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Several years ago, while travelling in an out of the way kind of place, I met a couple in a restaurant overlooking the sea and was told a very strange story. It all happened by coincidence, if you believe in that sort of thing, as a friend and I- sleazing around some islands in the Med- took a table in a crowded restaurant after a delightful day on rented motorcycles and, rapt in laughing conversation, were surprised but not really upset, at a sudden interruption. The woman at the next table- not three feet away- after staring intently for a minute or two, blurted, ‘I couldn’t help but overhear…’ and, for the life of me, I can’t remember what she may have overheard or whether it was all that interesting or important or maybe just a gambit to butt in on the conversation of a couple of good looking (yeah, I know- I should be more modest) guys…but all of a sudden we became a foursome.
The woman, though she was white, said she had been raised somewhere in Africa and I had no reason to doubt her, though her ‘mid-Atlantic’ accent grated on my nerves like fingernails raked across the proverbial blackboard. She was with her partner, or whatever; a soft spoken guy in his mid-thirties named Brent. He was of American origin but, really, of indeterminate nationality as only royalty and the upper-echelon super-rich at the helms of multi-nationals can claim to be. He, of course, belonged to the latter and quietly identified himself as a banker. Now, I know what you’re thinking- right, anyone can claim to be a super-rich banker…and you are correct; anyone can. It may have been a put on, but my instincts tell me otherwise. Seems he had been involved in some kind of financial trouble on the Continent (I checked it out when I returned to work and, sure enough, it had been a whopper of a scandal and Brent had made the papers). Upshot was, he and his lady friend needed a break. They had helicoptered onto the remote, but trendy, holiday destination several days before and would depart the same way over the weekend. One thing led to another and we ended up having drinks in some up-scale bar after dinner, and then some more at their hotel, which caused my buddy and me to trade fast, thoroughly amazed, glances- a suite of rooms furnished with antiques, overlooking the sea in the most expensive hotel on the island. Noticing our reaction, Brent laughed and said the digs were a little over-priced at 3000.00 euro a night. We, of course, nodded sagely, neglecting to mention the 60.00 euro pensione on the other side of the island where we were more or less camped with our backpacks…
Brent turned out to be an interesting guy. When he found out what I did for a living he zeroed right in; professing a profound sense of boredom with the wasteful and meaningless fodder that made up his life. He was tired, he said, of collecting sports cars and, later, French chateaux and hungered instead to discuss weighty philosophical propositions, historical conundrums reverberating into the present…you know…’things that mattered’. I was happy to indulge, suffused with the warm glow of his very expensive whisky and the thrill of an interesting adventure unfolding. It was later in the evening- as we all basked in that inimitable boozy glow- surrounded by the mellow diffused light thrown from antique stained glass lamp shades, and feeling as if we had all known one another for a lifetime or more…that Brent pulled me aside, and for reasons I am (understandably) uncertain of, told me a harrowing tale of life in a kind of parallel universe, the world of the super-rich, where any desire may, and is expected to be, fulfilled.