Category Archives: English

A Drink

fanta-and-bud“Screwdriver? That’s a faggot’s drink, buddy.”

A boring statement, at a boring bar, in this boring worker’s settlement. I glance at the source: a towering man, holding a can of beer and eyeing my booze with suspicion.

I consider pointing out that the glass I’m sipping actually contains Fanta and rum. Instead I raise it and say flatly, “Cheers to you too.”

He takes my sneer for a smile and chuckles amiably. A hand is extended. “Hank, ironwork.”

Drinking taste clashes aren’t a socially acceptable excuse to leave someone hanging. I shake the hand. “James, electricity.”

That’s all the invitation he needs to sit at the counter besides me. A bit too close. I doubt he’s heard of ‘personal space’.

“You don’t have the hands of an electrician, man.”

Direct yet subtle. Still, in that nonchalant tone of his, it might mean nothing. No, I know what I’ve heard: men don’t randomly comment on other men’s hands. Well… maybe this one does. I’d better be sure: making the wrong pass at a bar back home would be awkward; here it might be fatal.

I’m suddenly very aware of him, who looks ahead, at nothing. He swallows a large gulp of his beer, follows with a self-indulgent “ahhhh”, and spreads on the seat, relaxed, secure. As the silence stretches, I grow increasingly fidgety.

At last, I offer an answer of sorts: “I do data, mostly fiber, I don’t do power.”

“Delicate work, uh?,” he says, facing me with the slightest of winks. “Takes more brain than brawn. Bet you’ve got a good head on your shoulders, man.”

I feel the blush on my cheeks. His smile widens. I choose to nod and be quiet.

We now just tend to our drinks. He finishes first and props himself up on his hands, crushing noisily, as he stands, the empty beer can with one flat palm.

He clears his throat, I look at his face. For the first time, he seems hesitant, searching for words. After a moment, he crouches besides me.

“I’m having some fiber trouble back at the camp… in my room,” his mouth is now level to my ear, his voice not quite a whisper.

I slowly turn to face him. He’s trying to look serious, but a smile plays with his eyes.

What the hell, this is what I came for. I bite.

“Why don’t I go take a look?”

How to win friends

crt-tv-soccerThe TV room was my last hope to socialize with other foreign students.

I peeked inside, and saw five tall, gruff guys thrown over the chairs. The TV was blasting in an Eastern European language: a game of some sort — by the amount of green, soccer.

The men watched intently. They compared impressions through terse remarks in low rumbling voices, which — the moment I crossed the doorstep — halted.

“Hello, folks!”

My cheer, bright tenor got grunts for answer. Five pairs of eyes fixated me, and followed me as I courtly sat on a corner, legs crossed, hands folded over the lap.

Now the only noise was the excited narration of the game — yes, soccer. The men frowned angrily, staring each other, and throwing me an occasional glance. After getting a murderous glare in exchange for a smile, I decided to keep my eyes glued to the TV.

As I contrived how to slip away without further awkwardness — should I say “goodbye”? just leave? — they all got up and fled the room.

All but one, who extended his arm in my general direction, holding a keychain with the very tips of his fingers. Message understood, I took it without touching him.

“After you finish leave the key at the guardian’s mailbox.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll do that.” In a last desperate attempt, I offered: “By the way, I’m Andrew.”

“Yes. Leave the key at the guardian’s mailbox.”

And with no other word, he left.

For a minute a stood there frozen, key in hand, the TV blasting inane commentaries about a game I rebuffed in a language I couldn’t even recognize. I made the effort, dammit!

I found a remote. I turned off the TV. I locked the door as I left.

Overwhelmed by the unfairness, I had a sudden impulse: throw the key on the trash! hide it on a flowerpot! better yet: put it in the wrong mailbox — the one just below the guardian’s could pass as an innocent distraction. It’s their names on the borrow book!

The pettiness of those thoughts hit me. I threw the key at its place and went up to my room.

Psychography is all writing

The text knows better than the hand
A channel opens and it flows
I keep aside, doing my best to not disturb
A mystical sensation

I once believed in magic, thought of ghosts
Now I believe in electrons exchanging photons
And quarks exchanging gluons
(And then there’s gravity — if you still want to talk about mysteries)
The ghosts have abandoned me

But the text — oh the text
It still flows direct
From gyri to screen


It was beating so fast, they did not let me go. “Rest”, they said, “we’ll join you shortly”. I was too restless to rest : I was worried about the beats, not of the heart, but of the clock. I took my computer and typed. Still, it was a rest. Of sorts.

It slowed down enough they would let me go. I went in a second, without second thought. Still, the thought was planted. I measured the beats through the week. I googled. Something’s not right.

Rhythm is not my forte. I struggle to keep the tempo. Time seems to dilate and compress in strange ways. I miss notes. I miss flights. I get late. I run out of time.

Running out of time is terrifying. I don’t want to. I shouldn’t have to. It’s a betrayal. But I know that the beats, of the heart and the clock, will not care. They dance to their own music, and won’t hear my tantrums.

Absolutely no sense of moral responsibility

There’s a good diner in spit distance from my flat. I go there often, and always sit at the bar, with a book or a tablet.

The server is always the same — a very sweet and helpful man. My conversation with him is limited to weather chatter and food orders — a man with a book is not in seek of conversation, and he is smart enough to take the hint. But I can see he is a talkative guy, always bantering with colleagues and clients.

Tonight he is engaged in a loud, lively talk with another patron. I order him a sandwich. He accomplishes my order with the usual virtuosity, and then resumes his chat. He stops now and then to ask me if I need something (“Cutlery, if you please ! And mustard.”)

I have my book open in front of me, and mostly ignore them, but I infer from their conversation, by tone and bits of content, that the men are not just client and server, but also friends — or at least, acquaintances. Or are they ? Am I considering the prior information that this is Brazil and not France ?

“And then she was there by the door, knife in hand, yelling ‘I’ll kill you’ !”

I am snatched from my book to reality.

The phrase having been announced by the server as the punchline to a joke, both men are now laughing their heads off.

Against all my instincts, I decide to intervene : “I’m sorry, you’re telling a fictional story, I presume ?”

“But no !”, the patron protests. “This is about his women, the one he lives with.”

“I’m terribly sorry. I really don’t want to meddle. But I don’t think this is a matter for laughing. I think this is a very serious matter. Criminal matter.”

They suddenly look very serious. The patron says, still half in jest, “this is the woman besides whom you sleep every night. Aren’t you afraid to wake up missing any bits one day ?”

“I really think this is something to be taken seriously”, I insist. “What you’re describing has a name : domestic violence.”

They look at me even more seriously. But it’s the server who liquidates the matter : “I know. She is just crazy jealous ! I’ll tell you : I live with my father and she’s even jealous of the time I spend with him ! The other day she asked me ‘why don’t you screw him as well ?’, and I had to shut her up with a slap.”

Blank. Don’t say anything. Nod. Smile and nod ? No, just nod.

I promise : next time I let my interaction with the commoners stray from the weather and the roads, I will shut myself with a slap.

Faith mismatch

They repeat this dialog every week.

“May god bless you with heavenly blessings.”

“Thank you.”

“May god be with you as you leave.”

“Thank you. You stay well.”

Her religiousness does not bother him, though every time he wonders if his dissonant answers hurt her feelings.

But the decision to remain secular in his civilities is final.