He was clear-minded and ambitious, with precise plans for his career. We met at Munich’s Domicile, a jazz bar, where an intimate haze of smoke welcomed and embraced you like an accomplice. The cool gaze and pure intent of his grey-freckled eyes took exclusive possession of me. Jazz and smoke fused us. Our cellular resonance defied the gravity of committed brain cells and gave my heart wings. He moved into my flat, warning me upfront that on completion of his apprenticeship at the most prodigious hotel in town he would return to the States to put his culinary management knowledge to the test. He was going to own not just one restaurant, but a chain of them. He convinced on several points.
One: he totally and reliably engaged with what was before him. The moment he stepped through the door after his day at the hotel, the outside world was no more, only us, together. We showered, cooked delicious meals, listened to music and spent most of our time in bed. The pure intensity of his presence ricocheted like a charge between us and left no room for anything besides. In this rarefied sphere, lovemaking became a cycle of small deaths and resurrections. Some of my friends had angry fits under the porch of my door, knowing full well I was home but inaccessible. My king-sized futon had become a sacred island floating in a vast ocean.
Two: he was a strategist, which, together with point one, makes an unbeatable combination for material success. But most of all, he understood branding, the powerful imprint repetition leaves in the mind. It happened religiously during our celebratory smoke after lovemaking and became a surreal ritual. With his thumbnail he cut a cross into the filter of his cigarettes. The cross was tied to a mantra he kept secret. I thought this was cute and took up the habit, inventing my own mantra.
Two months passed in eternal bliss of now, until the appointed time for his flight back to the States approached. I started hurting bad. He wanted no soppy goodbyes at the airport. He was not going to be tied down. Only when he had made a million by the age of 30, he said, would he focus on having a family. He left no address. For months I continued punching crosses into my cigarette filters to strengthen my ambition, and, inadvertently, remember him. It became an obsession. Only my mantra, unlike his, was not based on a strategy. And the branding thing annoyed me after a while. I favoured the meandering dance of a poetic life.
His clarity left a strong impression. Hopefully he found what he was looking for. I came to perceive my early ambition as metaphor, and owned up to a misspelling. The path my aim prescribed sharpened many skills, but was littered with Freudian slips that lead into emotional woods. And yet, looking back, every re-start, every detour in my life stimulated creativity and inventiveness, crucial unlearning, greater tolerance with myself and others, and a more symbolic understanding of my existence.
The ideal is the means – its breaking is the goal. Hazrat Inayat Khan