Her arm. Classical, sleek and familiar.
Her wrist. A cylindrical hearth, emboldened by a coarse, circulating red, dying to tell a secret.
Her hand. Gentle. Delicate.
Her navel, tucked away beneath the cushioned surface of her abdominal muscles. The t-shirt that veils it. The disregard of this veil and the hubris that ensues. The lips that make contact and vow loyalty to an order that shall outlast them both. The moisture created by the repression of his desire and the beating of her heart. The isolated space between the opening of his mouth and a vulnerable layer of truth. The fingers that impress upon her waist in a declaration of hope, yet intrude upon her stomach in search of something true. The chaos and frustration of that moment. The impossible heat associated with longing.
The celestial barrier, the birth of galaxies, the creation of man, the span of several million years, suffered in three inches. If I walk away now, I could save myself.
But if I kiss her again…
From the age of six, Jacob Wells has hoarded money.
Deposited in piggy banks, stashed away in dresser drawers, buried in sandboxes, and hidden atop treehouses. Jacob spent less than sixty cents of his then five dollar-a-week allowance.
He never spoke much, for he was constantly listening.
Listening when his teachers spoke.
Listening when his babysitters would frantically scream for him, to emerge from his hiding place.
Listening when his mother would sing him a lullaby before slumber.
Most of all, Jacob would listen when his business savvy father would conduct conference calls from his study. Buying things, selling things, and telling people what to do. Jacob adored his father. A burly man with big hands, who would always frazzle the kid’s hair upon seeing him. Jacob’s father would tell his son, “A penny saved is a penny earned”, “The early bird gets the worm”, and “Save for a rainy day!”
With the resounding words of his father in mind, Jacob Wells has transformed his world into a typhoon-proof realm. The piggy banks have become investment firms. The dresser drawers have evolved. Mutual funds in their newer form, down in Key West. Yesterday’s sandboxes are today’s villas, lined along the Caribbean and parked in international waters. The treehouse has been reconfigured, to the more appropriate 61st floor penthouse on 75th and Park. While no longer a child, Jacob Wells has yet to put away childish things.
The founder and CEO of Wells, Inc. a money management firm specializing in corporate mergers, power broker finances, and foreign government accounts, is currently in the process of bringing two major corporations together. The software giant, DevComm, and its media counterpart, The Muse Group. This is routine, not so much unlike the Merlot, which must be whiffed, swirled, and inhaled again, prior to consumption. And like the Merlot, nothing shall be left to the dogs.
Francois Jean-Louise, the Oxford educated lawyer turned power broker and President of Wells, Inc. International, is both the right hand and confidant of Jacob Wells. Having completed grueling business in London, Francois has flown into New York to alleviate a portion of the weight, accumulated by such dealings. He would also like to see his friend. While a darling in the social circle, notorious in the business world, and successful throughout, Francois Jean-Louise is above all else, a gentleman.
“Hmm. DevComm’s stock is up 87%, selling at $377.20 a share”
“I wonder if word of a merger has hit the floor”
“Perhaps”, says Francois, as he leafs through this morning’s edition of The Wall Street Journal. Perched in the leather Cortina lounge, he sits comfortably across from Jacob, who continues to bless documents with his signature, as he has done all morning.
“It won’t last, you know”, Francois says. “Nothing is forever”
Jacob stops writing, laying the pen on its side. He beholds his friend, as though cold death sat before him.
Jacob. There were fewer than five people on the planet who addressed him so familiarly, Francois being among them. His mother called him “Jacob”, as did his grandmother and grandfather. His father referred to him as “Sport”, which as he grew older, he began to resent, wondering if the old man had simply been too busy to remember his only son’s name. The lack of playing catch and backyard barbecues aside, Jacob loved his father.
There was one who called him “Jake”.
“Are you all right?”
He blinks once, returning from his mental detour.
“I’m fine”, Jacob sighs. He gathers himself and like a conductor at Carnegie Hall on opening night, takes up his Parker pen and prepares to orchestrate the business of business.
“If I have said something to offend…”
“No”, Jacob interrupts, “I was just… lost in thought”
“Unfamiliar territory, indeed”
Jacob looks up to find a smile, running across the Frenchman’s face.
“I can never tell whether you’re serious or joking around. Your sense of humor is vague and peculiar”
Francois erupts into a thunderous roar of laughter. The uncharacteristic outburst even evokes a smile from the ever serious Wells.
“While I entrust you with my financial health”, Francois chuckles, ” I would not seek your counsel in matters of glee”
The comment, though made in jest, remained with Jacob. Had he forgotten how to live? Had he become remote? Mechanical? His father?
Attempting to compose this symphony of numbers is useless. Seeing Francois and meandering this way reminds Jacob of the good life. The pleasures sorely missed. Sure, the capital is extensive, the chateaus are dazzling, and the cars go fast. However the nights are long, the days too short, and the space in between, nonexistent.
Constantly on the prowl for a new, more grandiose adventure, Jacob Wells intends to challenge the system he so incessantly helped to create. He informs his assistant, Claire, that he will be inaccessible for the remainder of the day and instructs her to deliver documents personally over to DevComm and The Muse Group. Once signed, the merger will be finalized and Jacob Wells will have spearheaded yet another multi-billion dollar venture. Yet, something is amiss.
Although reportedly inaccessible, the afternoon will find Jacob Wells and Francois Jean-Louise in the SoHo eatery Canal House, nestled in the sleek sanctuary of The SoHo Grand Hotel. Elegance finds refuge here, as does Francois Jean-Louise, his suite being only a few levels up. The toll of the six-hour flight has begun to show and an afternoon nap may be in order. Francois sets down the menu to find his friend sullen over a glass of Merlot.
“Well, I believe congratulatory praises are due and a toast is in order, for what may be the most spectacular corporate union yet”, Francois spouts.
Jacob is lost in his drink. The Frenchman knows he is on sensitive ground.
“I purchased a 20% stake in Tom Ford yesterday. I like his shoes”
Still mesmerized by the Dionysian mixture, Jacob looks up. His eyes glassed over like an Aspen spring in winter.
“Lost in thought again, I presume.”
“No”, Jacob says, attempting to shun his psychological inebriation, “I’m just… a bit fatigued and need to get back to the office”
“I was under the impression you had deserted that imperial lair of malaise for the day”
“That was my intention”
“If I may inquire”, Francois requests, “Why the sudden change of heart?”
Jacob ponders. There was no dire urgency in the financial sphere for him to depart this way. The crucial business which awaits are those obligations to himself. Overcome with the unfamiliar feeling of impending vulnerability, Jacob Wells, respectfully, nods to his friend, pardoning himself from the table.
He halts, turning to face the man who has helped him amass gluttonous amounts of wealth throughout Europe and beyond.
“Mogul and gifted tactician that you are”, Francois pauses, “Not even you, can incorporate happiness. Only a life lived, can consummate that deal”
The Frenchman lifts the glass of Cognac to his lips.
The sun is setting over Manhattan Island. Jacob sulks back into the aromatic leather seats of the Lincoln Executive Series limousine. He would do this as a child, sitting in the back seat of what was then, a Ford station wagon. Ever the patient child, Jacob would read silently to himself, while his father would drive he and his mother up to the family cabin, on the lake. Usually for a weekend, the time spent there with his father was unparalleled. Of course, business was never too far away, there being a study in the two-story cabin.
Jacob’s dad taught him how to fish. One day, the kid caught a huge, big mouth bass. Being only six or seven at the time, it may be debatable who really caught whom, the big fish offering a game of tug-of-war. Electrified, the kid gleamed as he tried to haul in the catch. His father, possibly just as excited, got behind his son and together, they brought the deal home.
That night there was rice, with just a whisper of Swiss cheese. String beans steamed with the glacial spring water, which flowed from the mountain seen just outside the dining room window. A fresh salad, embellished with nuts, berries, chunks of pineapple, and raisins, complimented by crisp lettuce, juicy tomatoes, and the crunchy cucumbers, Jacob was so fond of. Freshly baked bread, sprinkled with cinnamon and bedecked with raisins. The butter was so bedazzled by the raisin bread with cinnamon tresses, it melted.
In the center of the table sat the grand prize. The bass was sliced and seasoned, sprinkled with parsley, and smothered in butter sauce. To this day, Jacob has this bass made for him the world over. Only now, the bass prefers an evening swim in the Sauvignon, prior to sweltering in the sauna.
The evening bows out ever so graciously, as night enters in its somber demeanor. It seems the mood of Jacob Wells not only affects the Standard & Poor’s 500, but the cosmos as well. At 68th and Lexington Avenue, he has the driver pull over to a newsstand on the corner. When he was a student at Harvard, Jacob would keep a market journal, tracking the highs and lows of the Dow. He would sit in the kitchen of his apartment with The Wall Street Journal strewn across the table. Circling stocks he liked and drawing a line through ones he did not, there would usually be a knock at his door, the guest bearing gifts. Cafe au lait and blueberry muffins.
Reaching for his wallet to purchase a magazine, published by a potential client interested in the firm, Jacob notices his name on an issue of GQ: BULLFIGHTING: A CONVERSATION WITH JACOB WELLS. It was an interview, taken place a month ago, and one he had almost forgotten. Unlike other interviews, or as he enjoyed putting them, interrogations, Jacob felt relaxed, comfortable even, during the forty minute or so dialogue with the Gentleman’s Quarterly writer. He paid the clerk for two magazines.
Maybe he’d go back and scout new investments. A secret endeavor of his was a restaurant he wanted to build from the ground up. On Saturday mornings and Wednesday afternoons, he would meet with the world’s premiere architects in his SoHo loft. Over Chardonnay and cheddar, the elaborate designers would display their interpretations of the Jacob Wells vision. Having seen countless blueprints and rejecting about the same, Jacob grew frustrated and put the project on hold.
If only the incomparable Francis Lloyd Wright were here, he thought. Possibly the only man in the history of the world, capable of turning Jacob’s mental painting into a physical masterpiece. From the Guggenheim to Falling Water, Jacob viewed Wright as a man of exceptional vision, fully capable of constructing him an utterly surreal structure, on the grandest of scales. Once complete, Jacob would name the jewel, “Bass”. An ode to his father.
Entering the building which loomed majestically over Fifth Avenue was the equivalent of returning home. The truth is, none of his estates or Trump entitled venues provided the comfort of his 47th floor office. The contemporary style and intricate design were reflections of himself that he could touch and lament in. The only other place offering this level of comfort had evicted him, 32 years earlier. Jacob exits the elevator, to his surprise, finding Claire still in the office.
“Oh, Mr. Wells! You startled me”
“I could say the same for you, still here on a Friday night”
“Well”, Claire explains, “After delivering the necessary paperwork over to DevComm, The Muse Group called with certain qualms, concerning the merger”
“Apparently, they have received a more lucrative offer from a Japanese based silicon company. Manufacturers of memory chips”
Jacob looks at his assistant.
“You have a 9 a.m. meeting in Tokyo, Monday morning”
Jacob smiles. “Goodnight Claire”
“Goodnight, Mr. Wells”
Jacob heads down the corridor leading to his office.
“Oh!” Claire begins, “With the unconventional day it’s been, I had almost forgotten. There was a young lady here, requesting to see you”
Jacob turns around, facing Claire.
“I urged her to leave a name or the party she was with, but she refused”
There is a scorching heat, burning in his esophagus, causing the moisture in his mouth to dry. Painfully, clearing his throat, he attempts to speak.
“Uh, did uh… she say anything at all?”
Claire recalls, “She only left saying, “Tell Jake I said, ‘Hello’”
Jacob closes his eyes, as though beseeching the gods for answers. A blow to an already fragile composure, Jacob musters what strength he has left.
“You are most welcome, Mr. Wells. Goodnight”
Jacob, still paralyzed, manages to utter another word. “And Claire… Unconventional or otherwise, we are always far beyond prepared, for we are always better. We must always be better”
Claire acknowledges her mentor and vanishes into the elevator.
In his office next to the high design stereo system, is a bar, stocked with all the liquid mixtures of the deities. He intends to request an audience with them, pouring himself a glass of Absolut. Apropos indeed, for he feels anything but.
Monica. The thought of the name sent quivers throughout his chest, or was it the vodka? They met at Harvard in their first semester, he being the quiet, ever shy, bookworm and she, the beautiful ocean mist, blown in from Paris. One late night, while preparing for an exam in the campus library, Jacob’s head arose from the accounting books to rub his tired eyes. Simple enough. However, upon opening them, he beheld the only reason to continue breathing. The daughter of a Parisian architect and schoolteacher from Bordeaux, Monica carried with her, the fresh air of serenity. The long chestnut hair. The lips reminded you of a plum, freshly rinsed in sub-arctic waters. Skin reminiscent of a chilling glass of Irish cream. The eyes, which seemed more like a summer’s twilight, than a vehicle for gaze. An impaling touch, a soothing caress…
Jacob poured himself another.
Not the Welsh-Brosnan merger, not the Prague subsidiaries trade, not the Power 50 accolades. Approaching Monica Bellenoir was the biggest move Jacob Wells ever made. They spoke and she was dashingly engaging. They became friends and then very close friends, and then closer still. While already an exceptional navigator, Monica allowed Jacob to steer with his hands free.
The first four semesters were enchanting, but in the fifth, the work became difficult and Monica was struggling to maintain. Jacob helped as best he could and more. Sometimes awake for 72 hour periods, Jacob would force her to study, explain equations to her, cook her breakfast prior to getting her to class on-time, and employ tutors when he had classes and exams of his own. He would even create crypt sheets for her. He would do it all again if it meant she would not have dropped out, flying back to Paris at the end of the semester.
Certainly the Atlantic Ocean alone could not keep them apart, so Jacob flew to Paris to be with his world. The couple would spend weeks on the Riviera, immersed in the other’s glow. Monica would show Jacob Paris, as only a Parisian can. The cafes where poets would sit, scribbling sonnets for their loves. The bakeries, whose aromatic concoctions would lure them in to discover fruit lavished pastries and loaves of split-topped bread, still piping hot. It was Monica who introduced Jacob to the impaling elixir of wine. She loved blue cheese and merlot.
The weeks became months and Jacob knew he had to leave. Graduate school would begin soon and he needed to sober from this intoxicating experience. Heartbroken, Monica pleaded with him to stay. She had an apartment in Paris, a summer home in Southern France, and her parents’ house, out in the country. Her argument was Jacob could remain there and captain her father’s business. It was a well presented argument, indeed, had Jacob not been from the Land of the Free, ever the independent. Monica was enraged, prompting a brutal fallout. They have not spoken since.
The CD changes. The Absolut is near depletion. The Louis XIII will have to suffice.
Why had she come back?
Why had he never searched for her?
Will they ever see each other again?
It is 12 a.m. and the questions continued to surface. Jacob Wells walks behind his desk to the huge picturesque window, overlooking his sovereignty.
New York City from forty-seven floors up.
As though infused with his grief, the siren Tracey Thorn, bellows from the Bose speakers…
“It ain’t easy, I know… but you’ve got to let go”
(circa 1998… with slight updates – DK)