“Hi, I’m Madison,” she said extending her hand with unbridled enthusiasm.
“Vanessa E. Vasa. Mayfair, London. How do you do?” I replied.
“You’re British! How exciting!”
“It would appear so.”
Madison leaned in, doing what theatrical circles would consider an honest imitation of the Tower of Pisa.
“As soon as I saw we were wearing the same belt, the same Mont Blanc belt, I knew we would get along. And, now I learn that you’re British,” she blinked twice, “and that’s swell! Where do you work at the UN? I work with DPRK.”
“I work with UNDO. What does DPRK stand…”
I was interrupted mid-sentence by a high-pitch shriek from Madison. To my dismay, security did not intervene to sedate her. They choose non-interference over the responsibility-to-protect.
“UNDO! Did you say UNDO?”
“Yes, I did. I was also about to ask you…”
She shrieked once more. I was obviously faced with a serial interrupter.
“This can’t be true! We share the same belt, you’re British, and you work at UNDO! It’s simply perfect!”
“Is it?” I was starting to believe that I was being engulfed into lunacy. I feared Madison would continue to exhibit perpetual enthusiasm.
“It is! It simply is! It’s simply perfect! You must think me odd.”
“At this stage, I have gone beyond thinking, as it were.”
Madison guffawed. She threw her head back in laughter and exhibited two rows of teeth so white, the reflection, catching the light, momentarily blinded the Russian translator. How so many teeth could be crammed into a mouth was surely of scientific interest.
“You have that British wit! Excellent! You’re perfect!”
Right then, the Security Council Director endeared herself to me in perpetuity by signalling the start of the meeting. The President of the Security Council then took centre stage and called the meeting to order. This disabled Madison who took on the task of notetaking like a beaver on a mission.
Throughout the meeting, ambassadors sitting on the Council were physically present, but not actually there. Meanwhile, in the public gallery, note takers deployed will power to stay awake. Immune to boredom, they performed their task.
There arrived a point, about two and a half hours in, where time actually stopped. Having gone forward, it decided to reverse course. I took this opportunity to prepare my retreat back to the UNDO office. I timed my escape to go unnoticed by Madison. She was engrossed in taking down every syllable of a speech on electoral reform by some inconsequential country when I legged-it.
No sooner had the Vasa mind congratulated itself on a successful getaway that the whole system was given a shock. Madison reappeared from behind with a thundering “There you are!”
I landed with a dignified thud fifty centimetres to the east of where I originally stood. She resumed as my heart rate came back into the double digits.
“You’re perfect! If I’ve learnt anything from Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, and Miss Marple it is that you Brits are great problem solvers. You hit the vicarage, drink tea, do some questioning, and then reveal all in the drawing room. And I have a problem I’m sure you can solve!”
“I have, in the past, been a conundrum consultant,” I dropped with measured pomp.
She emitted another one of her shrieks.
“You truly are perfect!”
Despite the shrieks and tendency to hysterics, I did not dismiss Madison. Had I dismissed her it would have been a polite dismissal. The kind seen when a minister is sent packing with a grand cross of saint something and a not too taxing ambassadorship to some warm country.
I saw worth in Madison. After all, she had good taste in belts, accentuated by a keen insight into human sensibility. She instantly saw me as perfect. It usually takes the average individual on the street a few meetings to realise they are faced with perfection. My Uncle Edward has still not got round to it, and my Uncle George has made it a hobby to dismiss it outright. Yet, and I write this with the utmost modesty, it is a universal truth that I am, indeed, perfect.
And so it is with perfection that I egged her on. All the more so as I would rather hear her story that deal with the diplomatic intricacies of electoral reform.
“Do continue. How, exactly, am I perfect? Spare no detail. I’m very patient. It is one of my many qualities, along with humility – or it is humiliation?”
“Well, you see, Vanessa, you truly are perfect, being British and a conundrum consultant, because I’m in a pickle. I have a problem with my aunt. You know how aunts can be?”
“I’ve had to deal with uncles quite a bit, and from what I gather aunts aren’t gentlemen.”
“Yes, well, they wouldn’t be aunt then, would they? You see my aunt, the kind old bird, supports me financially. That’s how I am able to do my internship here at the UN, at the Department for Political Reform and Knowledge – we do a lot on electoral reform. I’m not sure if I understand electoral reform, or if any one of my colleagues understand it, but we give it a go.”
“It’s always good do give these things a go. Good for international peace and all that.”
“Exactly! And it looks good on my CV. But the whole darn thing would be impossible without the allowance from my aunt, the dear doll. We’re very close, you know. But the old relic has decided to suspend my allowance indefinitely! It’s very tragic! So tragic, it’s dramatic! All that because I’m in love, Vanessa!”
Madison threw her arms up in despair and brought a tissue to her eyes, preparing herself to deliver the last line: “you will help me, Vanessa, won’t you?”
Madison shrieked the shriek of a thousand sheikhs. (I believe the expression to be common in Doha society). A couple of security guards came round in confusion, before dispersing.
“You really are a dear, Vanessa! You really are! You see my aunt will suspend my allowance unless I break off all relations with my dear handsome lover.”
I masked my unease at the word lover. It summons up images of robes, lotions, and silk paired with velvet.
“She’s not keen on the combination, is she?”
“No, she is not? Any idea on how to change the dear old thing’s mind?”
“I suppose I could ask Ypres to…”
I was interrupted. This time it was not by one of Madison’s shrieks, it was by me – or myself, whichever suits the occasion. Without much prodding the Vasa mind had conjured up an item. Another instance of my perfection. I decided to cut out the middle man and bypass Ypres. After all, I needed to mark my independence from Ypres. I could not rely on her brain for every little thing. If I was to economise, I might as well economise on Ypres’s services as well.
“She needs a hero!”
“Your aunt, she needs a hero. Right now she sees your gigolo as some sort of nuisance on society, a waste of space. What your Don Giovanni needs is to be seen in a different light?”
“Who’s this Don Giovanni? And what’s wrong with the light he’s in now? I thought sunlight was good for you.”
“I see my perfection has trapped me once more. I have made my thought too inaccessible. I need to go from theory to practise. You see, this Casanova of yours needs to save your aunt from a harmful situation. Filled with gratitude, your aunt with embrace him as her saviour, a worthy relation for her niece.”
“All you need to do, Madison, is to invite this aunt of yours for a stroll around some body of water. Aunts love stroll around water, it gives them a chance to point things out. Then, all of a sudden, as she is pointing something out, she falls in, as aunts do. Out of the woodwork, stage right, comes your Romeo. He dives in, and saves your aunt. So content is she that her niece is in relations with such a selfless individual that she lifts her ban and doubles your allowance.”
Madison issued a shriek of acquiescence that tested the structural integrity of the adjacent windows. I momentarily lost my hearing, but I gathered from the unsolicited hug I received that she gave my plan the all clear.
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