THE DREAMER SLEEPS WITHOUT DREAMING
Part VIII: The Fantasy, II
In some completely different big city, Georgie and Claudia are completely different people. This Claudia wears a stunning blue turtleneck, a long blue skirt, and blue-rimmed glasses. Her stylish chic clothes and faux European accent are quietly rapturous. Georgie wears a blue pinstripe suit and an outlandish paisley tie that doesn’t quite cover his bulging paunch. Georgie’s slightly graying but Claudia still has the flaming frizzy red hair and svelte hourglass figure of her misspent youth.
Georgie rides up alone to his swank inner-city penthouse apartment, carrying a small bonsai tree and a bag of chocolate kisses. At the thirty-third floor the elevator stops. The elevator door opens and Claudia gets in.
“It’s just like déjà vu all over again, isn’t it?” Georgie suavely strikes up a conversation. “I believe we’ve met before, haven’t we, somewhere-perhaps in Paris? Prague? Schenectady?”
Claudia smiles but doesn’t answer. She’s obviously struggling for words.
“Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?” Georgie goes on. “Maybe on the Riviera? Rio? Or in my dreams, perhaps?”
Georgie’s the epitome of the sophisticated debonair playboy.
“What’s your sign?” he asks slyly. “I’m a Gemini. You must be-” Georgie smiles mysteriously, “No, don’t tell me. Let me guess.”
“To answer your questions,” the Francophone Claudia smiles again, “I am, obviously, how you say, a French girl. Je parlais francais, tout court. A-and, the English, it is, for me-how you say? Tres difficil?”
“So,” Georgie deftly picks up Claudia’s cues, “what part of France are you from? St. Louie, Cincinnati, Notre Dame? Or, maybe, Quiche-Lorraine?”
Fortunately, Claudia completely fails to catch his drift.
“I have been in your United States for five months now,” she says, obviously excited to have a sophisticated gentleman like Georgie to talk to among so many swarming, sweaty, belching barbarians. “I love your summer weather. To swim. I, love to stay-how you say-in shape? But me, I am just – what do you call that? I just love the chocolate. Your Hershey kisses.” She grins widely.
“Simply ravishing to meet you,” Georgie kisses her hand. His eyes fall to her brightly painted toes and stylish feet.
“Who does your toes?” Georgie gushes. “I just love your pedicure! Can I have your phone number? Or, am I being too forward?”
“Oh, you Americans!” Claudia simpers. “You are so naïf! But so so charming.”
Claudia’s mannerisms and accent shift to a slightly sinister Zsa Zsa Gabor, as she hands Georgie a slip of paper.
“Here you are, dahlink-my cahrd. Please call my agent. Perheps, ve can arrangch, a-rendezvous?
“Oh. My. God.” Georgie falls to his knees. “You are too, too kind. Perhaps I might kiss your feet?”
“Please to make arrangechmingks vit my agent?”
Finally, Georgie snaps out of his wild reverie. Resuming his sophisticated, suave manner, he elegantly requests Claudia’s home address and phone number. She scribbles something on a business card and presses it into his hand. Immediately, the elevator door opens at the sixty-sixth floor and Claudia walks hurriedly away down the romantically lit penthouse corridor.
Georgie dazedly scans the business card. It reads:
P.S. I don’t know why you want my home address, but here it is. For some strange reason, I trust you. I believe in fate. Call me.
Georgie’s already missed his floor. The elevator door slams shut and the elevator rumbles and rattles downward again.
On their first date, Georgie and Claudia drive onto the Interstate southbound, into New Jersey. Georgie wants to show this elegant, French Mademoiselle The Real America and The Real Americans who populate it, right here in Passaic, Hoboken, Parsipanny, and Patterson. And Claudia’s eager to impress this well dressed, mysterious man-about-town who epitomizes for her The American Dream, which she too heartily believes in. The statuesque French torch singer with the spiky hairdo and sculptured robes, who sings the glittering promise of freedom, liberty, and equality (banality, mediocrity.)
Claudia now looks slightly younger. With her sophisticated, elegant clothes and heavy pancake makeup, she resembles a Lauren Bacall, a Katherine Hepburn. Georgie can’t get enough.
As he drives, Claudia leans back in the reclining passenger seat staring out the black-tinted window. She rests her head on a throw pillow and resumes speaking her fractured French.
“Zeorgie, dahlink,” Claudia purrs. “You are so very, how you say-recherché? You are supposed to be a good American host, you know. Like our Jerry Lewis, your movie star-but instead, I come here and you rob the bank, you kill someone, maybe-and we are always on the run! Where’s the America I see in the movies? Where is what you call – the American Dream?”
Georgie’s wearing a 50s gangster get-up: snap brim fedora, dark suit, and dark tie. He sneers at Claudia under his low hat-brim and smokes incessantly. But when he speaks, his voice is surprisingly calm, bland, and matter-of-fact like a TV newsman.
“Well, you know, the government-the government controls our movies, Claudia. The government is into organized crime. The government is organized crime. And the government, well, the government looks out for its own. Why, just look at that financial bail out racket, the colossal national debt-and who services the national debt? You know, I think it’s easier to commit robbery in the U.S. by setting up a big bank rather than holding up a bank clerk. People give liberally to big corporations and big financial institutions-the bigger the better.”
Georgie’s non-descript, flat-toned voice trails off.
Claudia laughs a very dry, French laugh.
“You are so very funny, my little one! In France, it is very different. France is the country where the money, it falls apart. How you say? Poof! Oh, the French, Georgie the French! We are so-je ne sais quoi, you know?”
“Yeah, I know about the French,” Georgie deadpans. “You can’t trust the franc-and you can’t tear the toilet paper.”
While Georgie shakes his head, Claudia just keeps on laughing almost hysterically.
Finally, Georgie cuts her off. “But, seriously, Claudia, you know,” he says. “There’s always been something fishy about the French.”
Abruptly, Claudia stops laughing and becomes sophisticated, languid, and blasé once more.
“Oui, my little one. You are so right.” She waves a slim black arm. “Where I come from, it so, so… I hate it. Everyone, they complain all the time. About everything. Nothing.”
Georgie nods. “Thank God it’s not like that, here in America-or not yet, anyway. In America, we still have seasons-four of them-and all in the right order. But, France, now, France? There’s no winter in France, no summer and here in America, we have morals. There are no morals in France, either-are there?”
Shooting a quick look at Claudia, Georgie realizes that he might have offended her Francophile sentiments and Parisian sensibility.
“Apart from that, though,” he continues before she can answer, “I think it’s a fine country. Le France, and a fine people, too. DeGaulle, and Marianne, and, who’s it? Mendes-France. Pierre Mendes-France. Yes, the French.”
He pauses, diplomatically, seeking words to express his profound admiration and eternal ardor for the Fourth Republic.
“They gave us The Statue of Liberty, you know,” he says. “And Louisiana! Where would we be without Louisiana?”
But Claudia doesn’t answer. She’s still seductively daydreaming of Parisian cafes and street-scenes.
“Mais oui,” she murmurs. “Paris, is the café of Europe.”
At the word café, Georgie immediately snaps awake. His black-rimmed eyeballs pop open, and he grips the steering wheel with white knuckles.
“Oh, God, yes!” he snorts. “Paris! The cafés! The coffee!”
The Francophone, Claudia, shares his passion for bon vivant. She blushes.
“Oui!” she says. “We must stop for coffee, non?”
Taking a deep drag on his cigarette and letting the smoke curl out his nose, Georgie pulls himself together again. Now he’s perfectly cool, calm, in control.
“Perfect,” he says. “It’s still morning, sweetheart. It’s morning in America, and there’s a little place I know, just around here, where we can get a good black cup o’ Joe, my little French kumquat.”
Claudia swoons. “You are so suave…so romantique!”
After their drive, Georgie sits in his briskly-upholstered, crowded office.
Computers, monitors, and electronics fill this elaborate office space. It’s fit for a pin-striped, bow-tie-wearing, traditional pipe smoker-a Great Tycoon or CEO…. But Georgie’s dressed down, sporty, casual, as he sits handwriting a passionate letter. He’s still slightly dazed from his fatal meeting with the mysterious, exotic Claudia Nesbitt. So, even though he’s in his usual office routine, he can’t really make himself work.
“I prefer snail mail,” Georgie’s whispering to himself, as if talking to Claudia. “There’s something more meaningful about the whole act of writing to someone special. Taking out the pen, feeling the handmade paper, personalizing the print, smudging the fingerprints, sticking the stamp and licking the envelope….”
Georgie shivers with scarcely suppressed excitement.
“I like the whole idea that Claudia and I are taking our sweet time getting to know one another. We’re keeping the pace of our little romantic affair discreetly slow, what with the mail and me…. There’s nothing I want less than another doomed relationship that flies on too fast, but this thing with Claudia…it’s something special. Meaningful. Real…I can just feel it.”
The enormous wooden door to Georgie’s office abruptly swings open.
On the front of the door, there’s an elaborately embossed sign:
GEORGIE GUST ENTERPRISES
Georgie Gust: CEO.
And below that, a print-out:
Long Term Investor in a Short Term World
In steps Ismael Marks, Georgie’s male secretary. He’s around thirty-five years old, flustered, disheveled, with messy hair and a loose tie. He’s sweating profusely and his sleeves are rolled up. He brusquely storms in, oblivious to Georgie’s romantic passion.
“Georgie!” Marks shouts. “All hell’s broken loose on the floor-Intercoastal’s taking a dive! It’s a two dollar stock now. What’ll we do? We’re ruined!”
Georgie’s perfectly calm, cool, collected, although slightly peeved.
“How many times have I told you, Ismael?” Georgie’s lip curls with his withering scorn. “Knock first.”
“Sorry, sir,” Marks answers. “But-”
Georgie cuts him off.
“Marks, I bought that stock at fifty cents,” Georgie speaks clearly, as if talking to a lunatic or idiot. “Whatever I do, I’ll make a killing…now get lost. Can’t you see I’m in the middle of something really important?”
After his bewilderment wears off, Ismael Marks sees the shy smile behind Georgie’s witheringly curled lips.
“What’s this?” Marks asks, gathering courage. “Another one of your peculiar obsessions? Another of your curious perplexities? Whatever happened to the online dating…you must’ve made the moves on a pen pal…. Is she hot? Is this…a hook-up?”
Three other associates in Georgie Gust Enterprises (sometimes called “the Guys”), stylish young men in their early twenties, approach the door. Their eyes widen with jealousy and curiosity. When Georgie notices the peepers peering through his door, he discreetly covers his love-letter. With an imperious gesture, he chases them out of the office.
“Guys, get lost.”
But the guys don’t scare easily.
“Oooooo-o-o-oh, Mr. Romantic….” they chorus. “Dream Boy…the Poet…a modern Casanova….”
Georgie slams the enormous wooden door on his not-so-secret admirers. He tries to pick up writing his romantic billet-doux, but he can’t recapture the passionate mood of before….
Somewhere outside the office door, several different alarm clocks ring indistinctly. The whole scene changes once again….