he was very good. Now some of you may be wondering why I have a sardonic tone to my writing in this piece.
When I was a young man seeking truth, as all good young men always do, I went through the years of encounter groups and personal routh groups, and ,well, you name it. I came to know them very well. They gladly took my money and time. But that was it. There was no exchange of goods or services of value. I had to find my own way through this spiritual life and they merely impeded my progress. But all that aside. Personal growth comes from within, not from without and certainly not from some yogi or swami or other such teacher. Back to our story. Preston, pardon me, Master Rumi, had added a few new twists to the presentations and group exercises. I was impressed for the man had a natural and intuitive feel for things of the spiritual world. that aquiline nose gave sensuality to his spirituality while the long thin fingers punctuated the points made by the ease of his voice. Words flowed as if from a spring, bubbly but never hurried and carried a sense of cosmic laughter. I could have been converted on the spot. Was he an Elmer Gantry reincarnated?
Marie, my companion, was lost to the experience. Our initial meeting had seemed fortuitous at the time. My acquaintance with John Allen had been the basis for an invitation to their dinner party in the city. My role in these affairs is more that of the gadfly. Every dinner party of any rank needs a gadfly or two, not too many or us ruffins will be fighting in the salon and upsetting the antique relics, both human and nonhuman. Marie was a designer friend of Rose, our hostess, and in need of a male escort. Back in my salad days we never worried about civilities, but since I was deemed interesting and available, well, I was elected. And in this world of social progress we had gathered for the obligatory meeting that established our reason for existence on this planet. John was a lawyer and a damn good one. And honest, I might add. For a very modest fee he would read over the contracts I had to sign as I made my living. It is understandable that many of his guests were other men of the law as well as businessmen and a few other professions. I had learned to carry my business cards as it was always good form to exchange them with strangers. Mine read: International Spy and Assassin and had a 1-800 number, the White House, actually. Either you got the joke or avoided me.
Back to the party. I must say that Marie was not a great beauty. Her figure was trim to the point if thinness but not quite the anorexic look. The face was moon shaped and the eyes and nose and mouth were pleasantly arranged, the chin suggested some strength but not aggressiveness. She claimed to be a natural blonde and her skin had a sort of natural tan, if you know what I mean. One might call her pretty but never beautiful. The other asset she displayed was the willing expression on her face that gave hope to batchelors such as I of enjoyable times. For the most part, John told me later, by way of Rose, that Marie found me interesting. Me? Not intriguing, not endless fascinating, just interesting? So much for my business card. Still, I’ll settle for interesting and made the first of several dates. So the mating dance begins, or at least the seduction phase. I am not much of a seducer and perhaps that is why she was never too willing on our initial dates. I was beginning to think I had failed at reading faces and body language. Then the seminar, such as it was. Willing was written all over her face but the message was not for me. And I was not the only male or female to read her lips, so to speak. Preston, I mean Master Rumi took a cordial interest in Marie. His female assistant was, understandably less cordial. Obviously Master Rumi could burn a candles at more than both ends, just don’t ask me how.
At the end of the session Master Rumi, now Preston, invited the two of us to stay for tea. His assistant, Anne was her name if I recall, was not exactly the gracious hostess. On the other hand, since I was among the chosen she made friendly gestures towards my welfare. Like a good hostess she inquired: “What do you do for a living?”
“I am a writer by trade.” I never know a professional writer, that is, one who hangs out a shingle and a sign that says open for business. No editor or reader ever flocks to my door asking me to write a novel just for them. Sometimes I get lucky and write something that actually sells and puts pennies in my grubby paws.”
Anne was amused at my forthrightness but not really by my humor. I would have expected her to ask if Marie was my wife or at least my intended, but I sense that Anne had been through this kind of affair before. “How long have you known each other?” This woman could go for the jugular.
“Only a few weeks. I met her at a dinner party given by the John Allen’s.” Perhaps I could impress her with my social connections, such as they weren’t. “Marie is a decorator to the social elite.” Anne merely smiled and asked if I would like more tea.
I escorted Marie home that evening, she was floating like a wispy little cloud after her tete-a-tete with Preston. Normally she is courteous to invite me up for coffee but tonight she was ‘too tired and worn out’. She would take a bath and recover her spirits.
Three days later Marie called me. “Bill, you can’t believe what has happened!” Actually I could and in graphic detail but since children might be reading I will spare them my imagination. Preston was so impressed with my aura and spirit that he has decided to offer me private training. Of course he extends the offer to you as well. He believes you could do with a bit of refreshing. It might help your writing.” Everyone’s a critic, even fake spiritualists.
“Yes, Marie, I will accompany you. I think it absolutely amazing that this has happened to us.” I made note of the date and time. “Yes, I will pick up you in my car.” I gathered that I was the sacrificial lamb for Anne. Somehow she must be distracted while Master Rumi worked Maries spirits into a frenzy and I could imagine what those spirits would look like. But again, children may be present so I must keep my imagination to myself.
After the third session Anne decided to confide in me. “I’ve been through this before but Preston doesn’t keep these women this long. I don’t know what hold Marie has over him.”
“Well, she’s not my Marie, never was. And the hold is simple, it’s money. She has a trust that assures her an ample living with many top notch amenities. I suppose Preston is trying to convince her to part with some of it.”
“Yes, I’ve seen the checks, I’m his bookkeeper and office assistant, and chief cook and bottle washer. Truth is, I think he’s in love with her. I think he’s trying to get her to marry him.”
“Tell me more about your boss, and might I add love interest?”
“Ex love interest.” I detected a note of bitterness, the scorned woman. “Preston used to be a used car salesman until they fired him. The sales manager caught him with his wife. He’s a very good salesman but he can’t keep a dime or his, ah…”
I interrupted, “Yes, I know the part of anatomy. Continue.”
Anne blushed for a moment. Well, while he was unemployed he attended a few free classes or seminars in spirituality. That’s how I met him. I was younger then, much thinner and far more pretty.” Anne was a little taller than Marie and at five feet nine could hold a little more weight on her frame without showing it. She had one of those rectangular faces, reminded me of that actress, Lee Remick. Where Marie was late twenties – early thirties, Anne was middle forties. Or so I would have guessed. I think she would have been called cute until her mid thirties, judging from her features. Her lips would have been thinner then and embossed with an infectious smile. Her voice held charm, the real kind, not the affected typs so many try to project. “So now what will you do? Will you wait until he finds out that marriage to her would stop the trust money.”
Anne looked surprised for the moment, then the started to laugh and I saw traces of the infectious smile. “How do you know her trust stops if she gets married.”
“John allen is her lawyer, knew the family. He’s the one who drew it up. When I started to take her out he cued me in.”
“Oh, that’s too precious for words. In answer to your question, No, I’m not going to wait. I saw the signs, I know we, Preston and me, can’t go on. I’m tired of this spiritual thing, tired of the charade. I’ve been out interviewing and think I found myself a bookkeeping job in the business district.”
“Do you have somewhere to stay? Living in the city is a bit expensive.”
“Oh, don’t worry. One of the pigeons from last week is going to rent me a room for a couple of months. A real nice man. If he’s a gentleman I just might stay longer. Besides, thanks to your Marie I’ve got some money saved up. Preston will never know what happened to it. You know, Karma’s a bitch.”