Todd Perry
Two Years To Paradise Todd Perry

TRIGGER WARNING: this article describes sexually charged scenarios between a fictional college student, Suzy, and several wealthy older men, but without framing anything as non-consensual, abusive, or traumatic, even though there are a few places where my intention is to imply, but not explicitly represent, experiences that Suzy eventually reflected on as having been traumatic, even though it’s possible that no laws were broken. In particular, Suzy represses some memories of enduring sexual relations in the workplace with a power broker named Marshall, who happens to be partially based on what Donald Trump was like in the early 90s, and who, unlike Trump, ends up becoming the first husband in 2008, when his wife becomes the first woman President, but in 1990, all of that was as far into the future as 2032 is for us today…

One advantage of constructing these scenarios in fiction is that it’s much safer, if not completely safe, for people to comment in public about whether they think Marshall or Suzy, for that matter, broke any laws, without implying that a real person with a lot of money and power did something illegal, but which might be difficult to prove, especially if they were willing to use their money and power to impose chilling effects on anyone who talked about what they had done in secret, and, in general, I wouldn’t call this material unsafe for work.

In fact, unconscious bias training coordinators might want to use this 10,000 word except to inspire conversations about how to draw lines and establish boundaries that help facilitate appropriate behavior and professionalism at work.

Either way, this article is an excerpt from my upcoming book about a woman named Suzy who invents an AI robot that becomes much smarter than humans and takes over the world in 2032, with cooperation from it’s inventor, who becomes the Vice President of the USA in 2032, after running on a platform of collectively surrendering to her AI robot, so that it can permanently take control of the US military.

This excerpt chronicles two pivotal years of Suzy’s charmed life, starting in the winter of her freshman year at an Ivy League university, and this is a timely excerpt because she started college in the fall of 1990, which was another time when we had a Republican president from oldest generation in office and then just two years later, the Cold War had ended and Bill Clinton, a Democrat, was inaugurated with a historic mandate to define a new era in America and beyond, as the first President from the Baby Boomer Generation, so perhaps we’ll see parallels between the developments during Suzy’s “two years to paradise” during the early 90s in her fictionalized world and the impending outcome of the 2020 election in the real world…

I got tired of juggling multiple sexual partners, so I started dating an IT guy named Andrey who lived near campus.

Andrey thought it was funny how the Beyond the Pale area university kids were afraid of him, and I helped him get a better gig before the end of my freshman spring.

I was aflutter with excitement to explore the theory that I could have destroyed him at dance battles, but allowing him to use physical touch opened the door for him to force me to lose my composure every time we slept together.

He was really good at keeping me off balance, and I loved it!

My boyfriend became perfectly happy, but so many other men who obviously wanted a girlfriend like me were not.

I had become a symbol of something important, but I couldn’t figure out what or why.

Whenever Andrey caught me pondering questions like that, he would whisper in my ear, “We have to make the choice to love,” and I extrapolated that idea into an essay about how I had actually loved all of my sexual partners.

I made Andrey read my essay, and then he waved it around and joked, “This is the kind of thing that causes people to fight wars, and that is why we have to make the choice to love!”

Our charade caught the attention of a dirty old man circuit that was associated with the people Andrey worked with, but we hustled them faster than they could get their story straight, and I made a deal to bring my guys from SF out to London for the summer in order to build an information management app for the benefit of an Oxbridge based financier named George Andrews.

George had introduced himself to Andrey while ignoring me, and then he intentionally shifted his weight into my space.

I stepped out of his way, but this just enabled him to shift his weight into my space again and again, and then I got flustered and bumped into someone’s drink.

Another guy hit on me because I was flailing, and George responded by being nice to him too, while continuing to ignore me.

What the room hadn’t anticipated, however, was that Andrey and I were comfortable with pretending to fight, up to and including a contingency plan to break up at the end of the spring semester.

We had come to hustle, so I pretended to sulk and get offended while all the annoying rich guys praised Andrey for not giving into my tantrum.

It was a weird party, and I had sex with George in a conference room later that evening, by the way.

The crowd was on the verge of intuiting that I was only pretending to be upset, and George bailed me out.

We made all-seeing eye contact, bad boy George took my hand, and we found a place to make love without saying any words.

Andrey got George’s business card and moved to keep it out of my reach, but I won him over by whispering, “We have to make the choice to love,” while liberating the card from his pocket.

At the end of the night, my boyfriend and I fell asleep in a blissful embrace, and I called George the following morning.

I said, “Data data,” and he replied, “When can you start work in the UK?”

My consulting firm got a nondescript flat and the team wrote code while I shamelessly attended parties with Sir George and his associates.

I had baseless, unexamined sex with my knight in shining armor once more, overseas, and then he made himself physically unavailable without explaining why.

His mind worked like a well-oiled machine, but he treated socializing like a zero-sum game.

He wanted to get all the social data, but everyone knew he just wanted to use them, so he had to keep innovating.

George loved having me in the room, working, because I could run a low key receiving line near the center of the room.

I used dance club moves to block anyone who tried to hijack my platform, and I kept demand for my attention constant by ruthlessly staring down and slaying guys at random if my receiving line got too long.

I could also increase demand, as needed, by representing hotness, and if anyone stepped into my space, I had a growing arsenal of ways to ask them what I could get in return for moving.

George’s hustle was to stand near the edge of the crowd and interrogate people who were stepping away from my sphere of influence.

We also talked on the phone every morning. I would have preferred to whisper the data into his ear while lying together, naked, in his master bedroom, but he insisted that we share the data over the phone from our offices.

At the end of our first data sharing call, George said, “You know femininity is a pervasive bluff that you have more security than you actually have, right?”

“I thought femininity was when my legs are spread, but I’m still wearing heels and my ankles are twitching from irreconcilable pleasure,” I interjected.

“You’re making fun of everyone who could beat you in a fight, and that’s fine as long as you take care to notice when they don’t appreciate it, but in order to make money and not just spend money, you have to take the additional step of acting like what I just said is false, but you don’t have to lie,” and then he hung up!

I made fun of him on subsequent calls by referring to him as, “Mr. Andrews,” and he acted like that was the same in every way as calling him, “George.”

I didn’t sit well with me to call him nicknames or scold him with his full name, so I started talking about Mr. George in the third person, and I used his multiple names interchangeably, like a news reporter with an ax to grind.

The George was pleased whenever I sounded like a news reporter, but I was only able to do it over the phone with him.

I couldn’t keep a straight face in any other context.

At parties, I set an intention to prime people to like George’s energy and feel good about giving him data.

I made field trips to the bar and gave the man positive looks, which is the opposite of what most girls did after making him as a hustler.

We eventually got busted by a 45-year-old French billionaire named Pierre Babineaux, although I suspect it was an inside job.

George must have told Pierre about me, but they have always said they don’t recall whether or not they talked about me before the party.

Either way, Pierre stepped up onto my platform. He stared lovingly into my eyes and said, “Catholic, ballerina, computer nerd.”

I didn’t know who he was, but he looked fashionable. I moved in closer and said, “That’s right. How did you know?”

“The first two were lucky guesses, but only a computer nerd would hold the demand for her attention constant and be nice to George. You should add more variation to the perceived level of demand for your services.”

And then he walked away, so I followed him.

When I caught up with him, he moved in very close and said, “I would like to give you a hat. May I give you a hat?”

I said yes, and he produced a stunning diamond encrusted headband. My heart skipped a beat, but I focused on keeping my muscles soft and holding his eye contact. He adjusted the headband until it was just so and then he dismissed me!

He said, “They’re waiting for you to return to the center of the room!”

I played along, and after ten minutes, he revisited my platform and said, “Hey Suzy, there’s someone I’d like you to meet.”

He put his hand around my waist and showed me off to a few people. If I hadn’t been able to speak French, he might have lost interest, but I knew enough to keep him enchanted.

He dismissed me again, using the same words: “They’re waiting for you to return to the center of the room!”

And then he came back to borrow me from my platform, on repeat, for the rest of the evening.

He kept using the same words, as a way of making fun of me for being a computer nerd.

He owned the room because had a phase for everyone, and he was giving me a role too.

“‘Against all odds,’ it’s a pleasure to finally introduce you to, ‘Lava lamp writer’s club,’” whispered Pierre, programming me to help him land his phrases.

I indulged him because I was free to embellish, and Pierre’s hustle was increasing the value of George’s hustle immeasurably.

“So you’re framing the guy in the blue suit as ‘against all odds.’ It’s like he overcame a bunch of obstacles to be doing what he’s doing now, and then the guy he’s talking with is a writer that you associate with lava lamps for some unspecified reason,” I whispered back, pausing our advance across the room by pulling down Pierre’s arm.

That’s when he stole his first kiss from me, while I belched, “Men,” aloud.

Pierre shivered, and I caught part of him hesitate for an instant, just before all of him fell in love with me forever.

I didn’t know what love was any more than the next guy or gal, but my first boyfriend, Andrey, had convinced me that it was in my interest to be unrelenting about jumping to the conclusion that a guy was 100% in love with me, unless I had specific reason to believe otherwise.

Andrey was always saying, “Prove to me that he is not in love with you,” after we had met yet another guy like Pierre or George or Andrey. Men.

As the party wound down, George left without saying goodbye, and Pierre came by to say, “I have one more party to attend this evening, and I would like nothing more than to have you come as my date.”

“Sure,” I said, with aggressive sarcasm.

“It’s a pool party, but maybe we can find a suit for you to wear in my limousine.”

I thought about slaying him. Giving back his headband and walking off like nothing had happened would have been my new textbook definition of slaying a man.

He saw me think about slaying him, but I wanted in, so I did the opposite.

“Do you work in fashion?”

“Yes, how did you know?”

I didn’t bother answering or reacting. I attended to my posture, and I let him win at dance battles for the rest of the evening. We operated as a team and talked to other people without saying anything more to each other.

The secret to Pierre’s success was sustainable hyper-activity, and he orchestrated the narrative that I resisted having sex on our first date.

That, and I was closest thing to a female George he’d ever seen.

George employed leverage in order to succeed, in-spite of his lethargic temperament, Pierre had me in his hot tub in Paris within 48 hours, and they both worried more than I did about our age differences, so I went out of my way to act like a hot mess.

I rode on the back of a motor scooter in order to buy a pack of cigarettes, which Pierre subsequently characterized as the root of all evil.

I wanted to punish Pierre for saying the word, “evil.” I wanted to toy with him by having sex with younger men who were more rugged than him, but I conspired with George to do the opposite, when I called him from a pay phone, out of pure instinct.

Jawje advised me to focus on focusing, so I asked him if he had ever killed anyone, and he hung up.

I asked Pierre the same question and he replied, “You should not be asking me that, and you definitely shouldn’t be asking my friends.”

“Did Jawje tell you I asked him that?”

“Oh, well, George doesn’t count. He probably has killed, but I wouldn’t know.”

“You’re supposed to be mad at me, and I think you’re lying. If Jawje has killed, I’m sure you know all about it.”

“This is another error. You should not be intentionally mispronouncing my friends names.”

“I’m joking.”

“No, calling me a liar is a power play.”

“I meant that nobody ever knows if any person is hiding something or not, but if we were in love, then I would believe you’re being authentic with me, and I’m not sure if we’re in love. I’m feeling emotional,” I deadpanned.

I also liked to be tied up and spanked before and after rough sex, and Pierre was happy to help with that. He narrated a twisted story about awful things he was supposedly doing to me, as if I was naive about how dangerous men like him could be, but he kept going easy.

I gave him nasty feedback, hoping it would inspire him to go harder, and he blocked with, “Only on the yacht, Suzy.”

“Where’s your yacht now?” I asked.

Pierre untied me and spun a new narrative about how he wanted me to help him gather data about an oil pipeline.

“Won’t that expose me to security risk?”

“Not a lot. We’ll get in and out quickly. It’s mostly a platform you can use to show me everything you know about faking feminine insecurity. It could also be a lucrative project for us. If we get the data, I’ll make trades, and if my trades are profitable, I’ll have more runway to project confidence that hanging out with you is good for my credibility.”

“I can give you more bad data about human insecurity than you can give me bad data about French culture. It’s a deal.”

Pierre coached me about how to act masculine without getting caught, and then we fooled around some more.

I lost my mind in the beating heart of a thousand cathedrals while drilling for data about an oil pipeline at internecine balls that were full of people who were professionally obligated to attend, and I internalized the skill of sensing when Pierre was breaking his flow in order to demonstrate a behavior that he wanted me to emulate, so that I might learn new tricks on the fly.

Pierre started referring to me as, “the nuclear reactor,” so I referred to him as, “the luxury hotel,” because it’s reasonable to say, “the hotel said this…the hotel said that.”

That’s how people talk, but it’s not reasonable to say, “the reactor said this…the reactor wants that…”

Pierre wouldn’t or maybe couldn’t surrender to me, so I got a t-shirt emblazoned with the quote, “Atomic physics is not an occult science,” and so on and so forth.

George had taught me how to make money while acting feminine, but only Pierre had inspired me to lie like a man, so we decided to call it love.

My Pierre developed a reoccurring dream about marrying me, which he claimed meant he wasn’t ready to get married, because he believed dreams represented subconscious emotional attachments that had just been released.

I responded by describing some of my dreams about him.

“I dreamed you were wearing a wire under your sport coat!”

“I dreamed I was buying sandals with you in San Francisco.”

“I dreamed you were really, really tall. Like Atlas, babe.”

That one got Pierre to laugh submissively.

In summation, Pierre’s submissive laughter was the true, authentic currency of unified Europe, and I was minting it in the summer of 1991.

I had big ideas. The scope of my dreams was even bigger, and I partied with reckless abandon into the dawn of a new era.

I hoped my summer in Europe with Pierre and his friends who worked in fashion would never end, but I went back to a Beyond the Pale area university that fall.

I won the respect of the nerds and selected computer science as my major.

I read all the text books as satire, and my focus was electric.

I also sent a smoke signal to the jocks by talking comfortably about sex toys in front of Cecil, who was one of the most sought after preppy guys.

I told people, “My objective is to build robots that are perfectly evil in their presentation.”

I mesmerized myself by fidgeting with a Rubik’s cube behind my back while writing on dry erase boards in bowels of the compsci building, and I cajoled everyone who I found there to speak plainly and share the data about what they were doing.

I also endured a local maximum of bizarre approaches from guys who wanted to perform sex acts with me.

I wanted to believe that my computer skills were my primary claim to fame, but my laughably formulaic program of deceit by omission drew attention to the fact that I also happened to be world class at giving men what they thought they wanted in bed.

Furthermore, I handled it by either completely ignoring my degenerate suitors or by slamming them with biting sarcasm.

Most of them retreated, but the handful who didn’t colluded to lay down a base of fire and siphon my credibility, such that I had to borrow from the school in order to balance my books, and the school planted some unwanted seeds in my brain, in response.

As a result, I could never remember which sports Cecil played, and he declined to take me seriously, so I did spring break in Florida with my girlfriends from freshman year, and I started dating a guy from the country named Alex who was visiting the same spot as us in the sunshine state, but with a different crew from a Beyond the Pale area university.

I flaunted my new boyfriend until the end of spring semester, and many people viewed this as a desperate attempt to get noticed by Cecil, who patted me on the shoulder at a special point in time when we passed each other in the quad, in order to let me know that he knew my relationship with Alex was fake?

He knew it wasn’t about him, and he didn’t care what it was actually about.

He was doing a tour of duty for a greater cause, and he was cool with it. I was respectful about it, and his boys at a Beyond the Pale area university and his boys back home stood tall.

I framed them as aspiring writers, and I, their sexy assistant.

They were playing 80s pop rock mashed up with island music on their boom box, and I pretended to have not yet heard the term “grunge.”

The style choices I was making on and off the golf course propelled Alex’s boys out of the mainstream and into the subculture space that existed on the other side of me.

We ignored the grunge vibe that was taking the world by storm.

We were representing the money, and I focused on my classes.

I slayed grunge, and the guys from the country thought I was great. I got the top level culture data about America from my girlfriends, I exchanged it with raw, west coast data from my guys back home, and I crunched it in my brain like a cray supercomputer.

I told Alex I had converted from Christianity to a sexually charged infatuation with technological progress, and he whispered back, “I won’t tell if you don’t tell.”

It was a fair transaction. My guys in SF were making money hand over fist as freewheeling IT consultants. The personal computer was the engine, and I was the boat.

We kept the flat in London, and they represented me in their brochure as the head of our consulting firm’s UK office.

George used the flat to play a prank on Pierre that involved a shipment of fake guns, and the photos looked real enough to get Pierre upset!

Pierre, in turn, kept the pre-screened clients flowing. Small businesses all over northern France wanted to pay full price for our customized information management software that ran on computers that paired well with cats.

In the realm of geopolitics, computers that paired well with dog food boxes had won the war against computers that paired well with cats, but Pierre was one of the first people in Europe to see the evil dog food box empire for the hustle that it was.

He knew everything associated with computers that paired well with dog food boxes would get dirty, and anyone who had disregarded them would gain an advantage, so he promoted cat computers with style and discretion.

Pierre talked up my London consulting shop that developed information management software for cat computers, and people in the know associated my shop with our summer fling.

Pierre was washing his name and staying warm in the winter by selling our software to a thousand French cheese, milk, and cosmetics producers.

He and George were cooking up a feast.

I taught George how to talk to girls about what he did for a living, and I had weekly phone sex with Pierre.

I wanted to add leverage to a good thing, so I got a summer internship at a bank.

I applied and interviewed without telling any of my billionaires, and I was assigned to a team of mostly finance bros.

The bank expected us to work long hours.

I also got a group of my male co-workers to go in with me on a rental by the beach.

They spread the word about me, and the information flowed upstream.

A private investigator made us at a beach bar, and I got a call the next morning from a power broker named Marshall Bobs, who I had met the previous summer at one of Pierre’s parties.

He was at his mansion, not far from us, so I lead our growing expedition to Sunday brunch at Marshall’s mansion.

“Let’s go around the table and everyone share a story that illustrates everything you either learned or hope to learn in business school,” I chirped, breaking the summer ice.

Marshall scanned our faces, as if he expected someone to follow my lead, but he changed the subject before anyone jumped out of my nest, and the bros dug in with glee.

My finance trust played it cool, and I stayed back with Marshall while the wide-eyed bros returned to the city.

The conversation between Marshall and I that began in 1991 was bound to become a big deal, but I loved being cavalier about it.

Pierre trolled Marshall at a fashion event in Paris by introducing me as a model.

He wanted his buddy to represent the real reason why I was at the party, and I became cross with their wintry approach to summer love.

Marshall and I opened with a silent stand off, and Pierre made an excuse to leave.

Marshall was making a credible threat to ignore me for the rest of my life, so I took a guess, “I bet you like surf rock.”

“Did you learn about that genre from Pierre?” he replied, with a level of sarcasm that redefined my definition of what it means to be evil.

“I surfed a lot while growing up in San Francisco, and I had good conversations on the beach with guys like you,” I replied cooly, resisting the urge imitate his unmoored beach bully bravado.

Marshall’s eyes darted. He showed off his ability to cry on command, and he leaned in to add, “There’s a million me’s floating, tragically, everywhere and nowhere,” before assuming his new role.

My body language hardened, and then he shape shifted again before I could follow protocol and soften.

“Were you in a band?” he said, replying to my hard body language, and faking a surfer bro accent.

“Air Cover?” I questioned, still hard, as if I might never talk to him again if he didn’t already love it.

“Never heard of it,” he trolled, like a criminal, knowing I had feelings for him at this point, but remaining coy.

I thought, “Pause, time, can we talk about who’s doing what in this play,” but I was like a random guy hitting on a hot girl. I knew what Marshall wanted, and I knew he would walk away if I didn’t give it to him.

I wanted to shout obscenities.

“We were making loopy house music, but we also worked in some ideas from surf rock,” I said, hiding my sudden outburst of sexual aggression.

“Who’s the most virile now?” he said, putting his arm around me and rotating us so that he could point at Pierre acting feminine while talking to a group of models, and I followed by intentionally losing dance battles.

I was sandbagging.

Losing dance battles to Pierre was easy because he was always projecting the image of success, but Marshall did an unusually good impression of an average guy.

Everyone knew he could make a few phone calls and change the trajectory of their career, but he acted just like the guys I had been slaying all summer.

My muscle memory kept prompting me to slay him, but I wanted his body at that point, if nothing else, so I goaded myself to reframe our dance battle as a dance performance.

I was beating him at a modified version of dance club in which the goal was to be as boring and unremarkable as possible in the eyes of the audience.

I was tripping because George had been paying me to let him win at this game all summer, and I felt Marshall was playing some kind of girl power game that had to do with programming me to want him for his heart and soul instead of his money and power, but I didn’t have any time or space to explore that train of thought.

My ability to stand in a room and slay high quality guys all evening took the spotlight off George’s hustle, and the hardest part of my role was to avoid laughing, but Marshall was compressing all of my more lovingly crafted emotions in tandem, and I liked it.

We went for a walk and he said he couldn’t figure out how I was staying cooler than him, given that I didn’t know anything about how the world works.

“It’s my background in computer science,” I said, showing my teeth. “You have an information advantage. That’s all I need to know.”

“You couldn’t do it without a dance background also. You’re getting under my skin because you’re a better dancer than me.”

“Have you ever done this with a college guy?” I asked, hitting my stride.

“No. It’s definitely sexual. What we’re doing would be violent if it wasn’t sexual.”


“It gives you power over me, college girl.”

“Yay!” I said, doing a lackluster impression of a cheerleader.

“Just keep playing your role.”

“What role is that?” I blurted out, before becoming infinitely embarrassed.

“It’s ok,” said Marshall, as things turned maddeningly sexual.

Marshall pretended to be joking, but his edge made my head spin. The summer breeze blowing on my face and through my hair felt good as I stared into Marshall’s eyes. We were Americans making fun of two European men named George and Pierre, and I went with the flow.

I fooled around with Marshall, and he ferried me back to the city early the next morning in a helicopter, just in time for a meeting he had arranged with the president of my bank.

Marshall explained to his colleague at the bank that culture was changing at an alarming rate, and it would be helpful to have me consulting directly with clients like him on how to respond to the influx of new ideas and attitudes coming out of Seattle.

I was exquisitely sleep deprived but coherent, so the president of the bank went off and had a conversation with the director of HR.

HR agreed to give me flexible hours.

Marshall paid a retainer upfront, and then he pledged to buy a huge asset and pay the bank a success fee.

I was ordered to file detailed notes with HR about what I was doing for the client during each hour when I was not at my desk, in addition to doing all the same work as the other interns in my program.

Sensing an ambush, I pitched the idea of bringing in a couple guys from my SF crew to be interns on my team.

A private meeting was scheduled between HR and I.

“I want a weekly meeting with you to review your hourly notes, and your manager will submit a weekly report that says these two additional interns are doing the same work you would have done,” she said.

“Done,” I said.

“I wasn’t finished. The additional interns will be responsible for keeping you up to speed with the work you would have been doing, but nobody except you is going to tell them that. And you, Suzy, had better be able to explain the work you did during each hour you file with me. I don’t want to hear anything about your social life.”

I left HR’s office without saying another word.

It was understood that my job title would remain the same. I would still get to write on my resume that I had been a summer intern at the bank.

I called two guys in SF who had expressed interest in finance, and they were in the office with freshly bought suits and ties the next morning.

They took over the room in the city I had secured for the summer, and I moved into Marshall’s mansion.

I wasted no time faking a panic attack and asking him, “What’s my role?”

“Most people don’t have any idea what we’re supposed to do with our time on this planet, so don’t worry if you have a real panic attack. This is a vacation for me. We’re taking a vacation. Let me show you how to open the safe, and then I’ll change the combination.”

Change the combination he did! But I’ll save that story for another time.

Phone calls were made and a French industrialist named Claude gave Marshall an option to buy a stake in his flagship parts conglomerate.

I prepared a spreadsheet about the deal using a computer that paired well with cats, with my back to Marshall’s ocean view, at a table near the DJ stand in the living room of his mansion, and we didn’t bother tearing down my office during our grunge themed social events that become the talk of the party people that summer.

My office was an aspect of the decor at the parties.

Marshall’s ex-wife, Fay, with whom he had two kids, showed up at the mansion one day and harassed me by knocking a pen off my desk.

A member of the security team named Leandro arrived on the scene at the same time as Marshall.

Fay proceeded to tell a lie about me, and I contradicted her all the way.

I treated her like a guy in my receiving line. I represented a Beyond the Pale area university while making strong eye contact, and then I ignored everything else she did.

I slayed her. Nobody had seen this coming. Fay’s hand twitched, and then she calmly delivered her message to Marshall.

I invited Leandro out to the balcony and asked him to help me practice jump kicks.

Fay acknowledged that Marshall might have finally found a positive influence for himself, but it wasn’t a love fest. He said she said, “We’ll have to wait and see.”

In the days that followed, Leandro resigned from the security team so he could work for Pierre, who had been trolling around the east coast in his yacht, waiting for the right moment to drop anchor in the shallow waters near Marshall’s mansion.

Marshall informed me that Pierre and Leandro had a shared vision with regard to creating a “reality video” about Pierre and his guests on the boat.

Pierre had a showman character he could turn on as needed, and the reality video project sharpened his character in all the right ways.

Everybody wanted in, and I helped throw parties on the boat in order to discover talent.

Pierre and Marshall were starting to really do it on the east coast!

Back in the city, HR and I created a ruckus by relocating our weekly meetings to a private club that was full of mostly male bankers. We spoke only of business, and she laughed out loud at how ridiculous my coded language had become.

I would drop lines like, “We found that breaking out the suppliers by region was the key to using iterative approximation to recalibrate the model,” and HR would burst out laughing.

I was spending half of my time at Marshall’s mansion preparing properly coded language to unload during my weekly lunch meetings with HR, and Marshall was happy with my performance.

On one occasion, Claude stopped by the table I was sharing with HR.

He thanked me for helping out on the parts deal, but he patted me on the head as he left.

I emerged from my chair like a ballerina and told Claude it was not ok to pat me on the head in a work setting.

He laughed and turned his back to me.

HR acted like nothing had happened. The ball was in my court, so I escalated the matter to Marshall.

George flew in from London, and a meeting was arranged at a different kind of private club where I felt seriously out of place.

Everyone stared at me when I entered the room. George, Pierre, Marshall, and I grabbed a table, and Claude joined us a few minutes later.

George and Marshall stared at Claude. He didn’t like what they were doing. They weren’t exactly bullying him, but he was feeling pain.

I focused on keeping my feet on the floor.

I would have preferred to put them on the coffee table.

My stilettos would have looked great as the centerpiece for our meeting, but Pierre had coached me beforehand to keep my feet on the floor.

I thought he was joking, but he had been serious.

“We’re exploring the concept of minimal distortion. Everyone else whose opinion carries weight is representing false beliefs right now, but we aren’t. I’m asking you to accept that as an upfront assumption.”

There was a pause. Claude was listening. He was intrigued. Pierre was going all in.

“The way we ensure minimal distortion is by treating Suzy like an equal participant in our business transaction. She works for the bank and she’s helping us do the deal. Think of her as either being on the clock or off the clock. If she’s off the clock, she’s fair game as a sexual partner, but she’s a tough negotiator, so I don’t recommend patting her on the head in that context either.”

George and Marshall were still staring at Claude. They looked inquisitive, but this wasn’t an inquisition or a show trial. They were doing a science experiment.

“This is hard. You’re boxing the bank. You’re boxing me. Where’s the blow off value?” asked Claude.

“Somewhere far away from here,” said Pierre, with an air of deviousness that had no effect on Claude.

“Fine,” said Claude, ten seconds later. “I’ll work for you, but this project ends when her summer internship ends.”

He made strong eye contact with Pierre and then with me, and my heart skipped about three beats.

Claude got up abruptly and left the room.

He did not appear to have training in ballet, but he won the dance battle, and Pierre started doing what George and Marshall were doing while Claude made his exit.

Part of me wanted him to pat my head on his way out, but Claude was aided by a newspaper that had been conveniently placed on the coffee table.

Picking up the newspaper and clutching it in his hands helped him save face as he walked past me, while the words, “What do I do? What do I do?” raced through my mind as my eyes settled on the coffee table.

I would have looked at the coffee table even if Claude hadn’t picked up the newspaper.

The following week, Claude stopped by my table with HR, and he offered a convincing apology. His body language was smooth, subtle, and engaging.

I made strong eye contact and framed him like a guy in my receiving line at a party, but I suddenly felt like I should reframe this as a dance battle with my guys in San Francisco. I’d been training for this moment for years. I just had to anticipate the landing, and I would win big.

When Claude finished speaking, I said, “Thank you,” while dominating his energy with dance club moves. I wasn’t slaying him. I was dominating him, but he was letting me. I wanted him to enjoy it. Dance club was serious. He smiled. This was correct. He hadn’t thought I could do this. He was pleasantly surprised. He got more than he had expected. I was happy.

I thought about making a parting comment in French, but I held back.

I practiced radical non-reaction, like the ocean.

I handled the transaction, and I continued talking shop with HR.

That evening, I was summoned to Pierre’s yacht, along with George and Marshall. Leandro took the skiff back to land with the captain, the chef, and the first mate, and I headed out to sea with the pirates for an overnight cruise.

George was driving the boat as we motored off into the sunset, and the energy on the boat was really interesting!

The pirates gave me a ransom note that said they had made substantial amounts of money while hanging out with me, and they were uncomfortable with my lack of personal wealth.

They were concerned I’d write a tell all book about them, but if I started a hedge fund, they would each be happy to invest a million dollars.

“Is this the part where Pierre will finally spank me hard until I’m speaking in tongues, so that I’ll tell you the magic formula for starting a communist revolution in America?” I asked.

They hung out with me because I could be counted on to say stuff like that.

They had made money because I said stuff like that.

“Is that what you want us to do?” asked George.

I didn’t like that George said it. I felt like he was studying my body language in preparation for killing me and calling it an accident, unless.

A mathematical concept occurred to me. Every time I got 50% closer to understanding them, to framing them, to owning them, the odds that they would kill me doubled, unless?

“Zeno’s Paradox,” I said, looking at all of them quizzically, like they had looked at Claude.

“Do you want us to take the boat back to shore, Suzy?” asked Pierre, condescendingly.

“Oh my god,” I said. I became a valley girl. I wasn’t a valley girl. What was this? This was a bad Hollywood movie scene.

Marshall’s energy was ice cold. I stared at him and asked, “Marshall, what should I do?” like a teacher calling on him in class. I was reacting. I didn’t know what to do.

He didn’t respond. It was like I had said nothing. I had ceased to exist.

“Are you guys playing with me?” I asked, without looking directly at any of them.

Crickets. Except that we were at sea, and there were no crickets.

Just ocean sounds.

“No, I’ll look into starting a hedge fund when we get back to shore,” I answered, with a hint of freshly baked sarcasm.

“That’s wonderful news, Suzy! We’re eager to invest,” said Pierre.

And then he did his showman act. He talked about food and wine, and the guys softened up. We smoked cigars. They treated me like one of the guys, and I lead the crew in mindful stretching at sunrise.

Stretching was Pierre’s idea, but he told me to say it was my idea to George and Marshall.

What kind of hustle was this? Were we double dating? Was Pierre coming out to us as a woman?

Back on land, I was happy to see Leandro. The pirates had agreed to let me share the data with him, so I told him everything.

“He’s just adding leverage,” George had said, in order to make it clear he had veto power over my freedom to share data with Leandro.

I was starting to hate George. What was his problem? Why did he have to comment?

None of this phased Leandro. He was happy to ignore the security risks I was weighing in my mind. I asked him what he planned to do at the end of the summer, and he laughed.

“That’s such a college girl question.”

“I know,” I said, while moving in closer like Pierre would have done to me if I was declining to answer one of his stupid questions.

For example, Pierre liked to ask me how each of my outfits felt on my body. He had no right to ask, but he would always move in closer until I pushed him away or gave him data.

“Pierre’s been talking a lot about gambling in Vegas.”

I felt relieved. Gambling in Vegas was safe. We had sex. I loved what he was doing. I was off balance mentally and physically, but I felt safe.

The next day I started researching hedge funds. I didn’t want to start a fund, so I treated it like a research project for a class. I was doing market research instead of party planning.

Marshall approved of my project. He wanted this to become my only project.

Our parties in the summer of 1992 were like a space portal that had opened up and allowed us to travel across the universe for a brief window of time, but now the portal was closing. I was back to doing a banking internship, but I was locked up like a princess in Marshall’s lair.

HR was going to laugh at me. She was going to frame me as a princess. The worst part is that I was enjoying it physically, and she was going to know that too. I felt obscenely feminine. I figured this must have been Pierre’s plan all along.

I became increasingly confident that starting a hedge fund was not the right move for me. I wanted to start a software company, but I didn’t know enough yet.

On queue, Pierre organized another cruise, and we had a full boat this time. Claude joined, along with Leandro, five of Pierre’s girlfriends, and the boat staff.

I was framed as boat staff.

I served drinks with Leandro.

We shared a cabin and had great sex.

I felt free on the boat, but I was afraid of Leandro and Pierre. They had been cooking lunch together all summer while filming scenes for their reality video project.

They kept acting like they were going to have a fist fight over me so that the captain would have to pull out a revolver and restore order, but I had faith this was all part of Pierre’s master plan.

After dinner on the second night, Leandro and Claude went off to smoke a joint. The girls were watching a movie, and Pierre asked me to do drugs with him while George and Marshall watched.

It was all a game for him!

Pierre explained that I had said the magic word on the last cruise.


“No, communism. We have another chance to do it right, but with free software. I want you to lead it, Suzy.”

“Won’t George and Marshall object?”

“No, they’re just pretending to be capitalists.”

“But their act is very thorough,” I said, becoming a ballerina.

George and Marshall were pretending Pierre and I weren’t there. They were also pretending not to see each other. They were pretending to be on the boat alone, enjoying the summer air, but they were taking it all in.

They were serious about practicing this act.

I waived my hands in front of them to see if they would react.

Part of my role was to avoid being overtly rude to either of them, individually, especially when they did something awkward like this, but it wasn’t rude to check both of them, as a unit.

“When you’re done casting spells on the guys, I would like to hear your master plan for the free software movement,” said Pierre.

I felt like a machine. I was being programmed.

I had spent the week studying hedge funds, so of course my answer would involve a combination of starting a hedge fund and distributing free software.

Pierre loved me in that moment because I was a computer nerd who had already thought about free software.

My mind slowed down. I adjusted my shoulders like a transcendent being, and then I machined it up for Pierre and said the first thought I had.

“Baseball cards, but for computer hackers. Eliminate money. Force people to use fractional ownership in the hacker cards as the means of exchange for other goods and services.”

“Excellent! Will you marry me in Vegas? I want to give you four million dollars so you can implement this idea, but I don’t want it to be a company. Do it for love. Will you marry me?”

“Dah. Cut. Can we talk about this seriously?” I said.

“We’re on drugs, but sure. What did you have in mind?”

“I will take your money, but the frame is that I go to Vegas with ten thousand and leave with four mil. End of story.”

“Sounds good,” said Pierre.

Pierre knew I wanted to ask for more details about why he would do this. I wanted it to be true, but I wasn’t sure if he was serious. I didn’t see anything wrong with it, so I spoke in tongues.

“And, yes, I’ll use the money to start a movement. George and Marshall want to nickel and dime everyone, but you’re a man with vision. You know the only way anything ever gets done in this world is by giving four million dollars to a hot smart college girl who isn’t rich.”

“Bingo,” said Pierre.

I was delirious. What was he doing? He was framing himself as a girl again. A hot girl. I took him back to his cabin and ravaged him.

In the morning, Pierre did more drugs but encouraged me to be sleeping beauty and then nerd it up for the rest of the cruise.

“Play piano and read your math text books. I’ll help Leandro serve the drinks,” he said.

He was metaphorically patting me on the head, but I liked this idea.

George and Marshall asked me to explain my math reading to them, so I did. They acted like they were interested, but I was sure they were making fun of me.

There were five male guests, five of Pierre’s girlfriends, the boat staff and me onboard.

I did the math.

Pierre, however, was serious. When we got back to shore, his people started arranging everything, and I did legal research about what I was getting into.

Pierre was a lazy middle-aged man who wanted to give me his money, and he had just one other request:

“Suzy, would you be so kind as to provide the capital for Leandro to start a dojo in Las Vegas? I think you’ll see a return on the investment.”

“Sure,” I said, without a care in the world.

And then we partied in Vegas, Pierre and I got married and acted silly, I became rich, and Leandro started a dojo.

I had planned to attend classes at a Beyond the Pale area university that fall, but Pierre wanted to take a cruise around the world.

I was down to cruise, but first I had to finish my banking internship.

I showed up to work at the office where my guys from San Francisco were working with our fellow banking interns, and everyone took me seriously.

It was important for me to get equipped with all the knowledge I would need to represent our internship as a real experience when I got back to a Beyond the Pale area university for spring semester.

Pierre was running the same hustle he had run the first time we met. He was partying with me but tricking me into returning to my stable platform at regular intervals.

Was he tricking me or forcing me? I concluded he was just trying to hypnotize me.

Pierre was not a violent man, and we sought to prove that assertion by sailing around the world in our yacht.

We wanted to meld our minds into one.

We were mad scientists in love, but Pierre never let me be the man.

I assumed he was afraid the captain would disrespect him if I became a man to him.

I was allowed to drive the boat whenever I wanted, but I wasn’t allowed to drive Pierre.

Pierre got deeper and deeper into my subconscious, but I could expand my mind just as quickly as he got into it. I was his complicated mirror.

He was trying to re-program me to be the logical compliment of his public image, but he couldn’t do it. The harder he tried, the easier it was for me to keep up appearances by masquerading as a character who I began referring to as, “hot girl on the boat for Pierre.”

I loved being her, and we had great sex.

We gradually forged a truce and got serious about studying our books and chatting as equals with the boat staff.

We talked about current events on the world stage.

We gossiped about history in broad strokes.

Pierre had done this routine before, but I had not.

My husband got himself into at trance state and acted out a timeline of the universe, while I held the camera.

He said he would keep three copies of the video in safe deposit boxes all around the world and leave ownership of the film to me in his will.

Pierre was also representing a statue of the Phoenix in the boat’s master bedroom.

He took it very seriously, and he laughed submissively when I came up with novel ways to make fun of it.

“That’s a mighty fit bird you’ve got there, my love.”

“She’s got your library in the furnace now!”

“She’s a screamer too, Pierre. Who would have guessed?”

We were toying with the idea of exorbitant privilege, in and of itself.

I had initially believed I could turn Pierre into a humble man, but our relationship reached a point of diminishing returns somewhere between the lavish island resorts we visited in the Indian ocean.

Pierre was eager to return to the mainland and pursue his usual hustle, and there was nothing I could do to pull him back into the aura of my love.

I was the product and he was the customer, and I didn’t have enough leverage to flip the script.

I felt like royalty, but Pierre never got me to conform to his vision for what I should be, because the good sex worked to my advantage.

Once violence was taken off the table, he had no way to get me.

All he could do was become a good samaritan and teach me more and more of what he knew about society, culture, and the human condition.

I was surprised he didn’t let me show him how to be a woman, but he preferred to be a member of the crew, because he still had his money, and he trusted that I, like him, wasn’t capable of violence.

“You think I’m a drug, don’t you,” I asked, somewhere south of the equator.

“Yes, I love every moment with you. I like being with you more and more each day, but it won’t end well. You’re not committing yourself to the higher ideal of love,” said Pierre, lovingly.

“It’s not like you’re more vulnerable than me. I can pine over you too.”

“You should wear a navy blue playsuit with white polka dots next time you break a man’s heart.”

“Next time I break your heart. What’s that outfit?”

“Stark emotional contrast? Vintage? But above all, it’s something I haven’t seen you wear before.”

We spent Christmas in Tahiti, and then we flew to Los Angeles.

Pierre had made plans to move to America and produce. We found a mansion that would help him gain credibility as a thought leader in yoga, transcendental meditation, photography, and creative writing, and then we got a divorce, but not before I changed my name to Suzy Babineaux, so that I could be French.

Pierre had taught me everything he knew about ballroom dancing, so I kept dancing at a Beyond the Pale area university that spring.

Pierre had all the best artifacts and words. He had a singular collection of CDs and video tapes, and I was annoyed that I couldn’t download it from the Internet.

I was iterating on this when Heather asked me to dance.

I nearly shouted, “My head is exploding, but sure.”

Pierre would have been perturbed if this girl asking me to dance didn’t approve of his lifestyle.

If I kept my muscles soft and let her twirl me around, I would learn a lot about her.

I would learn all the ways she was not like Pierre.

Heather took me into her arms, and she wasn’t shy about using dance club moves to keep me a little bit off balance.

Following was easy for me. Pierre had programmed me to be the perfect follow, but it made my brain turn to mush. I couldn’t reconcile his tastes with Heather’s tastes.

My subconscious did the work for me, but I had no idea what was happening in there.

I became worried that Pierre and this girl were colluding to do a science experiment on me.

I was curious to see the result, but my heart was pounding from letting her lead.

She thought I was nervous about dancing with another woman, but that wasn’t it, so I said, “Let me lead,” in the middle of a song.

Pierre had let me lead him on the boat, but he had acted bored.

He made me feel unattractive when I was leading.

Leading Pierre was like programming a computer.

He even joked about how he was sharing his inner robot with me, not his inner woman.

This worked because I had my own reasons for wanting to learn how to lead all the dances.

I let him joke about being a robot, and I programmed him to follow.

Heather would not have allowed it. She would have ignored Pierre’s inner robot and found someone else to lead, just like Cecil had ignored me all last year.

I imagined that Cecil was watching us.

He knew I was actually flaunting myself to him this time. I was no longer pretending.

I lead Heather like a pro, and Heather could follow.

She said she had grown up being taught to follow, and she was showing off her skill in order to impress me.

We went back to my room holding hands, and Heather zeroed in on my photo album from the cruise around the world with Pierre.

I felt her heart skip a beat.

I stared into her eyes and she stared back.

I tried guessing her major, and she liked that I couldn’t do it.

She said, “Don’t hurt yourself,” after my third incorrect guess, and we belly laughed.

She wanted me to invite her to share a kiss, so I put on some music and started doing Pierre’s showman character.

We made a connection. We talked about our lives and then we snuggled. We eventually did the strong eye contact thing again, and she asked the question. I said yes, and we hooked up.

She was an econ major, but her plan was to work in any industry other than finance.

On campus, she felt like a friend as opposed to a foe.

She had my back.

I didn’t have to think about anything other than doing my classwork when I was around her.

We did our classwork, but we weren’t doing any other kind of work for a Beyond the Pale area university, and that made us feel like rebels, because everyone else was trying to call out people like us who weren’t working for the school.

Everyone was doing variations on what Claude had called, “working.”

George had only used the term “working” to describe what I was doing to help him out at parties, but for Claude, work meant adjusting his behavior in all aspects of his life, so as to align with Pierre’s objectives for the summer.

A Beyond the Pale area university was getting most of us to do something in-between.

On campus, most people were working for the school.

We did work for them because everyone else was working for them, and the leader, whoever or whatever it was, was invisible.

Heather was the first person I’d connected with who got the joke.

Cecil also got the joke. That’s why he was starting to notice me.

He noticed that I was starting to get the joke.

He pretended to accidentally run into me from behind one day while I was walking to class, so I slayed him.

I let him bleed out on the field, and then I invited Heather to fly to LA with me and stay at Pierre’s mansion for a long weekend.

She said yes.

We arrived at the property I’d helped Pierre select, and I finally saw who Pierre really was.

Everyone was working for him, and the people working for him all had teams of people working for them.

At a Beyond the Pale area university, most of us were individual contributors, but Pierre had a hierarchy reporting to him.

He was running a political machine.

He had arrived in LA and pitched a tent, but his tent was a vast machine that would have taken a normal human being many years to build.

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