Life at № 42
Having crossed paths with so many interesting people throughout my life, I always wonder. More so, I wonder how it all happened, how they, and we, become the people we become. I think that’s the reason I started writing (in a private sense, I don’t mean blogging), to try to understand the process.
When I do outlines of people’s lives they seem terribly unlikely. A woman is born to a working class family in Britain, her family emigrates to Canada, she becomes a flight attendant, marries a middle-eastern magnate, moves to the Cote d’Azur, and now her all-consuming obsession is cooking. She also loves dogs with short legs.
Another is born in Eastern Europe to a posh family who lost everything during the war, she was a tomboy to her parent’s great discontent. She became a professional athlete and has lived an entire life of closeted lesbianism, she continues to do so even though her parents are gone and she’s in her 70’s. She lives in a major European capital with her ‘roommate.’
And those are just outlines. When we scratch the surface, there’s so much more.
Some, I wonder about more than others. One of those people is… let’s call her Mrs. M. She was always so incredibly proper, but proper with mischief in her eyes. We found ourselves sitting together many times, but never too long. Her husband seemed controlling. Sometimes he said things to her, things I found upsetting. “Are you sure you’re going to have another glass of wine.” How very patronizing.
She was one of those people who, when she left the room, people leaned in to the person next to them to whisper something. In the sorts of circles I frequented that was by no means unusual. The rumours about Mrs. M. were of the bombastic nature, they didn’t fit with her demeanour, but there was something about her that made one think they could very well be true. Apparently when she was young, a prince had fallen in love with her. In a Belgian nightclub of all places. The problem was, he was already engaged to be married to an appropriate bride.
People said that’s where her extraordinary jewellery had come from. Her husband was wealthy, but million euro home sort of wealthy, not €250,000 Bulgari diamond bracelet sort of wealthy.
Those weren’t the only rumours. There was also something about an affair with a politician when she was a young unmarried woman. He was (allegedly) neither young nor unmarried. Maybe that’s why the other women kept an eye on her. Maybe that’s why her husband always wanted to be the first to leave after dinner. Maybe that’s why he fidgeted as she reached for her wine glass with her perpetually blasé manner. Afraid the extra glass might be the one that does it, that makes everything come up to the surface.
I wonder if she’s happy. Is this is what life was supposed to be like? Does she stay up late at night pondering the what-ifs? I’m not sure she’s the pondering kind. There seems to a be a degree of resignation about her; but not of the defeatist variety, if that makes sense. She simply seems to understand that life could not have been any other way.
I wonder about him too, so quiet, so reserved. Painfully shy. It can’t be easy to have that type of personality and be married to someone like Mrs. M. If you’re uncomfortable with attention, an exuberant spouse isn’t ideal. I wonder if he’s hurt by the rumours, if he knows which are true and which are just idle gossip. The few times I’ve seen people make insinuations, she neither confirmed nor denied anything. I wouldn’t have expected anything else. I think that to a degree she enjoys the mystique. It’s part of what makes her attractive and interesting.