I’ve gotten used to playing the part of the inconsiderate, able bodied asshole who takes the handicapped seat in the front of the city bus. My feet still haven’t healed from the Camino de Santiago. I think there has been nerve damage, but they don’t know that. There’s no boot or brace. 10 or 15 people stand, holding the railing to stay upright while I plop down in the reserved-for-disabled seat. The abuelitas (grandmothers) eye me up from head to toe and shoot daggers at me with their eyes. Their scowls seem to be synchronized and they maintain an expression of disgust for an impressively long time. I soak in the hate like nourishing sunshine on a clear day. I embrace the role of the seat stealing villain. I think at least I’m not pandering and people pleasing for once in my life. A lady gets on, with 5 large shopping bags from Zara and two little shouting runts. I don’t even look up from my book.
Is it my problem you had to overdo it and feed your shopping addiction? Nope. Stupid knights in shining armor always giving up their seats, they just want to be patted on the head and told good boyyyy! Who’s a good boy? This is the reason I do good deeds, to impress a girl or project the outward appearance of a compassionate, nice person. Nice: such a tepid, meaningless word, like fine, although fine has a bitter aftertaste. A Spaniard noted this the other day to me. This American tendency to label to someone with such a neutral and polite word: nice. When someone wants to say that your not unbearable enough for me to label you dull, spineless, or boring, they will use this lazy label. We can safely safe that a nice person didn’t have more of a significant impact on me than any other inanimate objects you have encountered today.
Sometimes I think it would be better to be remembered as a dick, who didn’t pander and worry about being some saint. A “dick, who had guts” is better than a “nice guy, who was a wimp.” I’m too worried about the way people will think of me. I can’t handle when 3 people don’t like me, let alone many. I wouldn’t be able to be some opinionated, polarizing blogger. Even being some larger than life blog personality is still limited by the barrier and protective cover of a computer screen.
I have been back in Madrid for about a month after being home over winter break. I’m just starting to settle back into the way things are done. Peddlers and vagrants stand outside most all supermarkets holding the door for you and offering a spot to place my bike in the hope that I will show some type of monetary gratitude, I never do. I have this dungeon of an apartment where it has been impossible to figure out wifi (pronounced wee-fee in Spain) and there is dust everywhere and the landlord is hands off and we still haven’t paid this month.
At school today, I felt invisible and on the verge of quitting. The teachers are incompetent and constantly being talked over and disrespected by students. I reached a breaking point in frustration today and I loudly and aggressively reprimanded the kids talking in the back, simply out of anger. Normally I am detached and a bit aloof in the classroom, as is my typical personality. I reminded myself that this is the easiest job I’ve ever had. I spend more time commuting than actually working and I am home by 3:30 pm every day.
I spent my usual 15 minutes preparing my class lesson today. I download other people’s powerpoint presentations off Google or I put on Friends, Black Mirror, and Narcos in the easy classes where the teachers don’t care and are just happy to have me take the wheel for a class. I have to put some effort into the class with the lady who is head of the English speaking program. She is maybe the third best English speaker of the Spaniard English teachers in the school. My poached 25 slide presentation today contained controversial questions meant to spark debate:
“What do you think of all girls schools or all boys schools?”
“Should cell phones be allowed in the classroom?”
“Do you think there should be a minimum age at which kids start dating?” I swallowed nervously.
A few girls started giggling in the back. Before I knew it I was explaining that the age of consent in the U.S. is 18 and someone over 18 can’t date someone who is below 18. “What about in Spain?” I anxiously passed the conversational baton over to the teacher. “Well older people can date people under the age of 18, they just can’t have sex with them.” She said, and then repeated the sentence in Spanish as if she were explaining a math equation to the students.
“MOVING ONNN. Who thinks we should push back the start time of school in the morning?” I said.
Last week, we watched the Friends episode The One where Ross dates his Student. I stopped the video halfway through, “Does everyone know what’s going on here? Ross is dating his student at the University he teaches at.” I said loudly to reach the whole class, regretting the statement immediately, knowing the sub-text, innuendo, or connotation that they might glean from it, as hormonal teenage girls are wont to do. At times, their lack of English skills is an impossible wall to scale and at times it is a divine miracle, the foreignness of my speech lessening the impact of any inappropriate words I say. I have the feeling I am throwing globs of silly putty up on a wall and only a small portion of it sticks.
A teacher with a weak sense of self could easily mistake the situation based authority in the domain of the classroom for possessing an attractive persona. The students respect your institutional command over them and address you politely. I am charmed when students actually ask me if they can go to the bathroom in the few minutes that the teacher has not arrived to the class yet, shocked that they even think I hold any power over them.
Many of my students will have one last embrace with their girlfriend or boyfriend before class starts or I will see the Spanish teenagers canoodling or giving each other one last smooch or cavorting outside after school. These teenage sweethearts in the school seem to run the gamut from the bookish, awkward kids, to the outgoing jocks. Even the nerds have girlfriends in this high school, I think its more recognizable because the Spaniards are shameless and proud of their gratuitous public displays of affection.
I have retroactive envy, recalling how terrified I was of girls in high school. I tried to pretend they didn’t exist and I chose an alternate version of reality in my head, in which I actually had interpersonal and seduction skills. Meanwhile, I was a shut in for all of high school and didn’t even touch alcohol until the summer after senior year. A party full of strangers became people who will just love my loveable drunken antics once I start talking to them. Oh, how will I make all of these people like me through my dominant displays of masculinity and my rollicking sense of humor. At that point, “I had arrived” this is a famous line from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. We all had that unanimous feeling of arrival, like this was our new way of doing things and coping with the world by wearing the liquid armor of alcohol and saying fuck you to everyone and everything. At the end I was just desperately trying to recreate the magic of the early years of drinking that I just never could.
I’m listening to the song Acceptable in the 80’s and it never fails to bring me back to those blurry dance club nights. I was sloppy from however many screwdrivers (orange juice and vodka) and flying high on cocaine dancing the robot or gyrating my body in some distinctly white-guy motion. Later in the night, I would move like a rabid animal, humping the air, once my prefrontal cortex had phoned it in for the night. I would stumble into a few people every 10 minutes, inciting the anger of the tatted up meatstick with the south shore Long Island accent. I gestured and attempted to motion my way into dancing in the vicinity of Italian or Spanish girls with Jersey and Long Island accents. These girls donned a uniform of sorts: skin tight short skirts, scant blouses that showcased ample cleavage and the heavy dark eye shadow that guys go ga-ga for. Its not hard to deceive us simple visual creatures (guys), especially once the beer goggles have taken full effect. It’s like the porn star with dark, witch-like eye make up in one picture and then a picture of her right next to it with no make-up. Bare faced, she looks like a worn out crystal meth head or a young grandma hailing from the Mississippi trailer park hooker circuit.
Adults need release just like anyone else. The night club is their playground, where we all regress to the early stages of our evolution. During these self-induced jaunts back to ape-hood in the club, speech is basically nulled out because you can’t hear a single word anyone says and we can all bump and grind on each other and rationalize away any awkward or aggressive encounters.“She was so drunk, I couldn’t handle it.” Or “I just got too drunk, I think she could tell and it ruined my chances. “
Even sitting here today, I still have that uptick in heartbeat when I think of a night out drinking. Alcohol had so much unpredictability, like the edgy comedian, he never failed to keep things fresh and new. He was the socially inept, brainy writer, providing the fuel and jokes for me to deliver and wow the crowds. I was the actor and star of the sitcom.
I’m sick of having to explain to people why I don’t drink like I am some weird minority and they are the normal ones, but I don’t judge. I wouldn’t dare get in the way of someone in their cups. I snapped in a rage at anyone who tried to get in the way of my drinking.