The Queen of Park Avenue

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.

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