My phone wakes me. As my senses organise a nasty headache declares itself present. It’s my boss. I clear my throat and try to sound like I haven’t just woken at 1252pm. A teacher is sick. Can I take her classes? Work. Yes. I wrench myself outta bed. The headache flares in protest. I shower and slip on some clean clothes that I hope give the illusion of an upstanding member of society.
There’s scant consolation to be found in the fridge so I walk to a nearby café and munch on something greasy, sip coffee and fart. The barman and I chat in Spanglish about the rugby world cup. It’s our twice weekly exchange. He wants to practise his English and I wanna practise my Spanish. We both refuse to speak our native language. He’s a good guy and a bigger fan of Irish rugby than I am. I’m functioning.
The mirrors image shows tired eyes and a red face that makes me seem constantly embarrassed. But, there isn’t time for self-loathing. I gotta bus to catch. I tell David I’ll see him Sunday for the match.
I arrive in work an hour early. I sip coke, pore over the books and chat with the boss. Only three classes to prepare. I can do this.
The students file in. Teenagers; 14-16 years old. I muster what I hope is sufficient enthusiasm and ask each student to tell me a little about themselves. They are perky, excited to have a different teacher for a lesson and the introductions are punctuated with laughter. I’m in a good position. They don’t know me well enough to try any serious messing and I’m doing another teacher a favour so I don’t feel pressure to get loads done. After the introductions I set them a task and go to the toilet. When I come back some dude with a hairstyle is standing.
‘Are you okay?’
‘My phone is ringing. Can I take the call?’
Everyone is watching to see how I deal with this.
‘Eh. Well…no…unless it’s your Mom or Dad.’
He looks at the phone.
‘I don’t know who it is.’
‘Then you will have to sit down and call them after class.’
He thinks for a moment.
‘Can I go to the toilet?’
We all laugh.
‘You must be joking. Sit down.’
He shrugs and sits down. We finish the class with a game. As they leave they smile and say goodbye.
The next class arrives. It’s a two hour lesson. It goes much the same as the first but my legs ache so much I have to sit down and my explanations are a bit rambling. It’s a sleepy lesson and we don’t stray too far from the textbook. With 15 minutes left I spring from my chair and launch into a game. It’s a good laugh. They say goodbye. I feel lucky. Really nice kids. A pleasure to teach. Not such a bad day after all.
Once everyone leaves the silence is eerie. I hastily pack my bag and lock up. There’s a birthday party in the square. Kids are screaming. It’s a bright autumn evening. I find myself getting a bit emotional – giddy that the class went well, that its Friday, that last night was such a laugh- but overall giddy that I’m living and working in the Basque Region. I still get a kick thinking that one year ago I had no idea I would be out here.
I get the bus back. I’m tired but I’m dreading the thoughts stopping will bring. I slip a pizza in the oven, eat and message a few of the heads I was out with last night. Some funny shit. I’m nearly hysterical with the laughter. I pass some time on youtube.
Darkness descends. I’m so weary. It’s a sinister kind of tiredness; I’ve craved bed all day but now I’m here I feel restless. I can’t seem to let go, to fall into sleep. My whole body is humming with anxiety and doubt. Unresolved situations turn over and over in my mind.
Groups of merry, chattering locals pass under my window. Then it gets real quiet.
I rue last night’s actions. I blew it with a girl. I spilt my cards on the table; A grinning drunk issuing clumsy compliments. I can picture her pretty face; stunned and awkward at first – later, just annoyed. Anyway. I know now.
I think of past relationships. Girls I broke it off with. Good girls but I was a better man moving on to better things. This. Have I made the right choices? If all roads have led to my current situation the answer would have to be a resounding no. But, reason counsels, it’s just the hangover darkening my outlook. If I had asked myself the same question early last night, I would have beamed yes; my answer bolstered by the company of smiling friends.
I’d rather not feel like this again. Of course I could just pace myself and not indulge to such a bitter end, but moderation is far from my mind when I’m agreeing to ‘uno mas.’ I’m thinking the night is filled with possibility, that new friends and pretty girls are waiting in the next bar and there’s an urge to unearth truths that will bind me further to those around me. But, there is a price to pay. There are no friends or pretty girls now. Come to think of it there were no girls in the last bar either. And whatever truths were uncovered I can’t remember – I’m sure we were just loud and insistent rather then insightful.
The insights are coming now though. Grim insights that bring a yearning for change. Get better. But deep down I doubt real changes are gonna come. In another few weeks I’ll be back in the same place, feeling the same way; it’s been this way for years. Changing country isn’t enough to change habits. I no longer kid myself that lasting resolutions are born out of these sleepless nights. I guess that’s some sort of wisdom.