Anne Hedonia

A memoir by Colin Campbell
2,710 words

     I didn’t know that Anne had died until I saw a notice in the classifieds that her condo in Montecito was in foreclosure. My first emotion was schadenfreude: hah, she couldn’t keep up with the payments! But it turned out that she stopped making payments because she was dead.

     I was surprised to find out she was dead because I’d heard nothing about it. I hadn’t heard anything about her in twenty years. It turned out that she’d been dead for a couple years and there were no obituaries, no death notices. It’s not like she was some nobody, she was the Chairman of the Foreign Languages Department at the high school.    

     I met her when I’d been in town for three months. I arrived in Santa Barbara in July after being laid off (along with everybody else) by the BBDO ad agency back east after they lost the Dodge account. I started working at Santa Barbara Magazine.

     In October I was invited to a birthday party for Bill, the brother-in-law of one of the magazine staffers, and that’s where I met Anne Hedonia.

     The party was a wine-tasting: everyone brought a bottle of Pinot Noir. We nibbled cheese and Triscuits between bottles. The guests were a mix of magazine staffers and the brother-in-law’s colleagues from the university’s Political Science department.

     The party was fully under way when I arrived a little bit late. I gave Bill a birthday card I’d made for him. I noticed a very attractive mid-thirties woman, slim and trim, who was talking in French with another guest. Bill asked me if I knew what Anne and Eric were babbling about. I’d heard her mention “Descartes.”

     “Oh, sure,” I said. “They’re talking about the mortician’s son who abandoned the family trade to take up the study of philosophy.”

     “Huh?” said everybody.

     “Sure,” I said, “they were angry at him for putting Descartes before the hearse.”

     “That’s frightfully clever, you know,” said Anne. She was the only person in the room I didn’t know. She was the date of Bob, who was the founder of the SimSoc Lab at UCSB where Bill was the current director.

     Bill told her, “Colin’s known for his frightful cleverness. Did you hear about his sea lion ad?” My first piece of work in Santa Barbara had been a freebie, a newspaper ad for the Zoo; it caused a bit of a stir. I enticed thousands of people to phone the mayor and bark like a sea lion. Los Angeles TV news teams came to Santa Barbara to cover the story.

     Anne moved over next to me and stayed there the rest of the evening as she and I were magnetically attracted into wide-ranging discussions. She was a teacher of French and Advanced Placement Art History at the high school.

     She said my hands were long and limber and expressive–something I’ve never thought about. “Oh come on, hasn’t anybody ever told you that you have great hands?” I sat there staring at my hands and said Huh?

     Monte, the graphic production girl at the magazine, chimed in: “His hands were the first thing I noticed about him.”

     Anne continued on and on about my hands and made me embarrassed. My voice was wonderful, too, she said, and I admitted to doing some radio voice work. Then she listed a bunch of other things about me and stared me in the eye and said “You are a most attractive man.”

     I’d never in my life been subject to such praise. 

     I was embarrassed when she left with the director half-dragging her out while she was saying “What is your full name, Colin? How can I reach you, are you in the book?”

     “I, uh, well, uh…”

     “I think people should tell when they think someone else is attractive, and I think you are. I don’t do this all the time, you must realize…I’d like to see you again.”     

     I didn’t get her full name or her phone number, but in the ensuing days I contacted friends and found out her name and was just about to call her when the phone rang and it was her. We made a date to go out to dinner.

     Our first date was at the Enterprise Fish Company on State Street three blocks from the ocean. We went to dinner and talked about sex all through the fish and wine. She had been a virgin at 23, she told me, and saved herself for the wedding night. But hubby proved inadequate and she soon was seeing her analyst, who soothed her mind and then her body. She had lots of Mommy problems—momma said not to do it, and Anne went along with it. Then she met the generous Eric, who had a million bucks burning a hole in his pocket: he was a marvelous lover, but then the money was gone and so was he. Then she lived five years with Paul, but for the last three they had separate bedrooms and never touched one another. Turned out he was seeing another woman for the last couple of years. She’d moved out two months ago.

     We left the restaurant and went back to her place in the lower Riviera. I instantly felt at ease because all of her interior lights were swing-arm lamps, just like my home office, just like the studio at Santa Barbara Magazine. Her walls were filled with art, including several of her own paintings. She was immersed in art. I grew up immersed in art–my father was a successful commercial artist.

     The Santa Ana winds were blowing and it was warm; we sat on the deck and watched the moon and stars and talked and sipped whiskey and watched the lights of Santa Barbara strung out below us. Eventually it became cold and she suggested continuing our talk in front of a fire.

     I used the Los Angeles Times to get the big oak logs started into a roaring fire. We sat and talked and sipped cognac. We looked bronzed and beautiful in the firelight. I went to replenish our drinks, and when I returned Anne had changed to a shimmery long sheath. It was her only garment. We touched and kissed for a long time, with fire heat caressing our skin. She had no tanlines due to sunbathing nude.

     We kissed and embraced on the furred ottomans and licked and nuzzled each other for endless time while the fire popped and cracked and coated us in a golden glow. She looked up once and said, “This is right out of The Story of O.”

     It was the most comfortable beginning to an affair of my life. I was married for six years and my wife and I were both sex rookies at 22…we’d met when we were both junior copywriters at an ad agency, and it took six months of daily interactions before we started going out together. With Anne, I immediately began sleeping at her house three or four nights a week.

     At first it was fun, a wild run of luck for me, this beautiful blonde gourmet cook eager for sex. I took her out to dinner a lot and I brought lots of steaks and seafood to her place for dinner.

     I participated in her life. She would tell me about her lesson plans for the upcoming week in her advanced placement Art History class, and she listened to my comments and incorporated them into her lessons once in a while.

     I helped her with her plans for the school. Wrote down the reasons for the language lab, with carrels for students to listen to proper pronunciations etc, and eventually the Language Lab came into being. Anne became chairman of the Foreign Languages Department.

     She wanted to lead tours of local artists’ studios during the summer months; I created flyers for her.

     I was pulsing ahead in my freelance career. It was a struggle but I was winning awards and finding new work and starting to do well. I wrote a recruitment brochure for the university’s Computer & Electrical Engineering department, and that paid enough so that I was able to buy my first computer. Anne was totally and completely uninterested in anything about my computer.

     Anne had lots of rich toys lying around, relics of her whirlwind marriage to a millionaire. I borrowed her 35mm Nikon camera to take pictures in the pits when my brother raced in the Long Beach Grand Prix, and I saw that she had a set of very expensive lenses for the camera.

     A few months later she was pining about not being invited to some swank party in Montecito, some event she routinely went to when she was a millionaire’s wife. I came up with a plan to get us in the door: I grabbed a couple of those lenses and when we were hassled at the door I explained that the event photographer needed these lenses, and the door guys said, oh, okay, and let us in.

     But, it didn’t make her happy, her old pals weren’t interested in talking to her because she was no longer a millionaire’s wife.

     Gradually I discovered that she had no friends. And that she found my friends to be tiresome. My pals were writers, artists, photographers, designers, all grubbing around in the arts for mere money instead of the exalted goals elucidated by art historians such as herself.

     I met her when I was at the peak of my powers as a freelance writer. It was a precarious life with no steady paychecks.

     I don’t know what I seemed like to her. When I would wake in the night I slipped out of her bed and sat by the fireplace with a drawing pad and made notes and layout sketches about my various projects and drew cartoons, same as I did at home when I woke in the night.  

     She had her static world of the school while I was in the wilds of freelancing.

     She and I went to many art openings at first, and I enjoyed talking to the artists and getting them to talk about the methods of their art. The longer I knew her, the fewer art openings she wanted to attend. I don’t know if it was because I enjoyed them, and/or because the artists were glad to see me, glad to talk about their work.

     I came from a background of knowing lots and lots of commercial artists, while she had a low regard for them–doing it just for the money instead of for the highest standards of artistic perfection. She saw value only in academe, not in commerce.

     It turned out that Anne went to openings so she could feel haughty about how ignorant and gauche the artists and their works and the attendees were. She was condescending toward the locals because all the great work has already been done and there’s nothing left for anyone else to do except to create tawdry imitations of greatness. Nothing personal, it was merely her art-history expertise at work.

     Slowly I began to realize what a troubled lady she was. She still hadn’t forgiven her college-professor father for dying when she was 16, and resented her mother for being too obese to reach her own feet and requiring Anne to trim her toenails.

     As for me, I was a poseur because I have no college degree and therefor I was fit only for manual labor. She wanted nothing to do with the people and places and events of my life, and she hated it when I reveled in her people and places in her life.

     She was completely compliant. She would do anything I asked except be interested in anything about me.

     She had disdain for my projects. I didn’t realize this at first, I was dazed and hypnotized by the constant sex. When I mentioned situations at the offices of Santa Barbara Magazine, where I was an editor, she dismissed them with, “All you guys do at that studio is play.”

     Well, yeah, creation is play, but between the moments of play we had to scramble to make our creations fit in with the needs and desires of our clients. A different kind of stress than those endured by public school teachers.

     Later I realized she had no personal experience with “play.” She had never played cards, never played board games. She was proud that she had never entered a MacDonalds restaurant in her life. She was never in sports, never on stage as an actor in a play. Never played an instrument.                          

     During my time with Anne, I was accomplishing things. At the Santa Barbara Ad Club annual competition, a direct mail piece I wrote won Best of Show. My catalog for Seymour Duncan Guitar Pickups was accepted into the permanent collection of the American Institute of Graphic Arts. My interview with Rin Tin Tin was a cover story for the Santa Barbara News & Review. My softball team won the C-league championship and my teammates voted me MVP in the playoff game. I participated in the production of a movie, THE BIG TOMATO, and attended its world premiere presentation. On stage with the Zero Gravity Theater improv group at the Lobero Theater, the audience voted me the prize for best laughs.

     Anne declined to attend any of these events with me. She did consent to sharing the improv prize, though: dinner for two at a high-end restaurant.

     At the dinner, several people came to our table to congratulate me for the Improv show, and later Anne was despondent. “Those people really like you,” she said. It was outside her experience to be liked by people.

     I come from a big family of nine siblings and I grew up with eight sets of aunts and uncles and 21 cousins. Anne came from a family built like a single crystal, a tetrahedron of grandmother, mother, Anne, and her sister. Grandma had always been at the top of the tetrahedron but when I entered the picture she was well on the decline (dementia) and Mom was the new apex of the family. No other relatives on the surface of planet Earth.  

     The thing that drove me nuts was that she stopped talking to me. She became more and more withdrawn. We kept going out to dinner, kept having sex, while she drifted into conversational remoteness except for school gossip. Finally one night I demanded that she tell me what was going on, I wasn’t going to put up with any more of it.

     She said she was afraid that I was writing about her. Well, I’m a writer. Which would be worse, if I was writing about you, or if I wasn’t writing about you?

     Even at our state of animosity I could still make her laugh. But then she said she’d come up with a simple plan for me: all I had to do was change one little letter in my job description, change an “R” into an “A” et voila, the writer becomes a waiter.

     She was serious. All I had to do was set aside my career. This infuriated me and the evening ended with angry shouts and slammed doors. And I never saw her again.

     A few years later I became active in the Santa Barbara BBS community–“Bulletin Board System.” A precursor to the internet, and I became prominent in the group and it was mostly teenagers and some of them were in Anne Hedonia’s classes in school, so I got reports about her from the kids. They reported that she was acting weirder and weirder, dressing like a hooker and being drunk a lot. Eventually the school dismissed her from the staff, and I never heard anything more about her.

     Maybe I could go to the Bureau of Records and request a copy of her death certificate. Find out what killed her. She was a smoker. Her only exercise was walking from the door to the parking lot.

     She owned a Colt Python .357 magnum revolver. I’ve always wondered if suicide was the reason there was no public notice. Or maybe it was just cigarettes and booze that got her.