‘It is. Vlado (Vladimir Tichý) went to Vienna to buy his tuxedo. Dolina (Rolf) is planning to wear his white tux and Hana (Wagenhofer) I am sure will be her elegant self as usual.’ (The  three principals of the VIPress Czechoslovakia, a.s., the publishers of the Czech edition at the time. )

‘Hum!’ I mutter. Then pause again to digest the information.

‘Sounds really great. Congratulations to you. You have done really a great job. I don’t remember any launch quite so grand and glamorous as what you have planned.’

I pause one more time, looking outside at the gleaming tulips, I am thinking: And I don’t even have a tuxedo. The only time I was required to attend such an event was Playboy Holland’s first anniversary in Amsterdam. But at the time, our cool service editor Mick Boskamp – who’s still a close friend – had foresight enough  to get my measurements in advance and arranged a rental  for me. The second time was several years later in Hong Kong when we did Miss Playboy International Beauty Pageant and I was to hand out editor’s choice award to the winner on the live television broadcast. The TVB producer insisted that I do it wearing a tux. And then I even had ample time to have one custom made. But I didn’t see any sense in it and I guess I was being just plain cheap! Seeing my hesitance, the producer took me to the prop room and had me fitted with one.

‘Well, that sounds really great.’ I repeat myself. ‘But I am afraid I don’t own a tux and I am leaving for Prague in two days and have our Turkish publisher Ali Karacan in town so won’t even have time to look at renting one.’ My mindset is still fixed on renting  and not just go out and buying one.

The silence on Ivan’s side of the line prevails. But in retrospect, I should have heard the loud screeching of the wheels frantically turning inside his brain.

‘Well, I guess I just will have to wear my best dark suit.’ I say.

‘I guess,’ he echoes.

‘In fact, I have really a good one. Dark rusty brown, almost black. I bought it a little over a year ago just for the Hungarian launch.’

‘I am sure it’s really nice. Especially knowing your taste.’

‘It really is. You will see.’

‘It doesn’t matter. You’ll still be a big hit. We love you with or without a tuxedo. But you know Haresh, someone just told me not long a go that the difference between good and excellent are little things!’

I want to jump up and down and throw the receiver out the window and smash it into those swaying tulips, watching their petals erupt up in the air and scream.  ‘You fucking son of a bitch!!!

© Haresh Shah 2013

Illustration: Jordan Rutherford

Next Friday, April 5, 2013

MY SPRING VALENTINE

Its Easter weekend already and the sun is shining bright and the temperature in Chicago is creeping upwards, slowly but surely. And I am thinking of the decades-a-go-winter in Amsterdam and the many faces of love.  And then one of them reappearing years later on a beautiful spring day just like today, only warmer – because it’s Santa Barbara, California.

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