The African Gentleman
…and The Plot to Re-establish The New World Order
A Novel by Fred Beauford
We sat on the seemingly endless boardwalk of The Beach, on the big island, quietly enjoying the late evening light and the comforting, late seasonal ocean breeze; the many people surrounding us, strolling slowly and serenely back and forth, most of whom were far younger than either of us--were also quietly enjoying the same, and final, warm days of summer.
In a casual, almost un-selfconscious movement, she used both of her hands to move the hair away from her face, and gently pushed it upward, revealing a finely sculptured, well-defined face that bore none of the sags and deep lines one would expect from a woman of her age.
She said that she was half Puerto Rican and half Italian. I could faintly detect the familiar Puerto Rican accent in her voice, but now with her hair pulled back, and her light blue eyes blazing with life, it was the northern Italian that I saw most clearly before me.
But who really was this woman named Rosy, sitting next to me, telling me her life story? And, like I had come to expect of almost everyone I had ever met, especially from someone who had lived life as fully as she had--it was quite a story, indeed.
It was filled with the overbearing human condition, which made it dramatic, compelling, and filled with the sometimes exhilarating, sometimes terrifying, twists and turns that life offers.
Rosy’s narrative was filled with pathos, bathos, and dozens of other insightful, important sounding words, and she spoke profoundly and eloquently of what it means to live, regardless of one’s station in life.
I listened intently, staring directly at her, while nodding my head and occasionally interrupting her with a question. But did I even care anymore? This had been my third date since I had once again resorted to that ancient online fixture, Craigslist, to find a date. All three women had answered my ad. I had thus far answered about a dozen listings, but none of them had responded back.
The three women I did meet, all sooner or later, asked me the same question, a question which I couldn’t honestly find an answer to: what do you want in a woman?
I managed to sputter helplessly, unable to find the words while trying hard to think of something to say to them.
Hmmm. Good question.
I was sitting in my favorite bar in The Village, quietly nursing a glass of red wine. Many people I know are in love with the quiet world of the lit screen, where you can sit in your own private space for hours on in, and have access to almost anything.
Why go anywhere?
But I loved hanging out in bars, with all of the boredom, intrigue, and sometimes, if you are lucky, high drama.
From what little I know of this country’s history, I believe I should have perhaps lived here in the 1950’s.
My date with Rosie, the older woman, quickly faded from my mind, as my thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a loud noise coming from the outside. I turned and looked out of the barroom window and witnessed a large, seemingly unending sea of signs all reading the same thing in bold face: “Against God.”
The all male demonstrators, looked like children of the sun. They walked silently by the window, holding their signs erect. The loud noise I had heard was coming from the large number of counter-demonstrators, who carried nothing but angry voices, and had gathered to heckle and hiss at the marchers.
As I looked out at the marchers, I could have swore I spotted my boss Assai, with the same bland look on his face that he wore day after day, and sometimes late into the evening hours, around the office.
I turned back to my drink, as Madison, the sleeveless, young, pretty bartender came over, with none of the tats older women wore like a badge of honor.
“Look at that. I guess this really is The Village I read about in history books. Boy, this is one hell of a time. After we got fried, I thought nothing could top that, and now this!” she said to either me, or to the elderly man to my right, with the huge stock of white hair, and bright blue eyes.
All the while the young woman stared intently out of the bar window. The look on Madison’s still youthful face suggested that she did not know if she should approve of what was going on, or be filled with disgust. I wondered how she got just a strange name.
The older man to my right, however, held no such ambiguities, and snorted cynically.
“Well what did you expect, young lady? I could have told them what was going to happen. They once thought that the guys with the beards were bad news. These guys are worse, because they are smarter than those other guys, much smarter.”
“There’s been a pissing contest in this so-called country for years to see who was going to become the first trillionaire. We learned doing from the meltdown at the turn of the century. Now you bring even more millions of them here because you think all they are going to do is sit quietly six days a week and make solar panels, or wash dishes. First California. Then Texas. Now here. USA. What a joke.”
Poor Madison. I could see that she was confused and conflicted, and didn’t quite know what to believe. She simply listened quietly to the old man, not sure of what to say.
I quietly nodded my head in his direction to signal to him that I heard what he had said, old man rant and all. I didn’t want to talk politics. What’s done is done. I was just wondering where the hell my date was. She should have been here fifteen minutes ago.
All of a sudden, there she was. She walked in with a frazzled look on her face. She came over and I greeted her with a little kiss on her cheek.
“My God,” she said, sitting in the empty seat to the left of me, “what a circus out there.”
As she made her statement, I really hoped that she wouldn’t add an editorial comment like the white haired gentleman on my right had made. I really didn’t want to think about what was happening outside the large window, despite the level of noise, which was slowly fading as the last of the silent marchers, and their loud distracters, marched by.
I was more interested in her. I had met her last week sitting on the same bar stool that I sat in now. Just as I rarely have had luck with the Personals, I have been quite lucky over the years with the direct, lingering stare across a darkened bar.
And meeting my new best friend, hopefully a romantic soul mate, with just a glance and a raised eyebrow, made me silently swear off Craigslist.
I hoped I wasn’t being premature.
When she finally walked in, I wasn’t completely sure if this was indeed the woman I spent a few hours with last week; and who I had spent all last week thinking hopeful thoughts about and just how great our next date would be.
She was almost as tall as I, and had short, red hair. She was thin, but had large breasts and full lips covered with bright red lipstick, which was quite fashionable these days. We were both of a certain age, with me being, I guess, a few years older.
I say I guess, because as we talked and consumed copious amounts of white wine, she would hold her head one way and look 50; hold it another way, and look 40; and hold it yet another way and look 30.
Those different looks flashed continuously before me all evening,
Tonight, it was the 40 year old that walked into the bar, and the 50 year old that ordered white wine.
One of the reasons why I was so interested in her was that she had told me she was a novelist. In fact, she even showed me a copy of her latest work, which she informed me had just come out in paperback, The Queen of Second Avenue.
“Just happen to have a copy with me,” she said, handing it to me.
“Can I keep it?” I had asked.
“Sure, want me to sign it?” She smiled with a 30 year-old smile.
I handed her back her novel, and she wrote, with small, but neat handwriting, “To Jamison Omak, Best, Gladys,” and added the date, including, interestingly enough, after looking quickly at her watch, the time.
I wasn’t that surprised that she was a novelist. It seemed that everyone was a novelist these days. Novels and novelists were now all the rage, replacing, at long last, movies and movie stars.
As she signed her novel in her unusual tiny handwriting, I secretly wanted to make an impression on her, in vain hope, perhaps, that she would find me so interesting that she would make me a leading man in her next novel, and make me a modern day Count Vronsky.
A former actor, and I thought a damn good one, I know I am not a writer. I could never write the many life-affirming stories buried deep within me and begging to get out, although I felt that the turmoil and constant questioning that have been a part of my brief existence in this world could captivate everyone and propel me to universal recognition.
But, again, I am not a writer, only a former actor; someone who, as an artist, had their words finished for them.
I worked for a dour Assai, who I actually met on the subway, when he asked me for directions. Now I am the editor of his website, one of the largest, and most prosperous electronic shopping portals in the world. I obviously wasn’t a great storyteller like Gladys, but I had a pocketful of money. Why else would I be working at a place like that?
I was an expert at spotting a misplaced comma, and a “were” instead of a “was,” which was exactly what Assai wanted.
I was good at that kind of stuff.
“It’s hard to believe that you are a novelist,” I said to her. Her full name was Gladys H. Johnson.
“Why’s that? By the way, have you read my book yet?”
“Huh, I have yet to get to it,” I said, slightly defensive. “But I will,” I quickly added.
“At any rate,” I said, partially to deflect Gladys’ question, “The reason why you don’t seem like a novelist is because most writers you meet are such gloomy Gus types, or argumentative know-it-alls. You are too—how can I say it—bubbly. You just don’t seem dark enough.”
“Well, Jamison, you obviously don’t know me well enough. Oh, I can be dark, all right, very dark, in fact. But enough about me,” she said, waving her half-filled glass of white wine at me. “I want to know more about you.”
OK! All right! Just as I had hoped. This could be that long, sought after role. I knew I wouldn’t stand center stage before a live, admiring audience, like I once did, but at least I would exist between attractive covers, now that we no longer have those drab reading devices.
Books now look like those you see in libraries.
Maybe I, a barely disguised Jamison Omak, will really take the stage once again, perhaps as a dominating, full-bearded arch villain, complete with flashing, deadly looking dark eyes, and breath that smelled of garlic and olive oil; or a brave, handsome, dashing hero with a small, well-trimmed mustache.
It mattered little which one.
I was also interested in her because of something she had said last week, but interestedly enough, not by what she said, but by my reaction to it.
Gladys had blurted out to me, why, I still don’t know, “I have acted on sexual impulses and made many mistakes because of that.”
The old me would have instantly thought that this was an opening, an invitation even. But ever since Liz Gant left me because she suddenly needed “space,” I have been introspective, constantly reliving my life and my relationships with women.
I, the great lover of women, was now unsure if I even liked them anymore.
I decided to tell Gladys a story I rarely tell women until much later in our relationship. It is a bitter, dark story, and I didn’t want to come off dark and bitter.
She had asked me how many times I had been married.
“One time? Nobody’s been married just one time, especially a handsome, sexy looking man like you, Mr. Omak.”
She laughed a youthful laugh, and all at once I wanted to kiss her.
I smiled slightly at the compliment, having also noticed the sly playfulness in her voice. Yes, I was still handsome, in an aging, offbeat sort of way. At least none of the women I have dated in the last several weeks had looked startled, or their faces had dropped as if they wanted to get up and run when they saw me walk into the café (although I felt like turning around and running when my first date smiled widely, revealing oversized, yellowing dentures.)
In fact, Rosy, the lovely older woman I had met at the beach, seemed quite taken with me, and even invited me to come back to see her sometimes.
“Jamison,” she said, as I was about to leave for the train back to The City. “Come back and sit on my back porch and quietly listen to the ocean, and have some wine.”
I told her, “It’s a date. I will call you.”
I have yet to give her a call.
That was kind of you to say,” I replied to Gladys. “But no, only once.”
“For how long?”
I gave her a long, practiced actor’s stare over my glass. As bold as my stare may have been, inside I suddenly felt reluctance and inarticulate. “Are you sure you really want to hear this story? It’s dark, and may cast me in a poor light.”
She took a small sip of her white wine and eyed me carefully. I could see the curiosity rising in her.
“Yes. Sure. I love other people’s stories, the darker, the better. Plus, I love your voice. It’s so rich. I can see why you were a ‘damn good’ actor, as you put it,” she said.
I loved the compliment, but then I remembered that she was a novelist. Of course she loved other peoples’ stories; the darker, the better. She also knew just what to say to a vain actor to get him to reveal his inner self.
“OK,” I said, “I will tell you my story, but you must then tell me yours, okay?”
“Mine is the story you don’t want to hear.”
“Well, if I show you mine, you have to show me yours.”
“Sure. Sure. Why not?”
“And the darker, the better.”
She took a double sip of her white wine and smiled.