Winters of Discontent - humanifesto 23 Well, I survived my first winter in Prague, and having lived in a temperate climate for many years I'll understand flippin' me the bird for my intolerance of the bleak smelly season. ...

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It's the distances impossible to travel, that creep up on you from time to time, when you really don't want to think about them.

Love is often a part of it, either vague or obvious. They, you, we came running in droves, driven out and driven on. The crowds of HeyWassap? and cheekcheek pecks just hide it all better, or maybe they just don't know any better. 

Turn down the volume, throw out those looks, get the blues every now and again and you'll see what I mean.

Gary never had a clue.

That annoyed me when I first met him, in some village disco, somewhere just beyond the outskirts of Třebíč. That was a number of years ago, after I'd been living in the city for a couple of years, teaching English to factory workers who really didn't give a sh*t, wondering what the hell I was doing with my life.

Gary was the new kid in a town pretty much void of native English speakers. There was some guy from Exeter, a girl from Calgary and another girl from St. Louis.

Samuel, from Exeter, was keen on everything: the public transport, the women, the train station pub, the naked weather girls on TV Nova... everything. 

He bored me immensely.

I had some thing with Denise, the Calgarian, but that was just when we were really f*cked up. And the girl from St. Louis, well, I never got to know her name. She just sat and watched everything.

I was on my own that night at the disco, drinking and dancing and thinking about how nice it would be if Denise showed. Then this average-height guy with black hair and red eyes comes over smiling and says, 'Hi, I'm Gary.'

Something about the way he was looking around made me think this guy was actually Samuel. There was a slight impulse to just ignore him. That impulse got follow-through when Denise came into the bar.

I can't remember what my opening line was for her that night, but it worked. I didn't see Gary for the rest of the night. Yeah, he annoyed me, but I didn't know why. I put it down to some kind of envy.

The next morning, over omelets, Denise said, "So, you met Gary last night." I mumbled, nodded, and said, "Pass the ketchup, please."

"What did you think of him?"

"Seems alright."

"Yeah, he just started teaching at my school. You gonna roll?"

I mumbled, nodded, and started rolling. I didn't see Gary again for about two weeks. One night in my local, he walks in and spots me. Makes a beeline for my table.

"Hey, you're Miles, I remember you from the disco. sh*t, man, that was a f*cked up night, eh?"

"Yeah," I smile, " yeah, I like that place on Saturdays."

A couple of beers later and he's telling me that he grew up in Rothwell Heights, I tell him I grew up in Gloucester, down near Carson Grove.

He lived in the upper-crust side, populated by doctors and lawyers and men who owned very successful companies. My end was all cops and construction workers and bus drivers, most of whom dreamed of becoming men who owned very successful companies.

"So, what you doing here?" I asked.

"Here to get some experience, you know, life experience and find myself, do some soul-searching, you know..."

"I get the idea."

He lived in one of the nicer suburbs of Třebíč at the time, just outside the center. His sister was coming to visit in May and his parents in August. He talked about how cool everything was and how he was going to move to Prague and live in the "big city" for a while.

He left two months later.

Denise told me that his going away party was alright, Denise and Gary met up with the girl from St. Louis and drank beers in the disco. Gary went home with the girl from St. Louis, and he ended up taking her to Prague.

When I came to Prague, about seven months later, I ran into Gary and the girl from St. Louis at Roxy. We were all up and giddy, and Gary said that things were going great, and all these people kept coming up to him and saying hi.

He was still teaching and the girl from St. Louis was doing accountancy. We danced and said we'd call each other and I was to say hi to Denise, whom I hadn't seen for about seven months. Hadn't really thought about her til that night.

Gary hosted parties from time to time.

Always lots of food and drink and drugs, good music and always packed. Gary would talk to everybody, and everybody talked to everybody, but I never saw them anywhere else. Just at these parties, and I'd ask Gary where he knew them from. His answer was always, "Oh, I dunno, I just meet them in clubs and invite them over."

They were good parties, but at every one I went to there was always some c*nt who would ask me, "Oh, so, do you know Gary?" with a cold bite on the italics.

Then I wouldn't see them for the rest of the night. I stopped going to Gary's parties after the first three or four. Someone told me that Denise had been at one or two afterwards.

I was back on the verge of burning out five months later, when I saw Gary at Mecca. He was there by himself, and we were in pretty much the same condition. Bleary-eyed and weaving stupidly. I asked him about the girl from St. Louis. Said that she had gone back to the States a while ago. 

Had some things to deal with and take care of, loose ends to tie up and all that sh*t. I tried to cheer him up, told him to look around, that he wouldn't be alone for more than a week. He smiled wearily, gave up a half-chuckle and passed out. I managed to get him standing and vaguely alert, enough to get him out of the bar without too much attention.

We met for coffee the next day and ended up getting drunk in Vinohrady. His father had cut him off for an incident that had occurred when Gary went back to Canada to work for his dad over the summer.

There had been a new secretary. Gary had gotten her the job.  Soon after she started, Gary started hitting on her; first during the rides home he gave her, then out in the parking lot on her way to the bus stop when she started taking the bus, in the lunch room, then in the office, everywhere, morning, noon, and night.

After weeks of constant refusals, he finally told her that she was fired. The former secretary went to the Labour Board, lawyers were brought into the scene, most of them from Gary's father's neighbourhood. 

The word spread and Gary's dad's firm, which did light construction and industrial cleaning, began to lose contracts. Gary got his ass kicked out of the house, and hauled it back to Prague with the savings he had left.

He confessed to the girl from St. Louis. She packed her bags immediately and, as far as he knew, returned to the States. He tried hooking up with Denise in Třebíč, but she was nowhere to be found. This was news to me and it pissed me off. 

That was the last time I spoke with him.

But, I still run into Gary from time to time, usually at one of the clubs or big parties. Walking around by himself, glazed, right into the dance by the end of the night.

I don't talk to him, but I think about Denise; especially about our breakfasts in my bedsit in Třebíč, back when all of this was fresh.

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