Ambition and the three doors of Life


Destiny is easy to accept when things are going your way. When they’re not, we choose to no longer call it destiny, but injustice, treachery, or bad luck.

This story is about a woman whose destiny wasn’t easy to accept. A woman that struggled with life’s dualities like love and hate, war and peace, good and evil, right and wrong, and truth and lies. It is for one specific lie that she will be remembered by many.

For most people the duality of things like right and wrong represent forces in opposition that don’t have to stay that way. Some people choose to do mostly the right things, or mostly the wrong things, and they remain consistent in their decision making through out their lives.

But, this didn’t hold true for this particular woman who became notorious for her ruthlessness. A woman whose eyes were the color as steel, and not nearly as soft. Live and let live was not a principle she recognized.

Maybe deep inside she was just a little girl looking for her father. This may explain her infatuation with older men, but it wasn’t age she was attracted to, it was power. She gravitated to power, not to intellect, or a man’s rugged good looks. She aspired to be with a man that wielded tremendous authority. And, she never prescribed to the premise that with extreme power comes extreme responsibility, not at all. Power was to be used, it was to be abused, it was there for sheer and total domination, for absolute and total control. She wanted people to kneel in her presence, not just to respect her. If she aspired to be anything, she wished to be everyone’s queen, and to turn all of us into her subjects.

Maybe it was her childhood that influenced what she became. She did come from a big family after all, a very prominent political one. She was raised on a pedestal with a golden spoon in her mouth. But, she was never her father’s favorite. Her brother was. Her mother dealt with her with some cruelty also, forcing her to be more like a lady when she wanted to be more like a dominant male. And, her brother, although younger, would try and beat her from time to time until she learned to stop taking a beating and started giving one.

As she grew, her beauty grew with her. But, she was never attracted to handsome men, or even men of her age group for that matter. She fancied being in the presence of older and powerful men even at a very very young age. This was her aphrodisiac.

Her family invested much in her education and grooming, but she wasn’t preparing herself to live an ordinary life. In her lifetime she would seduce two iconic men and bore a son from the first, and twin girls from the second.

She never married either man, but she used them for all they were worth. Her beauty in exchange for affiliation to power, that was the deal. She moved in with her first older lover in her mid teens and the power he yielded is what drew her in. When this man was no more, she moved in with the man she thought would be his successor, knowing he was married. In fact, both of her lovers were married, but to her this was no more than a footnote. And, she didn’t hide her relationship with either man from their wives, or from the world for that matter. She was happy to be the mistress, happy to be the other woman, as long as she was in control.

With her second lover, she played the role of the loving mistress like an actress whose hidden motives were all lined with deceit. After all, acting is nothing more than behaving truthfully under imaginary circumstances.

But, if you wear a mask for too Iong, there will come a time where you can’t remove it without removing your face. As she approached man number three, her game plan now was an open book. The strategy she had deployed so skillfully twice didn’t work the third time. I guess it’s hard to befool a fool that has seen too many others fooled before him. She would learn the hard way that deceiving others is nothing but a gateway to hurting your future self.

As for lover number two, there is likely no worse feeling in the world than knowing you have been used and lied to by someone you loved. Someone who purportedly loved you back. But, she was ninety percent treachery and ten percent a woman. A seductress who knew how to harness the power of beauty for her selfless gain. Oscar Wilde once said: “Yet each ‘woman’ kills the thing she loves. By each let this be heard. Some do it with a bitter look. Some with a flattering word. The ‘seductress’ does it with a kiss. ‘At least’, the brave man ‘kills’ with a sword”.

As for man number two, for there to be betrayal, there would have to have been trust first. How did she earn this trust? She must have advertised her loyalty never believing there is a single person she loved that she wouldn’t eventually betray.

After all, history is riddled with deceitful women. Cleopatra seduced Cesar when she was in her mid teens. She used Cesar to be rid of her brother and sister in her quest to become queen. After Cesar’s death, very shortly afterwards, Cleopatra moved in with Marc Anthony, who was married to Octavian’s sister, his nemesis. Eventually, fueled by Cleopatra’s thirst for power, Octavian and Marc Anthony’s forces would go to war.

The gamble Marc Anthony took for Cleopatra turned to folly and the battle with Octavian’s forces was quickly lost. When Marc Anthony took his life, he acted to fulfill a suicide pact he’d agreed to with Cleopatra. In a last ditch effort to fend off Octavian’s forces, Marc Anthony received a note that Cleopatra was dead. She had committed suicide as they had agreed. Upon learning this, on August 1, in 35 BC, my birthday no less, Marc Anthony killed himself with his own sword.

But, Cleopatra was not dead like Hollywood may have led you to believe. Cleopatra was very much alive. Cleopatra deceived Marc Anthony in believing she had taken her own life so he would take his. And, Marc Anthony followed through.

In this act of treachery, Cleopatra was trying to find inroads with Octavian for her own survival, whatever it took. Octavian was not seduced like Cesar and Marc Anthony before him, but intended to take Cleopatra to Rome to humiliate her in a public square and end her life there. Upon learning this, Cleopatra took her own life on August 12, eleven days after Marc Anthony’s suicide.

Maybe Cleopatra’s treachery was meant to save not just herself, but her children. Cleopatra’s older son Cesarean (little Cesar) was Cesar’s child. Cesarean was killed shortly after Cleopatra’s suicide by Octavian’s forces. Cleopatra also bore twin girls to Marc Anthony, and after her death, they disappeared and were never seen again.

Marc Anthony trusted Cleopatra, the mother of his children, and this led him to make the ultimate sacrifice for the woman he loved. As Marc Anthony took his own life, he did so only upon learning of Cleopatra’s faked death. With his last breath, Marc Anthony was nothing more than a fool.

But, in Cleopatra’s defense maybe she had run out of options to guarantee her own survival. Maybe her life eventually mirrored a gameshow like “Let’s Make a Deal”, with Monty Hall. She could have picked from either doors number 1, 2 or 3. Behind door number one was an ordinary life, a quiet life, a life in black and white. This was a choice she would have never considered. Behind door number two was a loving husband and kids, maybe with a sheep dog and a Volvo for good measure. Not an option either for a woman with this level of aspiration. Behind door number three was the big prize, power, money, expensive jewelry, fancy boats and chariots, but most importantly she would be queen. She would have subjects. She would rule. But, the prizes behind door number three come at a price, you buy now and pay later.

What drives women like Cleopatra, more than anything else, is ruthless ambition. After all, intelligence without ambition is like a bird without wings, and Cleopatra’s aspirations mirrored that of a hungry eagle. It was Cleopatra’s ambition that doomed Marc Anthony from the start.

History should remember women like Cleopatra for their ambition and why their drive made the men in their lives disposable. But, history too must record Cleopatra’s betrayal of Marc Anthony correctly, not just as a love story, but one of deceit and treachery. Sorry, Elizabeth Taylor, it’s always best to tell a story the way it actually happened.

And, in death if Marc Anthony spent time in the afterlife hoping Cleopatra would suffer the consequences for what she did to his heart, all this would do is hurt him a second time in his mind. A man like Marc Anthony will never rest in peace. Fools rarely do. Stab the body and it heals, but injure the heart and the wound lasts for eternity.

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© Khaled F. Sherif, 2020

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