Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I think I'm turning Japanese

If I eat another fucking sushi roll I think I am going to turn Japanese” said Andy. And he pulled his eye lids into the corners and put his hands in prayer position and starting making jerky stoccato sounds as if to imitate a Japanese person.

“You sound more like a Chinese person. “We are Chinese if you please”” said Jack.

“No, it’s we are Siamese if you please, and if you want to sound like a Japanese person I think you say “Ah so”” interjected Teddy.

“Reminds me of that song I think I’m turning Japanese” said Teddy.

“What song?” asked Andy.

“Turning Japanese, you know, turning Japanese, I think I’m turning Japanese, I think I do so….” Jack sang.

“Are they the words?” said Teddy.

“I think so” said Jack.

“What reminds you of the words?” cut in Andy.

“Your original statement. If I eat another sushi roll….” Said Teddy.

“Mate, can you keep it down, are you trying to be racist” said Andy for no apparent reason.

“What?” asked Teddy.

Andy began to speak again and as he spoke a small grain of rice soaked in saliva shot forth and landed on Teddy’s jacket. Teddy was furious.

“Do you mind? You were never taught to eat properly were you? You heathen. This jacket is new” said Teddy with an air of arrogance and disdain.

“It is a rather nice jacket, shpenny?” Jack asked Teddy.

“Fuck off” remarked Andy in a defensive manner to Teddy, adding “Mate, with a head like yours I wouldn’t be making any remarks.”

“You’re out of control Andy, look at the language you are using, no Jack it wasn’t expensive”

“Mate, out of control? The only thing out of control is the acne running around your face….” Said Andy.

“Okay, you win”

Teddy’s pink jacket was his pride and joy. He picked it up at Voi in the city. It was a bargain at $299.00. Although it was made of cotton, it seemed very well crafted, the stitching following the lines and the pockets sown up to ensure that the look was tapered and sharp. It was the kind of jacket that would last a few seasons so long as pink didn’t go out of fashion. The thought that it might not last more than a few seasons amazed Teddy, but then he thought about some of the things he wore as a kid, Orkanui’s, Billabong, Mambo, and suddenly his mind was at ease and he accepted that one day he would try and distance himself from this beautiful pink jacket.

Teddy asked Andy and Jack what they were doing after dinner. Neither of them had plans so Teddy suggested that they go and have some drinks at the Light Brigade. The restaurant was filled to the brim. There was a long communal table through the centre of this narrow noshery. In the far corner of the room was a little Japanese man with funny hair, he kept making noises and his staff would answer back in unison. It baffled the audience, who for tonight, were predominantly upper crusty locals from Paddington. However, one man, who spoke Japanese to the waiter, seem to be more informed and didn’t make any comments to his partner.

“You know, I hate the word noshery” said Andy. “It’s too Manhattan jewish”.

“You seem fine using it with your jewish friends” said Jack.

“I know. But I have to play up to the role as honorary Jew”.

“I think that’s boring that you have to do that. I would tell David next time that you don’t want to play that role anymore. I think he’d be happy for you to be yourself” chided Teddy.

Another plate of sushi came. Jack threw more wasabi into the soy and mashed it into a paste. Andy was pushing the eel aside and Teddy took a call on his mobile.

“How’s the bird? Was that her?” Jack asked Teddy.

“No.You know, I don’t really know. It’s been a week since I spoke to her. She’s in Rio for Carnival. Then she’s off to Miami for the music conference. I think she’s then going to New York and then she’ll be home a few weeks after that” said Teddy. His voice faltered over some of the words. Images seem to be floating around in his head as he spoke the words.

“Do you have a policy while she’s traveling?” asked Andy.

“No, I didn’t know what to say when she left. At the airport she seemed in such a rush that I didn’t get a chance. I was going to save it till then, but, well, we’ll see.”

Jack looked at Teddy, Teddy to Jack. It was a wry smile that both gave each other. They were, however, genuinely interested in comforting their mate. Jack began.

“You know, even if she does get action you don’t have to worry. I mean, it’s not like you wouldn’t take some if you could get it. It’s just a shame because you’re here and she’s there. Unfortunately, the saying goes, don’t shit where you eat, so it’s harder for you. We should go for drinks tonight, it’ll give you a chance to brush up your skills” said Jack.

“I don’t think that’s it at all. That’s pretty cynical Jack” said Andy, adding, “you know, when I went away I was fucking this bird in London and I didn’t have any resentment in doing it, but there are a lot of people who wouldn’t and mate, I think your bird is one of those girls.”

“I agree” said Teddy.

Jack and Andy exchanged glances again.

They split the bill and left the restaurant. It was a reasonably mild day for late summer in Sydney. Each of the boys had a light jacket on. They all wore jeans, while Teddy and Andy wore loafers, Jack had trainers on. Between the loafers, the difference was in the labels. Andy wore J P Todd driving shoes whereas Teddy had prada’s. It was like a uniform for a club that they all subscribed to but never wanted to be defined by. Between the loafers, the jeans, the jackets and the trainers, there was a common thread which bound them all. Perhaps it was where they bought the clothes, or the labels they chose. Perhaps it was the price they paid. Whatever it was, there was a common thread and it made them feel like they were part of some group. A group that none of them admitted to being part of.

Within the group they were completely divided. In part, this was due to their constitutions. Jack was a catholic with Irish origins. Andy was catholic too but with French and Irish origins. Teddy was mixed blood. His father was Romanian and partly Greek whilst his mother traced her origins both from Alexandria in Egypt and England. His blood was so mixed and his family history so complex that he seldom talked about his origins. His skin seemed to be the most important defining characteristic, whereas the others were fair, Teddy was somewhat darker and had a light milky coffee to it. Although he had pimples, his complexion was still his greatest asset. His dark hair was pushed up and ran its way into the sky and he was by far the more handsome of the three boys. By contrast, Jack and Andy, who walked a few paces in front, were less attractive, but not less appealing. They both looked polished and refined. Jack had small and firm lips with a long chiseled face and gray brown hair. Andy had a larger and darker crop of brown hair, fatter lips and a rounded face. He was appealing to look at, because he resembled a penguin. They each bore their own charms and brought different characteristics to this group, which made it even more difficult for people to try and stereotype them as a set of friends.

“You know, we are very different, aren’t we?” said Andy. “What I mean is, if someone was going to try and define us, they would never really be able to pick us being friends. Especially if they started to include David, or Fitzy, or Thomas. Even the girls are different. I think they’d never get it. We don’t have a common thread. Jack does completely different work from me, Teddy, you are completely left of field” he said.

“Why would anyone want to define us?” said Teddy.

“I don’t know.” He replied. “Just, if they were going to…”

Teddy was the first to the bar. He squished himself between two other sardines and waited patiently for the bartender to get to him. He watched the bartender keenly. Trying as best he could to convey to the bartender that he had been waiting patiently, didn’t like playing sardines and would appreciate service at the next interval. The bartender gave him a smile, agreeing that it was a tight squeeze but that he wasn’t the first joe to give him that look. Teddy thought he would be a better survivor in life if he could just let himself be a bit more arrogant and assertive.

Bringing a round back to the table, the boys found some poofs and cornered themselves in the room. It was unlike them to ever go anywhere without needing there to be a function where they went. Somehow on this evening, the odd turn of events seem to happen without question. Andy thanked Teddy in australianised Spanish “Gratsiaaaas”.

It was a line he picked up from a reality t.v. show only months earlier. The series had ended but Andy kept the line.

Teddy’s mind wandered off and the other mingled between themselves. It was a mixture of topics they were discussing but it started to get onto the topic of girls. Andy was telling Jack about yet another case of bad luck for a friend on the periphery of their social set. His best friend had run off with his girlfriend and they were off to Europe to travel. All this had happened without any knowledge of the former boyfriend who had traveled to London to patch things up with his girlfriend, only to find his best friend answered the flat they were both staying in.

Teddy was thinking about Susie again. Her brown and whispy blonde hair was sitting on his pillow. They were laughing about Andy and Jack. Teddy was relaying the story about Andy finding his first haemmerhoid post a traumatic skiing accident. She was laughing heartily with her mouth wide open, something a little sinister but full of mirth. And the both of them started humping their bodies together as if to say they both saw the humour in the whole event and wanted to make love to it. Teddy kept explaining to Susie, “you know, it’s not that I don’t like them, it’s just that, well, I don’t really fit in. I mean, sure I can discuss all the stuff they’re saying. And it’s a helluva lot more interesting than the stuff that comes out of Marc’s mouth. But it’s not me. You are my best friend now, I never thought this could happen. I was such a dirt bag all my life. And then I met you and it just seem to happen so quickly”.

“I know bubby. I never thought it would be so much fun to be with someone. You are beautiful. Come here.” She threw her leg over him, resting her knee on the back of his thigh and they hugged tightly, pulling the duvey tightly in and cocooning themselves. With their faces pushed right up to each other, they rubbed their noses together. “We’re Eskimos!” she said with an excited child’s tone.

“Do you want another drink Teddy? What are you drinking? Come on mate, snap out of it.” Jack stood over him.

“Yep. A beer. Get me a corona. Thanks. Do you want some money?” Teddy asked.

“You got the first round. You sit tight.” He retorted.

In the corner of the bar something flickered and caught Teddy’s eye. Peering with more scrutiny, he saw an earring. It was dashing light across the room intermittently. It was a diamond earring, shaped like a waterfall and it was suspended on a beautifully formed lobe. She flicked her hair up with a tilt and a shake. It was perfect. He looked at her. No later than early thirties he suspected. No girl could afford earrings like that he considered. He tried to break it down. Father’s rich? Mistress? One of those extraordinary types who plays hard works hard? She began walking toward him, her jeans tightly hugging her legs and he followed them down to her stilettos and her exposed toes, ornately painted and filed, and back up to her top, made of chiffon or some light fabric, flowing like a flag in a light breeze. What a glamorous looking girl, he thought. I cannot imagine what sort of man treats himself to this. Skin that reminded him of rich timber floors, hair that had a sheen like a fresh coat of paint and a smell that reminded him of all the timeless beauties of cinema. She was pushing past his poof, gently touching the backs of the men she asked to part. And they parted. And they gawked and guffed and chuffed and shifted in their shoes. One even touched his zipper.

“Excuse me”, she said, looking down at him, her cat eye’s wide and bright. “That’s a nice jacket you’re wearing” she offered.

“I bought it a week ago, I’m glad you like it. I was admiring your earrings. Tell me, do they tug on the ears, because they look heavy but they seem to float”. He was happy to have gotten it out without stumbling on his words. She just nodded nonchalantly and kept moving. She mustn’t have heard his question, he thought.

On the way home in the cab, Teddy couldn’t keep his mind off her. It was racing. How did she get there? Was that her boyfriend with her? A friend? Fag hag? Does she touch all men as she tries to get passed them? Was she being flirty with those men or was she just trying to be practical? Rich father or is she someone’s mistress? Was she too thin? No, she was quite well rounded. I bet there is nothing to it. Maybe she’s one of those poorer girls who’s father is forking out all he’s got so that she can strut her stuff in fancy bars? Yes, that’s more like it. If she was anyone too special you would have heard about her. I wonder if a girl like that would be interested. What a difference it would be if she was smart too and could hold her own with my people. Who are your people? I wonder what Susie is doing now?

He tipped the cab driver a couple of dollars. He made his way into the house. The door was left unlocked but the alarm was armed. He turned it off and switched off the downlights in the kitchen. There was a note on the door from his flat mate. They had not paid the Foxtel. He walked into the living room and sat himself on the couch. He turned on the plasma television, it slowly came to life. Fat people started crossing his screen. Another reality television show was coming up. Fat people learning to live with thin people for six weeks. He checked his phone for text messages. There was a message. It had a long number on it. At the end of the message it said “Tried to call. Call me if you are still up. I am awake now”.

He dialed the number. Susie picked up. “Hi!” she said. He was annoyed. She sounded too chipper. He didn’t like chipper. It meant frivolity and fun.

“Where have you been? I called you with the number you gave me for the hotel…” she cut him off.

“I was out with the crew. The bus pulled into the hotel late last night. We had a big day. I went to Corcovado and to the national museum, I forget its name. I took a helicopter ride and then we went to Sugarloaf. Tonight I have the Samba drome and it is electric here. Tim got caught up on Sugar Loaf and we had to wait for him.”

“Who’s we?”


“Who’s we? You and who? Or just you? Or was it the whole “crew”?” He had lost his cool. He could feel himself sliding. With a desperate attempt he tried again.

“Sorry, I have just been missing you and you sound so happy and I am not that happy” he said.

“Well, you wanted to hang out with your friends more often, I thought this would be a blessing me going away”. He was happy, this was a more familiar tone.

“Listen, I have been meaning to tell you” she added, “I have changed my flights. I’m not coming home for a little longer. Teddy, I feel like I’ve really opened myself up this trip. And I know you are missing me, but it’s only because your stuck in a bad spot at home. I’m telling you this (there was a crackle in the line) because (another crackle and a digital distortion) I don’t think it’s going to work out.” She paused. Waiting for him to say something.

“I’m sorry, you must be on a bad line. Could you repeat that.”

“Jesus Teddy, you heard me.”

“No I didn’t”

“Fine, it’s not going to work out. Before you start, I haven’t met anyone else. I’m just (she stops to laugh, and asks someone in the background to stop), I’m just getting used to the traveling and my mum and dad have loaned me some extra money and I am going to go for another two or three months. Tim’s got a friend in New York who can get me a cash paying job and I think, with a bit of luck, Camilla’s gonna have a lease on a place in Greenwich by then.”

He was hopeless. Behind the words were resolution and she said them without hesitation. She neither feared his scourge nor waited for it. Both waited to hear the other speak.

“I’m really sorry about before, I tried to clear them out of the room. They are running down the hotel corridor and sliding into the room. Molly’s been drunk for days now.”

She said. There was a long period of near silence.

After a long draw of breath he began, “I don’t know what to say Susie. I love you? I cut my teeth on you? I would have done anything for you? All my life I waited for someone like you, and I didn’t know when it would end. I never knew. I’m so sorry if I was ever bad to you. I’m not going to cope well, you know. It won’t be easy…” He started to cry. It was not a pain he had expected. It was more real than what his friend’s had described. It was hurting somewhere much further inside. The same place that hurt when his first dog died.

“I’m losing more than you, you are my best friend” he sobbed.

“Bubby, I’m so sorry. I will call you tomorrow. I never wanted to hurt you, but it had to come sooner or later. We weren’t going to get married. I love you too. But, this is a chance I’ve always been waiting for. I have to go, the bus is waiting. I don’t want to waste this opportunity. We had a great time, but this is my life and I only have one shot. I loved you too. Bye my baby.”

She put down the receiver. He kept still and listened. His heart was weak, there was a streak of pain that seemed to run down his chest, stopping his body from moving. The tears ran down his cheek and began dropping onto his jacket. Forming dark splotches of pink.

“Wake up, you baby! Grow up, it’s just a girl. Stop eating yourself up. She’s having fun, she’s not crying” he began repeating to himself.

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