Thursday, September 14, 2006

l’enfer, c’est H4.7

There’s a word for sleepwalking. Is there a word for sitting in your sleep? Somnosedentary? I slouch drowsily in my swivel chair and await the distant thunder of basketball in the gym overhead.

The day stretches before me, long and mildly unpleasant, like a crusty baguette which smells of sweatsocks. As does this room. Haitch four point seven. I breathe deep, and inhale what may or may not be the mildewed funk of monkey feces festering in the drop ceiling. Through the tiny window in the door I watch the Doctor’s head bob in the distance. For some reason he’s wearing a neck brace. I don’t ask why. Yesterday he stood ramrod-erect in the hallway ringing a tiny bell for around an hour and a half. I didn’t ask why then either. I don’t want to know the answer.

The window in the door is my only porthole on this fluorescent-bathed sous-marin jaune. My next class is not for hours. By that time I’ll be cross-eyed and discombobulated from peering at this tiny, grease-smeared iMac screen. I should be doing my schoolwork, but I am not. I am working, yet not working. In the World Languages wing, no one can hear you scream. I am the substitute French teacher.

Je suis embarrassé, proclaims one of the children on the poster on the wall, his semicircular cheeks ablush. I thought that meant you were pregnant. Am I crazy here? Was I cruelly hoodwinked by Mme. Solonsky all those years ago? I hoist myself halfheartedly from the swivel chair and peer at the poster’s fine print. Made in Canada. It figures. The mystery deepens. Perhaps it doesn’t mean “pregnant” in Canadian French. Or does it?

The fiery-cheeked child on the poster seems to be laughing at me. The map of France, with all its stupid départements nobody’s ever heard of like Poitou-Charentes and Franche-Comte, also seems to be laughing at me. Why does French organization always seem so ridiculous? Maybe it’s the fact that they divided Paris up in a frigging spiral pattern. Next time you need a model for city districting, look further than your escargot shells, you buffoons. Once a civilization does something that colossally absurd on such a grand scale, it’s hard to take them seriously. Yet who’s the real buffoon here? I spent years learning French. Why didn’t my school offer Latin? It would have been a thousand times more useful. Ah but then who would be substituting today? Not I. Touché, smirks the political map of France. I’ve lost something, but I don’t know what.

The only sound is the drone of the air conditioner and the muffled tones of the Doctor rearranging his desk in his room across the hall. Since everyone’s on a field trip today he has less to do than I do, yet he’s constantly in motion. Even with the neck brace. I should be grateful for the distracting motion through the tiny window, but I am not. I resent it greatly. His head bobs in the window like a delicate pink ostrich egg wearing eyeglasses. And a neck brace.

After making a silent vow to Google whether or not embarrassé means pregnant, I succumb to the siren call of the swivel chair and return to the corner. For some reason, although the two A.C. units have been on full blast all morning, the desk is in a pocket of swampy, stale air. Over by the pregnant poster child the frigid blast from the A.C. was drying my eyeballs out. Here, four feet away, I am sweating like a pig.

I saw a monkey wearing a little belt in the courtyard yesterday. I don’t know why or how it got the belt. Was it kept as a pet? Being tracked in a science experiment? Or was it simply a fashionable little monkey? The musty smell from the drop ceiling seems to be getting worse. Those floaty things inside my eyeballs are back. Aside from them nothing moves. Even the Doctor’s head has vanished. If I died in here, I wonder how long it would take for someone to notice. The bobbing head reappears through the door window across the hall, and I grow nostalgic for those few minutes when it was gone. I sit and try not to look at it. I am gripped by a sudden wave of nausea. This silent, monkey-reeking room is driving me mad, yet I must remain. I am the French substitute.

3 comments:

Jinna said...

Trippy. Hilarious!

You're probably the first person I know to make an argument for the utility of Latin. :)

Funniest complaint about French organization ever...

Kimbo said...

This is what happens to Alex when I'm away on a three day school trip....

Jinna said...

How sweet... I think. :)