Long, billowing silk curtains cascaded over the looming windows and pooled into small lakes on the floor. It was rumored all the drapes in the house were woven by silk worms in a remote corner of India, or maybe it was Burma. All I know is they came from somewhere I’d never been. Their rich scarlet and bronze weave glimmered under the thousands of crystals dangling from the ceiling as chandeliers. They radiated a golden glow, which warmed the grand ballroom and illuminated the opulence of a man I hardly knew.
Few people knew him. He was a recluse. Rumored to be eccentric and ornery. Yet once a year he opened his doors to a select number of invitees, who admired the un-scuffed honey brown wood floors and velvety rugs from exotic locales in the farthest regions of the world. Slender candlesticks, entwined in metallic ropes of silver and gold, propped up fragrant candles on the mantels in each room. Even the lethargic wax, which meandered down each candle, seemed rich. It probably derived from a rare tree in the Amazon, a tree that could probably cure blindness or cancer, if not for its precious wax being used as decor in wealthy people’s homes.
I wondered how many mouths could be fed with the riches in this house. How many diseased people could afford treatment if they had a piece of this fortune, which served no purpose other than to impress the haves and have nots.
“What do you think of this place?” asked a voice at my side.
“I think it’s a bit much,” I replied, the words flying from my tongue before I had a chance to catch them and stuff them inside my indignant brain.
How ungrateful I must have seemed to the white-haired man standing to my left, who bent to inspect the ornate carvings of a chair rail on the wall. Before I could correct my faux pas, he said, “Hmmm, you might be right about that. Fewer details would have allowed us to see more of the natural gleam in this maple.”
Grateful for his misunderstanding, I nodded and stepped away before uttering anything else which made me appear unappreciative of this opportunity to visit the state’s wealthiest man. I doubted he’d appear among us, likely preferring to hide in a room upstairs until every last one of us had exited his abode. Opulence had no reason to associate with the common folk; we offered nothing but gaping mouths and “oohs” and “aahs.” We came to imagine and dream how we’d live like kings if this magnificence was ours, but as I stood there among the masses, my thoughts were less about myself than the millions of unfortunate souls whose lives would have been transformed from the money spent to decorate this room.