The Mary

“Says she trusts Jesus and then asks me who I trust. She wasn’t asking me a question either; she was making a statement.”

“Putting it to you.”

“Right? I told her I trust no one and she says well that’s my problem right there. If you can’t trust God then your life must be full of fear.”

“I say you sell it to her.”

Esmé and I walk down Huntley toward my store, Three Marys, named after the three archetypes of Mary—virgin, whore, and queen—talking about the ongoing consideration of whether or not to sell “The Mary” to Celine, my other best friend and co-worker. Celine is a good friend and employee third-in-command after Esmé and she wants this glorious Titanic in an almost romantic obsession edging on Orpheus and Eurydice-like attachment. Which excites and confronts me at the same time. Would she, could she, love it better than me? Did I know what I was doing or was her vision better? Was my sole purpose to birth Three Marys and then pass it on to the comer-upper, the ward to raise my child to full maturity? The thought made me queasy. Celine was an heiress of a small fortune and she was relentless about her daily life of just being.  I never knew anyone so meticulous at the art of being as Celine and hadn’t yet made up my mind if it was pure genius or pure self-obsession.

“Well, do you still want it?”

I noticed I felt shy asking Esmé, because I meant it. Both Celine and Esmé were hustlers of their own game and fame. Different agendas, both effective at what they wanted. Which was something. Women loved being effective. It was deeply satisfying. These two were being satisfied a higher percentage than the national average, I just knew it.  I would sell to Esmé over Celine not because we had been friends longer, but because if we’re being honest, how do I say this? She was probably enjoying her life more than Celine, had that je nais se quois, that thing that every single person, meme and brand in Hollywood was trying to bottle and sell, and she just happened to have it. And there’s something to be said for that. Some underlying quality of happiness that was the magic ju-jube. Esmé’s life was often complicated but somewhere in there she demonstrated a freedom that I was extremely attracted to. It was a womanly quality of accepted suffering and accepted vulnerability, and yet chutzpah. It gave me a lot of energy because it was an exit door in the suffering.   

And yet, Esme’s vision for the store to earn more money was very horrible and Celine’s wasn’t. What Celine had that Esmé hadn’t was the meticulous perfection of body, mind and soul that was only achieved through true grit and determination. She was seriously focused and did everything with intention and meaning and that, especially in a work day, carried a lot of weight. Celine was tall at five eight, muscular and lean, had flawless translucent white skin with zero pores, and perfect thick long black hair. She would have been the prized horse at a show. She was completely under control and perfect. She was that woman.

Also, Celine had better style than Esmé and would always have better style than Esmé. She understood the world, was more intellectual and more intelligent, more of a gentlewoman, more of a solid creature. She had a moral kindness that Esmé didn’t even come into near orbit of, and although she didn’t need money she was very responsible with it. So, in many ways, Celine demonstrated certain human qualities that I felt relaxed with and felt more respect for than Esmé’ style.

However, Esmé had that quirky light quality that got her more sales than Celine. She knew how to seduce every single customer in a way that would never belie Celine’s character to try to reciprocate. Esmé had sparks of ingenuity and on the regular seduced even me into thinking she was the one to take the helm. Which is probably what confused me about it all, beyond the actual consideration of selling.  That my brain would perform poor functionality and make bad decisions in the cloud of emotion and preference. Why would I sell it to either of them, why not a stranger with the highest bidding price? Why would I sell it to Esmé who would make it lose its grace? What the hell was wrong with me. Humans could be really stupid and I’m speaking about myself here. Being labile and idealistic and easily seduced. Not a great quality for the business of business or the business of life. I actually didn’t want to sell it, but it had been bleeding money and I was getting pressure and had been growing wary of the actual long term prospect for an individual successful boutique in a sea of city where you could buy anything.

“Talk to me when and if you are actually ready to sell your child.” Esmé answers me rhetorically, large blue eyes the color of pale sky blinking wide, already aware where I was at with it all. See, her seduction belied even straight conversation.

“Why. Do you want it?” Me, wanting definitive from Esmé, trying to play her at her own game.

“You know my vision with it and you don’t like it.”

Yes; practically like sending your children to a pack of wolves.  Anyone who could—or want to—turn a (my) rare and special enclave of soft and particular beauty and expression into a retail store slash juice bar slash beauty bar with an on-call eyelash extension person was basically out of touch with the deeper meaning of life. I’d actually rather just close it then go to that depressed nothing-doing bardo of women trying to look youthful another period of time to remain at a higher dopamine level for themselves when they looked in their reflection. No thank you, I did not want to add to that pool.   

Esmé read my mind, which is just one aspect of her witchy side.

“Naomi, it needs to make more profit. We’re just breaking even or dipping into the red every single month since the downturn. My ideas aren’t gross or going to ruin it; they are going to save it. Wise up or die off, it’s your call.”

I shrug off her suggestion by ignoring it because what is the point of keeping something alive that is a mere shell of its prior excellence and why would Esmé even think that way.  On the outside she exuded an air of knowing everything; but people like that are always hiding something in the deep. Why didn’t she understand the deeper philosophy of beauty giving one a reason to exist more? Why didn’t she care about the idiosyncracies? My fear with Esmé is that she wants power more than intimacy, more than what’s real. And that goes for her decision-making as well; she would do something ugly and less original if it would yield her more power. And I don’t know how that sits with me. She’s supposed to be my goddamn bestie but what is this type of thinking. But maybe I’m the villain, judging my man and my friends with the harsh eye.

Or maybe I see what I want to see. Perhaps my biggest fault is my romanticism, my rose goggles, my imagination and idealism allowing me to see whatever it is I like. Maybe the grandeur in which I view Esmé isn’t even real. Maybe she’s just a chick with questionable ideas. Whatever she was, she clearly wasn’t obsessed with this unnameable grace, this fascinating pursuit of beauty.  I was willing to push everything back and off for later in the pursuit of this. I was 32 and didn’t even think of kids and all that, at all, yet, had barely wanted to even bother with engagement or marriage. I wanted to satisfy my hunger. But the more I knew, the more I needed to know more on the specifics. The rabbit hole didn’t want to end, each door opening to another potion and another door.  I came from the jungles and wasn’t stylish or polished or particularly boutique oriented. I was just always looking. Hunting. Collecting. Desperate for the nectar. Searching. Deciding what could come and what could be left out. I was the seeker of seekers.

Maybe Esmé is not at fault: maybe it’s LA. The big She-Beast who would even allow such banal pursuit to ruin good enclaves.  The Native Americans are right; they refused to livein LA's basin because they said the energies were such that this place made everyone crazy.

On beat, Esmé hands me her coffee and organic cigarette to hold while she unlocks the door to the store with her set of keys and I mindlessly take a sip and a drag even though I don’t smoke and have strong feelings against sweetener—stevia, blegh—in coffee.

 

Three Marys. My beautiful, succulent, living, giving immortal creature. My not-easy-to-please lover. My happy return; my inner peace. My living dream.

Three Marys, or Mary for short, is the Siren of my dreams and my worst fear all in one.

 

She is Lover and Challenger, capital L capital C, who never lets you down when it comes to challenge, and yet if you are not the wizard Oz behind the curtain never demands you do anything other than enjoy her. She’s the love affair that haunts you forever, the harlot priestess whore virgin bride queen bee, a glistening chimera you can never quite catch no matter how much you spend, no matter how you sit in to her soft and secret places. That is this operating entity and I feast my eyes on her. Velvets and rich woods and 22-karat golds, black diamonds, smoky quartz and raw silk and the most delicate lingerie you’ve ever laid eyes on it basically dissolves if you touch it. Small batch stone-ground chocolate and rare oud oil and jade hairpins and everything lit to perfection. Well-tailored whites, soft cashmere grays and silk under things to make your lover moan beyond himself in profound satisfaction at his deep surprise. This store; where does such delicate immortal beauty even exist these days anymore other than protected hidden places of wildlife, unseen to the human eyes, and places of constructed human artistry like galleries and museums and precious protected boutiques.

I left my home in the island jungle lured by the flute player of art and beauty and after New York found LA—because of Dylan and the proximity to Hawaii if we’re being honest—and because there was space here for something new—and then with much labor I grabbed on to my favorites and made my own version. Mary is my muse and without my muse I would go broke in the heart.  It’s not fair, nor possible, to live this life any second without her wisdom. But, decisions have to be made as to her future and I’m avoiding it, placed it in the foggy hole in the brain where you put things you don’t know how to face, don’t know the answer to, because what does one do with something that is both working and not working?

It was extremely hard to claw my way into having her be real, to push against the tide of anything less than; to not suffer fools with their ideologies and pressure even to carry certain goods, or lines, in effect to mesh. For seven years I have toiled with the knowledge that Mary could go under at the slightest wrong move or downtick in economy. The stress connected to this made it basically an unhealthy choice, created my first gray hairs and more than any human in a first world problems fair and sane share of sleepless nights. Dylan is acting like a pouting child who didn’t get his candy with his poor film reviews but in fairness he’s put up with more insanity from me obsessing about this place, all I can talk about, every weekend or trip focused on Mary Mary Mary. I more than owe him his due space compared to what he’s dealt with my idiotic choice and retarding of the mind caused by fear. I’ve basically been failing for seven years. Breaking even and/or losing money is failing. And after years of complaining to another shop owner they simply turned to me and said this is life, Bambi, whatdoyouwant.  

It is both working and not working, being a store owner. Working because even though we tend to break even after paying store rent and three salaries we’ve created a masterpiece of good shopping feng shui. It’s not working because the economy is in the beginnings of another downturn after only a few short years of recovery from the really bad time, and excess even in this town is being reigned in. The constant universal lesson basking overhead that we are not in control. You are not in control. I am not in control. And yet, the simple paradox of this dual nature—that just below that, we are in control of our own chaos, little c: we have the choices before us, always.  The world is happening and we choose our dance until it ends at death. I am certain Esmé and Celine and Dylan must think the same. It seems unavoidable.

Celine arrives looking fresh as usual. Little floral romper and hair all wavy and full with bright red lips and general sexiness. She is a singing temptress from a different era, always appearing in her own cloud floating above the mortals, yet also having a keen desire to dominate—if only she could learn how. Celine hides her emotions from herself and puts on a good face. Her family is wealthy and she has a good work ethic but she’s also just been comfortable at a certain level—it’s all she knows. Has this prevented her from being more ruthless and capable? Probably. She doesn’t even tell her parents she works here; they think she spends her time volunteering with a nonprofit in Malibu that does beach cleanups.

I look her over as she settles, trying to understand just who the hell she is and what her motivations in life are. As far as I can tell, she basically just wants to feel good and be pretty and enjoy her life. Maybe selling Mary to her would be more astute than Esmé because she might have longevity, and money to fall back on if it failed. Might be able to invest in it long term beyond the economy ups and downs, might be able to ride it out.    

“How are we doing.” My all-time greeting for anyone everywhere implying the universal we that the person falls into, non-separate, Advaita Vedanta, look it up.

“Still not trying to understand the secrets of the universe.” She kisses me on the cheek.

“Uncomplicated brilliance when I think about it.”

“Or don’t think about it.”

“Touche.”  

Celine sets to turning on the music and filling the empty places on the racks, removing any filament of dust real or imagined on every single hanger and item before getting a cloth and wiping every object in the store down. Esmé should do this too but never does. Esmé is actually a bad worker because she is spoiled and lazy and if it weren’t for her genius at seducing everyone into multiple sales I wouldn’t be able to justify having her work here. Esmé could sell your own hair back to you: she’s got the gift of the bonafide hustle. Celine is good at sales because she is consistent and the clients can relate to her. But Esmé is better. Celine is pragmatic whereas Esmé in her wispy breathing and exaggerated flair makes the customers feel like they’ve just had sex with her, the store, the garment, the garment’s maker, the meter maid outside, makes them feel like they just lost 10 pounds and 10 years. Esmé is the whore who does her client right and Celine is the honest wife who will stand by you and mourn your death as a faithful spinster.

All that being said, Esmé does not, nor does she ever, say hi to Celine in the mornings. Esmé in her ceaseless quest for power misses the mark, and I see it no clearer than in her relationship to Celine. Celine is an innocent who doesn’t play that obvious or that dirty but Esmé loves the ladder and for all her interesting witty and quick-brained everything it leaves me lacking. I want her to go deeper because I want to feel more about her as my designated ride or die. Whores are more fun to hang out with but they can be real pains.  The only reason for anything is to feel deeper. I am waiting for the day Celine rises to the challenge and smacks Esmé down to size for both of their good. But, there are only so many desires one can have before one must surrender to what is not hype, but what just is. Which brings me to my raison d’etre: Three Marys.

This boutique is my Zen palace; my aesthete’s dream realized all within an 800 square-foot storefront on the corner of Melrose and Huntley.  It’s a mid to high-end boutique that caters to the wealthy women of WEHO, Beverly Hills, Bel Air, the Westside, and the European visitors we have a nonstop flow of. Some gay men love it and some male clients are regulars for their wives and mistresses but 90% are local women looking for a moment of escape from regular old predictable LA. Sometimes the air can just be really hot and dirty here and it feels very claustrophobic.  I try to give them what they want because I am an empath who takes pleasure in their pleasure.

A beautiful environment—I don’t know if you have to be one of those people—I am one of those people, Esmé is one of those people, Celine is one of those people—is necessary for existence itself. Mary is my Isle of Immortals. If you believe in auras this store has a good one and if you believe in chi Mary is a flow master.

This store—through its dynamic energy and one-of-a-kind hand-made, haute-made items from the best makers around the globe is my material dream incarnated and I love being here. Check your mortality at the door and depart with your limitations before entering this abode of the Western mogul.

I sell stuff for a living. Of this I’m not complicated or disillusioned about: until the world morphs into an evolved post-capitalist utopia of gift culture and Buddhist-like nonattachment I am okay with expansive beauty. If people enter our store Celine, Esmé or I will try and sell them off a piece of it for that’s our livelihood. But what I love about Mary has nothing to do with material gains.  We can don clothes and within seconds be changed. It’s like getting to strip yourself of yourself. In some light, changing clothes is no more profound than clipping one’s toenails. I detested those people who believed that clothes made the man or woman; it simply wasn’t true. Character made the man and woman. The part that makes me feel good is the part where I get to sit within my own created temple and sip my favorite green oolong drunken concubine—you have to try it—and talk about life with other women, dear friends and strangers alike.  Celine’s most recent playlist is almost always on—she’s one of those gifted endless groovy djs that when you think of your friends and out of all of them there is one that has good music taste, Celine is the one in my group.   

I honestly think that healing is the true purpose of Three Marys: that is her magic. It’s meant to relax you out of yourself and into ecstatic reverie that’s half Avant Garde Japonismé half classics half immortal Nouveau half futuristic tech. Light silky blues and pastel periwinkles and gold brasses and white sheens and sheers, it’s meditative, it’s relaxing, it’s soft, it’s a cocoon, an aura of relief. We’ve mixed the 90’s vintage with the new appropriately, beautiful jewelry and one of a kind rare finds that we unearthed by pouring through the Los Angeles flea markets at four in the morning and scouring every New York and Paris show room relentlessly, always hunting. Always. A man is primal and will hunt but a woman is a gatherer who when focused is in the zone.

Why? Because.  There is something transcendent in the truly beautiful. The artisan has done something to transcend himself, and I swear I can feel god through the work. It’s like they got out of the way and let the beautiful in—the beautiful being some vibration of divine purity. I don’t care if it’s a salmon and ivory silk slip dress—the hem, the choice, the craft, the perfection. Where there is beauty there is love and if god is anything god is love. Three Marys is my kingdom of heaven and I am the gatekeeper.

 

Celine sped off on her Vespa to the hardware store a few long blocks away to pick up more spackle to fix a few hanging mistakes and it’s just as well because I am trying to get my thoughts in order and I like Celine, want her to artistically express herself with her vision and joy, want her to squeal in delight at getting what she wants so it is good that she is not here as my mind runs because I’d probably just hand her the keys in my brain fog. It’s clear she’s more consistent and devoted than Esmé. Maybe she’s softer because she trusts God with her ultimate life plan. Do I? I think I’d have to, even if I woudn’t put it in those words per se. Did I demonstrate that? I don’t know. It’s clearly difficult to observe oneself accurately.

Is it weird that I could go on and on about how much I love something and then be willing to just almost hand the keys to the eager and faithful person in line? Who isn’t even showing me dire need? It was clear the root of her desire was to, like Dylan, prove to her parents that she was capable of doing something good. But me, again, with my random judgement. It was as if I couldn’t decide if I wanted a latte or to fly to India. It was a terrible curse to be indecisive and aflutter. If you know any Libras you know that they are like this. I do believe in astrology.

For all my whimsy let it be known I am a realist. At the end of the day it’s about the numbers on the books. I’m a radical but I’m not deluded. Mary has been consistently losing money or breaking even for the last year. If I don’t do something soon we’re fucked. By we I mean the royal we and specifically me.

I immediately call a staff meeting for when Celine gets back.

I text Dylan and then wish I hadn’t. I cannot feel him, and if a woman can’t feel her man she’s in trouble.

I write: I’m sorry we fought.

He doesn’t reply but he’s one of those guys who is rarely available by text, would rather die than use an emoji.  

I watch Esmé foam the milk like a professional barista with the plug in Nespresso milk whipper at our drink station, catching and whirling with precision as it turns into a hot froth as she tells me about her latest sexploit and tells me about the photos she just had done to send her new crush. She sprinkles a touch of cinnamon and serves me on the ruby velvet couch while she flips through a hundred erotic photos on her phone, showing me the good ones. They’re hot and slutty and she looks good and we consult where she should use the body edit app to pull in her waist a bit as she is skinny as a rail but regardless has a column shape.

“Who’s this one?” I am nonchalant because there’s been so many it literally does not even matter in her nameless, faceless quest-jag she’s been on for about 9 months now.

“This is Joaquin. He’s moody and into dom.”

“What happened to Eddie?”

“Eddie’s steady.”

“And?”

“And I told you already. I’m going through a learning and experimenting curve. I’ve never done this; never expanded my sexual self, never learned what I’m learning.”

“Why not learn with Eddie? Don’t you feel like a slut?” I wasn’t trying to be the devil’s advocate, I was just honestly curious why it wasn’t done in deepening intimacy with one versus many. Because why? Because how does the body relax when it is in constant change?

“Because. Eddie is closed in his pineal gland. Eddie is a nice guy who isn’t ready. You want me to spend my life with that limitation?”

“Ready for what.”

“For expansion, Naomi.” Esmé sighed and opened her purse to get a cigarette.

“You know what I mean. I expect you to.”

“Do I.  What if it’s you, Esmé? What if you’re incapable of expanding your vulnerability to one single person because it means you’d have to let your drawbridge down?”

“Maybe I am.”  She looks at me briefly with her eyes that hold fear and avoidance underneath all that pretty seduction.

“Maybe you are.”  I look at her.

“Maybe I’m just exploring my freedom and my desires and limits and my sexuality and having good sex and being free where I am actually afraid to be free.”

“Maybe.”

“There’s no right or wrong, Naomi. Those are just societal constructs. Don’t hate cuz you ain’t.”

“Whatever floats your boat, Es.”

“And whatever floats yours.”   

“Not a sea of cocks.”

“Yes, well right now the sailor’s life for me.”

Esmé takes her cigarette and lighter outside. I am honestly not a judger of my friends and however they may seek out their desires.  I have bigger more immediate problems than Esmé’s sex life but I will interject my opinion if the subject comes up.

“Forget your piracy!” I shout at her through the window and she pretends not to see or hear me. “What in God’s name are we going to do with this beautiful place that’s hemorrhaging not only our money but our life blood?”  I wonder what I hate more in the moment—having to come up with real solutions to things not working or the annoying inconvenience of having the people you love do stuff you find sub par.

Overwhelmed with non-decision I odalesque for all of three seconds until a woman walks in with her whippet. Esmé is quick—she loves opportunity—has extinguished her half-smoked cigarette and follows the woman back in to the store and right away shows her our most expensive items so I continue to lay on my side until the purchase is done because my insides hurt and Esmé goes out again to finish her cigarette and text her naked photos to Joaquin until a new woman with extremely well-done short platinum hair comes in.  Esmé is one of those all vegan all raw all supplements all super foods, puts her laptop and phone in her bathroom at night to stave off the negative waves of evil EMF being emitted from the holes in it and sleeps with a special earthing blanket but will drink and smoke and have sex with a long line to her heart’s delight, looks perpetually 25 and does not believe that her actions counter each other. I think about her dichotomies as I watch her moved in like a raptor on its prey. We were just animals in the kingdom trying to win, weren’t we.

Esmé fixates the platinum gal on a gray silk dress that hangs in the middle rack like a lone wolf howling and again I know it’s a done deal because that color gray looks amazing with that hair color—makes the skin look translucent like an angel. Tiny pearls have been sewn over the straps and line the top of the boat neck. It’s gray with small almost invisible lines of navy and retailing for just over $750. I sigh and sip as I take in the woman eyeing the dress as she listens to Esmé sell her, and you know?  I wonder at the dwindling power of the beautiful thing in these tough times. The immortality factor of viewing such perfection, or as the Japanese say the kawaii factor. I suddenly feel odd as a worrying epiphany enters my zone. Is Three Marys practical or is it part of the problem? Who dictated the price of acquiring and enjoying this beauty? How much did that dress actually cost to make and how much was Platinum paying for the brand.

I rip myself off the couch. Can it be black and white like that? Is art—expensive art—acceptable in times of human struggle. And, who is the judge of that. Was it that simple.

I knew it wasn’t that simple.

I don’t know what to do so I sit back down on the velvet couch as Esmé admires herself and the woman in the mirror, the color of the dress—she’s now put on the same dress as the customer too—something a sales girl would only do if they knew it looked better on the client, complementing her pale skin, the shape of the dress accentuating her little column curves. She puts on the new shoes that sit in our window, next grabs a matching handbag and puts on the newest earrings, soft little jade droplets on filigree gold. She is a pro and dresses the woman in the same but different, whisking her away to the ball. She fixes the woman’s makeup—now that’s trust in this town—adding a fresh layer of soft powder and gloss, smoothes her neckline and spritzes the sample perfume over her body.

Esmé then turns up the music in the store, an eclectic fusion mix dancing and prancing, straightening items, humming to herself in delight. By now the woman has been sold and in secret celebration Esmé brings me our new strappy heels to try followed by our new cream silk dress and cashmere cape and before I know it she has fairy godmothered me into being ready for the ball too and produced champagne flutes in all three of our hands with sparkling rosé even though its barely noon and we’re all grooving to the beat of the music and the bubbles and the woman is also buying some stuff for her daughter and as Esmé grabs my hands to dance and dip me I careen around the store in these seriously hot heels and prance around the counter where I then see Celine coming back determined with her purchases to hold up the ship and in my mind I flip through the books, adding the numbers, figuring out how behind we are this month compared to the same month last year.  

Business is a good 35% behind last year’s numbers and I drink another long sip of the sparkling rosé and as I spin I know that we have to have a very real staff meeting as soon as this woman leaves. Why would I in good conscience even sell a badly leaking ship to my friends Celine or Esmé? Were they stupid or holding the hidden secret and not telling me or had they just not acquired their special lot of gray hairs yet. This kind of stress made the cortisol that made one develop the stomach tire, the type of project that dissolved all free hours that one would otherwise fill with…sanity. Did they know that this job would ruin their perfect bodies into muffin tops, drain the lingering beauty from their face, ruin their mind with endless consumption of the competition, of materiality, of fucking frocks for the love of god, making owning a pet impossible, barely allow for a balanced relationshp, and ruin their inner wah unless they were extremely smart? Were they prepared for that insult? I highly doubted it.

Again I slide back onto the couch and instead consider another angle; that one should never underestimate the power of art in hard times, the absolute need for beauty. The power of the frivolous thing, the absolute hegemony of the mind that the thin porcelain gold-leaf tea cup and saucer had over me, the feel against the lips delicate as an eggshell, soothing and feminine, perfect for sipping the best green and pu-er teas. Have you heard of the $45 per cup gold leaf matcha they sell downtown?  The ten-dollar geshe coffee? The power of the exotic chocolate bar, the cinnamon and cayenne undertones in the sweet thickness as it melts on your eager tongue, the handmade note cards from a vintage paper press, replete with a gold wax stamp. The silk French panties, the wrapping paper as detailed as fine wallpaper. We’re all going to die and life is for the taking so why feel bad? I straightened my cashmere caplet as I considered this new point of view. Why feel bad? I loved it all, ate it all with the powerful jaws of my relentless desire to experience like a monster with no mercy.

I’d designed this store for Old World and New, as if royalty from my grandfather’s time with a modern twist, swathed in a rich pomegranate de Gournay Chinoiserie pattern and adorned with large gilded mirrors we’d hand-picked at a warehouse-sized antique shop that specialized in parts of old buildings from tear-downs and estate sales.

Beside the large floor to ceiling mirrors were two Roman red silk velvet Louis XVI Banquette sofas. My favorite natural colors included soft-tone pomegranates and blood oranges, milky creams and rich navy and plum and I’d tried to include these tones into Mary in an elegant and innovative way. We’d bought a yard of translucent silk organza in a pale yellow and had paid a local artist to paint delicate, detailed butterflies all over it; monarchs and tiger swallowtails, pearly crescent-spotted’s, painted ladies, viceroys, cloudless sulphurs and a great spangled fritillary. It was beautiful and soft and was the main art in the store and I’d nearly called the place Papillon.

Before leaving, the woman spends a few thousand dollars and Esmé hugs her and kisses her cheeks goodbye and Celine waves to her from the front window as I calculate our earnings against last year again.

If one could pinpoint the love of the beautiful object, what in the world was it that made some gasp for joy at the sight of such happiness, made one travel the globe in search of perfection? A carved nautilus shell box, a vivid blue and red Chinoiserie kitchen ornament, a root slab cutting board, a crystal stone cutting board, woven gold string and hematite droplet earrings?  The objects are alive to me, allowing me relief in the dream. I, floating on an ancient mariner ship holding tight on to a large brass ring as my world submerges in the rampant splendor, the delightful smother of intricate, well-deserved reverence for the beautiful. Why would anyone want drugs when they had beauty?