Jeremy is off work for sixteen days and nights and I see danger on the horizon. Last night he tried to convince me to join his group on a "gambling cruise". These ships are at most ports and their sole purpose to to cruise out to the territorial limit, beyond the rule of law, and allow passengers to gamble for five hours or so.
The pained look on my face when he invited me made my intentions all too evident.
J: "But, it's a lovely cruise in the moonlight."
A: It chugs out three miles and turns off the motor. That, dear Jeremy, is stagnating, not cruising."
J: "There's a big, free buffet."
A: "Ingredients of 'big', 'free', and 'buffet' call for a recipe of food poisoning!"
J: "There are young crewmen; we can have SEX WITH A STRANGER!"
I paused to catch my breath, but not in a manner that might draw attention from the other patrons taking tea in The Palace's Winter Garden. I carefully looked to each side (using my incredibly well-trained peripheral), and whispered, "Really?"
SEX WITH A STRANGER is a topic spoken about constantly--if in hushed tones--in court circles here. Like all taboos, SWAS grasps the imagination and causes fires to burn in areas long cold. It is something you can't admit to, while wanting to scream out the sordid details from the highest turret. At court SWAS is , of course, one of those titillating subjects that always remains a bit more on the side of regretful sighs rather than action. Sometimes you talk about it so much at a sitting that the mere rush sends a girl home satiated, even shameful.
A: "Did I hear you correctly, Jeremy?"
J: "Yup, you never know what's running those ships down there."
A: "Surely you don't think that I am going to climb down some narrow, steep staircase only to find myself lying on a pile of coal while the sooty fingers of a Polish stoker unbuttons my lilac-colored bodice!" (I could almost feel the heat of the open, unattended boiler behind me.)
J: "Aw, Mrs. A, they don't use coal anymore; it's all turbines, very modern, very clean. I meant doing it in a stateroom, or even a broom closet."
A: "No coal....?" Yet another fantasy shattered, like so many others. And, worse: offered a broom closet and the clean, manicured fingers of a wine steward perhaps. I could contain my dismay no longer.
I called for my carriage and bid Jeremy, Leo, and Matt good luck at the poker tables and their broom closets. I don't gamble and have a finely-appointed walk-in broom closet at Casa Astor, one that a lady of quality could feel at home in. When I arrived home I took a peek into the broom closet and had a flash of a Filipino waiter in a white jacket with beautifully polished gold buttons, reaching out...and I slammed the door.
I prepared Brie and crackers, opened a bottle of wine, and watched a special on the Knights Templar. "Phew", I sighed, "Back to reality."