ZENOBIA [part I]
That girl was an unfailingly fascinating enigma.
“She’s always in a dream; you can never tell when she’s going to focus on reality,” said her school friends and work colleagues, “she can always take anyone by surprise.”
Amateur dramatics turned into professional dramatics, both onstage and in real life, utterly blurring their boundaries. Our heroine was always torn between the contrived and the random, equally interested in doing things and knowing all their circumstantial details, longing to get involved in the thick of things whilst remaining detached from them. Simultaneously, she wanted to represent a daredevil and to be a daredevil – to be both detachable from her dreams and blended into them.
Knowing full well that the ‘real thing’ can be life-threatening, she veered, self-protectively, toward pretence and simulation – only to find that the latter, too, can have its menacing aspects and inadvertently irrupt into reality. Some shelters and sanctuaries can turn into traps and prisons. But just as her being was so divided, she had supreme ability to make abrupt transitions, almost at the snap of a finger, from her dream state to her pragmatic, practical state. Sometimes she could feel like two people, almost identical twins of the mind – not quite inseparable, not quite Siamese, but always at loggerheads.
As a dynamic high-octane, Zenobia came to orbit the world at hectic speed, in perpetual hot pursuit of her own persona and its concomitant fortune, using airliners as average city workers use buses and trains – gushingly multilingual. At some point she was sure she would negotiate a space shuttle and get that real perspective on the world, from a real distance. She felt good in a wet suit; at some point she’d have to try on a space suit.
Ever enigmatic and elusive, a vast selection of masks and interfaces bolstered her mobility. Zenobia’s features were supremely malleable to cosmetics and hairdressing. She fastidiously put herself in front of the still and video camera, making a mass of ‘selfies’, relishing her multi-facetted, photogenic essence. Did all those celebrities really have that much edge on her? If she could assemble all the apparatus which surrounded them, she could outshine them with ease, hysterical massed fans would form hordes in her honour. She did not forget the tragedies, but was convinced that a hard core of resilience protected her from their kind of vulnerability – perhaps she could help guide the young ones, the growing ones, towards a greater inner strength.
Her school friend Demelsa was both close buddy and bitter rival, who had a fatal accident when she was skyrocketing to stardom with a smash hit achieved when she was still at school – a veritable Britney Spears reincarnate, universally lauded as a prodigy. Swamped by paparazzi, she fell off a roof in the course of a wild party celebrating her success. Zenobia, who had felt some sense of rivalry with Demelsa, wanted to emulate her glamour and glory without suffering her fate. Indeed, she saw life as a global tightrope walk, a lasso around the Equator, massive flirtation with danger – that principle applied to all aspects of activity, and supremely to men. Lethal threats were implicit in the most magnetic characters. But the most menacing, apparently demonic, powers could ultimately be tamed and controlled by anyone with real cool and know-how. Sadistic curls of the lip always attracted Zenobia, She handled with infinite aplomb a constant balancing act between fascination and evasiveness, between leading on, deflecting and repelling, arousing, dampening and directing energy.
As she entered adult life, male hospitality was always easy for her to procure; there was unfailing magnetism whenever she entered any restaurant or brasserie. One of her favourite perks was to meet the needs of all those shy, lonely, stressed men she met in global transit – to be the sublime counterweight to chronic overload. Her comforting, sympathetic side made her feel supremely easy to confide in. If, as happened on occasion, their depth of need was balanced by money, so much the better. A tidal bore of Banknotes gushed happily into plastic funnels.
The synthesis of endearing warmth and cool calculation sometimes procured surrogate salaries. These were tax-deductable for the donors, in turn furthering the proliferation of the recipient’s bank credentials. Multi-directional collateral. So many of them procured Credit Cards for her that she had a surrogate pack of playing cards – to be well provided for, round the clock and round the planet. Sometimes she played mock card games, giving each card a playing card reference – a Queen of Hearts Visa Card, and so forth. Occasionally she did parallel machinations at the odd casino, but never got carried away.
The full spectrum of masculinity – all hair and skin colours, all shades of muscle and brain, came within her global orbit, and she relished the diversity – the hard, ruthless ones whom she could handle and match, and prove her mettle by penetrating their soft interiors; the shy, sensitive ones whose vistas of experience she had so ecstatically opened, to build up some underlying grit: that Gareth was a good example. He stuck in her mind, though it was such a brief encounter. What a happy fleeting coincidence; what a sweet man; he’d obviously thought about his role of gallant rescuer so hard, and the way she handled it prevailed against all the shaking reticence which obviously lay within. At a reasoned guess, he had to resolve something with a long-term partner, needing to prove his stature and substance. People who sustained their relationships over many years were becoming extremely rare; perhaps he might be one of them – a lovely thought – to be the facilitator of someone else’s long-term happiness, to be supremely assured by one's contrary counterpart.
She could handle most of her acquaintances with complete ease, control the level of communication – imposing restraint or giving encouragement according to her own desires. The crass and heavy never really came near. And there were some beautiful guys – with sensitivity, minds and souls, to match their looks, and could truly pleasure Zenobia at every level. Once in a while she discreetly relished the lithe brawn of the photographs of those lovely hunks in Men’s Health magazine, then made a sweeping survey for their real life equivalents.
So she was the Goddess, sent down to earth by a thunderbolt, to take it over. Perhaps wanting to avenge some wronged mother, she learned that the key to men was the key to power, and vice versa – the personal and the public. She often imagined seeing her passing acquaintances a year or so later, when they had taken her example on board; she encouraged them all to go on fitness régimes. A really good one would always tone up her high octane energy for other purposes.
Having negotiated another cosmopolitan capital city airport, which felt barely distinguishable from her other ports of call, Zenobia fixed herself a 5–star hotel room and arranged a series of auditions, both for acting and singing. The same thing happened every time: she made a really powerful impression – all the managers and musicians seemed in awe of her. She was politely rejected after every audition: “Sorry; we like you, but we can’t use you,” – and not really surprised – the admiration underlying their polite smiles radiated the fact that her personal charisma was overwhelming: she was too good, too much for them – destined for higher things. She certainly didn’t feel any jealousy of the others queuing up for auditions. Part of her had always had a yearning to take a step into politics. Studying the rise of Evita Peron and Imelda Marcos had left a deep impression on her. She fancied herself as a lavish charity donator too, making gestures of generosity from her shopaholic binges – like Imelda’s massive donation of shoes: They recycle the bad into things of beauty. She was to be the saviour of humanity, garnering the fruits of evil and metamorphosing them into the globe’s blessings.
Zenobia was literally and metaphorically calculating – an inveterate mathematician, lover of quadratic equations, always limbering up with Sudokus; her retentive memory constantly juggled the figures in the multiple bank accounts and branched out into the stock market. She played a sort of solo badminton – feeling herself to be something of a shuttlecock, batted between reckless, chaotic extravagance and cool calculation – a feeling of ultimate control over her most impulsive moves. She gained some measure of equilibrium when threatened by debt collection agencies after a vast shopaholic binge; their notices constantly cluttered her letterbox. She changed addresses rapidly, made bulk returns of over-purchased goods and managed to cover up her tracks.