Like the rest of us, Antoine married Jordyn on a whim. And also like the rest of us, he had brought an entire history along with him into their marriage. Some would say Antoine carried with him an entire museum, stockpiled with various ancient artifacts, fragmented grenades, and broken timelines. He had his mistresses, his girlfriends—but mostly he had his mother.
“An-t-whone!” she used to shout from a room that could host a New Year’ party. “An-t-whone, darling! Let me have Ardell make you breakfast. You must be staar-ving, baby.” She was a short woman with black hair that somehow managed to reach her waist. Her big, greying eyes mostly spent their days observing the maids cleaning her villa or Antoine having breakfast. But most of her days were really spent gazing at a large portrait of Antoine’s father that hung over a fireplace.
“He was a good man,” she used to say, as she’d look up at the painting. “You need to be like him,” she’d command him, as she’d wrap her arms around his shoulders.
She never failed to remind Antoine of the riches they had come from. Antoine’s father, who had died of a heart attack in the most formulaic of manners, had been a boring justice who led an almost mechanical existence.
Antoine only had a single memory of his father, who had died when Antoine was still a child. One summer, the three of them had gone to a lake for the weekend. On a hike up a nearby mountain, the little boy brought a canteen along with him. After he had finished drinking the water from it, Antoine decided to toss it into a nearby stream. His father, who was ever-present in those days, quickly taught his son a lesson. He asked Antoine’s mother to toss her canteen into the stream too. When she had done so, the justice himself tossed his near theirs. And so, it was there, on a mountain overlooking a blue lake, that Antoine first learned the concepts of ethics and rational thinking.
“Look here, boy,” his father scolded sternly the son. “Does this stream look as pristine as you found it?” he questioned him.
“It’s nice, father,” Antoine replied ashamedly with eyes cast low (for he did not know what else to say).
“Now go pick up your canteen and carry it. You brought it up the mountain; you’ll take it down,” his father decreed.
He explained to his son his reasoning. “If everyone were to act in the way you had acted, there would be no stream for us to look at here. It’d be a trash heap.”
“Yes, father,” Antoine had answered.
“Are we interested in hiking to admire a trash heap?” he had asked his son.
After the incident, the family had picked up their canteens and had walked in silence for the remainder of the hike to the sound of his father humming Bach.
This was the sole memory Antoine had of his father—and it used to follow him wherever he went. During his high school years he was known as an austere young lad who acted in the most self-controlled of manners. However, with the passing of his father, the passage of time, and with his mother’s overbearing defensiveness in regards to all of her son’s actions, Antoine would soon grow up to be the vain, unethical man that he was. His overbearing mother smothered him in an eternal and unconditional love, a love all mothers are familiar with.
During his undergraduate years at Princeton, he was the lethal playboy who broke two hearts a week. He led a lavish lifestyle devoid of all ethics. He inherited his father’s wealth and squandered it on liquor, Friday night parties, and women who were willing to sell themselves for “an experience of a lifetime” with “Princeton’s own Gatsby.” In such a way, as it so often happens, the young man became increasingly dependent on sex, women, and alcohol.
One night, after much drinking, Antoine slept with the university president’s own freshman daughter, before kicking her out of his room. The next day, the entire school knew of the event. It wasn’t so much the fact that he kicked her out after ravishing her that fed the rumors; it was, rather, the manner in which he did it. He made her leave naked. Someone kindly handed her a pillowcase, hence alleviating some of her humiliation.
For a man who only stood at five foot eight, Antoine had an arresting personality that conveyed to those around him power, privilege, and prestige. His black hair, undoubtedly inherited from his mother, shone like onyx. His green eyes dodged sharply like his father’s. While studying economics at Princeton—and having developed his own capitalist system—Antoine met our Jordyn.
Like Antoine, Jordyn was old money, mostly in school because of her father’s “connections.” Jordyn was unquestionably a splendid beauty who was more interested in whether “Princeton’s own Gatsby” noticed her scarlet lips than she was in medieval art. She had one of those charming college-girl personalities, being agreeable in the most timid of manners. For Jordyn, every question always led to an “Ah” or an “Oh, so yes.” Her petite frame made her somewhat legendary at the school. The boys used to open doors for her mostly because they did not believe she could open them on her own. Her hair was gossip-catalyzing and talked about in the school’s literary journal. Whereas Antoine broke two hearts a week, our Jordyn wore two colors a week—her hair being dyed a various array of colors throughout the school year. An anonymous romantic once wrote a poem for her titled “The Queen of All Color” that was published in The Daily Princetonian.
She was the royal confidante Antoine needed to secure a prosperous future. (By this time, his inheritance had all but been exhausted.) And so Antoine wooed Jordyn in the most playboyistic of manners.
It must be added, however, that Jordyn was a girl who, like Antoine, “had so much and yet accomplished so little.” She was, as it were, the epitome of a spoiled child raised without a hint of self-consciousness. The money she had—that is, the money that fell from out of the heavenly vault above, being provided by her father—would shortly be spent on the most vain things imaginable. The two lovers would soon find themselves bereft of any ethic, solely living on the toxic fumes of alcohol and squandered riches…
One fine spring morning, Antoine parked his convertible Lexus on the shores of Lake Carnegie, just south of Princeton’s campus. The sunlight was falling in streams of violet and yellow, causing the lake waters to glow in a varied rainbow of colors. Antoine, dressed in suit and tie, made his way to the water. He was alone, having spent the previous night relishing the presence of dozens of college girls. It was on mornings like this, right after the storm of a party, that he felt most satisfied with his life.
“How goes it, father?” he mouthed the words while looking across the lake. “I’m pretty sure none of it matters to you, but I’m doing an epic job here at your alma mater. The professors love my outlook on life. They find my academic achievements rather mediocre, but that was never my forte anyhow. I’m here to enjoy every little bit of sunshine that I can. Mother is still worshipping you. I guess that’s the one thing you and I have in common: we want to be worshipped by our women,” he mumbled the last words with a smirk on his face, looking down at his dress shoes with his hands in his pockets.
Behind him a feminine voice, as gentle as the breeze, made itself known. “Are you praying?”
Startled, Antoine quickly looked up, jerking his hands out of his pockets as if in self-defense, only to find himself staring into the eyes of a most wondrous being. She had two spring green eyes and long eyelashes that seemed to dance even when her gaze calmly rested on his face.
Finding himself in a rather awkward position, Antoine struggled to articulate a confident response. “Yes, in fact. I’m praying to the goddess of this lake to send me a mermaid.” As he said the last line, a huge grin erupted gleefully on his face. “Yes,” he thought to himself. “This is the Antoine the women here adore.”
“Is that so? And what name does this goddess go by?” the girl asked, stretching her right arm out for him to grasp in an almost meticulous manner. An inviting smile took ahold of her beautiful appearance.
“Electra is her name.” He looked at her delicate fingers and allowed himself to be invited. Taking her hand, he said, “They call me Antoine. But for you I’ll be Merman.”
“I love Electra,” she softly cooed. “I’ll be your little mermaid.”
“Mermaid it is!” he excitedly repeated. “Well, where do you want to go, my lovely?”
“Take me somewhere. Anywhere.”
“‘Anywhere’ it is,” he said. “I know just the perfect place for a beauty such as yourself! It is the best ‘Anywhere’ in the whole wide world.”
And that is how the two lovers met.
Antoine wrapped his arms around her petite frame and carried her off into the sunrise. With the light blue sky above and the morning dew below, and the wind necking Jordyn’s hair as she drove beside Antoine, a prequel to a summer romance began to take form. Out of the primordial waters of memories past, a simple act of confidence, buttressed by feminine curiosity, gave birth to what we now call love.
It was all so very easy—a mere façade. A smile. A strong handshake. An explosion of confidence. A nonchalant stance mixed with arrogance and self-certainty. That was all it took to make a young girl go all hypnotic-eyed over a male. And it worked every time.
At a faded red stop sign, near empty fields budding with an unknown fragrance, Antoine reached over and grabbed her shivering hair. He inhaled her scent, letting his hands invade her hips while she panted with novel fascination. She helped him remove her dress, not in the least intimidated at how indiscreet, how vulnerable the two of them were near those fields.
After what seemed like hours—as if time itself were put on a time-out—the two found themselves eating molten ice cream from a rooftop bar. He was licking the warm cream with a tired tongue, a tongue that had, only moments earlier, worked Jordyn into volatile ecstasy.
“So what brought you to Princeton,” asked Antoine, after they had finished suckling on mounds of ice cream.
For a momentary second it appeared to Antoine that his unnamed date—his “Mermaid”—was on the verge of blushing. Then, in a most unpredictable manner, she bolted up and exclaimed, “Why talk about Princeton? Let’s go for a walk in the park. I want to leave all this nonsense behind. Come with me.” She said that last sentence with an unknown urgency.
Without hesitating, Antoine called the waitress, paid the bill, and took his mystery woman to a nearby park.
“Is something the matter?” Antoine asked when they were about a half-mile into a wooded area.
“I like you,” she bluntly said. “I heard about you from the others,” she continued. “I think you and I will be very good friends.” She placed a confident emphasis on the word “very.”
A peculiar effervescence settled like a deep fog near his groin as she carefully said “very.” “And what exactly did the others say,” he asked with interest awakened.
“Oh, you know, the usual. That you’re a fun guy with lots of ambitions. I followed you down to the lake.”
“You followed me?” he asked surprised.
“Well, not exactly. I just saw you go down to the lake several times. I thought it was the best time for me to catch you alone.” She was speaking now in a hushed voice with bits and pieces of uncertainty.
He felt an emotional tug within. “That’s very thoughtful of you,” he said with a newfound tenderness. “Why did you want to see me alone?”
“To be honest, I like how similar we are.”
“How shall I put it? You…you wear such fine apparel. I absolutely love it. And I find you so attractive. I think I could marry you,” she laughed. Her eyes beamed with light warmth and childish humor.
He was taken aback by her comments. “I guess I’ll have to buy a new wardrobe then if I want to leave you,” he joked.
“Oh, you won’t leave me. I’ll be your muse. You heard about that poem they wrote about me?” she asked him. “I always imagined you wrote it for me.”
Antoine laughed. “I did indeed! I wrote it for you.” He had no idea why, but her little laugh, and her desire to please him greatly inflated his vain ego. “So what that he did not write poetry? The hell with it. The girl liked the poem and imagined he had written it for her. Well, let it be so. Let it be so,” he assured himself.
For several hours he engaged in such charming dialogue with his muse. She swayed side to side as she walked beside him. It was as if she did not walk at all; it was almost as if she glided. And next to her he felt like a god in his own right. All they needed was a book of Psalms, a book that she could use to sing him his praises. Before the day ended, before either of them had closed their eyes, they both knew one simple yet profound truth: they were made for each other.
Several years later, after throwing a wedding that included some ten thousand guests, Antoine and Jordyn drank from the deep wells of marital love. The stories they told one another, and the stories they told themselves, were as grand as the paintings of the Renaissance, as large as a Rubens. Everything Antoine did was done on an epic scale in the most grand of manners. The parties he threw were notoriously rowdy, being filled with every elitist prick that ever shopped at a Von Maur. The alcohol they drank was imported from the vineyards of Italy, sold to them at exaggerated rates. Jordyn put her art degree to use by employing artistic painting techniques whenever she had a chance. The conversation could be about saltine crackers and she’d say something like, “These crackers are as brittle as the age-old tempura paint of the Ustyug Annunciation.” Nobody would have a single clue as to what she meant by “tempura” or by the convoluted title “Ustyug Annunciation.” But, nonetheless, everyone would smile and agree with Jordyn’s input. She was, after all, the beloved hostess.
Many years were spent like this. They were deemed, in retrospect, “the honeymoon years.” The pathetic things that held them together—good sex once a week, Antoine’s “fine apparel,” and Jordyn’s worshipful behavior—would soon come to a bleak end by means of monotonous routine like a repetitive E. L. James novel. The sex was boring and routine. The clothing was boring and routine. And the worship was boring and routine. Even the alcoholic hangovers became as boring and routine as the rest of their ridiculous existence.
One morning, when the sun had barely dressed itself for another day, Antoine woke up with a blasting headache. His wife, who looked like shit, lie still a few inches away, sprawled on a bed that contained vomit on its sheets. “Is it the hangover or is this woman really ugly?” he asked himself. “Why is she in my bed?” A flicker of sobriety led him to believe it was, in fact, not just any woman, but his very wife. Perhaps it was this moment that led Antoine to believe that he and his “wife” were no longer what they were: married.
On a Saturday afternoon, roughly a few weeks before their divorce, Jordyn and Antoine sat ten feet apart from one another on an old leather couch in a small office.
Blaine Fowers was a little-known professor at the University of Miami who disagreed with a lot of his fellow peers. He had little tolerance for so-called “communication therapy.” In his opinion, people didn’t need to communicate more. In fact, the issue was rarely communication per se in marriage; instead, the issue was that there was nothing to communicate about. When he heard about “the Gatsby of Princeton” he immediately felt it was his duty to work with this renowned playboy and his wife.
Professor Fowers, a man who looked to be in his forties, wearing a suit and tie, walked in. He looked at the couple briefly, before staring down at the massive folder full of papers in his hand.
“How did you two meet?” he asked, once he was settled in his armchair.
Antoine sat calmly while his soon-to-be ex-wife twitched ferociously as if suffering from a grand mal seizure. She was evidently uncomfortable with the entire ordeal and understandably nervous.
Antoine’s voice cracked the silence. “We…we met at a lake. It was spring. She wore a yellow sundress, and I just sort of, uh, went along with it.”
“Went along with it?” Jordyn piped in. “What are you talking about? You said so yourself. You loved me,” she exclaimed angrily.
“Of course I loved you, but I loved many women…” Antoine’s voice trailed off. His hands, which had found their way to the brown leather belt he was wearing, preoccupied themselves with it. His face wore a tired and worn-out look.
“I just don’t understand the sudden change in your dressing habits. How could you do this to me, to us?” Jordyn’s eyes were filled to the brim with an authentic disbelief.
“Dressing habits?” Professor Fowers asked, evidently confused. Jordyn ignored the Professor’s question.
“You used to be so lawyer-esque with black suit, white shirt, and grey tie. Now you wear bright colors. Why did you change on me? You know how much I love to wear the bright colors in this family!” Jordyn passionately explained, looking directly at Antoine. He seemed to be unmoved by her pleas.
“Is this entire divorce centered on the issue of attire?” the Professor asked in dismay.
“Yes!” the two of them responded in concert with one another.
It was this “yes” that seemed to hold this couple together, the Professor noted. Outside of this shared unity, this shared agreement as to what their problem was, the couple had virtually nothing in common, no bond that held them together.
“Did your marriage produce any children?” the Professor asked. He almost wanted to laugh. “How could this couple produce anything but the absurd and the ridiculous?” he asked himself, knowing the answer beforehand.
“We didn’t want any children because we felt like it would disrupt our harmonious household,” Jordyn quite seriously said, with her eyes wide and large. She seemed to believe every word that proceeded from her own lips, as if the words were placed there not by her own will but by the gods themselves.
“Well, I wouldn’t say ‘we,’” Antoine interrupted. “You didn’t want to have any children because of one simple fact…”
“Oh, and what ‘simple fact’ is that?” Jordyn shot back.
“You didn’t want your blouses getting soiled by the child’s vomit. You said so yourself.”
Not in the least embarrassed or cognizant of the sheer stupidity of her opinions, Jordyn bluntly replied: “I was only joking. But you believed the joke. So you wanted that too.”
The Professor leaned back in his armchair and exhaled a long breath. He chose his words rather carefully, knowing that there was nothing reasonable one could say to this most irrational of couples. “I was under the wrong impression that this divorce, this great divide, was instigated by Mr. Antoine’s—how shall I put it?—‘loose’ behavior. I was led to believe that we were dealing with a philanderer and a heartbroken wife. I am sorry for assuming such…” He did not know what else to say, so he let the words float aimlessly around his little office.
“The women?” Jordyn asked. “I knew about them all along. That was never the issue.” She leaned in and looked deep into the eyes of the Professor. “You see, Professor, I’m a very simple human being. I am as aesthetic as they come. I love art, literature, paintings, clothing,” she said. “It’s what gives me life. And it’s not my fault that he went all different on me. I married him for who he was back then. And then he changed.” She snapped her fingers sharply when she pronounced that final word.
Looking annoyed, and having suffered enough of his wife’s bashing, Antoine uncrossed his legs, turned his torso towards her and said, “Oh, come on! I’m tired of having my pink t-shirts and purple flip-flops criticized by you! Cry me a Nile River,” he replied with a winsome grin.
Jordyn looked hurt by his remark, as she believed herself to be an expert in matching colors when it came to clothing. It was the final straw. “How could he dare criticize the very essence of my existence?” she tearfully asked herself. With that, she bolted up and left the office, leaving the Professor staring at his papers and Antoine fidgeting with his leather belt.
Written by: Moses Y. Mikheyev