I had doubts. When I heard the directors make promises to bait clients, promises which I knew couldn’t be kept, I had doubts. They’d worry about that further down the road. I’d worry about that, further down the road, because it was my job to deliver the promises. When they changed their intended location, it ceased to be consensual, and I had my doubts.
So, I held back.
I saw a flip side. My life was coasting; moving hit the gas. A fresh adventure, a fresh city, a fresh continent, even. They called it the greatest city in the world – the new world – anyone who was anyone was here. And so was I.
For the last six months, I strode purposefully along Wall Street each morning to work, braving the fumes. In Battery Park, I breathed more deeply. Yes, this was where I was supposed to be. I had arrived. This city was my future.
These last six months, I had enjoyed my new life. The bars, the restaurants… and as a guest fuelled by an expense account, had loved every minute.
And here I am, visiting the greatest city in the old world, saying my goodbyes.
When they changed the destination, too, I lucked out. As a start-up just setting foot in the country, we could have settled anywhere, and the initial plan was to be a thousand miles down the coast, in warmer climes. That was the ticket I bought into. Then our partner had upped the ante. They wanted us near, and eager to please, like someone following their suitor, the directors changed our plans.
I couldn’t complain, the change worked for me. I hadn’t thought much of this “new” world, although the intimacy of Manhattan, I liked. More than liked. This was a place I belonged. Yes, this place could be my future. And a past? Who needed a past?
Yet here I am, visiting the past for the last time. A few days ago, I left Luxembourg, my bolthole, and its thousand years of history, its pinprick medieval castles woven seamlessly into its Black Forest tapestry. I drove west 250 miles, to another place I “belonged”, and have just said goodbye to my best friend, meeting her son for the first time in the process. I finally arrive in my home from home.
The rental car I enjoyed now encumbers me, as I temporarily swap the five boroughs for the narrow streets of the Fifth arrondissement, and I finally abandon my chariot and strike out on foot.
And I spend the weekend just “absorbing”. Nothing special, just living life; I shop at the Galeries, I eat, I “soak”. All the old haunts, as I ponder my move.
My last afternoon is reserved for my favourite. Drawn there, as a lover. I make some time, every visit, though this time is special. Ma cherie, hiding her treasures beneath the snaking hordes, in her vitreous pyramide. But I know her intimately, and far from the crowds, I reach my first goal, my favourite artist. While the British have Constable, the French have Corot, whose cypresses won me over years ago.
After an hour spent in renewed reverence, I cannot resist viewing the masters. La joconde smirks back at me, as only she can, further confusing my thoughts of departure. And then, my Aphrodite. Two thousand years of history standing before me. As I bow in her presence, I pose my question. Slowly, imperceptibly, she turns to me. And gives her response.
In 1996-7, I was faced with the biggest choice of my life, whether to take a job in Manhattan. The suitor I mention was Chase Manhattan, who were the larger partner in our joint venture. We started over there down at Chase’s campus in Tampa, Fl, but they upped the importance of the project and “suggested”, as only Chase could, that we move to New York City.
The visa process was arduous but finally, six months after I first applied, it was in my hand. In my last few weeks in Europe, I “did the rounds”, and besides being one of my favourite cities, Paris was the home to some good friends.
With hindsight, I made my decision in the Louvre, which houses the magnificent sculpture of Venus de Milo. I couldn’t walk away from all that history.