I've received an email from a lady I knew very briefly in New Orleans. That was a long time ago. I’ve no idea how she traced me, and I’m still unsure why she should wish to make contact, or what she is trying to say.
Yes, I’m sure the email is from her - from Maria - the lady in the audience. Gosh, I remember her. I remember that prickly feeling, like a wave of electric shocks, running up and down the back of my neck when I saw her enter through the doorway at the back of the hall. She inclined her head apologetically and sat down, and I carried on with my speech.
I caught another glimpse of her later at the evening cocktail party. She was talking to two other speakers, who I recognised as competitors of my company. Was she one of them? I didn’t know.
It was exactly a year later, at the same venue, when I saw her again. There’d been no cocktail party this time. Instead, the conference organisers had decided to throw a party in a Carnival Warehouse across the water. I’d decided to give the party a miss, because I had a morning flight to catch the next day.
And those electric shocks happened all over again, because there she was, in the hotel restaurant, dining alone. I guess you can guess the rest. I left her sleeping as I tip-toed away the next morning. And, not exactly inadvertently, I’d packed her delegate dossier together with mine in my briefcase.
In the following year, my company made nearly a quarter of a million dollars pure profit out of the contents of that dossier. We realigned our systems and created an advertising blitz that blew the other company away.
And now I’m sat here, looking at her email. And she’s writing to me in exactly the same slightly stilted, crazy English, virtually devoid of punctuation, that was her style of writing in her dossier:
”Canary - i want a man who knows what love is all about you are generous kind thoughtful people who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. you have ruined me for other men i yearn for you i have no feelings whatsoever when we're apart i can be forever happy will you let me be yours Maria”
Well, I’ve unscrambled this text, just like I did her dossier all those years ago, and it reads as follows:
”Canary, I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we're apart. I can be forever happy--will you let me be yours? Maria.”
I showed all this to my beloved partner (we have no secrets about our past lives). This is her take on it:
”Canary - I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men I yearn. For you I have no feelings whatsoever. When we're apart I can be forever happy. Will you let me be? Yours, Maria”