The Queen is lost in solitary promenade. She walks from Christies at Rockefeller Center, with their lovely vaulted ceilings, bright entrance and haughty lobby, where Margaret is no longer welcome, but where ‘important’ jewelry includes the best pieces from all the famous houses—Boucheron, Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier and Tiffany—to 50th and sometimes to Madison Avenue to shop Shenoa and Cellini. Recently Cellini too shut its doors to Margaret, the Queen, the spectacle.
The Queen of Park Avenue is debased. People laugh in her face and say foolish things like, good day, princess or excusez-moi your grace. She suffers at their hands, or more correctly from their words, loose tongues, and her suffering runs deep into the night.
Mercifully, Margaret has never been attacked. She is only an oddity, an eccentric woman in her early sixties, irregular, but well kept, elegant and peculiar—a curiosity to be observed in the hustle, exhaust and screeching noise of the city. She creates a scene but is quite harmless. Predictable as a postman’s morning she strolls from 27th past the M, and weather permitting, across 57th and forward to 79th. Often she has spectators, one of whom gazed at her today both with his eyes and his memory, from the fifth floor of the Champion building—board room antechamber, insurance money, old money, stiff scotch at his side.
Margaret holds court at all crossings, addressing Mercedes and BMWs with solemnity, grace, and the occasional wave. She is imbued with ritual; nodding her head, the turn of her wrist, the wave of the hand. It is regal, somehow programmed into neural pathways long ago frozen; and yet, she was born to flannel, Ohio somewhere or Pennsylvania, but rises to meet the evening gowns she wears, haughty vestiges of wealth won and lost, the good and proper life she once enjoyed with access, succor, and high-quartered friendships.
The Margaret of today wears an immoderate cast of jewelry. It is mere glass of course, copies of what she once proudly owned and wore to public affairs. Everything but the house and a remaining stipend endowed to her has long ago been spent.
Those who knew Margaret then remember the fit physique, flamboyant carriage and honest rich laughter that could warm the shell from a beast – in particular, the Trustee, and former Chair of Champion, Inc., power broker of some stature. He watches now from his high perch as she stops abruptly.
Delicately the princess lifts her arms to adjust outrageously dark glasses, in consideration of J K Onassis perhaps. Arms askew she poses, or so it seems as minions pass. She glances in the Chairman’s direction, but he cannot be certain. Her gaze is everywhere.
“I remember you, Margaret,” the Chairman whispers and raises a glass. With his other hand, he touches his cracked and worn lips. It seemed just yesterday that she was in his room of honored guests, near the closet, nearing dawn. She slowly strolled toward the veranda, spinning coyly more than once as if a step for him to follow. It was her scent and favorite bangles, once fashioned from Britannia Standard, engraved inserts in her black-heeled shoes that did him in.
From that time, the Queen’s rite has evolved. She opens her vermeil vanity case at the intersection of 59th and daubs her nose, moistens her lips, and examines her ears, all through those dark glasses. Margaret rearranges the copy of her ivy tiara and then performs what appears a blessing. She blesses traffic with a wave of her gloved hand, or maybe it’s just the act of thinking aloud, gestures here and there amid her musings.
The Chairman’s face grows dark. There was once a husband, a senator, a turncoat. He was easily taken down by financial mismanagement, divorce, the courts. In the end, there were the auctions.
She was once a presence, though. Literally a New York landmark, a back room jewel who captured hearts in the New York Sports Club, the ambassadors library, SoHo galleries, and during fund-raising for NGOs at endless venues. Margaret was simply adored. Hearts fell swooning after her, the Chairman’s included, and he made that purchase.
Look. Now she glides on air around a lingering couple, out there on the street, or so it seems. Margaret loved to dance. She was adept at hosting, at conversation, but never a gadfly; always dazzling, always current, multi-faceted, confident, hot and charming. She was beautiful in that way a victim of her foolish husband.
Park Avenue remains Margaret’s home, of course, no matter the circumstance, no matter what she has lost. Her persona, however defiled, is still commanding and there is a trust. The Chairman saw to that. It was never right that fate should cast her aside like that fool husband, a politician. Leonard was above his station. He believed he’d arrived but in the end floundered – a sputtering candle. The city is better without him, as is the nation, as is the view from above.
As the Chairman watches her every step, their futures are once again transfixed. Soon enough he will approach her. Their eyes will meet in the reflection of a plate glass window, and he will speak her name. In that future, she will turn and recall him. “Robert,” she will say. “What a pleasant surprise.” It will be as if they’d never said goodbye. He will invite himself to walk with her, along the avenue, and her gloved hand will rest in the crook of his arm.
But that is the future, if one can believe.
In the past, it was raining. The Chairman had a black umbrella, which he later discovered had the words Grey Flannel printed on it. It was a random thing grabbed from the office lobby closet. Nothing. Pedantic. Irrelevant.
Margaret came up to him from nowhere and asked if he liked the fragrance. No greeting, no ‘Hello Robert.’ It was as if they’d never met, as if she didn’t know him, or so he believes. Sheer madness. What was she talking about, fragrance? He’d just stared. She’d stared back in silence, smiled, brushed the side of his face with her finger and left. Only later had he made the connection with Grey Flannel cologne.
The future will be a different. In the future, Margaret is perfectly rational, perfectly lucid, and she remembers all. They reminisce. She will admit she once secretly loved him. They will look beyond the things mattered then. If she knows, she will forgive, or at least understand, and after all, she will understand. Every Chairman needs a companion at his arm. Every princess needs a champion.
She’s delusional, he finally admits to himself and not at all interested. With Margaret there always was, and always will be a mysterious and frustrating distance, an impenetrable patina of chiseled diamond. But that is, after all, what a man needs. Even the Senator knew that, a woman of grace and steel.
They are intertwined. Soon he will approach. If she is not lost, as many say, then the future looks good for both of them. Even lost, he tells himself; she has the grace to take his arm, to walk again among the privileged, to be the woman he adores.
Christies. Oh that. Investments, he told himself. Her jewels were nothing but a hedge against the sliding dollar. Not true.
It was his plan then to reveal that it was he, the chairman, who saved her wealth. It was he who secretly bid and bid and bid. She would have been grateful then, and will be grateful soon, or so he will believe until the day arrives and he drapes the stones around her neck, bracelets on her arm, and ring upon her finger.