chasing one little baby tick of unblackened weed around the rim of the pipe, warm in my bone-cold fingers: cold white light and me here on this dingy old velvet couch listening to the boys in AIDS’s bedroom pretending it’s a real gym. they listen to eminem a little too much, but i won’t givem shit for it.
genezareth and hannah are considering busking on a corner on weekends; seabass was turned down for a resto job due to his lack of a work visa; bethany was selling Christmas cards for a euro apiece; i was considering selling knit caps, AIDS and I have discussed becoming regional camgirls.
we are sort of brutally poor, but we do our bestish. combat creeping depression with routines and rituals: open the shutters every morning and close them up every night, go for hikes, go for runs, do pullups and pushups and abs, chat together in the sparsely-furnished kitchen all squattin on buckets and low stools on the ground. we are all in balls deep for bernie sanders.
written fall-winter 2015. entry 1 of a series.
Started work this week. I guess I’m a teacher now.
I too find this hard to believe, but it must be true because I hang out in the teacher’s lounge and use the teachers’ automatic espresso machine and can make copies, like as many copies I want of anything I believe needs copying. I stand in front of classes full of high-school shitheads and get to choose whether they call me “Jess” or “Prof” or “Prof Jess”, which does have a pretty nice ring to it, and I get to pick on the ones that won’t shut up when I’m talking. The other lady teachers invite me to smoke with them behind the building and the only male teacher, Stéphan, asked me out for a pint today, to which I agreed, and though he does have an admittedly nice ass for a 42-year old man I didn’t read too much into the offer, considering he wears a wedding ring and it was only three in the afternoon.
So we meet up in the lounge, and after only a few words Stéphan turns and storms out of the building, me at his heels, his long woolen coat blowing up behind him. He unlocks his little two-door silver Peugeot and drops himself in, lighting an enormous hand-rolled cigarette. “I’m so furious,” he breathes, launching into a French/English mashup tirade about some stupid worthless connasse of a colleague he’s got. I give some sympathetic nods and occasionally even make mouth noises, though I cannot make out enough of either language to know for sure what he’s actually on about. Despite his fuming he is driving quite cautiously along, taking great care to stop at each and every yellow light; I am becoming aware that he is pumping the car full of weed smoke. He might have noticed me sniffing. “You smoke?” he asks.
“Sometimes.” A sheepish smile. It’s a Friday. He hands me the joint and I take a drag.
Potentially stoned by now, Stéphan seems to relax a bit. He rolls his shoulders around, tosses his head, and leans over to pick up a CD case on the floor by my feet. “Now this, this is a record I’ve done,” he says, stopping at a green light.
I trade him the joint for the case and point ahead. “You sing?”
“I rap.” A clear emphasis. A car honks from behind and he steps on the gas. “Do you want to hear it?”
Trapped in a rather unfair position, I nod. I extend the CD towards him, but he hastily waves it away. “No, I’ll do it for you live.” As if I’d bought a ticket. Lucky me!
Now, if you have ever heard a middle-aged caucasian Frenchman rap in English, perhaps you can share my sympathies. Stéphan The Rapper lays his lyric on me soft and sweet with the rhythm of an elderly woman crossing an unstable wooden bridge, with the sporadic jerking of a newly severed limb, with the intermittent forgetting-of-words demonstrated by any human being doltish enough to attempt rapping in his or her non-native language. He beats the steering wheel with his palm at times, accentuating such elements as the “brightly shining bosom” (beat beat beat) of the woman he has targeted in his make-believe audience and, after he has presumably bedded said woman via his untold libidinous rapper talents, the way she “screams” (beat) his “name” (beat) “in bold lettahs” (beat beat).
I am focused on the road, 60% of my fist in my mouth to keep from spitting up on the dashboard, eyes watering from the thickening smoke and the emotional torment of not cackling aloud. Stéphan, noting this clear enthusiasm, entreats me to four complete raps, each one more graphically depictive of his palpable sexual prowess. I am relieved as he finally parks alongside a curb boldly marked « PAS DE PARKING » and we walk to the pub, him chattering all the way. At the bar I sip on the beer he slides me, grateful for something to occupy my hands as he guzzles three full pints and rants at the barmaid, with whom he is on a first-name basis.
After about an hour Stéphan is ready to go. I reluctantly follow him back to the Peugeot which, remarkably, is without a parking ticket. We’re on the road for all of thirty seconds when he veers slightly into oncoming traffic, self-correcting with an abrupt jerk of the wheel and an “Hup, sorry, I’m a bit drunk now.” Contrary to what you might think, dear readers, I do have my limits, this being one of them. I ask him to pull over, claiming to have a friend up the street just a block, waving my hand in an indiscriminate roundish direction. “Ah, I’ll just park here,” says Stéphan gaily, and rolls his two right tires up onto the curb. This is fine with me. I am out of the car and jogging in the opposite direction. “Thanks for the pint, Stéphan!” I shout behind me, not looking back.
Yes, thank you, Stéphan. I sincerely look forward to working together.