The Long Strange Golden Road by Courtenay Pollock - Chapter 9 - The Persian Affair (Part 2)
The gathering took place in the Salon of the main house and was overseen by Ali’s mother and her husband and catered by the house servants. I loved the traditional stuffed dates and liberal servings of the best sweetened Arabic coffee. No alcohol, of course.
The party was well underway when Victoria arrived and discretely slipped in and mingled with familiar friends. My attention was drawn to her, a vision of loveliness across the room through a throng of fashionable people. For a moment time was suspended and I saw only her.
She and I were drawn together as if by magnetism and met and greeted each other with due civil formality. Although my impulse was to sweep her up in a full embrace there were strict codes of protocol and behaviour to observe since she was a married woman.
She was at university in London with Ali and Farhad and they had both thought she and I would make a good match. Victoria was somewhat estranged from her husband who was of an old and noble lineage and a powerful businessman. At the time we met they had a child of about 18 months named Sirus, after Sirus the Great of course. He ended up getting educated in San Francisco and studied film production.
Ali suggested that we go to a friend’s private ski lodge for the weekend and rendezvous there, away from watchful eyes. So the following day we loaded Ali’s Mercedes and headed out to the mountains. The roads outside the city were unnamed and narrow paved tracks with no traffic for the entire journey. Amazingly Ali was able to navigate what seemed like uncharted territory and we finally arrived at the ski slopes.
Ali’s and Victoria’s friend Manon met with us at the check-in. Her family owned the resort. We were given free access to the amenities and each had a luxurious bedroom suite. Before leaving Tehran Ali had said we wouldn’t bring any opium with us, I didn’t understand the significance of this, I just shrugged and said okay.
There was still all afternoon remaining so we went up the slopes. Now I had never skied before, I mean how hard can it be? I got fitted out with gear and skis and up we went in the lift chairs. Wow! It was steep and high up there and desolate. My friends just took off down the mountain and were out of sight in seconds. I tentatively scooted to the slope and went Kamikaze down going faster and faster in a straight line until it leveled out a bit and then I threw myself down to stop. I edged over to the next slope and down I went with legs bouncing like pistons and succeeded in making it to the next level spot. In this fashion, I navigated my way to the halfway lodge where my friends waited. My ski suit was ragged by then and I was a bit beaten up but I was in high spirits. Ali was aghast at my appearance and thought maybe I should take some lessons and get another ski suit. “Hey! I got down in one piece so I think I’ll do it again.”
After a few hours of fun on the slopes, we returned to the hotel to shower and change for dinner. By the time I got back down to the lounge Victoria had arrived and we all dined together. She came back to my room with me and we got better acquainted. Wow! By far the best lover I had up to that point in my life. We seemed to be made for each other. I truly fell in love for the first time ever and it changed me forever. I became open and loving and sensitive in a way I didn’t know how to be previously. So started a wonderful romance and lifelong friendship.
Ali came knocking on my door and inquired if I needed anything. He asked how I felt and I admitted that I was kind of beat up from my unorthodox skiing technique but I was also blissed out. He said he had brought a little bit of opium if I needed it. I shrugged and said I was fine, not understanding that a puff of the stuff would have eliminated the ache deep in my bones. He was a true opium addict and knew all about how it worked. He thought I was really strong-willed to not indulge but I truly didn’t understand the nature of opium’s addictive quality and I had spent a week smoking with him several times a day.
On the third day the management approached me and diplomatically requested that I not use the slopes that day as the Shah would be coming to ski. We went up to the halfway lodge and were able to observe the Shah skiing, surrounded by a moving phalanx of soldiers in a big circle around him, complete with automatic rifles and skiing in unison with the Shah’s movements.
That evening after dinner Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran gave each of us a golden sovereign to commemorate the Persian new year. He already knew Ali and Victoria and I was introduced to him. Such a tiny little man but a very powerful person with impeccable manners and English speaking. Somewhere along my adventures in life, I lost that gold sovereign.
The following morning I said farewell to Victoria for the time being, her husband was arriving to take her back to their mansion. I was in the lounge when he arrived with his entourage and I could hear him snapping orders to all and sundry as he made his way into the hotel. He had everyone scurrying around him to do his bidding as he proceeded through the lounge. Fortunately, he didn’t know about me and certainly not the affair I was enjoying with Victoria, the mother of his son and heir. I made myself scarce, slipping back to my room to pack for our departure also.
We returned to Tehran through the beautifully terraced hills around the city, an ongoing greening project ordered by the Shah that extended several miles around the city. When we got home Ali immediately ordered the opium tray brought up to his Quarters, and we proceeded to smoke. By that time my system was purged of the accumulated effects of the previous week's habitual indulgences, so my first smoke upon returning was like an old friend, both comforting and seductive.
After a day back Ali wanted to invite Victoria and her sister Patricia out to visit a friend who used to be a big game hunter. His house was like a medieval castle and each massive room was a wild game set, complete with beautifully mounted beasts replete with their natural habitat and lesser animals. The great lions and the gazelles etc. that they hunted were a shocking display of savagery done with expert taxidermy. There was an elephant room, a tiger room, crocodiles and hippopotamus, even giraffes. I was appalled by the display but then I wouldn't hurt a fly, but I managed to act with due decorum around this man’s lifelong passion for killing beauty.
Ali paired up with lovely Patricia, Victoria’s younger sister and from then on we were a foursome. I expressed an interest in going to the country residence that Ali’s mother kept in the foothills of the mountains. The snow was still lying in the valleys but the thaw was due any day. The four of us drove out to the country house and startled the family of servants who seemed to appear out of holes in the ground around the house. Their quarters were virtually invisible and I never did see inside where they lived. They were not expecting guests for another month but quite quickly had a fire going in the great room and food was brought to our table.
To be continued...