The Driver (novel excerpt)

CHAPTER ONE

”Music, please,” I tell my new driver quietly.

“Yes, sir,” Michael replies.

My car is second in the procession. My driver is ahead of me for the first time in fifty years. He’s ahead of me because this is his procession. My Driver died three days ago.

It’s a bleary day today: cold, overcast, with sleet. I can still hear his voice: “We have to go slow today, Master Craig. We’ll still get you to school, but you’ll be safe.”

My Driver, a man that committed his life to mine; My Driver, a simple, quiet man from some small town in some small place, had been hired by my father when it was discovered that I would never learn to drive.

As his procession winds its way through The Plaza, we pass the estate where he arrived every morning to drive me.

Clarelle, my wife of fifteen years sits beside me, leans over, and kisses me on the cheek.

“Honey,” she says.

I wave her off, crying and staring out the window. I miss my Driver so much already.

Loving Men-Stood Up (II)

If you never step up to the plate and swing the bat, you’ll never hit a home run.

I’m sitting in The Capital Grille, one of the best restaurants in Charlotte. I have a secluded table, tucked away in the corner. It’s a “two-top” except tonight I’m a one-top.

I really enjoyed my dinner here last night. I’m v-e-r-y particular when it comes to sitting down: No menu, no selections; a bourbon on the rocks with a San Pelligrino straight, no fruit. Bring me the Chef’s choice for dinner: 3 courses, no dessert. Discuss my wine pairings with the Sommelier; bring it all on!

And boom!

Stood up!

My driver will pick you up; I don’t need your address; Imed is above repute!

What the fuck?

I’m learning that in a little town like Charlotte, word spreads quickly. I’m infamous. I guess by my own volition. I made gifts. Helped a server realize a life long dream to study organic farming in Hawaii; tickled a server with a big tip.

But I’m humbled to be in their presence. I’m humbled to help them with their dreams; I’m humbled to have them serve me.

Here’s what I’m dining on tonight: Scallop Crudo with Clementine Tajine & Black Currant Pearls; Antipasto with Handmade Burrata, Assorted vegetables, & charred lemon citronette; Buttered poached lobster tails with black truffle chive agnolotti, shaffron sherry nage & tarragon roasted leak emulsion.

With or without a date, this will be a phenomenal meal!

Loving Men-Final

Fame kills life.

In Charlotte I’m famous. It’s not something I wanted. It’s now a ghost which haunts me. It’s destroyed lovers. I thought that by being myself, a traveler, a writer, that the men in my life would read and understand me.

But my own life, as odd as it seems, has gotten precariously in the way of my living.

I never pretend to be anything except what I am. I’m humbled by the beauty of life, but the beauty of men.

My only true crime is my own folly.

Imed took me to Lake Norman outside of Charlotte this morning. He told me to stop putting my life on my blog. I told him that that’s all my blog is about.

Stop putting yourself out there. Shut up he said.

But I can’t.

If im anyone at all, I’m only someone on my blog.

Take me or leave me.

Loving Men-Put

When we drop anchor, we want to stay put.

This morning I did something I haven’t done in four months: I unpacked my suitcase.

As many of you know I’ve been behaving a bit like Charlemagne and conquering the men of Great Britain and Europe, not to mention Argentina. But not once, in four months, have I ever unpacked my suitcase.

Sheepishly I admit I’ve lodged in some pretty swanky digs, but my suite often resembled a freshman’s dorm room! Underwear thrown, trousers stepped out from, shirts hanging from lamps (I didn’t have hangers (but then again, I never looked for them (I thought the armoire hid the TV))). Boxes of cigars in cheap plastic bags. And Jesus, my suitcase developed a bizarre behavior: upon delivery by the bellman, I instructed him to place it face down and unzip it.

“Face down?” they’d ask in French or Spanish or Portuguese.

“Oui (or si or *nodding head* in Portuguese), the cleanest clothes are on the bottom. Don’t be shy, go ahead: Zip tip and shake!”

I know inner circle friends are standing in their kitchens aghast, but when you’ve traveled around the world unsure where you’ll find yourself, everything is an embarrassment. Trust me, e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g is an embarrassment.

You see, I pack everything in my suitcase including my character. So when the bellman shakes it out everything, including my wrinkled character comes tumbling out.

My character has taken a real beating these past four months. It’s been torn apart by insanity; it’s been incarcerated for attempted murder; it’s been divorced and exiled and scoffed and bankrupt.

That is until Charlotte, and more specifically, David.

Yesterday, Ahmed (my driver) took me clothes shopping. Note, I didn’t shop in Paris or Milan or Buenos Aires, so why on earth would I shop in Charlotte?

Because I didn’t really want to look nice. But in Charlotte I do. So, what’s different (you know where I’m headed, right)?

David.

I don’t want to be wrinkled today. I want to return to ease and elegance. I w-a-n-t to look my absolute best when I see him. David, in his silly way is letting me be myself.

Loving Men-Privacy

Privacy is never given, it is only taken.

I’m currently taking refuge in the carriage house of a six acre estate in the Plaza neighborhood of Charlotte. The property is on the National Historic Registry. The main house is delightfully appointed with Victorian antiques. The carriage house has modern touches which is a pleasant juxtaposition to the main house.

This estate exudes privacy: if you weren’t aware of the driveway entrance, you’d surely miss it; the main house stands guard like a giant; the carriage house is tucked safely away in his back pocket.

I’m the only guest. Which is the main reason I have Ahmed (my driver). Late last evening while he and I sat on the veranda smoking, we heard a symphony of crickets led by a hooting owl soloist.

Tonight after my dinner with David, I’ve excused Ahmed with a filet mignon to share with his beautiful wife. I’m sitting, alone, except for the company of my cigar. Ahmed made me promise to text him when I’m nestled into the carriage house. I am, he reminded me as we shook hands tonight, the only person on 6 acres.

Blessed be me.

Loving Men-Argh

Never assume when it comes to affairs of the heart.

I’m writing this post at 3 a.m. It’s not my habit to write at this hour, but when you have a lover in Paris, you tend to keep bizarre hours. Especially when you quarrel.

I’m tired of hanging my laundry out to dry on my blog; I’m tired of hurting Jean-Baptiste when he reads my posts about new boyfriends; I’m tired of having other’s read my blog then text David and misquote me; and, I’m so, so tired of men Googling me, then read my blog and assume they know me.

Argh.

Steve Martin once said in an interview (and I paraphrase): I can never complain about my life because anyone would trade places with me in a second.

Argh.

If I can’t be honest in my writing, it’s impossible for me to write. If I can’t write, I shut as quickly as a tripped bear trap. It’s impossible for me to ignore my heart when I write. Make no mistake, I’m not writing fiction, I’m writing prose.

But will someone tell me how I’m supposed to tell the truth when I’m so tired of the world making assumptions about my bedroom?

I’ve always said that fame is assigned. I always thought I wanted fame. But Charlotte is a tiny place ripe with assumers and gossip mongers. People here have painted a false image of me. And the only way for me to assume anonymity is to flee quietly.

Argh.