“For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of our tasks; the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.” – R. M. Rilke
“Wealth is like sea water; the more we drink, the thirstier we become; and the same is true of fame.” – Arthur Schopenhauer
M’fhiorghra, Is breá liom tú.
What John D. Rockefeller said about wealth applied to Kranepool. Wealth doesn’t always equate to happiness, not that I had any compassion for unhappy rich folk, although there were a few exceptions to the rule which Kranepool was one.
Kranepool swam in the center of his king size four post upholstered bed. A bed from Bloomingdale’s his wife had to have although as of late was rarely used by her. The color of the upholstery was called fulmer pewter, whatever that meant. It matched the pastel hues and warm colors of the apartment’s motif as directed by a well recommended interior decorator. An expensive down comforter snaked around him, wrapped over a thigh, reaching along his spare tire and rested under his arm. A pillow clutched between two hairy kneecaps. The digital alarm clock, with a minute to spare before sounding off appeared brighter than normal, almost painful to look upon, and a half empty glass of water sat on the nightstand his wife picked out at Restoration Hardware with a frown, as the store was beneath her. She preferred Sotheby’s.
Being awake had gotten so dismal to the point where sleep had become Kranepool’s favorite pastime. The only way to silence the negativity swirling in his head was to sleep. The highlight of a long work day was the very moment when he could dive back into unconsciousness and dream of something better or nothing at all. The last few nights he had turned in earlier and earlier. He told himself different reasons to turn in, finding new excuses to jump back into sweatpants and get under those fine covers. Big meeting in the morning, I’d better hit the hay. Count those sheep and put all them bad thoughts to bed. You need your rest, he remembered a relative telling him as a child, if you’re going to be your best. He definitely was not functioning at his best.
Kranepool was a big man, 6’3 and at his heaviest, weighing in at an embarrassing 315 pounds, he could stand to lose a hundred easy. Though his weight bothered him it wasn’t the root cause of his depression. A man of high intelligence, he of all people knew it was completely ridiculous that he couldn’t climb out of the hole he was in, mentally. He knew what his marriage was built on, why was he so affected by it now? He wasn’t supposed to feel like this. Was anyone supposed to? Why should someone like himself be depressed? A successful lawyer with neatly framed diplomas from ivy league schools hung in his office. He was a partner in the firm pulling seven figures a year plus a decent bonus if he was victorious in court which he almost always was. He landed his Sutton place apartment from Barbara Corcoran herself. He drove a car that cost the same as someone’s mortgage. He had every box in the upper echelon, social status markers checked. And the cherry on top, his prized possession, Kranepool hoisted a trophy wife over his head like Lord Stanley’s cup. Sydney, an October playmate who studied Shiatsu and Buddhism and her favorite things were newborns and her biggest pet peeve was materialism. Her ambition was to see the world and his wealth made that a reality. He knew his marriage was never built on love but in his heart he hoped it would form.
Ever a hyper self-aware person, he knew that he should be the last person on earth to feel as lowly as he did. He had so much to be grateful for, he was very fortunate but Kranepool was stuck to the bottom of a shoe, Sydney’s running shoe to be precise. Kranepool dreamt a beautiful dream, none of which he could detail when the annoying, dreadful beeping of the alarm ruined everything. Another day, he thought, fuck. He did something uncharacteristic of himself. He followed the cord of the clock with his hand, between the bed and the nightstand, and unplugged it. He burrowed himself back into his bed, hoping to find that place bookmarked in dreamland, a place he reveled in just moments earlier. He shut his eyes and slept hard, drool flowing freely from his agape mouth.
He awoke at 9:30 am on his own, though he thought it was much later. It was still incredibly late for Mr. Kranepool, Esq. He couldn’t remember the last time he slept in. He felt that it was possible he had never in his life slept so late, maybe it was the weather, he thought, but deep down he knew what it was. Clinical depression. It had been raining non stop since three in the morning. Until recently he had never been a good sleeper, tossing and turning, his mind always racing about this or that. He had made a mental note about the rain.
He wrenched himself from the bed and walked to the kitchen. He brewed a cup of coffee, a dark roast that was never dark enough, into his favorite mug. A Star Wars mug, he sipped his bitter coffee out of the head of a stormtrooper. He checked his cell phone, he had a bunch of missed calls from a client or two but mostly the calls were from his secretary. Not a single call from Sydney. Miss October didn’t call to say good night or good morning or good luck. He left the cell phone on the marble countertop and stood in the hallway, in front of his wife’s gallery of accomplishments. There were twenty something pictures of the love of his life in black frames of varying dimensions. Candid shots of Sydney with a fitness trainer or a tour guide from all around the world. She loved to travel, just not with her husband. He sipped his coffee, wishing it was even more bitter, as bitter as his heart as he looked at Sydney in the Swiss Alps, at the top of the Eiffel tower, at the feet of the Statue of Liberty, at the Sphinx, in front of Big Ben, and his personal favorite of hers, smiling on the great wall of China.
“I really wish you could join us.” She corrected herself, “I’d love for you to join me, but I understand you have to work,” she said something similar each time she booked a new trip conveniently at the start of a new case. And each time Kranepool would think to himself, who the fuck is us? “Next trip you have to come.” Sure, sure. The more he worked the more lavish her lifestyle. Sydney drank Schopenhauer’s sea water.
The last time Kranepool saw his wife was two weeks ago before she left for her latest conquest to Machu Picchu for the dry season. She was scheduled to return this afternoon or this evening, he couldn’t remember exactly what she had said. She would be surprised to see him home in the afternoon should that be the time when she arrived. Not that she’d be happy to see him. She might act like it but it would make no difference to her. Could they rejuvenate their marriage? Could she fall back in love with him? Who was he fooling? She never loved him. He had woken up before her that morning of her trip and he wanted her, she lit a fire in him always, he thought better of waking her, but the arousal convinced him that maybe today would be different. He lifted the covers and looked at her body, her impeccable ass was facing him, he reached out to touch her, she felt exquisite. ‘87 Gertz. A real thoroughbred. He grabbed a piece of perfectly honed ass and lightly brushed his index finger over a soft shaved section of her incredible snatch. He thought about the multiple gym memberships, all the trainers, the hot yoga and the spin classes. He had sponsored the perfection of that pussy. He regrettably felt a small sense of entitlement for financing that body that was off limits to him. He felt ashamed to think about his wife like that. She quickly swatted away his hand, “Not now Patrick.” If not now then when?
Kranepool looked at himself in the mirror. Who the fuck was this person? He looked unrecognizable. He felt his stomach and clamped down on the belly fat between the index and thumb fingers, then ran his hands through his dwindling hair, examining the start of his disappearing hairline. Although this was gradual over the years, it felt like a surprise, a sucker punch to the ego. Work had taken precedence over everything. Sydney would say she didn’t care about hair anyway, or that she liked his pot belly, all the while her trainers and tour guides all had long flowing hair and tanned washboard abs. He thought about how he looked when he was younger, a lean competitive swimmer’s build, but that ended with his undergrad. His best years were behind him. Were they though? He could hire some young smoking hot trainer to whip him into shape. He could maybe even do a cycle. Get his doctor to administer some quality steroids or HGH. It’s not impossible. I could do it, he thought. Take a step back from work and focus on his health. He could start doing laps at work. The building had everything he needed, he just never had the time to utilize the state of the art gymnasium or the olympic sized pool, or the racquet courts. This was achievable, people worse off than him had turned it around, got themselves together, corrected the ship. Why not Mr. Kranepool, Esq?
A lone hair screamed for help in the mirror. The hair was stranded all by himself at the top of the forehead. Kranepool opened the cabinet, pulling out baskets full of Sydney’s products, a Wahl hair clipper kit and some other shit. He found the tweezers. How does this one hair even pop up like this? How long would it grow if he left it? He violently plucked it out. He plucked a few more errant hairs, one by one. He looked at the buzzer and thought about how world class swimmers rid their body of hair in order to knock some seconds off of their times. He opened the kit. Plugged the buzzer in. Kranepool did a test run, starting from the back of his neck, over the head in the middle, creating an inverted mohawk. The meager tufts of gray hair falling into the pristine sink. He hoped wherever Sydney was she felt a shudder. She disliked messes, maybe that was it.
He shaved his head with the buzzer, then his armpits, chest and stomach, pubic area, his knuckles and his legs. He looked at himself, disappointedly. His eyebrows seemed offensively hairy. He thought for a moment and turned on the buzzer, he dragged the buzzer hard across his face and the hair that used to be his eyebrows were also now in the sink. He pulled his Gillette Mach 3 razor and Barbasol shaving cream from behind the mirror of the medicine cabinet. He turned on the water, running it hot, and then he splashed it on himself. Kranepool applied shaving cream to his face, then turned the can to his body and sprayed the foam all over himself. It reminded him of Halloween as a teenager. He took the razor to his beard, his neck, arms, chest, and legs. He used a very expensive towel to wipe away excess foam and hair. He knew it was expensive because Sydney always reminded him of that, as if only something expensive could do the trick.
The hair on his head and eyebrows were shaved with the buzzer on zero. His back and ass were still hairy and on any spots he missed on the back of an arm and the back of his thighs, otherwise he was pretty hairless. It was going to be a fresh start. He thought about masturbating, but masturbation in itself was depressing to him. He kind of felt like weeping. He kept a copy of Sydney’s Playboy at the house in his nightstand and had one in his desk drawer at the office. The office is where he pleasured himself the most but in his defense, that was where he spent the majority of his time. A harmless wank, nothing to be red in the face about though he was. He lifted the now cold coffee and walked to the window.
He looked down into the courtyard, the robed girl in the water fountain reading from some book, holding a yellow lily with a sword pressed to her breast and all the while seeming to sneakily stare up at him. All the surrounding flowers had their fill. The city seemed peaceful. He really had it all, at least to someone on the outside looking in. No one ever truly knows what someone else is thinking. No one ever truly knows what another person is going through.
Kranepool noticed a small coffee cup on the floor, it was out of place just like him. He thought of an old Bugs Bunny cartoon he remembered watching as a child in his parent’s run down home. Elmer Fudd was hunting Bugs Bunny, and the hunt led them to a vaudeville stage and Bugs tricked Elmer into performing a death defying high dive. Kranepool supposed we all get tricked into doing things we don’t want to do from time to time. As a swimmer he always admired the divers, but the fear of heights kept him off the diving board. Elmer nervously climbed an seemingly unending ladder to the platform, and fell from the top. Kranepool loved the whistling of fireworks that sounded the free fall. Bugs Bunny swapped out the tank that Elmer was supposed to land into with a glass of water. Although you don’t see him land, you do see him relatively unharmed but squished into the glass, a moment later he’s fine and ready to continue the hunt for the rabbit.
Kranepool hated that house he watched those cartoons in and he hated the heights those high divers fearlessly dove from. The irony of how far he had come in life was that now he lived on a high floor in his building. Kranepool lived on the 18th floor of 534 East 57th street. He made it. But what is it?
Daryl Strawberry, an outfielder for the Mets, wore the number eighteen. In 1986, that team won the World Series. That year Strawberry had 123 hits, 27 home runs, 93 runs batted in and stole 28 bases. Strawberry led the team in home runs.
Eighteen floors was nothing for Elmer Fudd. Cartoons were no more absurd than real life. He drank the last of the coffee. He drank the last cup of seawater. Not now, Patrick, not fucking now.