As the applause continued, he smiled, raised his arm in a subtle wave to his audience and mouthed, “Thank you, thank you,” nodding his head in deference to their acclamation. His smile grew into a rather charming chuckle as the applause continued.
Well, this went rather better than I had expected, he said to himself, feeling the weight of the previous several weeks washed away in an instant.
It had all been leading up to this, this speech, this presentation of what had taken so long to determine and organize. The present acknowledgment of his efforts was simply icing on the cake. Much work remained to be done. Much still had to be processed and settled, but the basics, the foundations were ‘out there’. Apparently, he made a good argument for it all. He knew he would.
“We’ll see, we’ll see,” he whispered quietly, smiling all the while, knowing the vagaries of a crowd.
The applause died down, with many of the audience beginning to pick up their belongings and move towards the exits. A number, a number which surprised even him, walked towards the stage, hoping apparently for a further greeting or discussion.
“Great speech, John,” an attractive woman in a red pantsuit said, reaching up to the stage to shake his hand, her long, wavy brown hair falling across her face as she did so. She was attractive in that way women in their early forties can be if they are not trying to look like they are still in their twenties. “It really was excellent. I think you’ve got something here.”
She swished her hair back into place. “Are we still on for Tuesday?”
“Thanks Carol. Yeah, we’re still on.”
A hand touched the back of his shoulder. Letting go of Carol’s hand with an ingratiating smile, he turned to see three men standing behind him. She continued to stare at him. He knew she was, for the entire fifteen seconds before she turned and left.
One of the men, tall and portly, grabbed his hand in a hearty strong handshake, a gleam in his eye.
“John, great talk, very impressive. I’d like to introduce you to a couple of my colleagues. This is Douglas Simmons.” The tall, portly man gestured to the man on his right, a particularly unobtrusive fellow wearing a very subdued red sweater, an odd thing in the hot weather they had been having. The man offered his hand, nodding slightly, saying “Hi” in the barest of whispers.
John took the outstretched hand and said, “Thank you Jack for your kind words. Douglas, very nice to meet you.”
“And this,” the portly man continued, “is Desmond Martinez. They are with the publishing house I believe I mentioned last week.”
“Ah, yes,” said John, shaking Desmond’s hand, “It is a pleasure to finally meet you both. Jack has told me some great things about the work you are doing.”
“Well we have to keep life interesting don’t we,” Desmond responded. Everyone chuckled politely.
“Listen John,” Desmond continued, “I really think you have something here. I would love to meet with you sometime soon to discuss how we could get this out together.”
John smiled. This is what he had been hoping for.
“I would like that Desmond. Listen, I’m not sure of my schedule right now, but if I could have your card, I would love to set up a time to chat. Next week maybe?”
“Next week would be great,” Desmond said, “Here’s my card, give me a call anytime. It was a real pleasure to meet you.”
“Likewise,” John said, again shaking his hand, then the hands of Douglas and Jack in turn.
Many others tried successfully, and unsuccessfully, to get John’s attention and say a few words of encouragement or conversation. His charming demeanor during this follow up time added even more support to his proposition. He knew this would happen, of course, so he politely greeted and talked with as many as were patient to wait for his attentions. There were also those who still sat, enraptured with their own thoughts John had inspired, and not quite ready to face the realities of the world again. These wandered out with nary a comment, but with a profound change in their approach to living.
Forty-five minutes had passed by the time the crowd had left. Patiently, he tried to have a word or two with anyone who was interested, and only then was he willing and able to gather his own things to leave.
Though it was not too late, John decided he had done enough work for the day. There was a great deal of activity which would begin this next week, so one evening of celebration would not be a bad thing.
He walked to the elevator, which he took down to the parking garage. Fortunately, this time he remembered where he had parked his car. B-4, he believed it was. Though he was still cautious – he remembered reporting his car as stolen, only to find it was simply on a different level. The policemen were polite about it all, but the embarrassment still burned his heart a little bit. Just the thought made him blush even years afterwards.
But, in this case he remembered rightly. There it was, his black BMW 325i convertible. Not the best, but still nice, and money wasn’t his goal anyway. He opened the door, threw his bag onto the tan leather passenger seat and started it up.
Mozart’s 3rd Violin concerto began to play from the speakers, filling the inside with a heavenly euphony, an instant peace, a calming ambience. He backed out, letting the music seep into his soul, the built up tension eased as he let his mind wander far away from his work.
It was a long drive home, but he didn’t mind. He continued to value the transition, taking him away in both time and space from the stress. The traffic was surprisingly light, letting him enjoy the simple act of driving.
He exited the 210 freeway, taking the longer, but more scenic route through the hills to get to his home. As he finally pulled into his driveway, he sat for a moment longer, letting the music continue to work its miracles, letting his heart and spirit relax in a way it had not for a very long time. The Eucalyptus trees on the border of the front of the sidewalk were the gates he entered, the landscape increasingly becoming denser along the twenty yards of his driveway, his car finally parking near the fuller, but no less fragrant, pepper tree.
The 4th movement came to an end.
It was an older home, a home built in the late 1920s, well maintained, and what he liked most, well secluded. Trees had been given ample time to grow and fill the space. The garden was full, though orderly, letting his yard be an entrance into a natural world, a deliverance from the constant activity and artificiality which made up so much of modern life. His large stone porch was his throne room in this personal paradise, the seclusion given by the flora letting him treat it as another room, full of comforts. He gathered up his bag and books in his passenger seat, and the little bit of trash he had left from the drive in that morning, and walked to his front door.
Entering the house he switched on the light in the living room, not the bright one, but the lamp that simply gave off the nuance of light without really providing any real illumination. One couldn’t read easily by it, but it gave a nice texture to a peaceful evening. As was his habit he walked through the dining room and picked up the phone near the kitchen to see if there was the distinctive initial beeping indicating messages on his voice mail. Nothing but the straight, unwavering dial tone. He replaced the phone on its hook.
Two more steps into the kitchen and he poured himself a glass of wine, surprisingly cheap wine for its flavor. ‘Three buck chuck’, one of his acquaintances had called it.
It was Friday, and he knew from experience that nothing was on television Friday nights. Taking a sip of his wine he stood for a moment, enjoying the taste, and letting his mind continue to settle, while also figuring out what felt a relaxing thing to do. While pondering, he opened his refrigerator again and took out some gouda cheese, then turned and got a box of crackers out of the cupboard. His hands full, he walked back into the living room.
As he entered the room he reached over to turn on the stereo, and let the music fill the house as well. The station had just begun to present Beethoven’s 3rd symphony in its entirety, and was only a couple of minutes into the first movement. He sat on his couch, listening, staring for a moment with his glass in hand, then reached languidly over to the book on the table next to him. It was a collection of short stories by 20th century authors. Mildly entertaining. Opening it up at random he began to read, continuing to sip his wine, letting his body increasingly slouch as it rested. Every once in a while he would have some cheese on a cracker.
After an hour of reading he realized he was very tired. He got up, put down the book, went and brushed his teeth and went to his bedroom, turning the light out within five minutes. It was just past ten.