Previously: Men about to get murdered in Patek Philippe ads.
If you have ever leafed through an issue of The Economist or any other glossy magazine meant for the upwardly mobile as they wait in first-class airport lounges, you have seen a Patek Philippe ad: a blond father and son, usually on a boat, are laughing sternly at the sea, while the tagline reminds you that “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.”
And yet the first generation is so rarely prepared to hand over its prize. A Patek Philippe is not relinquished that easily. A Patek Philippe is a $60,000 watch, for in case you need to know what time it is while you’re spending $60,000.
The hyper-wealthy do not look after their children; each generation of the transcendentally rich is convinced it will be the first to discover the secrets of immortality that render childbearing and childrearing irrelevant. How can the passage of time apply to money? How could a jam-smeared child take your beautiful watch, your beautiful youth, your beautiful place?
“Mommy, can I sit at your makeup chair and try things on?”
“All right, little one. Just this once.”
“Mommy, can I try on your earrings? They’re so beautiful.”
“If you’re very careful, yes. Someday I’ll buy you a pair of your own.”
“Mommy, can I try on your Patek Philippe?”
“If you think you can pry it from my wrist while there is still breath in my body, girl.”
“You two look like sisters,” he said.
“Well, we aren’t,” she told him. “We aren’t sisters.”
They couldn’t stop laughing. How funny. What a funny mistake. Her mother wouldn’t let go of her hand. She could feel the burning points of her mother’s fingers on her wrist. No one had told a joke.
“How funny that everything ends up in your hands, sooner or later,” her mother had said, still laughing. “That ring. That watch. The power. How funny that everything that used to be in my hands is sitting fat and pretty in yours.”
As soon as he was out of earshot, she drifted coolly over to the girl and wrapped a protective arm around her. She smiled, as if she were there to help.
“What are you working on there?” she asked.
“Spelling,” said the girl.
“How nice,” she said. “Can you read this?”
She picked up the pen and scrawled out a quick message before walking over to him.
I WILL ALWAYS BE STRONGER THAN YOU.
The girl knew how to spell that.
The girl had waited a long time to grow up. She had grown too big for pity, too big for remorse. She was just big enough for the watch, and the watch was just big enough for her. She would outlast everyone at the table. The watch had all the time in the world, and so did she.
“There was never anyone else on the boat with me, darling,” she said lightly. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Mother’s been out of town for weeks.”
“I love you, Mother,” the girl said, wrapping her arms around her.
“I love you too, sweetheart,” she said.
“I’m going to grow up and take everything you have,” the girl said.
She laughed, a little. “You’ll have your own things, when you grow up, darling. You won’t have to have my things.”
“No,” the girl said, with a charming little jut to her chin, “I’ll want to have your things.”
“Sweetheart,” her mother said, “you’re hurting me a little. Don’t hug me so tight.”
“I’ll hurt you a little at first,” the girl said, “and then I’ll hurt you a lot.”
Keep her facing you. Don’t ever let her step out of your line of sight. Facing her, you’ll always be safe. Never let her get behind you, and never lose sight of where her hands are. Hands in front. Eyes forward. Keep watching her.
Do you like the watch, you little lace-encrusted monster? Looking at it is the only thing you’ll ever get to do. Eat your heart out, my darling. I’ll throw it into the sea before I wrap it around your undeserving wrist.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.