I wake to the sound of an alarm. I press snooze in the hope that Monday fucks off for itself. It doesn’t. Monday doesn’t care if you partied hard at the weekend. Nor does it sympathise with you about the fact you feel a little cheated; all week the weekend seemed like a book full of clean blank pages waiting to be filled with wonderful things. Now that book is bounced off your dehydrated head and lands open on a page baring the cold facts; you got drunk and did a few chores; it’s over now and a pressing list of demands awaits. I get outta bed. It’s my birthday. 34 and feeling every bit of it.
It’s a bright cool morning.
I have to catch the train to Bilbao 4 times a week, which means four times a week I am running through the cobbled streets of Portugalete, bag bouncing on my back. Each time I tell myself that I need to leave my house 5 minutes earlier but I’ve been telling myself that four times a week for three weeks now. Still, I haven’t missed a train yet.
On the train everyone silently agrees not to get on each other’s nerves by shutting up and staring at their phones. I check Facebook. There’s a lot of people saying happy birthday. Facebook has prompted them to do so. I do the same when prompted. Everyone must be getting tired of everyone’s birthday.
In Spanish class I start to think that Saturday’s partying has left me brain-damaged. It takes me ages to construct a sentence. I am a little disgusted with myself. Will I ever learn this fucking language? I need to slow down on the weekend boozing. Mind you, I’ve been saying that every Monday for about five years now.
Afterwards my classmates and I go for coffee and cigarettes. None of us are particularly enthused about having to teach kids later on.
‘I don’t know how I’m gonna be all singing and dancing today,’ deadpans Aaron in a droll Newcastle voice, the imprint of a hangover on his face.
‘I hate when you have to tell-off a kid just before you do a song and you’re really angry, but you have to force a fake smile and say ‘Come on everyone! Let’s sing ‘We’re going on a Safari!’ James says.
‘My kids don’t even like songs! And they’re six! I’m there dancing and singing and their eyes are boring through me. I’m 33…34 and I have a hangover. What the fuck is your excuse young fella?’
I drain my coffee and run for the train.
Later, in class, I’m asking my teenagers what they did at the weekend.
‘I hang out with my friends and studied,’ is the standard answer.
They stubbornly refuse to let the conversation go anywhere. Maybe they’re just bored that they are doing the same shit over and over. Life is short, they say. Nay, life is long; Long enough for us all to get into ruts. Long enough for us to get bored. Ashley Madison has it the wrong way round. Life is short. Have an affair. If life really was short would people get bored of their partners and seek out affairs on the internet?
Life is long. Have an affair.
Life is long. Get drunk.
Life is long. Give up alcohol for six months.
Life is long. Live in another country.
Life is long. Take up a new hobby.
Life is long. You may as well have kids.
Life is long. Do something you wouldn’t normally do.
‘Did anyone do anything different?’
‘I went to Bilbao,’ says one pretty girl.
‘Oh really! What did you do there?’
She looks at me like she doesn’t understand.
‘Of buildings like the Guggenheim? Of homeless people who possess a tragic wrecked beauty?’ I suggest.
‘No…of each other. For instagram.’
Now I’m the one who doesn’t understand.
In my next class I have my six year olds doing exercises.
‘Running, running, running, running, jumping, jumping, jumping, jumping, eating, eating, eating, eating, swimming, swimming, swimming, swimming.’
Their enthusiasm and big wide smiles are a pleasant contrast to the guarded, sullen teenagers.
The adults file in. I smile and greet them all. They take their seats – everyone always sits in the same seat. As they settle I notice Martha isn’t here. Odd because she never misses a class. Then there is a knock on the door. Nerea jumps, opens the door and switches off the light. A low flickering candle enters the room. A low chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’ begins. My name’s on the cake and all. It’s a pleasant surprise.
Something Similar: A Black Star on the last Day of School
Something Different: Squat Diddly