Today is my first time to teach the 7:45 am class that was loaded onto me. In a panic, I wake up. I am afraid I am late. I look at the clock. The alarm did not ring. The time is 7:35. I have ten minutes to brush my teeth, throw on my clothes and run to the garden. I rush into the bathroom. Once I am somewhat awake, I look back at the clock. I misread the time. The clock reads 6:37. I look to make sure that the alarm is set and I lay back down. I cannot sleep.
At 7 am, I get up. I make coffee. I eat a crescent with my coffee. I do not shower. I intend to shower after class. I toast some raisin bread. I have the raisin bread and pour a second cup of coffee. The time is 7:40. I lock my door and look out the foyer window. I see Tess. She sees me. We wave. She walks toward my apartment. I run down to meet her. We walk to the garden.
We see Max coming from the other direction. I ask where Miko is. Tess tries to call her. The bell rings. Miko is not there. I tell them it will mean a letter grade for Miko. Tess’s phone rings. Tess has a heated Chinese conversation with Miko. I add ‘Yeah, Yeah Yeah’ while Tess is talking.
Tess gets off the phone. She tells us Miko thought we were meeting in the classroom and then walking to the garden. I tell her that is excusable but then I think that Miko may be saying that she is in the classroom and might really be at the dormitory. Since I have some trust issues with Miko, I go to a spot where I can see which way she is coming from: the gate that leads to the dorm; or the sidewalk which leads to the school. I wait for a few minutes. I am starting to think she must be coming from the dorm but then I see her walking. She does not see me. She is coming from the direction of the classroom. This makes me feel good. I feel so good in fact that I tell them after tomorrow, this class will be conducted using the sleep therapy method. They ask me what the sleep therapy method is. I tell them this is when you sleep and dream in English. They ask me if this is something we do in the garden. I tell them this is independent study they do in the dorms instead of coming to the garden to class.
As we are leaving the garden, after class, I am walking behind Max. I absolutely cannot help giving him a swift kick in the butt. Miko and Tess of course laugh uncontrollably. Max exclaims.
I go home and prepare for Class 7.
Class 7, Bill always comes in late for the eye exercises. He is an adorable bad boy. I love to be the stock-teacher authoritarian with him. Today, I brought my new cheap guitar into class. Bill and a friend come in as the eye exercise is ending. I tell the class that Bill will be the song leader. He does not understand. He does not know I am talking about him. Maybe he has forgotten that he has taken ‘Bill’ as his English name. I tell them I will play a couple of songs and then we will learn a song.
I play ‘Feel Like a Drugstore’ first. Fortunately, they are not fluent in English so it is not really inappropriate because of that, I tell myself. As I play, the students all attentively watch. Bill sits at the back of the class. He puts on his glasses at one point and then takes them off. He does not want anyone to mistake him for a bookworm. The class claps enthusiastically when I finish. I feel as if I am in a movie, again.
I launch into ‘Savior Boyfriend Collides.’ Most of the class is attentive. Bill, however, starts talking to his neighbor. His neighbor seems annoyed. If he was a sweathog he would be Barbarino. Something about his movie star bad-boy-ness makes him endearing. When dealing with him I am Mr. Hand. He is Spicoli. This is the Chinese Ridgemont High. If a delivery boy were to bring noodles to him, I would not be surprised. I finish the song. Everyone claps.
During the eye exercises, I wrote the words to the Beatles’ ‘From me to you’ on the board. I tell the class we are now going to learn a Beatles song. For the last few nights I have been practicing this song which is full of strange chords of which I seldom play like C7s and D7s. After too many years of playing guitar, I struggle through the song each time I play it when I am practicing.
Since I am Mr. Hand and Bill is Spicoli. I tell Bill he is going to help me lead the class in the song. This time, since the whole class is looking at him, he knows that I am talking about him. He tries to duck down at his desk. The whole class claps. Everyone wants him to help lead the class in song. He protests. The class claps louder and cheers. He loves the attention as much as he hates the attention. He is John Travolta, James Dean, Bruce Lee.
He says as he points to the person sitting in front of him “Front friend must help.”
I say sure. He gets up and manhandles his friend into getting up. His friend wants to kill him. They drag each other to the front of the room. I am not sure who is dragging whom. Bill hits his friend on the ass several times as they are making their way to the front of the room. His friend giggles each time. During the other songs, I sat on the front desk and played but if I do that now, I will be blocking the lyrics on the board. I go over to a shy student’s desk and ask her if I can sit on her desk to play. She says yes and scoots over to the empty seat next to her which is fortunate that there was an empty seat. Usually, these classes have no empty seats.
I explain what a verse is. I tell them I will sing the first verse and then we will all sing the first verse. I sing it a couple of times and then I give them the count and…nothing. I tell them maybe the first half of the verse. I sing it a couple of times again. I give them the count and nothing. I look over at Bill and his friend. They are standing in front of the board and Bill is actually reading the words. This, I feel is some sort of breakthrough because he loves to be the bad boy. Maybe Mr. Hand wins a few. Maybe I am that annoying character that Robin Williams always plays in the movies.
Okay, I sing “If there’s anything I can do” a couple of times. I give the class the count and approximately half of the class attempt to sing it. I tell them very good and I do it again. More students sing. I do it again. More students sing. Occasionally, I look behind me at Bill and his friend. They are such boys. They take turns hitting and kicking each other. I tell Bill not to slug his helper. I know he does not understand me. I then tell him he may beat his helper while I am not looking. No one understands me. I am simply amusing myself.
We make what seems like excruciatingly slow progress with the song. This song is not even two minutes long. Right as I sing the first part of the chorus the bell rings. I tell them I will see them in a week.
Logan is leaving the company. Logan, I have not talked much about. He and the Sofa Negotiator share responsibilities when it comes to helping the foreign teachers. However, often Logan is at the Pudong office so he is not around. However, the first day I got to China he took me to eat and to grocery shop. His English is as good as or better than the Sofa Negotiator’s.
We are set to go to the IBC Coffee shop with him for dinner at six. Annie, however, has to go back in to Shanghai so we are to meet at 5:10 at the international building. Jennifer knocks on my door at 4:45. I ask her if she is ready to go over to meet everyone. She tells me know one told her about the time change. She has to put on her make-up. I tell her we will stop by and get her when we leave the school. On the way to the international building, I bump into Bird Flu. Logan has not arrived. They are waiting for him. She is going back to her apartment to drop off her lessons. She just finished teaching. I tell her Jennifer is there at her apartment. I will let them know when we are ready to go.
At the international building, I ask Jessie why we are waiting. She says we are waiting for Logan. I assume that Logan is still in Shanghai. The students want to play video games when we go downtown. (We found a new place that has a lot of video games, the driving and shooting kinds for the most part. Most of them even work properly. The new place is on the third floor above a huge shoe store. The first time I went, I was reminded of Bartlesville’s ‘Small World’ a two story foosball and pinball game center in downtown Bartlesville. ‘Small World’ moved into the space vacated by the sadly lamented ‘Larceny Whipsnake’s Music Parlor’ – where I bought The Dolls ‘In Too Much Too Soon,’ White Witch ‘Spiritual Greeting’ and the first Lucifer’s Friend record with the song ‘In the time of Job when Mammoth was a Yippee’)
I have tokens at my apartment. I tell them I am going back to my apartment. They do not know I have tokens left from the other day. Max and Tess got suckered by the game in which you put tokens into a machine which shoves tokens out like a slot machine if your token lands in the right spot. I was not fooled. I saved the eight tokens I had left. I go back to my apartment to get the tokens which they do not know I have.
Bird Flu is a flutter because the plans are not going according to plan. Now that we are waiting, we are not leaving at when we had originally changed the plan to leave. I ask her what she wants me to do about it. She wants me to call Logan and the Sofa Negotiator and find out specifics. I call Logan. No answer. I call the Sofa Negotiator. She tells me we are waiting on Logan because we are not going to the coffee place, we are going somewhere different. She tells me she will call when Logan arrives. Logan calls; he is in the international building elevator. I tell him thank you I will tell Maureen. The Sofa Negotiator calls. She tells me Logan has just arrived. He tells her he just called me. She tells me Nancy – the Carroll Burnett as a Ditzy Chinese secretary character – has gone back to her dormitory. We are now waiting for her. I knock on Jennifer’s door and tell her. She tells me that Bird Flu walked back to the international building because she was about to blow a gasket. Jennifer told her to go and that it would be a good idea for her to go back. Please go back.
I wait in my apartment for Logan to call back. Fifteen minutes later, Logan calls back. They are all in the elevator on their way. I tell Jennifer they are coming. I come back to my apartment to lock up. Through the apartment building foyer window, I see them walking across the quadrant. Tess and Miko see me see them and wave. I tell Jennifer they are coming. Jennifer, who always takes a few minutes more, cannot find her keys. I tell her they are in her front door. I point to her and say that I will blame our tardiness on her when Miko teases us. We both then laugh because Miko – when she makes it to class at all – is often late.
We all head toward downtown Songjiang. We go into the middle of Songjiang where there is a pedestrian mall – which of course includes bikes, scooters, and (occasional) cars and mini-vans. We find a family-style restaurant. The ten of us are ushered upstairs to a small room of our own with a big round table. Logan orders. The food starts coming. Jennifer asks what spicy beef dish it is that I like. I tell her the beef with pepper which he then orders. At this point, I know what to avoid. Many of the foods I avoid are absent. We are not brought chicken soup (as you know, with the whole chicken, heads, feet, neck, everything). We have a duck stew. I grab a piece. Tess tells me I grabbed the neck. I put it on her plate and tell her she may have it.
I overhear the cooks –which the kitchen seems to be right behind our room - and servers shouting one phrase over and over. I ask Tess what it means. ‘G’ma’ which sounds a bit like saying ‘c’mon’. She tells me it translates into ‘what are you doing’. I interject “Like ‘What’s the deal’.” She says ‘Yeah, Yeah.’ All of the students say ‘Yeah, Yeah’ now. Occasionally during the meal, at what I felt was the appropriate moment I say ‘G’ma’ which sends Nancy (Carroll Burnett secretary character) into laughing fits.
Shrimp, mainly because it is always looking at you here, I have started to abstain from eating. Jennifer is still quite courageous in her shrimp eating. Tonight, she has a whole pile of the discarded parts on her plate. The last shrimp she grabs spurts blood.
“I’m done with shrimp” she announces.
The bill arrives; everyone pitches in 28.50 RMB which is less than $4 apiece for a huge meal. Logan, of course, does not pay since the dinner is in his honor.
After dinner, Tess, Miko and I go shopping. Lots of cheap summer clothes fill the shops. I try on a golf shirt. Miko tells me we should look at the clothes at the other stores first. I tell her that is a good idea. She repeats “Good Idea.” At another shop I see a brightly colored button up shirt that has John Lennon’s head printed in the middle on the back. Around the head in block letters is the slogan “SEX IS OVER.” This at first took me off guard. ‘Sex is over.’ I then thought of his Christmas song ‘War is Over.’ Was this some sort of Freudian veiled reference? Now that he is a spirit, does this mean he does not have sex? Or simply is sex old hat? Over!
I mulled this over as Miko, Tess and I rode in a bicycle powered rickshaw back to the school. Sex is over.