Once upon a time, two years ago, a very lonely, rich man lived alone at the top of the world in the center of the universe. Through sheets of sparkling, floor-to-ceiling glass in a space so immense and soulless, it echoed only emptiness, this man would gaze down at the city he had conquered. A city, like himself, that never slept. One of the fascinating things about this man was the fact that he couldn’t lose money. Even in the midst of his country’s worst recession, he just kept making more. So much more, it forced him to dream of something else. And what he dreamed of was love.
Unfortunately, like most rich men, he had very few friends and depended on his servants for company. One of those servants was a personal trainer, born in the faraway Balkans. We’ll call him Zoltran.
“Listen, Zoltran,” the man said one morning after yet another grueling session in his private gym, pumping, crunching, lifting and peddling nowhere. “I’ll pay you $100,000 to find me a wife.”
Now, Zoltran, the personal trainer, was not a man who wasted time dreaming of love. He was as tough as an old cudgel. A man from a small mountain village who had survived one of the cruelest, medieval-like civil wars in recent history. A war in which neighbors murdered neighbors, raped daughters, and buried babies. Yet here he was at the top of the world in the center of the universe helping a man fight an enemy he knew nothing about. The enemy we call, aging. How Zoltran must have laughed, knowing what he did about real enemies.
“I’ll do it,” he said. “I’ll find you a wife.”
Months drifted by as they tend do in this rarified, part of the world. A whirring blur of solitary trading, exercise, desultory meals, and more money. Then, one morning, the man padded out of his office in search of a cup of coffee. And there in his kitchen, he saw a young girl hard at work, cleaning. (The kitchen, of course, was never actually used for cooking. So the cleaning must have been confusing.) The young girl spoke very little English. They communicated with gestures and smiles.
“Who is the girl in my kitchen?” the rich man asked at his next session with Zoltran. “And what happened to my regular housekeeper?”
“She’s sick,”Zoltran replied. “And the young girl is from my village in the Balkans. She arrived here three months ago.”
“Well, I like her,” the man said. “Maybe she could stay for a while and help out?”
“Sure,” said Zoltran. “I’ll tell her.”
Six months later, the lonely man and the young girl were married. It was an intimate, quiet wedding. But when one of the man’s friends gave the pair a set of very expensive ceramic knives from Japan as a gift, the bride blanched. “We can not accept this,” she said in now fluent English. “Knives are symbols of blood feuds. They bring bad luck.” Then, when the bride’s mother arrived to visit, people assumed that she would be surprised to see her daughter living at the top of the world in the center of the universe. Gazing down sixty stories to the street, the mother just shrugged. “Isn’t this how all of America lives?” she said. “I’m not surprised, at all.”
Oh. Zoltran got his $100,000 and still reports for work every day.