Humiliation Was Paradise Lost, Revenge Was Paradise Regained.
Sometimes I felt I was a kind of Boswell to her Johnson, oh I know it is role reversal but that is how I ended up. A bloody Watson, a kind of stooge to her Holmes, oh I am aware these are literary references but so what, they are the best tools available for definition. So that’s what I am, a male secretary to her, with her power shoulders and her gym honed physique.
When she asked me to tidy up the apartment yesterday I went round there and I hung up her boxing gloves, moved the jewelled snuffbox from the edge of the vanity dresser; picked up the Stradivarius violin, well it looked like a Stradivarius and with her money. I continued to mooch around, one could see evidence of her penchant for pills in the bathroom. I picked up one of the phials thinking the pharma’ industry has a good client here, recondite chemistry indeed. So I placed it back amongst the other phials. I wandered back into the bedroom; something on the bedside table caught my eye. What is that, its cocaine, isn’t it? I wet my index finger and dabbed it into the white powder and tasted it; well it wasn’t baking powder; the bitter sweet taste lingered. I had to rinse my mouth. Cocaine, so? I wasn’t going to lapse into moral superiority as if I had come upon the remnants of some depraved party; I would leave the moral high ground to others. I went back and dabbed the cocaine again, I was into titillation, not prurience.
I looked around the apartment, this was one of my duties; what have I ended up doing for money? I wasn’t going to vacuum the fucking place; just tidy it up. I head for her dresser where clothes were bundled in and hanging out of the drawers. How many bloody cashmere sweaters has she got, how many do you bloody well need. What’s this? My hand fell on something metal. What’s that, Jesus it’s a gun. Is that a toy? I pick it up, no; it is too heavy, so heavy it slipped from my hand back to being cushioned by the cashmeres. I looked at it. What if it had gone off and it had been and been heard by neighbours; the sound of a bang, a gunshot and meaning; what are the relations between sound and meaning? I am getting out of here and I am going to front her up about this.
Then the phone rang, that touch of estuary in the accent, it was her. “Do you know what that bastard has done to me?” For a moment my mind flitted through her phalanx of beaus and ex husbands, it was three, no two. “I am really going to get him for this, I really am.” “Sorry, who are you talking about?” “Who do you think, Keith!” Right, that was the two husbands ago person. “So what has he done now? She sounded tearful. “He has exposed me, that’s what.” My first thought was the newspapers. “Sorry, in what way” “Photos, pictures, do I have to spell it out. I am going to get the bastard for this. He has been touting personal photos of me I am going to get that cunt.” She was breathing hard; “I can hardly describe how I feel; finish in the apartment now! and get down here.” “Calm down, for goodness sake.” “Ok Brain Box you tell me how I deal with this.” This was a difficult situation, what was needed was clarity of thought, yes, lightly carried erudition. I mean that is what I was bloody well employed for; filched from the world of academia; I was a tenured hermeneute then a legal beaver, who sold out for money to be a male PA to this high powered entrepreneur. But after all this preparation all I could offer in the real world was the lame:”Don’t do anything rash, I will be there shortly.”
I triple locked the front door and hurried down the lushly carpeted staircase thinking of Keith of ‘Keef’ as he designated himself. How I remembered him, a ducker and diver, even his aliases had criminal records. A dark figure around her at that time, hovering in the background. ‘Keef’, her ex, what had he been? A soldier, smuggler, thief, acrobat, convict, car dealer, a charismatic mixture of affability and intimidation and my past, well, humdrum in comparison. Oh, I know comparisons are odious but that doesn’t stop me making them.
We hummed along Knightsbridge in her Facel Vega; “See how that cunt cut me up there...I tell you, they always do it to me in this jam jar.” “Steady on, you are getting into an absolute state.” “Aaabsolute state’ she mocked me, “I employed you for that...your accent, your presentation skills, more fool me.” I thought of the gun and felt like saying, well, stop the bloody car and I will get out right now, but I was under a contract that would test the powers of an escapologist. She looked across at me. I felt my academic credentials crumble in the face of her street knowledge look. “Don’t get the hump, I was only joking, I employed you because you have enough bloody degrees to paper a wall.” “Sometimes I think you employed me because you thought I could walk through walls.” I hesitated, “That gun you have in your apartment, is that real?” She jerked the wheel of the car; someone hooted, she hooted back, “Fuck off...you wanker.’ Oh, you found that?” “Yes.” “So, of course it is real. What did you think it was a water pistol?” “Is it licensed?” “Licensed?... no, a friend gave it to me, just in case...you know a woman living alone in a desirable residence, London has changed, it’s no longer the Waterloo Sunset of the Kinks. I couldn’t disagree with the inference even if it was before my era. It was time to don my legal hat as I endeavoured to earn my ‘wedge’ as she would have it, after all, that’s the main reason she employed me. Besides, I was good at this. “I agree that is a pretty shameful thing he has done to you but there is the legal process...I mean you mustn’t let this...desire for revenge cloud your judgement. The legal system can be your mode of revenge. That’s what the legal system is for, to restore civil order, you know, a pattern of reassurance, it restores intelligibility in situations like this.” “I thought it was there to make educated people like you rich.” “Alright, alright...but what about the legal route?” “And how long is that going to take, Professor?” I was getting impatient with this; “So what are you going to do?” “I know what I am going to do.” I’d seen this before; experienced it myself; the revenger’s intent; she was just not envisioning the consequences, neither did I. “Have you thought of the consequences?” “Fuck the consequences.” I wasn’t going to move her, not now; revenge was uppermost with no thought of the aftermath. “Look I am afraid your thinking is just not complete on this.” “It is very complete, believe me.” But I knew it was arbitrary. “Did that cunt think of the consequences when he did that to me? Humiliated me in that way. He humiliated me!” The car smoothed on towards Hyde Park Corner. I had been in this situation before as I thought of the role of humiliation in revenge. I recalled the case where I had expounded in Court’ in that Wildean way; the Irish in me, the land of my birth, you know, Ireland! that country that exports culture not guns. I rather proudly recalled my rhetoric. ‘Our potential for humiliation is at the root of morality. But how hurt we are by being diminished. We think we are embedded in a ‘moral’ world until we are humiliated. And when we are humiliated we find out what really matters to us. Indeed, and here I would lapse into the grandiloquent, a tic, a failure on my part...so it is around this experience of humiliation that some of us organise our moral lives; and by the same token, even our past the stories we might remember of our past is recalled by our experiences of humiliation. At its worst, humiliation over-organises memory, and rigidifies morality: But how can we overcome this human failing, where humiliation forecloses our thinking? How can we elaborate and go beyond what humiliation arrests. Post humiliation we need to recuperate and forestall the medicine of our revenge.’ God, I was good. I really was. I should have gone into politics, I really should. And why have I ended up here, doing this, I was disbarred, drummed out of the legal partnership for that innocuous act. Did the partners report it to the police, no, I would have known by now. Anyway, ‘I couldn’t give a rat’s fuck’ as she would delicately put it. So I wanted revenge too, against them, against the world, against that subsequent endless lack of recognition. Now I looked at her, feeling I had been away from this current dilemma for years; there she sat, her face set, just that bit too much eye-liner; the hands bulging; gripping the wheel too tightly, so as the veins stood out like purple tributaries. When I first met her I was struck by her. What was it? Yes, her catholicity of taste if I can put it that Irish way and that seemingly insatiable curiosity, I presumed that’s why she was so successful. Around such people, how can I put it? I longed to be manlier, whatever that meant. When I was drummed out of the legal partnership, she, when others wouldn’t, had employed me, put me under a water tight contract that Houdini couldn’t extricate himself from. She had been attracted to me, and after a couple of dinners to discuss the job, she employed me. “Your humiliation with those legal bigwigs is nothing compared to this, I am a woman, you know...and to be humiliated like this...I can hardly speak.” But words were not necessary. I looked at her now, the vengeful face, like most revenger’s, once humiliated they know what their life is for; the humiliation had become a pure gift of meaning. Revenge was their vocation, well, that’s how it was for me. Look at her face set in revenge, her new vocation her only question is how: how am going to carry this out? But you have to be a terrible optimist to believe it is going to work out. I looked at her sitting there, fuming, brow knitted in perplexity trying to make sense out of her humiliation, her abasement. But I could see her intent, her life had meaning, it was called revenge “I will get even with him, I really will.” “I would put this on ice, I really would. Do not take any action, yet.” “He has been touting photos of me, how many fucking times do I have to tell you. Do you not get it, the humiliation, do you not fucking geddit?” I thought of my own humiliation with her; our truncated affair, what had been affronted? Well order had been affronted, the order of my conception of myself as a ‘man’ you know. Look at her now, the vessels on her neck bulging in rage; we all have a sense of order...of what is right. We live in a morally coherent society and he besmirched her; broke her fragile world of order. Now I donned the wig and got back on the pedantic; “Can I ask what the photos...contained. Of what nature were they?” She gave me a furious look, “Well, can I ask were they compromising? “ “Compromising? whatever, the fuck does that means yes, yes, yes. they were bang to rights...as far as I can remember. You might be even in them yourself; you know making a guest appearance.” I felt something move around my sphincter. “Do I have to spell it out to you, you’re a blood hound aren’t you; that’s why I took you on. So how are we going to deal with this tosser.” “Keith”? “Yes, Keef” I never should have had nothing to with him. More fool me. Look can we stop here.” “What’s wrong?” “I feel I am going to have a ‘panic attack’, I think I am having a ‘panic attack’.” “Well...slow down your breathing... just... breathe slowly, in for four and out for four.” I offered like some infant school teacher. “Thank you, oh fuck, I feel my life is over and if I don’t get him for this...” “Let’s just get out of this car and calm down” I parroted out, Now we stood there the car clumsily parked with two wheels on the verge, her with her murderous intent dealing with her panic attack and me like her Praetorian Guard, her consignialore, as if we were extras in some stupid Hollywood gangster movie. We stood there, she pathetically trying to regulate her breathing and me trying to think of another clever, earn my keep, thing to say. Now two very assured looking young women as lean as their horses clopped towards us. From their height of their seventeen hands or whatever, they looked at us askance as they clip clopped past. “Are you ok?” “Yeah, it’s passed, I think...thanks.” Post panic her look of vengefulness was returning, she was slowly metamorphosing back to being purpose incarnate. Still I remembered how I felt when it happened to me, I was God like in my intent as I bestrode the world plotting my revenge, I was like some omnipotent deity in human form. I really was. “You go on yer way, go on. I’m OK now. You can get on the tube to Putney at South Ken’. Go on.” “Will you be alright?” She looked pathetically vulnerable and I wanted to put my arms around her, hold her tightly, and protect her against the vagaries of this world. “Yeah, yeah, fine.” “Sure?” “I’m fine.” I had to say this before leaving her in that state. “Look, that gun.” “Shhs, keep your voice down.” An elderly jogger padded by, took in the clumsily parked Facel Vega and gave us a suspicious glance. She waited till he was out of earshot. “Forget the... gun, will you, I told you I am fine.” “In law, you can’t disseminate pictures of people in that way, there are legal consequences. “He is beyond the law.” “No, one is.” “Let’s not argue...I really am very tired.” I felt very sorry of her. “Why don’t you go and spend a couple of days with your old Mum in...Gillingham is it?” “Rochester. I’ll think about it.” Beyond her, in the distance the Serpentine was visible with the few tourist boats dotting the lake. “Ok, Ok. Right well it is a difficult time but just take it easy, bit by bit, so bon courage” I felt it a was a poncy thing to say, but you know. So I put a tentative reassuring hand on her shoulder. She looked at me, and I at her, we both seem mystified as if we could not comprehend that we had once been lovers, once.