Archie chides me about my schedule. At 8:00 I have breakfast. From 9:00 to 11:00 I am in the plant rooms. I do not see him until I come to down to the office at 11:00. Archie believes that my adherence to his routine is an eccentricity. He is wrong. I do not follow a schedule to be quixotic. I do it to preserve my sanity. One can never entirely govern oneself, but by strict governance of one’s surroundings an illusion of control can be created. I can, at least, pretend.
I am well aware that any control I have over my circumstances is an illusion. At any time the world may swat at me. Yet I carefully nurture the pretence. I keep a rigid routine. In exchange, this rigid routine keeps me.
Occasionally variations in my schedule are inevitable. Archie believes that they are good for me, that they stir my blood. They do indeed. For that reason they are to be avoided. Nonetheless, these jolts occur. At times the are severe. I have been known to leave the house. At other times they are delicate intrusions. They may be as subtle as a newspaper article that arrests my attention and make me three minutes late for my morning session in the plant rooms.
I breakfast, as I say, at 8:00. Fritz always brings to my room a copy of the Times. I read the entire newspaper, although certain sections are less compelling than others. The society page describes events in which I seldom have an interest. In the past, however, I have occasionally paused in my reading to note the name of a former client. Today it is not a client who captures my attention.
The photographs were taken at a revelry designed to raise money for a pet charity. A thinly veiled excuse for the women to adorn and display themselves. Archie frequently abets these schemes. He was at this party two nights ago.
I look through the photographs and he is there. The woman he is dancing with is Miss Rowan. At one time I feared her. I now know I have nothing to fear from her. In the photograph her eyes are slanted up at him. She is gauging his reaction, either to the surroundings or to something she has said. Archie is only partially attending her. He appears to be…absorbed in the dance.
I have never seen him dance. I know that he is an excellent dancer. I have, in fact, been told this by that woman I was imbecile enough to make my daughter. Carla was disdainful of American men. “All business, all scheming,” was her appraisal. None of them could either fence or dance because none of them could feel. By happenstance, she and Archie attended the same nightclub one evening. She danced with him that night. She told me about it some time later, delighting in teasing me. “He dances like he is flesh and blood. He dances like a Tsernagore.” I am certain that it was she who asked him to dance. She is headstrong and knows no propriety.
I envy Carla. I envy Miss Rowan. They know this part of him. They have seen him lose himself in a dance. When he dances, he is unrestrained. I have seen only hints of this. When he must fight someone his control slips. He is frightened by this. He should be. I have never seen him willingly abandon himself as he must do when he dances. If the photograph is any indication, this loss of control does not frighten him.
His eyes are abstracted and, looking down at Miss Rowan, suggestive. His face is sensual. He is attuned to his body and to little else. I find the photograph almost embarrassingly personal. He was not the photographer’s focus, but he is my focus.
I wonder if I will ever see him like this. He is so careful around me. Even when he is goading me, he is trying to impress me. Perhaps one day I will tell him that control is not always desirable. It is sometimes a coward’s hiding place.
It is past time to ascend to the plant rooms. I carefully fold the society page so as not to crease the photograph. Looking at the photograph I know that I am flesh and blood and a Tsernagore. But it is after 9:00 and I can pretend.