Submitted Date 09/10/2018

Strange Interlude Onboard the Queen Mary
Age 20, my first trip to Europe, 1965, a trip by myself
The ship left Manhattan and docked in Cherbourg, France

Like Alice in Wonderland
the steward guided me 
to a white wall
took out a key
and opened a hidden door

I stepped from the plain world 
of Tourist Class 

To columns that reached 
three stories
surrounded by walls 
of exotic polished wood 
carved and delicately lit 
in an Art Deco style

And to the woman I was to meet
sitting alone 
in the First Class Grand Salon

A waiter ushered me to her table
where she whispered her order
then delicately waved him away

A friend of a friend
she felt obligated 
to invite me for tea
yet also seemed to enjoy 
seeing someone new
on her voyage

The actor who had arranged this get-together
said she owned 
a brownstone in New York
a townhouse in London
and a vacation villa on the Costa del Sol

Perfect skin 
although middle-aged
and careful makeup
she was draped in 
an afternoon silk dress 
with afternoon jewelry 
greeting me with a warm 
but practiced smile

Leaning back in her chair
she carried herself
as though the weight of her wealth 
were part of her flesh,
her hands and words 
moving deliberately 
as waiters stood silently 
against the wooden walls

We chatted for minutes
before the tea and cakes were brought
but then I could not help asking
"Where are you headed, once you arrive?"

"I'm going on safari -- 
central Africa -- 
for a couple of months."

"Sounds marvelous,
you must be excited."

For the first time 
there was a slight crack
the faintest hint of a sigh 
"Well, yes, of course, 
but I've been on safari twice already."

"And you, what are you going to do?" 
she asked politely in return

"I'm going to Paris -- 
I've never been there."

"Oh my god," 
she brightened up a bit
but also added a tinge of condescension
"To see Paris for the first time, 
how wonderful."

The next half hour was quite pleasant
but then I could see she had had enough
I thanked her, wished her well
and was ushered back 
through that wall again

Adjusting to the now drab
surroundings  of   
third class
I found myself out at the railing
where the Atlantic Ocean 
stretched endlessly 
and it hit me --

She had just given me
one of life's most precious gifts:
I would never envy people with money


Photo is from commons.wikimedia.org






Related Stories


Please login to post comments on this story