Lammie’s problem was that he married too late, founding a fortune while the rest of us were busy checking out the roller-coaster joys of young love. We would fall to Lammie’s level only when the arthritic brakes of common sense and responsibility had flattened out the ride. To make matters worse, perhaps in an effort to capture what he had missed, Lammie had to go and marry a girl 30 years his junior, instead of a solid, experienced 50-year-old who could have brought some kind of stability into his world.
She was a Dresdener, with the same kind of fragile beauty as their china, a sensational figure and a flawless complexion framed by gossamer golden hair. Beings like that are placed on Earth to test our mettle, to check the strength of our moral fiber, which generally buckles under the strain. You can’t just pass them by like a street sign; you have to get involved, to succeed if possible, but otherwiseto suffer rejection if only to perfect your style. But then, she still had her own roller coaster to ride, while Lammie looked on in agonized silence or imagined the worst when she wasn’t there for him.
I know all about it, because I was one of her snotty young lovers, who didn’t give a damn for the feelings of an aging husband, and even thought it smart to outwit the poor old bastard. We dreamed up fake messages calling her back to an ailing mother in Dresden, so we could sample the sensuous delights of Paris and Beirut, and all on his money.
Of course it couldn’t last for us, her long list of fancy men, but we knew that before we ever brushed her lips, while for Lammie it was a perpetual agony, because he was truly in love with her, and true love must suffer any indignity. Even I, who had absolutely no right to complain, felt the bitter sting of jealousy when she disappeared for a week without explanation. Indeed, it would be hard to say who was more hurt in the end by these furtive couplings: Lammie, who could never stop loving her; or us, who after our brief fling could never again experience a lasting relationship.
Long after my own involvement, I became good friends with Lammie, witnessing the unbelievable extent to which true love can suffer and still forgive. But frankly, it came as a relief to hear that she died in Switzerland, typically in the company of an impossibly handsome young ski instructor, when a fighter plane severed the cable of their chairlift.
Lammie, of course, never recovered, but at least he was spared the agony of watching the progressive degradation of love. But even that small comfort was short-lived, as he followed her within a few months, dying, I am convinced, of a broken heart. I am not a religious man, but I often pray for his soul, and perhaps you will for mine.