“It might be proper to remove your sunglasses,” said Ypres. Her lobster eyes were staring at me. Intent, no doubt, on pairing her words with incontestable seriousness. I was busy going through the latest fashion magazines at the WHSmith in Heathrow’s Terminal 5. I was studying an ad for a glorious Dior dress when Ypres silently came up to me and issued her remark.
“I do not want to be recognised, Ypres. It’s enough I had to take off my sunglasses and the Hermès carré atop my head to pass through security. It’s already embarrassing that we were caught red handed, or crimson fisted, as you like to say, trying to get into the first-class lounge. I can’t help it, Ypres. Look at me. I belong in first class! I’m a happy mix of Lauren Bacall, Grace Kelly, and Josephine Baker. The world cannot expect me to turn my back on the necessity of luxury.”
“You’re right,” I replied, “perhaps with a hint of Mata Hari too. But that’s only on bad days.” I paused. “Now that I think about it, I should rather update the figures I aspire to emasculate.”
“Emulate,” Ypres chimed in. “To get back to the matter at hand, you will no doubt be asked to remove your sunglasses at passport control before boarding.”
“You’re right, Ypres. I shall put them away. My Birkin carry-on is full. My Smythson’s Grosvenor briefcase is also at peak capacity. Would you mind putting my sunglasses in that tote bag of yours? What is it by the way?”
Ypres delicately put my sunglasses into her tote bag. She informed me that she had purchased it from The Economist’s online shop. On its side was a map of the United States, along with measures of something called GDP. It did not have the energy to ask what GDP was.
“Since we are going to New York, I felt a nod to the United States might prove amusing,” Ypres said. Her idea of whimsy, no doubt.
I was finished with my browsing at WHSmith so we moved on. I was drawn to the finer shops on offer at Terminal 5, but Ypres nudged me away from them time and time again. I have to remind myself that I must economise. Ypres continued. Her tone dropped an octave. Any lower and she would have sounded like a heavy smoking drag queen.
“Is it wise to fly to New York for a job.”
“It is not just any job in any city, Ypres. It is an unpaid internship in Manhattan.”
“Exactly. I do not see how flying across an ocean to receive no pay will ameliorate the situation. Indeed, the cost alone makes it prohibitive. The flight there and back. The arrangements for food and shelter.” Ypres had real concern in her voice. The kind you hear when a parent asks a child how far up their nose they have pushed their crayon. Or where they have found that piece of lead, and how it has made it into their mouth. But I am not a child, and Ypres is not my parent.
“You worry too much, Ypres. Remember the New York, New York song? If I can make it there, I’m going to make in anywhere. And anywhere includes London. London, I might add, is the indispensable city. ” I was happy with my response, as it were. I felt I had fired an unassailable broadside. My reasoning was logical. It was worthy of an “Elementary, my dear Watson.” Content with my victory, I walked over to a duty-free counter. I was confident. Yet, Ypres was in close pursuit. She was unscathed. She came charging back like a whale at sea. (Not to say that Ypres is large, which she is not.) I was by the whiskeys when she emerged in full resolute thrust.
“There are plenty of unpaid internships in London.”
“Not like this, Ypres.”
“I would advise against it. We still have time to go back into London and think it through.” Had I not known Ypres for so long I would not have detected the subtle tremor in her voice. It lasted a millisecond and could barely be heard over the surrounding noise.
“Ypres.” I looked into her eyes, which is no mean feat. It is not a task for the faint of heart. Once one’s eyes lock one may not get out. I summoned all my inner resources. How would I deliver the line? The Vasa mind was in overdrive.
Finally, genius struck. I was reminded of the Louis XIV pose I had used in the past with such devastating effect. It had once reduced a postman to tears. I acted in a flash.
Like the Sun King himself, I outreached my left leg, showcasing my Christian Louboutin’s with their red heels. My legs were broadcast in all their glory, housed, as they were, in white pants. My left hand regally rested upon my hip. My right arm was gingerly outreached. My chest was pushed out. My shoulders were framed by my fine merino wool blue royal shale. My head was held high. I grabbed a sample of something called Jim Beam, which I believed to be whiskey. I swallowed it, and with full Bourbon disdain I uttered: “You are going to have to trust me on this.”
In that moment, I truly was the Sun King. The world was my Versailles to make my own and fill with my Madame de Pomodoro furniture. The feeling of possibilities was immense. I was confidence incarnate. Nothing could stop me. All would fall in my wake.
The man who tried to take my window seat in economy was thwarted. The man who refused to check his luggage and brought it all on the plane was defeated in his attempt to put it in my overhead compartment. The inconsiderate individual who reclined its seat onto my knees was the recipient of a roar the likes of which the world had never seen.
Once I arrived at John F. Kennedy Airport with Ypres, nothing could keep me down, not even jet lag. Not even when Ypres sarcastically praised me for achieving an observation-free flight. I yelled out, “New York City here I come!”
You can imagine my surprise when instead of receiving applause I was greeted by a yell of equal force: “US Customs and Border Protection!”
Vasa and Ypres’s first full-length adventure, Vasa and Ypres: A Mayfair Conundrum, is available on Amazon. If you enjoy Vasa and Ypres, please share on social media. Vasa and Ypres is on Twitter. You can also join over 1215 WordPress followers. Should you be desperate to part with your money, and, in the process, fund Uncle Edward’s Vasa Assurances, a donation button is available on the homepage. Donations will help keep the Vasa and Ypres project going.