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Friday, October 24, 2008

whale-man and the Emilians

This week was not a week. It was a series of hours strung together, a loose-knit thing full of holes I slumped into like a hammock. No work, no ideas, no conversation except Brendan’s odd outbursts on the state of the economy and my state of inactivity (you’re a friggin' sloth, Lui, he said working his dumbbells).

I did have one conversation. I went out for coffee around the corner on tuesday and a huge man – four hundred pounds of burgers and sweat – a whale of a man, an American with a big t-shirt - we are not alone, it read - struck up a conversation. What’s going on, how’ya doin’? Where ya from? and so on, but quickly he began in earnest:.. we're on an asteroid my friend, we’re on an asteroid barreling through space, a clump of sediment and water and plants and microbes and–

Ok, ok… we're barreling through space, go on…

that's right, and every couple of millennia, he said shifting his paunch from one knee to the other, a planet comes within our “reach” quoting with this fingers, an unknown, an unacknowledged planet nested in gravitational fields. That's right my friend, and this planet but then he stopped – what’s your name?

Lui.

Gluey?

No, LUI.

…this planet, Lui, this planet is not uninhabited, repeat, NOT uninhabited. A donut disappeared into his mouth as he waited for a reaction.

None came. This guy’s a nut, I thought. But he continued and every time he said Earth he poked my arm as if I was partly responsible for our asteroid's trajectory, always adding, barreling through space, keen to remind me that even though he could barely move himself, he was still “moving” on a galactic level.

Back in my hammock I couldn’t help but think of whale-man and his planet of humanoids. Millions, he kept saying, millions of ‘em. I thought of them so much that gave them a name. They're called Emilians, they’re about 4 feet tall and they’re a pesky, irascible bunch of backbiters. And I suspect they are walking among us as I speak. Emilians are avid collectors of EVERYTHING. They collect, they jar, they categorize and they store everything this side of the galaxy, and then they meet somewhere on vast open plains, hundreds of thousands of them, and they trade like a bunch interplanetary geeks gone awry.

You really have too much time on your hands, Lui, Goni said when I told her on the phone. Go do something, for God's sake, please go do something!.

... my hammock swayed.

I couldn't stop thinking about what I would collect if were Emilian. What would be my specialty, how would I stand out as a four-footer.


Friday, October 17, 2008

I quit

as bluntly as that, without preparation or preamble...

I went for coffee and ended up veering left and then left again into my boss’ office. I stood there for a moment wondering what it was I came to do, but when Branson looked up from his desk, when I saw his goatee twist into an expression of irritation, when I heard the words, Labas, wat wil je - what do you want – it was beyond my control. I don’t think I said I quit – or the Dutch equivalent – I said something else, but I can’t remember, the shock in Branson’s face was overwhelming. He remained silent but his eyeballs spoke to me in unmistakable terms: how the hell, HOW THE HELL, will a miserable Croat with no qualifications to speak of survive in this world that is all tooth and claw, that is all Darwinian and that is now on the brink of economic collapse; how the hell do you expect to manage Labas? And this is when I wished to remind him that if the world collapsed on itself and darkness descended on man and all his machines there would be no need for office supplies, and thus no need for a chump such as him to order them and keep inventory. I think I laughed – I must have, what else could have provoked his arm to spasm as it did, and the coffee to flow across his desk and the obscenities from his hairy lips. I left him mopping his keyboard, soggy Kleenex in hand.

Since I have no desk of my own I had none to clear, and I guess could have left the building promptly, but I wished to say farewell to my beloved colleague Ratface, the undisputed, week-on-week winner of most-intensely-annoying-co-worker. I have been unkind to him in the past, calling him a Nazi genetic experiment, and I thought I might make him happy by telling him I quit, but when I did he lapsed into a state verging panic: but… but what are you going to do? he asked, as though my announcement shot a beam of light into a dark chasm in his soul. I don’t know, I said, and left him gazing blankly at his empty Outlook calendar. Adieu Ratface, Adieu.

And of course I couldn’t leave without saying goodbye to my trusted friend Fer Ruiz at payroll, the soft-spoken subversive, the armchair Che. He was sad and I let him plead with me in earnest: where was he going to find “a receptive ear and vociferous heart in this house of cards” (his words, he’s Argentinean) . I gave him a big bear hug and I said, I’ll see you in Buenos Aires my friend. And that was that.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Luigi Gonzaga



















That was me in the mid 1500’s. I was a good looking lad then. A bit effeminate, but good haircut...
what happened? you might ask.

My name (and this is sheer coincidence) was Luigi Gonzaga. I died young and was made a saint posthumously – or beatified, as they say – but I run ahead of myself. First – against my father’s wishes, who preferred I become a soldier or a marquis in a long line of fat and opulent noblemen– I entered the Jesuit order. I worked tirelessly for the poor. I gave up every penny and it is said that at the height of my selflessness I carried a moribund man twenty miles into Rome, a plague-ridden man, a dead man. I died two weeks later of the same disease.

You will ask, how the hell do I know this? You will ask, how does a man who xeroxes for a living – a Croatian national who xeroxes for a living in a business park on the outskirts of Amsterdam, how can such a man have this kind of profound historical “memory” – that is, if you got past the first hurdle that it could be me at all. In any case, you will pronounce me a fool, or at least you will think it, and you will laugh nervously. But I will laugh too. I will laugh louder than you and longer, and then I will laugh again, and at that moment you will be silent and you’ll think fuck, is this guy serious?

I’m dead serious Brendan, that’s me. Ok, I’ve changed a bit. I don’t carry dead guys to Rome on my back anymore, but that was me. I swear.

Lui, dude, the only thing you got in common with this guy is that you're dating a Jewish girl.

He’s a Jesuit, Brendan, JESUIT, not Jewish.

Then you're really talking out of your ass. Stop being crazy, you’re scaring me.

Then why are you laughing?

I just know. I know in my bones. And you want to know how I know? You want me to tell you how? I’m going to tell you, but expect no hocus-pocus, expect no mysticism, expect no illumination, no smoke-breathed apparition with a message of "information"…Simply, I recognized him. That’s all. Like you recognize a man on the street, like you recognize a friend in a crowd. I recognized him because we were friends – what I mean is, I liked who I was, and I don't just mean the good guy in sandals, I liked my whole attitude, my game plan, my set of principles, I liked the calluses under my feet, I liked the chunk of cheese and bread in my satchel, I liked travelling light, I liked my haircut, and especially, I liked pissing off my dad. In short, I liked ME under the Gonzaga rule. It is much later, in subsequent centuries - especially recently - that I developed my cynicism and miniaturized self-esteem. I had no such issues at the time.

But now you raise your eyebrows, and you ask, but how did you find him then? On Facebook? And you smirk. And I tell you it straight.

In a book, Goni, at the library. He was on a postcard in a book.

What? Come on Lui, you have to do better than that…

That's where I found him. A random book. I opened it and there he was.

What book?

What difference does it make? It was random.

It makes a difference. If everything in your account can be random except him, it doesn’t work. What book?

Don’t get smart Gon, I just know, alright.

You’re telling me you were a 16th century blue-blooded, Italian saint. Excuse me for being sceptical... Luigi… tell me what book!

No… find your own book.