Saturday, July 09, 2005

Respect

Heading back from work, I decide to catch up with A. He called me 3 days ago to tell me he's working again. And he also has a cell phone now. I stop by his workplace to find he has already left. Pay-day, I think instantly. There is no way I can get a handle on him on a payday.

I start walking. Its a good mile and a half, but an evening at home is out of the question. Call him from two payphones, and no answer. 'The customer is currently unavailable.' He had mentioned something about running out of minutes, and knowing him, filling up his cell would not be a priority. Still, I walk.

I reach Ardenthorpe with only half the liquids in me, my throat dry as my humour. I take a peak inside from a window, and suddenly stop. His neighbour is eyeing me. Another asshole to deal with.

I stick a note on his door, and start walking back. I am surrounded by suburbia. Green lawns, well kept, some sprinklers still on. Houses with brick work, the same variation of dull red and yellow. Even the patterns are predictable. Every third house is brick, and every ninth house has the same brick work. A garage door cranks up with a lotta noise, a Chevy Impala comes out. Middle-aged men drinking beer, middle-aged man cleaning a car and a middle-aged woman walking her dog. A kid staring out into the street from a sterilized window. All plastic, direct from Home Depot, I'm sure.

Back at the payphone, I try for the last time. One ring. Another. A. picks up. His voice is slurred.
A: Hell-o.
Me: Where are you?
A: I'm... I'm at Feba's place.
Me: Where exactly?
A: Lawrence and Brimley.
Me: Thats where I am, you idiot. Lawrence and Brimley. I'm at a pay phone on the corner.
A: Turn around, I... I think I can see you.
Me: (turn around. see no one.) Where are you?
A: Its a bar. Febus place.
Me: (Spot the blue and white sign) I'm coming.
A: Are you coming?
Me: hang up.

I walk into Febus. A greek bar with an Arabian hostess. I spot A., and after the 'niceties' are exchanged, he orders for me. Looks like he's been at it for a while now. He looks distraught. Says his new job is tiring. The boss is an asshole.

The hostess looks around as if bored, and talks up another customer. A. still thinks the night is young. Its almost nine. He orders again. I wait.

'Oula', he screams at a woman in white and black. If Oula isn't middle-aged then I haven't been born yet. She looks pleased and smiles at us. Must have been a real cutie in her time. She extends her hand for a shake, and I see, her skin is pure gold. The face is puffy white.

Oula makes a face at A.. She doesn't remember him, or maybe doesn't want to. She tells him her foot hurts, she's twisted her ankle. The hostess comes back. Oula exchanges a glance with her, and gets up from her chair. A. stops bothering Oula and walks back.

We head outdoors for a smoke. All the tables are taken. He grabs a seat from one table, and I, from another. We sit beside each other. I point to the moon neatly visible amongst a jumble of power lines passing over us to the left. Its a crescent. What month is this, I wonder. A. looks bored now, and drunk.

He tells me he is appreciated at the new job. Everybody is touting him to be the next manager. I ask him about the current manager, he looks at me as if he's already answered the question. Oops, I think, the asshole boss. He tells me about taking shit on more than one occassion, but in his own words, "He's my boss. If he asks me to jump, I ask, how high!"

I want to tell him that I have a bad feeling about this, but I don't. He isn't talking to me, I know. He is giving himself a pep-talk. A motivational after a long week and a bad boss. Everyone deserves a break, and a dream.

A. looks at his cell. He asks me for another round, I decline. He offers a night out till one. I don't reply, instead I ask him why he's being so spend-thrift? He mumbles something but the only word I catch is 'respect'. He asks the guy on the other table for confirmation. The guy raises his drink, prompting A. to do the same.

Now, A. is calling a cab. He's on his way to a fun weekend- the kind that's half-planned, with a few surprises along the road, and feels grand when someone narrates it. But, thats all that it's good for: narrating.

Many a times I have been the one to call a cab. A few times we've done it together, where I end up feeling whimsical and silly, and A. ending up with a guilt-trip so bad, it wipes out all the progress he makes during the work week.

I get up and leave, and pray that he doesn't run into his boss while he's partying. And this time, God, help him keep the job for more than two weeks.