Archive for September, 2011
The boy frowns, rolls his eyes and shows me his forearm, which is tattooed by, it seems, the entire English dictionary. “Everyone does it,” he says in an aggravated tone. His subtext is clear: F*ck off.
And then something happens, the origins of which are still a mystery to me. I say, “Well, if everyone jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?”
It begins at about 8 o’clock on Thursday evening. The coughing, that is. It creeps up the back of my throat, into my temples and ears. By midnight I am a wreck. I am drooling, sniffling and coughing. These attractive qualities are compounded by the even more endearing wheezing, groaning and hacking.
Friday, I call off work and curl into a fetal position on my bed. I try to read but my eyes are watering in counterpoint. Moreover, breathing through my mouth makes me sound like I’m on the business end of an obscene phone call.
I top this all off with the manly plea – “I want my mommy!”
The cat leaves the room in disgust.
“Listening, part two.” My voice resonates through my home office. Retroflex, subsonic liquid sounds in my mouth grate at my nerves. “You will hear about a woman who is a therpapisht at an orphanage for kit-cats.” I stop. “F-
And so, for the third time this evening, my neighbors hear the loudest English expletive since the time a car backfired while the B Monster was sleeping in my lap.
I start my Sunday morning with Wikipedia’s recent deaths page and strong coffee. It’s not my macabre sense of curiosity; I’ve just found that it’s a good place to start if you want to read about random things on Wikipedia. Furthermore, it is a good companion to the informational access overload at Wikipedia, and my own post-coffee ADHD.
This Sunday’s Recent Deaths page leads me to Napoleon. Through an external link I end up on a page stating that Napoleon lost the Battle of Waterloo due to a bad case of hemorrhoids.
I set my coffee down. This is big.
So I’m walking around IP Pavlova, enjoying the sights and sounds that grace this section of Prague. Beautiful women are interspersed with hammered winos and the occasional excitement of a bum fight. Children beg cigarettes from a woman whose dress is so short that it is unclear whether her barely hidden goodies are available for a small sum of Koruna. The kids then step into the local herna – casino – for reasons better left unknown.
And then, standing on a corner like an oasis of tooth-rotting, diabetic love I see a new shop – The Candy Store.
So early Friday afternoon Lee walks into my flat and presents me with a bottle of Becherovka, four beers and a giant smile.
“Thank you?” I say. I have found that unwarranted gifts mean I am either about to get bad news or an undesirable job. We have a shot and I pour us a beer. I sense trouble.
Trouble is confirmed when he pours us two more shots and says, “Now, get in the bedroom and get into your bathrobe.” He removes a video camera from his bag and smiles, “Bitch.”
I go into my bedroom and slip into my robe, all the while shouting staple excuses meant for escape and avoidance. I feel like a prisoner getting ready for a big date with his cellmate, Bubba.
As I cinch up the robe, I reflect that this wouldn’t be happening if I hadn’t written that damn novel.
Lee has sworn that making video trailers for novels is a highly effective marketing technique and I have promised violent revenge if his theory proves wrong. During the shoot, I am effusive and consistent with these remarks. And as our alcohol intake continues throughout, my sworn punishments become more violent and detailed. Some of them involve loved ones and pets he might own in the future. I think at one point I threaten his computer.
The thing is, I hate being in photographs.
And if being in photos makes me uncomfortable; being in videos is like watching pornography with my parents.
I look around and see no other person. I guess that the boy is an assistant to one of the many special-needs students at the university, who is probably in the hallway. I say, “Of course, he is more than welcome.” I sit down.
The boy walks in the room and takes out his index. “He needs you to sign this,” the boy smiles, “if you have time.”
“I have time.” I am now searching the room for another sign of life. Nobody. Nothing.
The boy holds out his index, which is a booklet every student must get signed by every teacher they have had in any given semester, thus proving a satisfactory mark in that class. Sometimes a student brings a friend’s index; I figure this must be the case.
“Oh, OK, let me have his index.” I almost wink, take it and flip to the picture on the inside cover. It’s our boy, whose name is Honza, smiling the very same “I need something from you” smile. “Who was your teacher?” I ask.
“His teacher was Mrs…” Honza trails off as if he wants me to finish his thought. “He can’t remember her name.” Honza frowns, “Is that a problem for him?”
“OK, Honza, I have to ask you a question, alright?”
“Sure,” Honza smiles at me.
“Who is ‘he’?”
I foresee the Abbott and Costello skit from hell and decide to take a different approach. “What is your name?”
“Honza,” he says this as if speaking to a child who can’t remember the word for Squirrel.
“Say that in a full sentence,” I command. A thin dew of sweat makes its appearance on my forehead.
He taps his forefinger against his chest and gives me a condescending smile. “His name is Honza.”
“Well if he speaks to me like that again, he is going to get an index shoved into his ass. Does he understand?”
Honza pulls his hands in the air and apologizes with body language. “He understands.”
I press my fingers into my temples. “Holy shit, Honza, he is driving me out of my mind.”
I am supposed to be writing a tweet but instead I brew a kettle of coffee and pace around the flat. My pacing causes Běla to retreat under the couch to her happy place. I pour the coffee and head back to the computer.
I sit at my desk and dream up a deranged fantasy.
This fantasy reminds me of the films I’ve seen of the Nuremberg War Crime Trials. My students accuse me of using text-speak on Twitter, and they produce a great deal of evidence which is displayed on charts and backed up by traumatized witnesses. People are smoking cigarettes and murmurs run through the crowd. All the while I sit in a bulletproof cube and look humble.
I am found guilty and accept my sentence: Twenty-five years of rewriting all of Shakespeare’s plays in text speak on a black board. In Florida. In August.
2BRo2B, dat is da ?
This fantasy is like the ones I used to have in elementary school. In my elementary school day dreams I was often nude and forced to sing the “Perfect Strangers” theme on a table in our school cafeteria. Plus I always had the head of a monkey and it was usually tater tot day.
I spend fifteen minutes trying to make the post as witty as possible. I am seventeen characters over the limit and my frustration level reaches that of Gargamel’s at the end of every Smurf episode.
I give up on any semblance of humor, post the tweet and go for a walk. Walks are great for rationalistic epiphanies.
On my walk I realize that Twitter is the elementary school of online social networking. And by that logic I am surely the tuba-playing kid with a glandular weight problem, a hairy mole on his chin, bad dandruff and a forehead birthmark shaped like male genitalia. My name, in this epiphanous fantasy, is Dorkus Wenisface.
I am walking down the corridor to my office and practicing my smile. It’s the teachers’ first day back after summer holidays and I am determined to go into it with an optimism reserved for sitcoms from the 1950s. I turn the corner.
“Hello!” I say to my colleague. But there is something afoot. She is surrounded by three other women and when she stands to greet me they demur like tanned-bosomed handmaidens to Colonel Kurtz. Her belly hangs low, like a Galeone man stepping away from a buffet of salty carbohydrates and deep-fried poultry.
“Hi,” she says. She caresses the dipping arc of her belly, and I mimic the action with mine. She seems a bit jealous that I appear to be in a further stage of fetal development and we square shoulders. I feel certain that her handmaidens are going to purify the floor with salt so that we can slam bellies against one another until one of us falls into a sushi-eating crowd.
No Sumo battle occurs, so instead I shout, “Congratulations!” (With 1950s sitcom optimism)
And then, “Oh my God, you’re pregnant, right?”
In response, she begins emitting a glow that paralyzes me into a semiconscious state. Her handmaidens send forth a series of coos meant to hypnotize me while they scan my finger for a wedding band and telepathically audit my family background and medical history.