Reynald Altéma, MD
Pierre-Charles, better known as Pedro, was one of a kind. The type of person one marvels at for his boldness, his brazen ways. For one thing, whenever he opened his mouth, truth became a casualty. Fact and fiction were Siamese twins as far as he could tell. Opinionated, he talked with authority on any subject, nary a concern about exposing his ignorance. But he also was a born charmeur, better known as a mètdam, in our vernacular. The English expression, con man, approximates it. Mètdam is a conflation of con artist and schmoozer and of course being a good moocher is the icing on the cake. Casanova is the closest foreign persona exhibiting the same traits.
Pedro’s style was splayed primarily but not exclusively on the opposite sex. In a given situation, he would talk his way out of any prickly position. He had a special way of making a woman feel like a lady and once his gimlet-eye focus was placed on a female, he would go to any length and promise the world to reach his final destination that lately has included the pocketbook besides any physical contact.
A svelte fella, of average height, a dandy, he was an extrovert and any greeting from him came with ebullience. He was always ready to stroke one’s ego with compliments. He had been living in the US for past 5 years and had moved from Boston to Atlanta to finally Queens, each time leaving a trail of broken promises, molten heart’s cockles but with more heft in his bank account. That was around the turn of the century.
He had chosen to work as a bank teller, having access to a customer’s account balance, a prime criterion in the choice of the recipient of his emotional fervor. His present fixation was on Mrs. Déjean’s daughter. The Déjeans were professionals. The father was working on Wall Street as a broker and mother was a hospital administrator. Whenever Mrs. Déjean would come to the bank, he would always make it his business to pay special attention to her. He told her to always call him ahead, so he can service her. He made sure he introduced her to the manager and she had VIP treatment. A smooth talker, he found out in short order she had a single daughter and as a mother, worried about finding her a suitable companion. With a straight face and award-worthy acting, he concocted the following profile: law school student at night, stinting as a teller, single but decrying the dearth of females with good manners, from proper families. His ultimate weapon was description of his faith: God-fearing Christian treating others as well as dictated in the bible and as per his convictions, he was attending a Catholic school, Fordham University. He picked that school at random. A previous customer had mentioned it to him as a praise to her grandson attending it.
Mrs. Déjean’s daughter, Joceline, was sent to the bank by her mother to make a transaction and he swept her off her feet with a mixture of a wink, a smile, and a note deftly slipped to her that read, “Your aura leaves me enchanted.” For some mysterious reason, he and females had a way of clicking effortlessly. One thing leading to another, he started showing up at her house on a regular basis, having showered mother with an expensive scarf, father with designer tie and flowers galore for Joceline. He always volunteered to help, including clearing the snow off the driveway.
Mr. Déjean who was a player in his young days, eyed him with suspicion and felt his gestures were contrived and not genuine. As Joceline was his only child and princess, his hackles were raised. As much as his wife seemed enthralled with Pedro, Mr. Déjean was developing a despite for him. He began to wonder about his alleged school attendance while spending so much time in the evening at his house. He kept musing about finding the first opportunity to poke some holes in his story. His nephew came to the rescue. He was an undergraduate at the same school and would be visiting soon.
Over dinner a Sunday, he asked Pedro in front of everybody about his progress with law school. Without missing a beat, “I am doing straight As,” Pedro replied. Nephew chimed, “It is amazing you are doing so well while working during the day and commuting. I find it easier to live on campus in the Bronx.” “I don’t find commuting to the Bronx so hard,” he replied as a blatant falsehood. The Fordham Law School is near Lincoln Center in midtown, not the Bronx. This was not lost on Mr. Déjean or his nephew. Neither wanted to call him out right then and there, not wanting to create an embarrassing scene since both Joceline and her mother seemed to be so taken by Pedro. Mr. Déjean’s prior warning to his wife about Pedro was met with glacial stare and “You are overprotective. How will she ever meet Mr. Right?” She was just as forgiving with this faux-pas and Mr. Déjean knew better than to pursue the matter but would not give up so easily.
Ever the clever and wily fox, Mr. Déjean with some innate cunning devised a ruse, “There is a concert at Lincoln Center next week, featuring Cesaria Evora, my favorite singer, why don’t we all go? My treat.” “She is a fabulous singer indeed, from Brazil!” he volunteered. This inaccuracy was caught by everyone but ignored by the females. Cesaria Evora, the barefoot diva from Cape Verde, was a family favorite as she was indeed one renowned morna crooner with an immortalized song called Angola.
Pedro kept getting ahead of himself and promised to join them after classes. He would have a test and would join them afterwards. “I will leave your ticket at the box office,” promised Mr. Déjean. Pedro had heard about Lincoln Tunnel, but never before had he heard about Lincoln Center. He figured the two were close to one another. That was before the days of car navigation technology.
On the day of the concert, Mr. Déjean made sure he drove by the Fordham Law School campus literally within walking distance from Lincoln Center. “Pedro will only have to walk a few minutes before joining us after class,” mentioned Mr. Déjean. Pedro never made it. He kept looking for Lincoln Center near Lincoln Tunnel. When Joceline finally reached him on his flip phone, “What are you doing by Lincoln Tunnel when your campus is right here by Lincoln Center?” For once he was caught red-handed with his pants at half-mast. For once Pedro was stopped in his tracks before doing any damage. He was in the midst of convincing Mrs. Déjean to let him invest some substantial amount of money in a bogus real estate venture.
Pedro decamped and vanished out of thin air to find greener pasture somewhere else. A few years later, having exhausted all his life lines, he finally had a comeuppance when in a fit of jealous rage, a lover who was supporting him financially threw lye into his face. He became disfigured and blind in one eye. Joceline was despondent for a while but over time fully recovered, especially after meeting the right companion.