by Marie A.
who can resist an offer like this
|Intro to Local Politics, or How I Turned Down the Offer to be the First Lady of Djibouti
I thought I was doing a good thing. I really did. No shit there I was on the most surreal human encounter of my life.
International development projects for the poor are hard to sell, and mine is no different. Back in November of 2004, I decided to use the local media in an attempt to encourage support among local communities for my livestock genetics and agriculture project for the rural mountain Indians of Huehuetenango, Guatemala. As a complete and irrelevant aside, I can tell you Spell check really does not like that word, Huehuetenango. To condense the chain of events into a reasonable time frame, suffice it to say that the Plattsburgh Press Republican ran an article for me about my project. It was terribly written, with innumerable typo’s and misquotes (for instance did you know that I am 5’11’ tall, having somehow grown 10” magically overnight?)., and for the most part, after I wrote them a scathing commentary, I tried to pretend that the article really was not about me. I went on with my life, and pursued other avenues of assistance.
About a week later, there I am filling out Christmas cards with some friends, when I receive a phone call from a man in the Plattsburgh area.. To protect the innocent and guilty alike, I will call this individual Jeff. He introduces himself as a local politician, and asks if I have a few moments to talk about my project, as he saw my article in the paper.
“Sure”, I say.
He starts to weird me out when he says, ‘ I saw your picture and just had to meet you’ (ok, this should have been a clue), but progresses to say he is developing a bank, and is interested in investing in third world countries. His background is in chemistry and pharmaceuticals, where he moved on to environmental concerns, then got into politics and now law. He would like to meet me to discuss some investment options that he thinks can help me. I agree- he sounds legit. I do an on-line search after we are done, and surprisingly can find no record of his political career, but I am able to find his father’s business, and there is a blurb about him. It checks out.
I make him agree to come to Saranac Lake, and to meet me in public at Corvo’s Italian Restaurant for a business meeting. He has since called back several times, each time with more information about himself. He is not really a lawyer, but does research for a friend of his who is a lawyer, and is very good at his research, so he is considering law. He was hired by the board of directors for his town to do water assessments, which is his political experience. But he wants to be mayor of Champlain one day, and is in fact running for office. And he absolutely cannot wait to involve me in his own development project. He already has big plans for me. He makes me assure him 3 times I will be there. This is getting strange, and I have not even met this guy. Usually the strangeness at least waits until after I actually meet the person.
He is 25 minutes late for dinner. The moment I meet him, I realize this meeting is a mistake. There is no way he is considering this a business dinner. I might add that I have been known to have some bizarre taste in men, but this man is the exact antithesis in looks to anything I would find even remotely attractive. Still, I play dumb, which can be a very useful strategy for women of all walks of life when dealing with local men. We go in to sit, and I open my notebook, and settle in. He eyes me in a way I can only describe as predatory, saying, “You are even lovelier in real life”.
Coming from almost anyone else, I would have taken this as a compliment. Something about him saying it makes me want to bathe. It is like an oil slick from a Lovecraft novel just spilled from his mouth. I smile and say, “I’m not sure how to take that, but thanks”. I have often been described as a good diplomat. My skills are about to be tested.
Immediately after introducing himself, he says, “I was married once, you know.” No, I didn’t know. Nor particularly care, I might add. He goes on, “I have to confess, I am seeing someone. In Montreal. But I am just using her for sex. You know how it is”
He must mistake my blank expression for some form of mutual understanding, as he takes it as the cue to start in on the story of his marriage. Five minutes after meeting me, and just after ordering drinks, I am hit with, “I never really loved her, you know, but I knocked her up, and had to marry her to keep her from having an abortion. I don’t talk to her any more- since I think she is now …” he leans forward to whisper, after looking around to be sure no-one can overhear the blasphemy he is about to reveal, “… a Lesbian”
And I am thinking, I just met this man, but I think if I had the incredible blessed fortune of being married to him, I might consider Lesbianism a very viable alternative to suicide. Or murder.
He proudly tells me, “I have made many enemies by being violently pro-life. I’ve even had death threats. Yes, I am the pro-life spokesperson for the ENTIRE region.” And poster child for everything wrong with the Bush administration, I think, but do not say.
I need to change this topic, quickly. I ask him how long were they married? “Something like 7 years” Wait a minute- something like 7 years? Like, you really can’t remember ?
When did they divorce, I ask?
“11 years ago”.
He then tells me, as if discussing the fact it is snowing, ‘I have appealed the settlement 17 times. I’m just trying to see how much I can get from her. Last month, I had my friend install a GPS unit underneath her car, so I can collect intelligence on her movements. And I tape record her conversations, and our kids’ conversations. It is the smartest thing to do, since they do all the talking for us. I refuse to actually speak with the woman” Oh yes, I forgot, it is a sin to talk to homosexuals.
Yes, he actually used the term, ‘collecting intelligence’. Ok, now I am envisioning being stalked for the rest of my natural life. I wonder in fact, if he is recording this conversation as we are having it. I consider doing something like confessing an alien abduction where I was implanted with a personal tracking device, like in Whitley Strieber’s Communion, but decide that might be in poor taste. Not that the rest of this conversation isn’t , but still, I at least have my standards.
I ask him, tactfully I think, what his interest is in 3rd World development. I say tactfully for me, because I manage to both keep my voice even, AND not hurl something in his general direction. I note to myself to avoid the following topics of discussion as we thankfully move into actual business related territory- any and all of my work overseas pertaining to gender development, access to health and reproductive care services, family health education, human rights, and community development. Which leaves… hmmm… maybe economics as a safe topic? Sheep? Looking at the guy, I am not so sure I really want to discuss livestock breeding with him, either.
“We’ll get to that”, he says. Our dinner comes out, providing a much needed break in the conversation. The cell phone I am carrying rings; it is a good friend in town checking to make sure I don’t need some made up work-related emergency to bail me out. No, I say, this is getting interesting. In the same way a train wreck is interesting. Call back in a ½ hour, though. PLEASE. Read between the lines- don’t leave me stranded here with this freak!!
Jeff takes two bites of his dinner, then looks at me and says, wistfully, “Sometimes, I really wish my mother would just die”. He says this as I am taking a drink of water, and I choke, barely managing to not spray it all over the table. I mean, who the hell actually uses the words, ‘I wish my mother would just die?’ Who?
I don’t even want an explanation, but I am sure it is coming. He starts a long, convoluted story about his parents’ own divorce, and how all of his father’s shareholdings are technically still in his mother’s name. I will not repeat the terms used to describe his mother, but it made perfect sense when he informed me of his canine lineage. Non-human or otherwise, if he had her money, he could live quite comfortably, and pursue his dream. Which is? “We’ll get to that”. I can’t wait. The suspense is killing me.
Before he starts the next leg of the discourse, he looks me over again, and says, “I have a very powerful sex drive, and some women find it overwhelming.” Which ones, exactly, I wonder, the ones with uncontrollable addictions to cocaine and heroin? He follows this with, “So if you want to come home with me I will perfectly understand”. No, I swear I am not making this up! His words hit me with the same effect a centipede crawling up my spine would.
I somehow politely laugh it off, and ask him about his employment. Inside, I am really, really worried that I am missing something important here. Obviously, all of this confidentiality is meant to impress me. Does this tactic actually work on women? Am I fundamentally screwed up that I am just not getting it? Is this what it means to be worldly? This conversation is taking place a week after I was broken up with by someone before we were even dating. I can’t help wondering that age-old question that plagues women- Is it ME?
He is not very humble in patting himself on the back about his work history. First, he worked for a pharmaceuticals company, where he used his degree in chemistry to formulate generic drugs, and manipulate the research data to show them as being as safe as the name brands. “In some cases”, he says, almost laughing, “the end product wasn’t even anything like the real thing! But people are stupid enough to buy anything if they think they can save a few bucks!”
He left that industry under unspecified circumstances (I can only guess what they could have been), and went on disability. Disability? Yes, he has mild knee condition, but is in real good with a doctor, who declared him unfit for real work. His income from the disability is what he lives on, and the only money he actually pays taxes on.
It is at this point that I start considering telling him I will go home with him, but that I charge. Exorbitantly. By the minute, because my skills are that good, and I am in very high demand. I am afraid he might actually believe me though, and as much I would not feel guilty at all about taking this guy’s money, I can envision it being the worst 3 minutes or so of my life. To put it bluntly, I could think of nothing I could do later in life to forgive myself. So, instead, I try again to play dumb, and curb my tongue.
Again mistaking my lack of expression or comment as a show of approval, he starts detailing just how easy it is to trick people into supporting bogus Internet companies, which can be later declared bankrupt, and you get to keep the money. And start another one, with relative ease, because such things are not monitored very carefully. Could this get any worse? Apparently, the answer is yes, it can. Now comes the coup de grace- his real reason for his interest in me. He is finally ready to tell me about his Plans for me. The train wreck is no longer happening in slow motion- now the events have caught up with real time.
He wants to get into international banking and finance. He rattles off a list of countries he is interested in, solely because of the laxity of banking laws. I notice that most of them are in Sub-Saharan Africa or the Caribbean. He is also running for local mayor, to become entrenched as a politician and lend himself- get this- credibility. But if his mother would just hurry up and die already, he would have the money to pursue his real and true life goal. All this build up, and now he is ready to share it with me.
After he founds his bank, he wants to use it to invest in 3rd world development, to get his foot in the door of an impoverished nation. After he gains the trust of the local people, he will of course use his influence to overthrow the government, and install himself as dictator. Yes, dictator. I made him repeat it to make sure I heard him correctly.
And of course, since I already obviously have considerable trust in a 3rd world community, I can get him “in” even more quickly. I would be a most valuable and desirable asset. Not to mention useful. I could use his overwhelming manhood to fulfill my lady’s needs, as long as I don’t mind him having a fling or two on the side; while he uses my ability to collaborate with locals to his own altruistic political ends. Evita Peron has nothing on me, let me tell you. It was bizarrely flattering- I must admit no-one else has ever considered me first lady material before. If this is what it takes, hopefully they never will again, either.
Before I moved from Lake Placid, I had a neighbor who introduced himself one day by saying, “Now that I know what you look like, and who you are, if I ever see you are battling the forces of evil (presumably when the minions of Satan show up in my front yard, I guess), I will be sure to put you under my personal protective influence.”
Nothing worse than a family of skunks ever did show up in my front yard, and I am sure Dan was disappointed not to have to use his awesome powers. Still, the evil part of my own brain couldn’t help wondering what would happen were that fellow to walk into Corvo’s Restaurant at this very moment? Would there be spontaneous combustion as their opposing energies cancelled each other out, like protons meeting anti-protons in a cloud chamber? If we could harness the energy could we solve America’s oil crisis? Because honestly, this guy, Jeff, may have been the closest I have ever been to real walking around reeking evil. And here I was on an accidental date with him!
Thank the powers that be, my friend from work called back. Gee. I’m sorry I have to leave right now- I am on autoclave duty for the weekend, and the machine just blew a gasket. I need to be there to let Maintenance in, because I am the only available person with the key to our Biosafety Level 3 facility. So sorry, it really was a wonderful dinner . And wow, look it is raining, sleeting, snowing, AND hailing at the same time, I would really feel better if you got on the road RIGHT NOW, because it is a long way back and I certainly wouldn’t want anything to happen to you. Like your car running off the road and falling into the Ausable River where it isn’t found until March? That would be terrible indeed…
What’s that? Do I need a ride?
No, I do not need a ride, but thanks, that is so very nice of you to offer. Are you fucking kidding me? Do you think there’s any way in Hell I’m getting into a moving vehicle with you? Do I really want to wake up in a steamer trunk on its way to Djibouti with false marriage papers? Um, NO…
I see you did not offer to pay for dinner- fine by me. I’d rather not owe you anything…
As he takes my hand to say goodbye, I mutter ‘May you spend the rest of your life screwing goats for a living’ in Spanish (Que necesites pasar tu vida chingando cabras para dinero). I tell him it is an ancient Guatemalan blessing for fortune. He smiles and says he will keep in touch, that he is enamored with me. I changed my phone number shortly afterwards.