Time was a priceless commodity Willy couldn’t
afford to waste but he sat quietly awaiting his turn at the optician’s. His
annual exam was already six months overdue, and his prescription needed altering.
The past two and a half years had been intense
and taxing. What started in his one-bedroom apartment quickly took over half of
a two story building in Sunnyvale. Triumph Technologies grew faster than Willy
and his co-founder, Theo, a PARC burn out, could handle. Both young men looked
overworked, forged ahead underpaid and in need of a long holiday. It had been
difficult to leave the office for so much as a burrito. Thanks to perseverance,
hard work and Willy’s vision, Triumph Technologies not only survived the
start-up phase, it made the big boys of high tech stop and notice.
A mother and daughter
went into the examination room as soon as an elderly man came out.
“It won’t be much
longer, dear,” the chubby receptionist reassured him. “They’re a just replacing
Willy nodded in
acknowledgement. The woman carried on her typing to the beat of a Muzac tune
and her many bangles. He read the business articles in Time and sifted through a glossy magazine, but glancing at
Palladian villas and New York penthouses could not keep him entertained. His
pale fingers flipped through the pages at fast speed as he counted the minutes,
when a familiar image caught his attention. He sat upright and began fumbling
the pages backwards till he reached the page he was after.
The headline over the
full-page photograph read: “Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fog Covered Glass Jewel
Sparkles with Renewed Splendour.”
A familiar siren stood
on the side of a cliff and a house whose ocean-side walls consisted primarily
of glass loomed behind her. Woman and structure epitomized mystery and uncommon
Willy stared back,
dumbfounded, the feature became a blur.
When he overheard the
little girl’s bust of laughter and the sound of footsteps approach the door, he
immediately turned the page and found two more, smaller shots of the interior
of the house.
The door opened, and
time had run out.
“You’re next,” called
the receptionist breaking the spell. Willy jumped, and the magazine fell onto
the side of the table and slid off. The friendly receptionist shook her massive
red curls and smiled. “Don’t worry, I’ll get it. Go right in.”
apologetically and trundled inside.
After the evaluation,
Willy scurried into the reception area and scanned the table.
“Linda,” boomed the
optician’s voice from the open door. “Can I give you these forms before I
Linda rolled her
heavily made up eyes dramatically then winked at Willy. “Hold your horses,
sheriff, I’m a comin’!”
Without thinking, Willy
looked around to make sure no-one saw him and shoved the magazine under his
He arrived at his
office in record time. He dashed past the matronly secretary sorting out a
batch of files. Her well-organized desk stood out amongst the clutter of others
“How’d it go?” she
asked not bothering to look up. Willy shrugged and took the envelopes she
offered him.“Julie returned your
call about ten minutes ago and said something about ‘erungs’”
“Eproms, Cindy,” he
corrected the older woman in a harried tone. “Erasable programmable read only
“Eprom,” Cindy repeated, waving her hand in the air annoyed about
her inability to assimilate computer jargon. “Theo is running late and asked
that you proof the manufacturing memo before your meeting.Want me to get Julie on the line?”
“No! Not now - I...” He
pawed the air with his free hand and shuffled inside his office adding over his
shoulder, “I need to approve some designs. I can’t be disturbed.” He practically
slammed the door before dropping into a beat up swivel chair. He caught his
breath then pulled out the magazine. He carefully ripped out each page with
utmost care and stared, transfixed.
with hair windswept and partly opened lips matched the way Willy imagined her
luxuriating next to him in a King size waterbed.
Sweet and sour memories
regrouped like dreaded enemies. Before they assaulted his senses, Willy bunched
up the article and threw the paper ball to a bin across the room.
Victoire lived her shallow dreams of unlimited funds and high
visibility. Peter and his photogenic young wife featured regularly on the
social columns as San Francisco’s golden couple.
occasionally chided Peter about the lack of a pre-nuptial agreement and his
wife’s undeniable capricious streak. Victoire made demands and often overstepped
reasonable bounds by purchasing art and artefacts with little thought of price.
She was obsessive about Bassadai’s success and gave her opinion on everything
down to whom to fire and whom to promote.
But at the same time,
she gave Peter credibility and envious patina. Victoire rated in the top ten of
California’s best-dressed list, took her hostess role seriously, didn’t nag or
push for children.
His frail mother became
smitten the minute she laid eyes on Victoire. “She’s so classy, Peter,” she said
every time she spoke of her daughter-in-law. “A gorgeous girl!” Peter felt
grateful seeing his beloved mother so full of happiness and at peace.
Peter’s career soared
at optimal speed, and his company earned more money than he ever dreamed of. He
saw Victoire as a Godsend and wouldn’t dream of crossing words with her.
For the first eighteen months of marriage,
Peter had been relatively faithful. But during his solo trip to Asia, Peter
rekindled his need for outside alliances.
“Buy her a house,” one
“What?” Confusion took
hold of his features. “And how do you plan for me to be in two places at one
The man rolled his eyes
with exasperation. “You silly sausage,’ he reprimanded in an English accent. “Find
her a charming place outside the city she can do up from scratch, a house with
character but in dire need of refurbishing. Women positively adore decorating!
Why do you think I’m in the business, darling?”
Victoire was unable to sleep. Peter left on a last-minute
overnight trip to Los Angeles. She reached for the illuminated alarm clock, growled
and headed for the kitchen to make herself a cup of hot milk. Then she padded
towards Peter’s study. Rather than switch on the study light, she ambled
straight to a Chinese gold and black lacquer cabinet and flicked on its switch
illuminating four superb Fabergé eggs.
gloated, running her highly polished deep red nail against the spotless glass, “and
all mine.” The third one she acquired, produced for Tsar Nicholas II, remained
her favourite. Her fingers itched to touch her it. Victoire set down her cup of
milk and located the hidden key across the study in semi-darkness. On her way
back, she stumbled on her full-length satin robe and dropped it.
She swore in French and
hunkered down on all fours in search of the cabinet key but found nothing. “What
the hell,” she mumbled, sticking her arms under the sofa. Her hands fumbled
blindly and brushed against something. It didn’t feel like the key. Curious,
she stretched as far as she could until her grasp was complete. Sitting on her
haunches, she looked questioningly at a dark manila envelope. She got up and
took it to Peter’s mahogany desk and turned on the reading lamp.
The red envelope
carried no markings and was taped down. She reached for the silver and
turquoise enamelled letter opener and carefully pried it open.
onto the desk leaving Victoire’s mouth agape. Her senses instantly came into
full alert. Her fingers rapidly spread out the material, and her eyes took in
the full impact of Peter’s infidelities. The obscene nature of the landscape
recorded her husband cavorting with other men in all manner of positions, poses
and multiple partner configurations. Two in particular made her cast iron
innards turn to mush: it depicted Peter looking half-dead, barely visible under
a sheer scarf physically aroused while his partner stood twisting the knot
around his neck. She shoved the
photographs back into the red manila and stormed back to her bedroom her
hackles raised. Victoire tossed and turned like a crackling sausage on a grill but knew better
than immediately confront her husband.
Digesting bad news required a handful of beats as
did hatching well laid plans.
# # # #
The timing could not
have been better for Peter. Or Victoire.
“Wake up, Victoire.”
She rubbed her eyes and
stared dumbfounded at her husband. “Aren’t you supposed to be in the office?”
“Not on your birthday,
my lovely. Get dressed and meet me in the dining room for a quick breakfast.”
“But I thought we were
meeting the Miller’s for brunch.”
“No buts! I have a
surprise for you!”
Fifteen minutes later,
Victoire appeared wide-awake consumed with curiosity.
“Bring a wrap, just in
case,” he suggested as they made ready to leave.
“But I’m wearing a
Bradley waited with the
An hour and a half
later, the car snaked its way towards the coastline and stopped in front on a
cliff side house partially covered in cypress tress.
“Bradley, you know what
“Yes, Mr. Prentice,” he
replied holding open the door. A gust of wind came out of nowhere and whipped
Victoire’s hair out of place. “Where are we going? I didn’t know there was a
restaurant out here,” she inquired, feeling the flame of excitement growing
with every step.
The twinkle in Peter’s
eyes danced about like Rumpelstilskin before a bonfire. “Close your eyes and
hold on to my arm, promise?”
Piqued, she did as she
was told. “Peter, what is going on?” she laughed.
Bradley scurried up to the house to set up the
picnic basket. First, he took out two champagne flutes and uncorked a bottle.
The smell of the
Pacific filled her lungs. The further she walked, the stronger the sounds of
the surf. She bit her lip dying to know what he had in store for her.
“Okay, Victoire, you
may open your eyes!” She squeezed his arm as she opened them. They
stood in front of a modern structure of wood and stone blending into the cliff.
Victoire turned to him after
running her feasting her senses and said reverently, “IIt could easily pass a
Frank Lloyd Wright, it’s so amazing…. Who’s inside?”
appreciatively. “Bravo, designed by the man himself, and no owned by you….
Happy birthday, my beautiful wife!”
Artemis did not take Willy’s resignation well.
His sources assured him that a competitor had not nicked his top lieutenant.
This made Waites’ departure even more mysterious. Remorse swirled in his
stomach; he should have seen the signs.
“Willy, Bassadai’s your home,” Artemis told him
on the phone, wondering whether the young man developed a drug problem. “Take
as much time off as you need.”
Success and excess went hand-in-hand. It was
common knowledge that the quirky but visionary head of Bassadai’s largest
division was known for doing lines of cocaine on his boardroom desk. Artemis
himself smoked pot in the remote think tank. Since BTT was one hundred percent
private, anything was possible. Rumour had it all who entered were given
automatic carte blanche to keep them sweet and their creative juices flowing.
Artemis ran his fingers through his dark hair and
sighed. The gossip wasn’t too far off the mark.
“It’s not home anymore,” Willy replied.
Artemis took a calculated risk. “Willy, remember
what I said about Prentice’s offer? Well, forget that figure. He’s offering you
three times your salary. Plus stock options.”
“Screw Prentice,” Willy retorted, his voice laced
with pain. “I’m never coming back!”
# # #
Willy’s sallow face bore an insipid beard for the
first time in his life. His weight dropped by ten pounds in a month, and his
wrinkled, unclean clothes hung loosely. A sour smell clung to his body like a
poltergeist. His socks got caught on his long, unfilled toenails creating
unsightly snags. But Willy remained unaware of the gradual personal decay.
cans and bottles lined every surface of his house minus the pea green toilet
and bathtub, and half-eaten pizzas curled up like old soles in scrunched boxes
crammed into an open bin liners leaning precariously in a kitchen corner.
He ran his tongue over
his furry teeth and popped another piece of chewing gum in his mouth. The last
Jiffy Pop container crackled over the stove and the smell of buttered popcorn
scented the stale air. Willy rattled its contents with one hand, located the
bottle opener with another. “Crap,” he muttered. He was down to his last
In the adjacent room,
the television blared. The Super Bowl was about to begin. He turned off the
stove, cracked open the puffed aluminum pan and tore the sides open carelessly
burning one on his fingers. He didn’t yelp. It was one of the few physical
sensations he had felt in days. Bowl and bottle in hand, he managed the
obstacle course of shoes, dirty laundry and books back to the living room,
closed off to the real world with tightly drawn curtains and reclined on the
Willy customarily spent Super Bowl
Sunday in company of friends or family. This year he kept the world out.
The line up of curvy,
big-haired cheerleaders didn’t register with the same degree. Willy barley
blinked when they kicked up their boots and shook their pompoms. Willy watched
with a detachment akin to an old woman enduring a video on taxidermy.
At halftime, Will
almost did the unthinkable. He stared at the ceiling in a trance-like state
about ready to turn off the commotion when his hand limply dropped onto his lap
sending the popcorn bowl tumbling to the floor.
sprung back to life, and he looked back to the television screen to watch a
strange commercial with prisoners dressed in grey shuffling behind one another
in single file. Only their rhythmic marching and a disembodied voice orating
Utopian ideology played in the background. Every one of them was bald and
devoid of expression. Suddenly, a young woman dashed through the bleak tunnel
as the prisoners joined the others sitting in a large auditorium, their eyes
fixed to the orator’s face, projected in black and white. Her white tank top,
red shorts and cropped blonde hair gave life to the otherwise dull scene.
The men did not see her, but guards, complete
with riot gear, chased her up the aisle like hounds to the fox. In her hand was
a large hammer she clung to like a samurai’s sword. Reaching the front of the
room, she stopped dead in her tracks. Her pursuers neared dangerously.She began to spin and spin, her arm
muscles taunt and strained, intent written all over her face. After gathering
enough momentum, she unleashed the heavy hammer in the direction of a massive
Orwell style Big Brother screen, blowing it into smithereens and leaving the
The Apple 1984
Macintosh commercial was only shown once. Its effect on the consumer was
exceedingly effective, but the cord it struck deep within Willy went much deeper.
The last three words
heard in the commercial became his mantra: “We will prevail.” Willy Waites
experienced his epiphany on January 24, 1984.