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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Switch

Whining and moaning is un-Croatlike and unbecoming a man of your heritage. Snap out of it! He said. I wanted to ask, what heritage are you talking about, thinking he must have it confused with his own Ottoman lineage, but seeing as his name was Switchblade I thought it best to keep quiet and not interrupt. He assured me "Switchblade" is not an epithet, but his real name. I suppose it must be a common name in Turkey; there must be many young Switchblades in Istanbul; perhaps there are Turkish ministers and heads of state called Switchblade – how else do you explain this. And perhaps it is not written, Switchblade, but şviçblüd, or some such Turkish script. I nearly asked him to write it on a beer coaster, but his eyes sent out darts to let me know I had belabored the subject long enough . He concluded by saying that once we are friends I could call him Switch, but the suggestion was clear: do not do so until I tell you to.

Switchblade trades in fanciful, near-imaginary financial products meant to bamboozle and – in his words – throw sand in the eyes of the competition. He owns a loft in Soho, a bar in Amsterdam and sixty thousand head of livestock somewhere on a Turkish plain. He is an imposing figure. He drinks cognac and speaks his mind. We met last last night in what turned out to be his own bar, called – you will not believe it – The Ol’ Switcheroo.

Lui, what were you doing in a bar on your own, without Goni or Brendan? You ask.

I will not beat around the bush, I will not shrink from the truth – that too is un-Croatlike Goni broke up with me. That's it. Full stop. That’s how fast it went. She called me from the airport on her way back from Haifa – at the f*!$@ airport– evidently keen, to finalize this little “procedure”. I asked her: Why? Why now? Why so sudden? Is it 'cause I’m broke? 'cause I’m unemployed? 'cause I’m too young? Her answer was unequivocal,

Yes.

But then I thought about it and I got confused. “Yes” what? What are you saying “yes” to? All of them? And then she was really unequivocal,

Yes

In an act of savage spitefulness I retracted the two line of verse I wrote for her last week and I told her she wasn’t the worth the credit on my cell phone. But an hour later I got weak at the knees and I called her at home hoping to convince her to change her mind and to tell her I could get a job easypeasy and that I’m not as young as she thinks (I was prepared to lie and forge documents). Alas, I got no further than her personal firewall, her pesky eighteen year old daughter Geraldine, who snapped at me in Hebrew and told me to take a hike.

This is unconventional. This is not a break up worthy of the Western World. This is an eviction. I feel kinship with the Palestinians. And do not tell me things could be worse. DO NOT! Of course they could be worse! I could be thirsting in the deserts of Yemen; I could contract a disfiguring disease; I could be trampled by hooligans or crippled by polio. So what! Let me feel like shit. I was outmaneuvered, outflanked, emotionally gutted and I came down to The Ol’ Switcheroo to drown my sorrows. I will not apologize for that.

Anyway, after the whole heritage thing, Switchblade swirled his cognac, looked me dead in the eye and said: Fight back you chump! and then he lay his free hand on a lush thigh to the right of him. I’m not sure what he meant, but it conjured up images of Brad Pitt in a dark corridor beating a man to a pulp. I’m sure he meant this figuratively (please God!). Switchblade is not a bad person, but I’m thankful for the civilizing effect of his entourage. The “lush thigh” I mentioned belonged to a mysterious, dark-eyed, raven-haired nymph by the name of Sofia von Spitzenwald – blue-blooded, maybe German, maybe Austro-Hungarian; germanophone in any case. And on the other side of him, a chocolate-colored splendor stroked a Mojito and on occasion voiced her dismay in Portuguese as she was forced to lift, again and again, Switch’s heavy hand from her thigh.

The next day I woke up in my own bed with cognac on my breath... And truly, that is all I remember.