Archive for January, 2012



by mdjb

So, I’m sitting in a chair at the end table at Angie’s party because I smoke and most of the others do not and I ask my friend Bill to change seats with me so I can sit next to Elly and speak with her about what is bothering her. Earlier in the day, between classes, she had told me she was troubled, very troubled, about something, and I suggested we could discuss it at Angie’s.
When we engage, the first thing I have to mention is how beautiful she looks with her longer hair, but that I can see by the way she keeps pulling and twisting it, it is obvious she plans to have it cut short again. She nods and thanks me for the compliment before we get into her problem. It seems one of the students who do social service for their scholarship, and with whom she has previously worked has been unilaterally assigned by my young assistant to work with Inez, a teacher with whom Elly used to feel much closer, but has lately grown away from. The reasons for their separation are various, but chief among them is that since Elly stepped down from the post I was promoted into, she sees intrigue everywhere, and she is not totally off in this because I can feel it, too. The group of English teachers who formed a close faction, Mexicans who learned the language and native speakers from the United States alike, in earlier days, are now aligning themselves with whomever they sense can do the most to help them preserve their jobs. This means several who used to consider themselves close friends are now wary of each other, and watch what they say in most situations. I, myself, inherited twenty-five year-old Alberto, fresh out of university, in a position that did not exist before, and am always aware of his eagerness to get ahead at any cost. Most of the other teachers have found him difficult to like, and it was in an attempt to exert authority that he wholeheartedly took on the job of assigning students as helpers.
I had had a moment with him over this when he told me of the two students he had placed with me, and I reassigned them, choosing my own favorites, most likely out of sheer cussedness and not liking an underling to be telling me how my job would go.
Anyway, Elly and I clear up the student issue. She tells me she no longer wants the girl to work with her, and I am guessing for the same reasons I had in changing my “two assigned helpers.”
“I don’t like Alberto,” she says, “He takes too much for granted.”
“Well, you know,” I say, “I never wanted this job. I wanted you to stay on as coordinator,” and she is already shaking her head, indicating that that would have been impossible, “And I find it hard to get along with him also. Try sitting in the same office with someone like that for several hours a day.”
“I understand there is a lot to do,” she says, “You know that’s why I stepped down, but this kid is too much. You need to tell him where to get off.”
I don’t say to her that I don’t appreciate her issuing directives. I am concentrating on how her long dark hair falls on her shoulders.
“Ramon,” that’s our Director, “told me you never let him do anything,” she says.
While I am trying to figure out why she is giving me two opposing points of view, she goes on to explain, “I’m just saying you also need to watch who you trust. I know you get along with Ramon, but the kid is also sucking up to him, and you may be asked to allow Alberto a freer hand in spite of his pushiness. Did you know a group of them,” and she emphasizes the word clearly indicating they are in the enemy camp, “went out together, and had such a great time, that Ramon’s wife had to talk about it on FaceBook?”
Then before she has time to go into more detail, or I can ask another question, Angie comes by and draws her away to introduce her to a friend visiting from Austria.

Now, all sorts of things are going through my mind. I have to realize that Elly is suffering sour grapes over the bad move, which she initiated, but which did not turn out to her advantage when her Master’s scholarship was discontinued, but I think, too, there must be some truth in what she has told me.
I recall the triangular meeting among Ramon, Alberto, and myself when the big boss expressed dissatisfaction over the way the two of us were not getting along, and at that time he told Alberto that I was the superior in charge and that due to my many years of experience in teaching at the school, he must follow my lead. He was not to sign letters as the representative of the department; he was not to make decisions on his own about how things should be handled, and so forth. I believed then that my authority was without question, and had since been giving him more and more chores to handle in an effort to make it clear that so long as he played the game correctly, he could be trusted.
This belief, too, is now in question.

Later, snagging a ride home with Bill, I complain about the situation and tell him I am thinking of handing in notice.
“Stop acting like a diva,” he says to me, “Knowing what’s going on gives you an advantage. Don’t act stupid.”
“But, I don’t know,” I say, “Someone is lying to me, and I don’t know who. I didn’t leave the rat race in New York to come down here and spend seven years playing at teaching only to find I’m in the same game.”
“Who do you think is lying?” he asks.
“If Ramon is placating me by telling Alberto to stay in line, and then hanging out with the kid, where all sorts of deals can occur, he’s lying to me. If Alberto is ostensibly watching his step, and then taking things too far when given the odd task, he’s being false, and quietly continuing to attempt a backstabbing, and…”
“And? something worse?”
“And if none of this is happening this way, then my old friend Elly, who by the way is looking very good these days, is lying about what she claims to have been told. I don’t even want to think I can’t trust her.”

“Have you checked FaceBook?” Bill asks, and I can almost swear there is a smile forming on his lips.
“Yes. I signed in on my Blackberry. That’s another thing. How come I saw your name on one of the response comments?”
“I ran into that group of jimopes at Zapata’s. I just said hello and kept going, but I’m not burning any bridges the way you seem to be planning to do. This guy’s a kid for chrissake. He’ll get in too deep, and hang himself one of these days.”
“Yeah, but I’m getting too old for this shit. I don’t want to wait out the time it’ll take for that to happen. If it ever does.  And just knowing there’s all this intrigue going on makes me want to crawl in a hole and die.”
“Pfft. Pussy,” he says. “By the way, Elly—she’s no great shakes, for all her good looks. Crazy as a hatter, and a bit neurotic. You’re not missing anything there.”
“You mean, you two…?”
And then I do see a full smile when he says, “Give me one of your cigarettes, will you? I’ve been good all night, and I’m dying for a smoke.”


The Din

by mdjb

The television volume was on high, at least 25.
“But, Evelyn, you sleep all the time!”
“Only to avoid the draft from the swinging door.”
“Don’t touch me. There’s no quickie sex here. No on-again-off-again, got-fifteen-minutes-between-meetings, try-to-keep-her-quiet sex here. Get it from someone else, but, you get it—I go, and the gravy train ends.”
The gigolo undone.
Almost the story of my life, Theresa thought.
“Bull shit. Bull shit,” kept ringing in her ears. Her own words from two hours earlier.
From across the courtyard, the discordant sound of one of the Mexican pop songs being rehearsed by the as yet unprofessional neighbor’s band came to layer itself over Evelyn’s retribution on the television.
Theresa sat watching a tiny bodied, long-legged spider weaving its web in the corner where the windowed wall met the bare one. What a waste of time, she thought, as she could also see the little gecko who would soon make dinner of the spider, only a short distance away. “Bull shit. Bull shit,” still reverberating.
Through the window, with its makeshift curtain tied back, which was on an angle to the living room, she could see Armando’s leg dangling from the couch. He was oblivious to Evelyn’s melodrama. She didn’t know it then, but he had stopped breathing fifteen minutes earlier. She would be told that he had died of alcoholic poisoning by a relative a week later over the telephone.
She thought for tonight she would rather not sleep here and went upstairs to pack a little bag. She would check into the Sheraton near the plaza. In the morning, she would purchase a one-way ticket back to New York on the last of her Mexican pesos.
With her overnighter in hand, she clicked off the television.
On her way out, she noticed Armando was not snoring, but her thoughts turned in another direction as the raucous neighbors finished rehearsing and the sound of crickets filled the courtyard.