I’ll be surprised if they do. Better pick up some paracetemol after class. Just have to ride this one out with as little effort as possible. I’ve just dumped a dull reading assignment on the students to give myself some time to wake up, to allow the hangover to dissipate.
Unfortunately, the headache and the sour belly just seem to be developing way to quickly and violently. Maybe I should just take this group to a pub.
No, we’ll go by the book today. My boss has been on my ass about all the pub classes I’ve been doing lately. Besides, the students never speak English unless they’re talking to me. Then there’s the added challenge of finding a non-stop that can accommodate twenty-one people and that’s open at this time; most of them do their inventory around eight a.m. and don’t open their doors until nine or ten. Lot of fucking good that does me now at, what time is it, half past eight? Fuck, I’m dying all over…
Christ, after fifteen months of teaching English as a foreign language in the Czech Republic one would think I’d have enough control to stop after the second or third beer. Last night’s piss-up at Red Bull didn’t end with a couple of pints. Me, Mario, Stu and Radka got into the slivovice as well. Whose idea was that? Probably Stu’s. Always the fucking instigator. Magda’s got a question. Great. Figured I could lunch out for at least the next half-hour.
"Patricku," she says (Oh, I love it when these beautiful Czech girls put my name in the vocative), "What means this word?"
I walk over to her table. The word is ‘obviously.’ Shit. Thinking is a real chore, speaking is somewhat of a challenge. I rattle off a quick definition so I can go back to my desk at the front of the room and daydream about the three fine slimmys who sit to my left, "It’s, um, it’s like this. If it’s raining outside, and I don’t have an umbrella, then obviously I’ll get wet."
"Oh," says Magda as she’s reaching for her dictionary, "D"kuju, thank you. "
"No problem," I mumble, feeling useless.
I go back to my desk and steal casual glances at Radka, Bohumila and Zuzka. Bohumila’s looking especially scrumptious today in a short black skirt and tight white top, her long legs on gorgeous display under her desk. I wonder if she’s aware of what she does to men’s minds, if she has any idea about the fantasies she inspires. Even as she just sits at her desk, going over some mindless textbook assignment, she looks so fantastic, I wonder if I should ask her out for a drink after class.
No. Get paracetemol, get better, stop chasing skirts. Besides, must be mindful of the unwritten Golden Rule of Teaching: Never sleep with your students. Clauses to the rule indicate that flirtation is acceptable, even dates; these are good for the ego and allow the student to practice her English. Sleeping with your colleagues’ students is alright, but never with your own.
I remember this guy who used to work here, Sean, an American who’d been in Brno for seven months or so. Sean broke the Golden Rule and he’s still paying for it. Zdena was her name. A hot brunette who worked weekends at Encino Bar, back when Encino was still open.
After the affair crashed she made certain that Sean’s classes were excrutiating periods of silence and inattention. None of the students spoke with Sean outside of class, they just ignored him. Eventually Sean quit Scope (appropriate name for this language school, where the girls outnumber the boys in each class on average 18 to 1) and left Brno to work in Hodonin. I’m thinking about Bohumila and of risking flirtation when there’s a knock at the door. It’s a postal carrier, a slim middle-aged woman with a smile that is to big and white for this time of the morning.
"Dobry den." she beams.
"Dobry den," I grunt.
"Je tady Pan Patrick… uh… Se-goo-een?"
"Seguin. Ano, jsem."
"Tak. Pro tebe."
Shiny happy mailgirl hands me a white envelope with a blue stripe running down the centre. Fuck. It’s either from the foreign police or the labour office. Either way it’s bad news. I sign for it, then throw the letter into my bag. I can’t be fucked to try and read it; I’m sure it’s something about renewing my long-term stay permit, my Green Book. I have yet to give the authorities my landlady’s ownership papers for her flat as well as notarized papers stating I have her permission to live in her flat. Pani Hudcov" is somewhere in Slovakia this month, so the foreign fuzz can fucking well wait.
I turn to the class and ask, "Is everyone finished?"
There’s a vague murmur, a low mix of mumbled ‘yes’s and ‘no’s. I exaggerate a head nod and head shake and say, "Is that ‘yeeesss’ or ‘noooo’?" The response is a resounding, "NO!"
Guess I wasn’t too kind. Looking at the exercise, some shit reading assignment on the Queen Mum from Headway, I realise this could take up the entire class. Fuck, I wish I could just sleep on the desk in front of the students. It wouldn’t be professional, goes without saying; then again, neither is showing up for class violently hungover, obviously hungover. The caffeine pills have proven useless and my skull and everything in it feel like a big lump of mashed potatoes.
I’m getting one of my fits of conscience, a guilt attack. I promise myself that the next class will be planned properly, that I’ll be punctual, that I won’t be hungover, drunk, stoned, coming up or down, or simply tired. But I know that’s bullshit. There’s no getting out of going out in Brno.
Not for me, anyway. Not for most of the teachers in this school, in this city, in this country. The students, thank fuck, are more or less understanding; they’re usually out with us when they should be at home studying. When we should be at home preparing. In class, when I’m just arseing about, they’re right there with me, many in the same state as myself, so they have no problem abandoning the day’s grammar lesson in favour of shooting the shit.
Tully, colleague Derek Tullamore, summed it up best. "Teaching English in this country is like getting paid to be cool," he said one night over beers at Sklen"na Louka, "The students want an entertainer, a clown who tells funny stories and plays games with them. I’ll be surprised if anyone in our school passes the State Exam or the First Certificate. All we do is piss about, do a few speaking activities and pick up our pay. Easy-peasy."
"Yeah," I laughed drunkenly, "Fuckin’ sweet, man. Cheers." It was a laugh that night, the following night, every night. But the mornings find me telling myself they deserve better. I’m telling myself this now as I stare at Bohumila’s divine legs and pray for this hangover to end sometime in this lifetime.