The art of getting away with minor fraud, seduction and one-upmanship.
The alarm buzzed for the fifth time and I reluctantly crawled out of bed and into the shower.
As the hot water woke me up I planned my day ahead. I thought of the guys at the Scotsman, their warnings that I would have to wake up at the crack of dawn and plan lessons every day. Utter bullshit.
In fact, almost every aspect of my job was so meticulously micro-managed by the school administrators that it quickly became clear that the less input I offered, the better off I’d be. And that suited me just fine. The best course of action, I decided, was to shut up and not get noticed. If they don’t notice you, they don’t fire you.
I was learning the various techniques used by similar charlatan posers on how to blag my way through the job quickly, but was still about as much of a teacher as I was the day before I bought all my fake documents. These first few weeks were to be critical if I wanted to stick about: I figured after pretending to be a teacher for a month or so I’d probably know enough about the job to pretend to do it about as well as most of the cretins I had met with actual teaching qualifications.
Yet while that was all perfectly true, it was all somewhat moot for the simple reason that, paycheck aside, I didn’t give a shit. If, by some shocking turn of events they actually figured out my lie and exposed me as a fraud, I had plenty of options here in the city.
And if the shit really hit the fan and I wound up having to flee the country, there was Phnom Penh… Bangkok, Vientienne… AS far as I could tell, the chances of me getting caught were already slim to none.
I have never been afraid of the classic, “get fired, find new job, start work” routine. Quite the opposite in fact: No matter what job I have ever done, its only ever been a matter of time before it pisses me off beyond the point of no return.
In every case, as soon as I saw any sign that my time at said job was coming to an end, usually after a few months or so, I began plotting my departure.
The only question was, how would I go about terminating the employee-employer? How could I ensure that I left with the appropriate amount of panache and, in many cases, spite?
I had fun with it. You’d be amazed how many creative ways there are to get fired when you put your mind to it… but some people dread the idea of being dismissed. It’s a shame… It always upsets me to see people miss out on the simple pleasures of life.
Last night at The Scotsman I was confronted with just this sort of wasted opportunity when I met a group of 4 young Irish lads, fresh graduates by the look of them, who evidently were all terrified of a rumoured spate of sackings that had hit their school- a shady, low paid language centre out in the suburbs.
They told me that their principal had suffered from a ‘funny turn’ to which she had reacted by indiscriminately showing her staff the door, seemingly at random and with an absolute lack of sentimentality.
All I could think was, “So you heard all this yesterday…. Why haven’t you all just fucking quit yet?” Jobs are everywhere here, especially at medium-low pay grade.
Getting a job in HCMC was, after all, was criminally easy: You just needed to be able to stumble into any given principal’s office and avoid saying any of the stronger sexual swearwords for the duration of a gentle 3 minute interview.
Thus completed, and provided you hadn’t soiled yourself or smashed the place up while dodging the C and F bombs, you were good to go.
I made a mental note to attempt to explain this truism to the four lads at The Scotsman later that evening, with an appropriately insulting mixture of condescension, faux-helpfulness and sarcastic scorn. Some conversations require just the right balance.
Then, still in the shower, I reached out and grabbed a half-smoked joint from the bathroom ashtray. I took a fw deep breathes and tried to clear my head of the roaring hangover noise I had been entertaining up until then.
With a deliberate dedication to actively improving my mood, I allowed my consciousness to float away or a moment or so. I needed to hit the reset switch before facing the first onslaught of privileged little shits… with their stupid comments and incomprehensible fucking questions. The rage was simmering…
Alright, Jesus…. I took a deep breath.
Just… Let it go.
I lazily attempted to find what psychiatrists infuriatingly refer to as my “happy place”.
My mind fell on Clarissa… beautiful, unattainable, preppy Clarissa…. I idly wondered if she ever wore her blonde hair down… and if so, was it wavy? I could picture it being wavy… and sort of naturally framing her pure porcelain skin. I imagined her walking towards me with her hair flowing with her gait…
I imagined stopping her for a casual chat in the corridor between lessons a and saying something smooth like… what exactly? That brief encounter we’d shared seemed unreal now, even in its relative inconsequence. There was electricity in her eyes and I knew I had felt something… but so what?
Did it mean anything? Did she feel anything for me? It was impossible to tell so figuring a strategy was going to be a push. The only thing I could say for sure was that caution and brevity were my new best friends. I knew if I pressed the issue I could end up losing her trust, friendship and potentially ruin my position at work. And yet…. There was something compelling me to pursue her… I had to know. The time needed to be right though. There was no point rushing into anything.
I turned off the water and dried myself off, paused momentarily to turn the kettle on for my morning coffee, and headed over to the bedroom to smarten myself up.
The wardrobe door opened with a creak and, just like every morning I grabbed a shirt from the top hanger.
Then just like every morning I glanced briefly down at the small box, under the towels on the bottom shelf.
Just a glance. But enough to remember that it was there, to picture the works in all their greasy glory.
Enough to imagine taking in a full, acrid lungfull and going fucking mental for eight hours or so.
….I shuddered. Eight hours of that… such a fucking commitment.
Fucking Ice… why couldn’t they get proper drugs here? Don’t they know that shit was Hitler’s drug of choice?
More to the point, when was I going to get rid of the fucking works? Why was I hanging on to the fucking thing? I made a note to get rid of it as soon as possible.
I put on my shirt, trousers and socks and closed the door. Inspecting myself in the mirror I pushed any thoughts of the box and the insanity potential within to the back of my mind. As I left the vicinity of the wardrobe I repeated equations to myself in an attempt to shift my thought process to something more scholarly. Clarissa lingered though… mouthing the equations back at my mind’s eye.
She understood me. The way she laughed at my jokes made me believe my sense of humour had been custom built for her ear…. Her mind was the most beautiful thing about her, and she was already physically the most beautiful person I could remember meeting. She had this incredible wit, intelligence that shone in everything she said. I felt like I had already fallen in love with her from that one brief conversation.
It seemed inconceivable that anyone like her would ever like someone like me of course, and while I may be an optimist I know where my limits lay… Generally speaking.
But then… that smile. She didn’t smile like that for anyone else… when she smiled like that in front of Crispin… my recollection was interrupted as I failed to stifle a spiteful laugh, remembering the look on Crispin’s face.
He knew from that smile alone, that there was something. Clarisssa had a secret and I was willing to bet that I knew what it might be.
The logic felt right: From what I gathered Crispin been there about as long as Clarissa, so… he was inevitably going to be better attuned to reading her body language than I was. If she was keen on me, of course he’d be furious.
So, while it was by no means a lock, I felt pretty sure I wasn’t imagining that I might have a chance. And by god, it would be worth any effort.
I committed myself to conjuring up some sort of plan over the next week or so. I also thought about Crispin, and how, in many respects it would be worth pursuing Clarissa just to piss him off. That smug privileged arsehole deserved some sort of shock. This was going to be fun.
After half an hour of the usual treacherous weaving, beeping and near-death driving through he morning Saigon traffic I arrived at school 10 minutes early and opted to head straight to the classroom. I told myself I wanted a coffee but knew, deep down I was hoping to bump into her. My heart dropped as I opened the door to see Crispin’s hideous smile metres away from me.
“Hey buddy!” he said, his words as sincere as an executioner’s apology.
“Crispin.” I replied, attempting to pass him.
“So, how did you get on the other night?”
“What do you mean? I asked, knowing exactly what he fucking meant.
“With… you know who… Did you, convert the try?” Of course he’d use a rubgy analogy, the public school wanker. Of fucking course.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, I just gave her a lift home. Nothing more than that.”
“Sure, sure… She’s got a boyfriend of course…” he let it hang in the air for a while. “You… did you know that right?”
“Yeah of course, it’s irrelevant though, I’m not interested in her.”
“Hey! Calm down there big guy! Its all cool” He flashed another one of his nauseatingly perfect smiles. All teeth.
“Do you mind? I kinda need a coffee before we get started”
“Oh, of course, be my guest” He gestured dramatically to the coffee machine with an exaggerated flourish.
As I made myself a coffee I ran what I had just heard through my bullshit detector and concluded quickly that he was lying through his teeth. Of course he was lying. I knew his type the minute I met him, just a rich, privileged cunt who looks at the lower classes as sport to bait and annoy with any weapon at his disposal.
But nonetheless, just the thought that he might be right rankled me. Not that I had anything invested as such. What had passed between Clarissa and I was essentially nothing, just a brief conversation and that smile…
As my heart fluttered I swallowed a gulp of coffee and took a Xanax out of my top pocket. This was the right time to take something to keep me calm. Too many reasons to lose my cool today. I was almost hoping that I wouldn’t bump into her now. I needed to work out what was going on in my head before I spoke to her.
With my coffee finished I picked up my bag and left the staffroom, turning down the corridor towards the language block. Then as I turned left, there she was. Hair up. Immaculate.
“Hey!” she grinned
“Hey! How are you?”
“Fine! Fine! Just… you know, raring to go…” the glimmer of sarcasm endeared me to her even more.
“Yep, same. Look, I’m running late but… I actually had a great time chatting to you the other night… Uh.. I was wondering… would you…”
“Lunch? Sure. Meet me at Bun Cha at 1.10”
“OK, fine! See you there”
I walked down the corridor to class, grinning uncontrollably. I had a date! Kinda…