Monday, August 1, 2011

Best of Both

 Zach adapted fast to the best of both words: On Mondays, he taught honors classes in Public Policy at Columbia. Tuesdays he flew to D.C., stayed with Vida in Georgetown through Thursday, but arrived home before Beth served dinner in their dining room, which was identical to thirty other dining rooms in the leafy development overlooking the Hudson River. After Beth’s soothing home-cooking, he checked his email and corrected his students’ projects. He taught three classes on Fridays, worked out at Columbia’s underground gym, and drove home, spending an hour or two preparing for that night’s Boy Scout meeting. If necessary, he attended to more academic pursuits on Saturdays. No one complained.

(Click here for the first episode; here for the previous one.)

At the Younger Institute, he no longer sat on the roster of adjunct scholars. As Vida’s partner, he successfully wooed billionaire hedge funders, buyout moguls, and occasional celebrities eager to show their solidarity with conservative Senators.

Statuesque Vida, with her dimpled smile and long, bright, reddish-blonde hair, elicited moneyed interests by staging award ceremonies in a dignitary’s name and filling the Institute’s auditoriums with a corps of attractive university students.

Afterwards, Zach and Vida treated the awarded personage and his or her friends to a long night on the town. At Washington hot spots, Zach provided insightful comments leavened with his ready wit. His manly good looks and obvious intelligence did not go unnoticed. Receptions—or even two-day “think sessions”—infringed on his family routine yet involved little thinking and a good deal of fine dining, and even finer drinking, before and after operas and symphonies. Vida squeezed his hand and gazed up at him with obvious affection. As a couple, they entertained some of the most powerful individuals in the world.

One night as they undressed in Vida’s bedroom, he confessed his admiration for a particular power-broker. Vida embraced him, smiling, and kissed him with real intent. “That adulation, along with some of the fun, will fade,” she said. “You’ll be surprised how quickly.”

Yet Zach wanted Vida to know how much he enjoyed being her partner, and that he was grateful to her. He didn’t admit that he sometimes felt slightly awed by their guests, for he realized how important it was that he and Vida maintain an equally impressive profile. If he didn’t give off an aura of nearly historical significance, Vida would not risk being seen with him.

“I’ve been rolling with the highest of high rollers for almost fifteen years. And only once did I make a mistake. A man who held a position parallel to mine, and therefore should have known better, leaned in too close and shook a potential Presidential candidate’s hand too zealously.”

“What did you do?”

“I took him aside and told him to call the valet. I was staying; he was leaving. ‘Good-bye and good-luck.’”

After this conversation, Zach and Vida made love and as his hand rested on her waist and he silently marveled at how it dipped as neatly as ever. He had no idea how she kept her voluptuous body so fit. The several-course lunches followed by extravagant dinners, brimming with countless cocktails and an endless supply of vintage wines and champagnes had resulted in Zach gaining so much weight it embarrassed him.

This coincided with the plentiful “comfort food” and irresistible desserts that Beth, who was a wonderful cook, had begun providing in greater abundance—since Zach had apparently quit his previously strict diet. Returning to his family always felt like a huge relief. And Zach realized how much he needed the haven of his wife and two children.

Beth had always catered to him, and always would. No need to don an air-tight, inspiring demeanor with her. He wasn’t on stage. His family was his greatest achievement and the fulcrum for his honor—officially so, according to the Boy Scouts. And in fact, Matt had progressed to within one step from Eagle classification—while Zach’s own DESA (Distinguished Eagle Scout Award) remained on track as well.

In contrast, twelve-year-old Rosalind’s behavior was becoming worrisome. Zach tended to view Beth’s concerns for their daughter as trivial, but even he couldn’t write off the girl’s decisions to drop her friends and the flute at the same time. Rosalind now preferred the girls and boys who lived in a run-down town several train stops north.

Zach had always depended on Beth to know what the kids were doing. He didn’t doubt she could reorient Rosalind onto a more productive path. Much as he loved his high-flying adventures with the luxuriant Vida, she had unexpectedly led him to a greater appreciation of Beth, who kept an attractive but unassuming home, and was well-known, and even sought-after in their storybook New York City suburb. 
One Thursday afternoon in late spring, he had licked a bowl of whipped cream while she fixed ice cream parfaits for dessert. When he maneuvered her into the bedroom before the kids got home, the smell of pork chops and fresh potatoes baking permeated their love-making.

 Zach might love Vida with a passion. But he needed Beth. He loved her more than she could possibly know.  Dressing her as she rose from their bed, he said, “I cannot imagine my life without you.”

(go here for the next episode.)


Dan Leo said...

Hmmm...but I can imagine her life without him!

Unknown said...

You're too quick, Dan. Of course, every story's already been told and in a few cases--read.