UNITED STATES—So do you recall what day of the week it was? Sure…Monday.
I had not jumped out of the window yet. What was it that makes a 52-year old man, not particularly prone to exercise, find the brute strength to break tempered glass on the side of a 58-story high-rise in Midtown Manhattan? It helped to already be carrying around the precipice, wherever you go, 24 hours a day. The precipice was my friend.
I felt a shiver when I imagined seeing Rega discover I had lost two-thirds of my net wealth almost overnight, due to the hurricane and a market downturn. That was the precipice. I took a look at Rega’s painted flowers (the oils are good, but the watercolors are muddied—they just don’t do it, but that’s between You and me), I scooted through my office at the top of the world after my ablutions, and in the twinkling of an eye, went from coarse anguish to piercing despair. And I tried to punt my briefcase, the most athletic event I participated in in the last three-odd decades, and I stubbed my toe. Boy did it hurt, the pain would be a 12 on a scale of 7.
Rega would always bug me about exercising more and I’ve got this briefcase to bench press. She said you’ve got a body in there you’ve got to take care of. She tries to get me to try Yoga, with this group that meets in Central Park near the Met. I sat for a moment in the leather couch. I wanted to be alone with my loneliness. We spent one weekend in late September in Montauk, after all the hurricane damage took us for a loop, and I was managing to enjoy myself. I was walking on the new redwood deck Rega had installed. I appreciated the way the sand blew over the grass and danced across the fresh stained boards.
Then there was a piece of crumpled paper. It clashed somehow. I bent down and picked it up, even though we had household help—that was their job. Damn, I got a sting in my finger. There was a bee in that crumped napkin. And it set me off in a scary way. Just remembering this bee sting now, upset a starchy contentment setting in the coils of my belly. I took in a cool draft of perfectly conditioned air, sweeter than all the cheap Manischewitz wine we had growing up on the lower East Side. I gazed out into a partly cloudy day and an unfettered view of Park Avenue, in all its grand, dingy granite monumentality.
A girl scout came knocking on the back door of my office with her “Mister, you wanna buy a Girl Scout cookie.” Must’ve been one of the secretary’s kids.
“Yeah. . . Why not?”
That was funny. Being one of the richest men in America, at the time, my pockets were empty. Torrents of misgiving returned in a cyclonic wave: the sting of the staggering losses—putting a number on it just doesn’t do justice, to the fortune in life and lucre that has washed out to sea—it’s not the numbers, it’s just a whole lot of zeroes that crush a man, leave him a greasy reddish spot on the sidewalk. Last September’s hurricane: it looked like a cyst that has metastasized on an X-ray. An onslaught of ten days that pounded the Costa Norte.
The village of Wilili was destroyed and its inhabitants took refuge in the treetops. A score of Peace Corps volunteers in the northeastern part of the country was feared lost with the over 8000 inhabitants of the country, my son among them. I feared Nathan was in their number; thankfully he was not. Reeling from these staggering losses to the corporation due to the hurricane, incongruently named Fifi, our partner countries got wise and hit us with an export tax; it was 0.031 perfect, a pittance.
They were showing some balls and flexing their muscle. I say, “give a man a drop and he’ll take a Nile.” Sam Delaney –our beloved founder of Allied Brands— said it first.
Furthermore, our John Horton meat-packing division at allied is being hit by the increased cost of feeding cattle. Then came the first ever One Billion Dollar hurricane not to make landfall on U.S. soil.
To be continued. . .
Graydon Miller is the Wizard of Fiction.