In the Eye
My idyll with the supermodel Veronica began as nothing more than a murky daydream, an absurd fantast’s scenario which replayed fitfully in my head like a picture-show for some weeks after first being introduced to her at a ‘mixer’ sponsored by the alumni club. I became bewitched in the way only a man can become who has spent entirely too much time in his books and not enough in the world, and my attachment to her, while still a thing of air and imagination, soon was forged stronger than Dimashq steel. I imagined, in my haunted dreams, that she would love me, that she would walk with her jewel-draped arm encircling mine, that I, whose walks on the path of courtship had been brief and intemperate, would soon be half of a shorthand notation denoting high romance. Of course, even in these fevered moments I knew it was all an illusion with no more chance of coming true than a seagull had of winning the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.
I beg the reader, then, to imagine my pleasant shock when the university at which I instructed announced that she was to be brought on as an associate professor at the Lagerfeld College of Fashion! My mind, normally loath to perform the sort of base labor involved in plotting and scheming, put aside practical matters such as the prestige having the supermodel Veronica as a resident instructor would bring, and began to contrive ways that I might ‘casually’ meet her again. The Lagerfeld College’s offices were directly catercorner my own at the Llewellyn Humphreys School of Ethics, and, like one of the callow freshmen who I daily instructed on the fine points of the moral life, I was soon plotting absurdly overwrought ways of furthering our acquaintance. Typically, I would conspire with her TA (a young woman who was chums with my niece) to meet her ‘accidentally’ at lunch, or park my car next to her space just as her lava-orange Hummer would disgorge her into another day of teaching. I would stammer a few obvious, predictable comments about how beautiful she was, whereupon she would favor me with a quizzical look and sweep away, her Prada bag trailing like black spangled fire.
It was on the fifth of October three years past that my misty dream solidified into a diamond-hard reality. I had once again stalked the poor girl to Bar Louie, her favorite luncheon-spot, and, after waving to her with a feigned air of surprise as if I were not expecting to see her there, I could scarcely believe my eyes when she broke from her cellular-phone conversation and bade me be seated at her table. Emboldened, I seized the occasion of a private moment with her to give voice to the multifaceted praise I had showered on her in my dreams: summoning my most florid prose, I spoke of her great beauty, her razor-keen fashion sense, her undeniable sexual appeal, her awe-inspiring physical appearance, her obviously lofty standards of personal care, her tremendous dedication to fitness, and, most of all, her great beauty. Although I have never possessed a silver tongue, something in my simple words penetrated her impeccable professional manner, and she suggested I come to a party with her that week-end. Athough she assured me that “simply everyone” would be in attendance, it was clear that the invitation was for me and me alone.
From such humble beginnings did our mighty passion spring. Before long, we were in truth what I had always imagined in slumber: the talk of the smart set. I squired her about town, to off-Broadway plays, touring sculpture exhibits and meetings of the American Guild of Industrial Psychologists; she introduced me to the magical world of gala openings, Page Six parties, and vomiting in ladies’ toilets. She enjoyed not driving, being told how attractive she was, and having other people pay for her cocaine; I enjoyed meeting foreign dignitaries from South America and southeast Asia, occassional carnal pleasures, and calling the ombudsman of newspapers to give them the correct spelling of my name. We had our differences; she told me my job was boring (which, to be sure, it was, next to the rarefied air of high fashion that was the stuff of life to the supermodel Veronica), and that nobody cared about my stupid ideas; for my part, I could not help but note that she only ever referred to me as her ‘friend’, often read the Italian edition of Vogue during moments of passion, and frequently slept with other people of various sexes, including several with which I was unfamiliar. However, I never lost sight of how remarkably beautiful she was.
Eventually, as often happens with two people whose relationship must inevitably take second place to their careers, rifts began to develop. At first, I was charmed at her insouciance; I would suggest, for example, that she not use the toaster to dry her undergarments, or that it was considered foolhardy to mix cocaine and alcohol, or that it was ill-advised to park her gargantuan vehicle in a ‘Compacts Only’ spot. But she would defuse my finger-wagging with an inevitable “How do you know? You’re not a scientist.” And, God bless her, she was right: I was no scientist, but a mere ethics professor, and who was I to argue with someone of such pulchritude? Eventually, however, the spectre of professional jealousy began to rear its far-from-cover-quality head. The supermodel Veronica was ever fond of telling me that ethics was gay and that my professorship was lame; it was only my great joy at how she looked in Brazilian swimwear that allowed me to bear the fardels of her frequent comments that the only reason she couldn’t say for sure how much my textbooks and popular studies sucked was because they were way too stupid to bother reading.
The breaking point came when she threw a tantrum at my refusal to take her to the opening of a now-popular discotheque (the name of which you will forgive my not disclosing, as it holds too many painful memories for me). I informed her that it was finals week, and that I owed it to my students to adequately prepare the proper testing materials. Her response, which now seems quite level-headed with the perspective of time, struck me as rather stinging: she informed me that my students were assholes and that all my tests blew. Struck by this perceived slight — what a fool I was, to doubt the insight of a woman who has since risen to the rank of Professor Emeritus of the fashion department, and who is, all in all, still extremely beautiful! — I pointed out that I was disinclined to take advice from her, since her final exam consisted of handing her students two fashion magazines on which she was the cover model and asking her which one made her look taller.
The end came quickly then. She began seeing the head of the civil engineering department and got a 4-year contract with Stella McCartney, and I went back to academic anonymity. No more did my name appear with hers on Page Six; I counted myself lucky if I even made the Faculty Directory. From time to time, a young student of mine — ancient history buffs, I jokingly call them — will ask me if I have any regrets. I will say nothing against the supermodel Veronica. She followed her path, and I mine. Our time together was the stuff of dreams made flesh. I flatter myself that she got some enjoyment out of my Ford Focus, my season tickets to the Light Opera Society, my sincere if fumbling hours-long attempts at genitally pleasuring her. For my part, I tell you this: it was the English poet Keats who said that beauty is truth, and truth beauty. He was half right.