I’m back. I’ve put it behind me. Francesca. Rome. And when I was back all I could think was give me something!! Give me something flat. Give me a plastic bag. Give me something dull. Something without taste and smell. No tango. No machiatos. Give me a coffee in a paper cup. Something zero, something without culture and style, without "penetrating eyes" and foreign accent. And damn it! you know what, I got it.Yesterday was my first day on the job. I work in a office now. None of this shuffling around with plates and cutlery anymore. And I discovered what kind of assistant I am too. I’m everyone’s assist. I assist people’s assistants. I spent the morning manning the xerox machine, and then I filed a man’s files. His name is Douwke. That’s a name. He asked me where I was from, I said, Croatia, he said, Sarajevo? I said Croatia without blinking an eye and he got it. A Richard Branson type with white teeth, a goatee and kind of constant half smile. He was quick to observe that in Dutch “Lui” (pronounced as single syllable) means lazy. Je zult twee keer zo hard moeten werken – fucker– you’ll have to work twice as hard. Ha, ha, ha, that’s funny, ‘cause Douwke in Slovenian means dagger, but it also the fuzz on a man’s scrotum. I didn’t tell him that because it’s not true, but I would have. When I was done with his files he said, do you know data entry? I said tell me and I’ll do it. He talked about pdf files. He said, you take these pdf files and you print out these pdf files and with these pdf files you gotta do this and that with these pdf files. He said it so much I was loosing it, I was straying, I was hearing something else and I got this terrible, this totally horrible disturbing image, Richard Branson in a cellar with a bunch of kids all scared and scratched, which is the most horrendous shit you can possibly think of. Pdf files he kept saying. It’s a highest order of magnitude of evil. If murder is 1, ethnic cleansing 7 – and I know ethnic cleansing, I'm Balkan – this shit is easily 10, 15, maybe 20. It’s down there with shit that’s so evil just thinking about it is criminal. Just thinking! Lui! Yes, sir! Get with the program, he said, (or the Dutch equivalent). Richard Branson scratched his goatee and looked at me funny, and I said, give me the files sir and I’ll do it. And he said, I can’t give you the files they’re pdf files.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Pink-eye. You haveknow it! It sucks. It's the worst. For three days Rome reached me through a watery lens, and always from behind a bunker-sack of puss in my eye. But on this foreign soil, ancient center of the universe, I was doubly afflicted: I fell in love, or I should say – in the spirit of Italian football – I was down and then kicked in the groin. I’m still in love now. It’s a scientific fact. I deny it, but my stomach insists that I am, and my mind was been screening her, back to back, twiddling her hair, sipping Chianti at the bar at Cascabelito. What did I see? I saw nothing. Pink eye or not: Rome was neither Colosseum nor Pantheon, neither pasta nor pizza, Rome was wholly and entirely Francesca. I’m a sucker, a Balkan sucker and I hate it.
Quaker Oats put us up in a dump near the main station, Termini, concourse of Roman riffraff. Night one – under the pretext of meeting “chicks" "ASAP” – Brendan insisted we go to a tango salon . What? That’s right, that’s his embarrassing hobby, not mine. I have no part in it. No part in flowy pants and wing-tips. It’s a lot of fiddly footwork and sissy cross-steps and such. The women lean against you (this I appreciate), and then you glide them around while they appear – if all goes well– entranced. Francesca only just started. She was there with her friend Rosangela, a decent dancer. Francesca danced once, struggled and was never asked again. The men in all their swarthy elegance and facial landscaping are brutish and wasteful: all these beautiful, beautiful girls just sidelined. I was disgusted. I would have danced the “Bulgarian squat” with these angels. I’d, I’d... it kills you!
Anyway, the upside is that I got to talk to her, i.e. I got to speak words to her – she speaks no French, no English, no Dutch, no Serbo-Croatian. Mi deo!. Language was barred. My main asset frozen. What to do? I touched her hand, she withdrew. I touched her arm, she recoiled, but on Brendan’s advice I stayed steady, operating under the assumption that “no” in Italy comes – like gelati – in a vast array of flavors, and this “no” was no plain vanilla, no rich chocolate, this “no” was all pistachio. It said, “I’m not sweet, not at first, but just you wait.”
I didn’t wait. I fell while it was still salty. And so it remained.
Day two we had scooters: Brendan and Rosangela ahead on theirs, her arms clasped around his American build. Francesca on the back on mine, and Rome spread out like a fan of postcards in her hand, pointing right, pointing left – destra, sinistra – but never touching me. Not once. My loins ached; my Balkan heart quivered. Ruins, aqueducts and statues shorn of genitals, all mere props in this tragedy.
Brendan wore his linen pants, said ciao all the time, and abandoned his Starbuck latés for machiatos. A fool. He’s from Portland, he works at K-Swiss in Spaarnwoude. By Sunday I hated him like you hate a Serb; I hated his whole Quaker Oats coupon scheme, I hated this place and I hated the food, the endless permutations of pasta: rolled, cupped, stuffed, tricked, spun. What does that do to the taste? Answer me! What? What did you say? Italian food is so much more than pasta and pizza??? Show me! And no cold tomato soup in a glass, and none of those turds of white putty they swear by lunch and dinner. Show me! I’m open. I’m from Zagreb. We eat porc. We it straight and on a stick, but we don’t have a culinary high horse. I’m ready to accept. Make me believe. Make me something. Dazzle me with basil and Parma ham. Do it. I’ll even allow pesto. But please, not another feat of geometry. What’s next, the double helix tortellini?!
I left early on Sunday. I was done. Quaker Oats was cheap and flew us Ryan Air out of Ciampino, the hooligan hub. I sat in the lounge watching Richard Quest... before he got caught with meth in Central Park, his balls in a Roman sling (haven’t your heard? this is not a joke This is dead serious. The new Airbus will never be the same). I sat there trying not to think of her, my beautiful Francesca. I sat on the ground, gutted, like discarded cannoli.
Monday, April 21, 2008
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Just two things. I ran into Anna at the station this morning and I got fired my first day at the restaurant. Both are good. The restaurant sucked. They specialize in Coquilles Saint-Jacques. The owner is a dutch lady who calls herself Veronique. Her real name is veronica. She has big hands and she knows everything about France, stuff french people don’t know and don’t care to know. She was surprised that I’d never heard of the tiny hamlet in Picardy where she spends her summer holidays, so imagine the shock when I asked her if Coquilles Saint-Jacques are not in fact just small mussels. “Are you french?” Are you dutch?
– Did I mention I ran into Anna at the station? Arms flicking, you ok?, big sad eyes. He didn’t mean to. She meant Frederic, her boyfriend who pushed me out of a fucking window two days ago. She kills me. She’s a frightened animal and a killer all in one. Young. Frail. Old-school Reeboks, all 80s, all tight and dangly and trinkety. Big sad eyes that make you feel guilty just thinking about her. She’s gotta to be too young.. no?I served people from the wrong side. I did something with the wine that pissed off this old guy, a guy with a wine cellar, a guy that takes this shit super serious. I was evil. This was injurious stuff to him. He took this home and discussed it with this bone-skinny, Burberry wife. Veronique fired me in the kitchen in front of the staff. It was a pathetic show of force. No one cared. And nor did I. Brendan called as I was walking out. I didn’t mention it. He won tickets to Rome for two. He’s been sending in Quaker Oats coupons; he’s been doing it for a year. We’re going. We’re going to Rome. The Rubicon!!
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Fucking headache. Tomorrow I start a new job at a restaurant in Amsterdam West. I won't mention the name. If it sucks I want to be able to speak freely. I'll mention the name when the time comes.