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I smiled at the uniformed man operating the hotel elevator. I usually smiled at everybody. It had become a habit. But this time, when he smiled back, I thought to myself, "He must know what I just did."
The elevator opened into one of the most elegant establishments in Monte Carlo, the distinguished Hotel de Paris. Walking through the plush lobby, I felt a little self-conscious in my worn jeans. I also wondered if the money that Salim had just stuffed in my back pocket could be seen. I crossed the marble floors and went through the revolving door. This was the first time I had received hard cash for giving God's love, and I felt sensations of shame, confusion, and anger.
Passing the limousines and Rolls-Royces unloading in front of the hotel, I did not pause in curiosity to identify any famous faces, but instead I walked with my face turned in the other direction. I intentionally avoided eye contact with anyone for fear they might recognize the turmoil in my soul. Walking quickly around the tree-lined island in the middle of the majestically landscaped cul-du-sac, I headed for the Cafe de Paris, a popular, upscale cafe-restaurant. There I could sit down with a cappuccino and try to make sense of what had happened. The cafe was crowded, and while I hesitated at the entrance, my thoughts reviewed the previous day's events.
I had met Salim the night before at Le Pirate, a well-known restaurant on the Cote d'Azur. One of the women I was living with, Sharon, had a date with an older German gentleman, and since she had met him only recently she asked me to come along. Normally, we never went alone on dates until at least one other member of our group had met the person we were goingout with.
Sharon and I were surprised to be taken to Le Pirate, which had a reputation for being patronized by millionaire swingers. We had both put on our nicest clothes, hand-sewn dresses made of a soft muslin material that we had bought at a discount store in Nice. The gentleman was older than I expected, surely past sixty, and I wondered if this bothered Sharon. Our policy was to show God's love to everyone rich or poor, handsome or ugly, young or old but I knew from experience that it was hard to physically practice such an abstract ideal.
Sharon was a talented and dynamic singer, but she was somewhat shy on dates. She had been raised in a very traditional Catholic family and had studied to become an opera singer before she joined our group. She was tall, blond, and constantly on a diet in order to control a voluptuous figure. Her large, expressive eyes often portrayed alarm or amazement, like a little girl who had seen the roaring ocean for the first time. Sharon had a husband and young child at home, and I felt she would rather be back with them. Our tentative plan was to have an early dinner, give him "the message," and be home on time for me to go out again. But as soon as we arrived at the celebrated restaurant, I sensed that it would be a long evening.