Archive for October, 2012
The Russian sitting across from me is an anomaly of the human form and yet a normal occurrence in the land of Russian women. She is approximately six feet tall, with blonde hair, a Barbie Doll frame and the cobalt blue eyes of a KGB “information gathering expert.”
Her name is something I have either forgotten or never understood in the first place. We are involved in a role play in which she is interviewing me for position of translator. I want this job badly.
My weekly Czech lessons are somewhat indicative of what it is to be a language teacher. There are 24 people on the list – mostly Russians, a few Vietnamese, a Kazakh, two Germans and me. Of those 24 people, two people show up every week: me and one random Russian Goddess. Interestingly, the Russian Goddess who arrives each week is never the same girl. It’s as though they are sent from a vault hidden beneath the university meant to distract me from my studies or reward me for arriving every week.
I am exceptionally good at living in denial up until a point. Then it falls apart. There have been so many denial campaigns: I choose to be poor 2001, She loves you 2006, Your feet smell fine 2003 and, of course, I just enjoy drinking 2001-2012. Today’s campaign, You’re still young 2012, just ended because in 21 hours and 29 minutes, I turn 38 years old.
In preparation for the mind addling that will lead to bingo enjoyment and knitting scarves for several cats, I feel the need to research what is waiting for me. And in this moment that I will relive in my dreams, I make a decision and get out of bed.
I go to the internet.
I’m sleeping in my home office tonight. My ‘home office’ is really a former bedroom that has housed three former flatmates. When it was vacated I added a treacherous Ikea desk, a cork bulletin board, and a reading lamp. There is also a wooden book-case with glass doors and a single bed. This room serves as my primary spot for writing…or reading, eating, dancing, watching porn and perfecting dog barks. And I am sleeping in here at the moment.
That’s fine, since it’s October.
Weird things happen in this office. There is the occasional soundtrack of distant laughter, footsteps scurrying past the door, and a series of taps, clanks, chinks and knocks that gives it the aural quality of a construction site. This room has had a dozen visitors, some of whom claim that someone knocked on the door in the middle of the night, most of whom claim hearing someone giggle on the balcony and all of whom report strange, vivid dreams. It’s not uncommon to find a visitor sleeping on the couch after the second night of their visit.
Yet at the moment, I come to this room willingly, rejecting the comfort of my king-sized bed and lay down to sleep. Because it is October.
I am sitting in a lounge chair in front of a large group of people wearing a gown and mortar board. The academics file past wearing their own get-ups which make them look to be Vatican Guards. There are no people flying through the air playing a ball game, nobody has a wand and Alan Rickman is not sneering at anyone, but I still look and feel like Harry Potter. (NB: It occurs to me that this is the fourth of fifth Harry Potter reference made on this site. I assure you reader that I am as uneasy with that fact as you are either irritated or delighted).
Music starts and I yawn and stretch, pull a paperback out of my robe and start reading. I assume my fallback position: too cool for school.
The only free seat on the tram is being guarded by a dog that is roughly the size of the entire interior of the tram. In true ironic form, I am sure his name is something like Daisy or Sally. I climb over the snouted Yeti and sit in the seat. Shamu, acting on the hopes that my crotch is covered in bacon, buries his nose into it. As with many of my bedmates, my genitalia has a sadly soporific effect on the beast because he releases a disturbingly pleasing breath and falls asleep.
This is not a surprising interaction. I open my book.
The Czech Republic is astoundingly open to dogs. Dogs are allowed in pubs, restaurants, supermarkets and on public transport. A side effect of this openness is that I have had several unusual interactions with our canine friends. I have been licked on the arm by a tiny dog sticking its head out of a bag on an old woman’s shoulder. I have been trapped against a statue in Old Town Square by a Yorkie terrier as I continuously shouted the only two words I knew in Czech at him – Nerozumim (I don’t understand) and Pivo (beer). Like every other resident of Prague, the bottom of my shoes have hit dog crap so many times that it’s like a brand of shoe polish.
And for the fourth time in six minutes, I slam my face against the keyboard to my office mate’s consternation. Surely, the words themselves do not elicit ideas of horror-craven shit-filled nightmare of hate, agony and endless torture. But there are several factors why this is so.
First, the voice is mine. Second, it is pouring into my ears via earphones. Third, I am creating a listening exam for the university so I am forced to listen over and over again in order to create questions. Creating a test, however, has become secondary to finding every flaw with my voice. I hear every accidental lip, tongue smack and lisp, every misarticulation and tooth click, every over-aspirated P, speech disfluency (uh, um) and every stutter. In six minutes I have become a heavy breathing, sexually predatory forest troll.
This is pure torture.
Johnson gave the Injun a kick that must have crippled him, then he gave him a blow as of a sledgehammer between the eyes. Johnson knew he had little time. Seizing the guard’s own knife, Johnson lifted his scalp and tied it to his own belt. Next he slit the buckskin down from the guard’s left leg, felt the flesh, ran the knife’s keen edge around the hip, and cut to the bone socket.
Seizing the knee with one hand and the ankle with the other, he twisted and snapped the whole leg from the body. The victim lived. Johnson stepped into the shadows of the night with the bleeding stump over his shoulder.
Frontier take out food.
It all starts while looking through my bookshelf for a book on European birds. At one moment, I realize that I have not read any of the books on a particular shelf. This gets me to counting and I eventually procure a pen and a notebook. In about twenty minutes I have run into and from every room in the flat.
A dilemma is afoot; action needs to be taken. I adjourn to the bathroom.
I always do this sort of thing while writing. I’ll be sitting alone in my office typing at a steady and respectable four words an hour, when I get a bee in my bonnet, or in tonight’s case a European Thrush in my bonnet. I‘ll start pacing around looking at once for everything and nothing in particular. It’s how I imagine the average meth addict to spend an evening at home. I randomly focus on something and that becomes my project for the night.
Tonight it’s books.
The linebacker (prop/Hagrid/big) sized woman hands me a bubblegum sized package. “Tanga!” she shouts. She can’t mean thong, I think. I think wrong. She has used a noun to create an imperative command. I unravel the tiny package to produce a, frankly, confusing puzzle of string and cloth that claims to be an undergarment. She and her (equally large) male colleague leave the room so I can savor the embarrassment of dressing in a thong for the first and, God willing, only time in my adult life. I slip it on incorrectly three or four times, holding it out in front of me after each miscue to analyze it as though it is a stingy map I am trying to refold.
Unless you are punching another man in the throat on the canvas of a ring or an octagon, wearing a tanga should probably make a man feel decidedly unmanly. I am no exception to this probability. I counteract this discomfort with a mixture of manly giggling, self-deprecating jokes and praying for the woman masseuse.