Monday, April 27, 2009

JOE THE IMMIGRANT...WRITING

JOE THE IMMIGRANT.

Hi,my Christian name is Joseph,but I'm normally given the tag Joe.

I'm what they call an immigrant,never used to be;I used to be someone me,now I have to watch myself. Be careful,keep my eyes open so to speak:although not too open so they notice. I don't want to draw attention now do I...?
Look at them;so bloody confident,walking around as if they own the place,maybe it's their birthright...who knows?
I dislike this country.
I been here three years already. I don't think I'll ever get used to it. Not that I don't try, I do;I can order a coffee,a meal,after all a mans got to eat ain't he.
I must get a job,anything will do,drive a cab,take the bums home,how hard can that be...yes sir,no sir,three bags full sir.


Who's he looking at?
“Something wrong mister?”
What's the matter with me. Look different do I.
“That's it keep moving pal.”
I bet he's got a wife and kids,he doesn't want to mix with the likes of me;that's for damn sure!

A glint of sunshine reflects off a beer can,it attracts my attention for the briefest of moments;I keep myself in check:there's no way I'm going to give these bastards the satisfaction of seeing me grovel in a rubbish bin.
I might be an immigrant but I ain't going that low.
I got to tell you,drink has never been one of my downfalls. But women,that's a different story. Where was I...? Oh yeah,I've got to be at the unemployment office at three thirty.
The clock over the railway station reads two fifty five;the cabs are ranked up all the way up the platform. The drivers remind me of vultures. Look at the bums drinking coffee,eating doughnuts...yeah,I could do that job;no problem.
I leave the station,the ring roads all clogged up,people rushing around;things to do,money to earn mouths to feed. Everyone seems to be important...busy,busy.
I can feel myself slipping.

“Steady Joe,get a grip.”

The old man's words flood back.
I've got to be positive something will turn up,it always does...I hope!
The shop windows are getting ready for Xmas;little fat men dressed in red,swing their hips to a tinny seasonal tune. Flashing lights in gaudy colours,and will you look at that:artificial snow.
“God.”
These people,what a warped sense of humour they have;it was minus twelve last night ,drunks probably froze to death in shop door ways,and what do these giants do...laugh,that's what.
This is definitely a strange land;my wife's words come back to haunt me.
“Don't worry Joe,everybody speaks English.”
Ha,what a joke,one syllable out of place and it starts,the eyes screw up,the hand goes to the chin;a look of bewilderment spreads over their face...no comprendo!
I check my appearance in the reflection of a shop window,not too bad.
I think.my black coat covers a multitude of sins,not that I'm committing any you understand. I rub my boots up the back of my jeans,to get some sort of shine. I tilt my hat at a slight angle over my right eye;the silk cravat gets a slight rearrangement. The immigrant stares back at me.

“You're looking good Joe.”

My mind focuses.

“Hi Susie,how you doing?”
She gives me a look.
“Not too bad Joe,it could be better,my mother she ain't so good,you know how it is Joe.”
I run my eyes over her compact oriental body,she flicks her jet black hair,from her eyes. Susie looks what she is,a young female worker with not much in the way of employment skills;but she uses what God gave her if you catch my drift.
She lives two floors upstairs from my wife and me,with her ageing mother and two younger brothers.
Susie works the late shift at the Blue Oyster Bar,a shady all night affair,dim lights and saxophone tunes.
She says she's a dancer,who am I to argue.
We smile at each other,both at ease. It felt good to be with your own kind,we knew where we stood,so to speak.

“Joe fancy a beer,just a quick one,what you say?”

I'm tempted,but the interview at the employment office is imminent. She must sense my hesitation.
“Come on Joe,one beer is all,what harm eh?”
Now I think to myself what harm can one little beer do.
“OK Susie just the one,I'm a little short of cash right now,you know how it is.”
She gives me a look straight in the eye.
“Yeah Joe,it sucks,right?”

We duck into a stand up bar,the place is full of Poles,Russians and dusky Mediterranean types.
For the first time that day I feel myself relax.
I scan the bar while she gets the drinks in.
There's no problem here. A scattering of women stand in small groups,they fit the bar perfectly:red nails and lips to match.
A few tables of card players,the jukebox plays a soft melody,safety.
No local types in the place;although they would like to be,that's for sure.
The roles are reversed:it felt good to be in control for a short while.
The cheap neon clock behind the bar reads three twenty,what the hell,I'm not going to get a job of any substance:not with my lack of language abilities...She returns with two beers. Plastic bags of groceries are placed around our feet.

“Still taking good care of your mother,I see.”
My eyes indicate the shopping.
“Yeah Joe,my brothers are too busy at school to help much They got to get education,eh.”

The beers good and cold,just the way I like my drink.
It might seem as though I gripe over this country;but I tell you something,they certainly know a thing or two about beer.
That's not the only thing they're good at. The cakes,let me tell you a fellow has to watch his figure here,cream and sweet stuff;my mouth starts to water,I realise I'm hungry.
I take a look around the joint, a small man at the end of the bar catches my attention,his names Jack or rather that's what I've named him. We've never actually spoken together.
I heard the bartender speaking to him one night in French,at that time in my imagination he became a French foreign legionnaire.
He's what I call a Jack Russell type,small and wiry. He's about sixty or so,he looks extremely fit,a flat stomach and a lived in face. One night I observed him out manoeuvre a much younger man,who had had a little too much to drink:while the younger man was busy at the bar,Jack saw his chance,and moved in on the younger mans girlfriend.
I never found out who left the bar with the woman,but I did notice the barkeep exchange a knowing look with Jack Russell. Fellow country men must stick together I suppose.
The bartender,that's another lived in character,a true Frenchman.
He played rugby for his country so I'm told. He's well over six foot tall,which is tall for a Frenchman. He's solid,there's no other word to describe him,a barrel chest,thick arms with muscles in the right place's. He has a face like a bad boxer,scar tissue around the eyes,a broken nose and an attitude,that tells you to tread easy in his bar.
Some body puts on a rolling stones record;brown sugar belts out: the atmosphere changes. I notice Susie is smiling.
I watch her as she builds a roll up cigarette;nice and fat.

“Hey Susie,take it easy,keep it down.”
She gives me yet another languid smile.
“Relax Joe,is OK.”

Two Turkish youths are playing table football,one of them gives us a friendly nod.
He calls:
“Hey,how's youse doing?”

I give him a nod in return.

“Joe,got a light?”
I slip my Zippo across the damp table. She lights her smoke,this is making me nervous. I steal a glance at the barkeep,he doesn't appear to take any notice.

“Do you know what happened to me at the Post office yesterday,Susie?”
Her liquid brown eyes slowly focussed on mine.

“No Joe,surprise me.”
I always had the feeling that Susie had some private joke going on in her head.
“Well me and Anja.”
I noticed Susie had some confusion.
“Anja my wife.”
She chuckles.
“Yeah Joe,I know your wife,you live downstairs don't you.”
I can sense this ain't going to be easy.
“Anyway listen to this,we were in the post office when all of a sudden,we hear this loud yelling...”

“Come back when you can speak the language!”

“Anja and I look at each other. The entire queue,as one,looks around at the offending person...Susie,there stood an old lady on the edge of tears,and let me tell you this was an inoffensive person here;not some low life out of the slums.
The old lady looks around for a helping hand,and guess who she picks out,yeah you got it muggins here.
Don't know if it was my outfit that day,you know I like to dress up don't you.”
Susie bursts into loud laughter.
“No No,not like that,anyway I'm dressed in my old combat gear,high ankle boots,heavy jacket and my fur hat.
Anyway with all eyes on her,she marches up to me and asks... “Can you speak Russian?” I shake my head.
“Can you speak Rumanian” Again I hopelessly shake my head.
She looks at me with such a look of helplessness,I could of cried for her.
Well Susie,the offending man behind the counter started to look real uneasy;but when he realised that no one in the queue could help the woman,he went straight back to his arrogant self.
I felt like jumping the counter and busting the guy;but Anja gave me the look. I lowered my gaze as everybody else did.
We humbly followed her out of the post office.
I gave the post official a disgusted look.”

Susie gives me a far away look. I realise she hasn't heard a word,or if she has ,the depth of my experience in the post office,hasn't quite sunken in. Or maybe it doesn't mean that much to her. Anja told me only yesterday,
“Loosen up Joe,don't take things so seriously,accept things as they are.”

The saxophone on the jukebox calls my thoughts,a cheap looking woman,heavy in conversation with a sailor in blue serge,looks over his shoulder as he whispers heavy sexual tones in her ear. I catch the look in her eyes,or maybe he's asking,
“What's for dinner tonight?”
I divert my ever decreasing attention to Jack Russell and Pierre the barkeep,they're deep in conversation,probably discussing the Indo China war,where they won their prized medals;or the loss of a comrade in arms,machine gunned out of existence by a yellow man.
A sharp tap on our chrome table snaps me back.

“Want a puff Joe.”
Susie hands me her cigarette.
“I'll get a couple of cold ones.”
She's up in a flash and walking to the bar,before I can leave the Russian woman asking for help.
Capitulation comes easy to me.
I forgot all about the unemployment office.
Anjas words slide over me...Relax Joe,loosen up.
I find myself taking a deep toke on the cigarette,that does it,no more working for me today.
I study Susie's rump,she shifts her weight from one leg to the other,and my eyes follow the movements of flesh as it slides from left to right.
An intense stare draws my subconscious,a scrape of a barstool attracts. I swivel
my attention to the left;Jack Russell's slipping his hunters eyes up Susies legs to her well defined bottom....I feel myself tense,ready for action,the alarm bells are clanging in my head:the submarines preparing to crash dive!
Susie holding two green bottles of cold beer turns,she smiles politely,in that sweet oriental harmless way.
Jack Russell has surely forgotten his comrades in arms,we exchange eye contact,he gives me a toothless grin and a wink,the message he conveys is clear...All's fair in love or War.

“Hey Joe,take it easy,leave some for me.”

I realise I've nearly finished Susie's smoke.
The two Turkish boys observe Susie and me,closely waiting for their chance,no doubt. We clink bottles.
“Cheers Susie.”
Thank's for the beer.
Unsaid words flow from my head to my mouth;they don't quite make it.
We look at each other and start to giggle;Jack Russell squirms on his stool,ever watchful,hunter saliva trickles from his mouth.
A pair of hyenas in the shape of Turkey,playing pool,waiting for their share of the Chinese take away,number forty two please,plenty chilli sauce.
I start to feel nervous with all these foreign type's,paranoia is getting to me.

“We had better go after these ones.”
Susie leans back in her chair and smiling cheekily replies.
“relax Joe,I got money OK.”
I feel a surge of panic run through my veins.
The thought hits me... “Does she think I'm a whore,I'm not for sale,I'm married for Christ's sake.”I shift uneasily,I feel the bartender watching us.
The picture of an oriental woman and an European flash into my head,a helicopter is hovering in the bar,a search light is directed into my face, a foreign tongue,screams at me.
“How's Anja Joe?”
I look at Susie,the ceiling fan slowly lapping the air.
The cigarette smoke disperses.
One of the Turkish boy's laughs innocently over a missed shot.
“Oh. She's fine,yeah real good.”
Susie gives me a look,and drains the last drops of her beer.
Jack Russell watches and waits.
“My brothers tell me,she real good teacher;that right Joe?”

I get the feeling I need to use the rest room,forget it I tell myself.
If these jokers in here think I'm leaving Susie alone for even One minute,they're mistaken.
“Come on Susie let's go.”
She silently obeys my command,our coats are put on,bags of groceries collected.
I cover her back as we leave the bar.
“Ciao Joe.”
I glance back at the Frenchman,slightly taken off guard.
“cheerio.”
I reply,I must pay attention,a man never knows when an attack may happen.

“Friendly men,eh Joe.”
I acknowledge Susie's innocence with a begrudged grin.
“Yeah,Susie real friendly...”
Tricky fellows these foreigners springs to mind.
A blast of Arctic wind hit's us smack in the Kisser,Christ this country,one minute it's a beautiful sky blue day and then wham the night screams in...dark and ice cold.
As we approach the curbside I shout a warning...
“Watch the cycles.”
Susie draws up smartish,as a gaggle of old fashioned Dutch bikes narrowly miss her. She had forgotten about the cycle laws of the land,and their obvious right of way.
A police car draws slowly to a halt,I observe the blond driver,her eyes a sharp eastern block blue. I notice her large breasts trying to burst through her brown uniform shirt.I wonder aloud...
“Why on earth would a blond centre fold want to drive a police cruiser?”
I notice her partner giving Susie and me the once over,his cap pulled low on his forehead.
“Give him a pair of mirror sunglasses,Susie.”
I look down at my companion,she hasn't heard a word.
I glance around at the other people waiting with us,no one responds.
“That's it,keep your nose clean.”
The green pedestrian light flashes,we cross the busy intersection to the trolley bus depot. I notice the police grinning at each other,I realise what a comical pair Susie and I must make.
A tall dark haired gangster and his moll,my head and neck shrink into my overcoat.
Susie makes to get on a number four.
“Hey,what you doing,we only live three blocks away.”
I give into Susie's tugging.
“come on Joe,we don't need ticket,is only two stops.”
I have a vision of the blond cop waiting for us;legs apart,a pistol hanging from her belt...and those massive breasts.
“OK Susie,you're in charge.”
We board the trolley car,a loud clanging of a bell,heralds our depature.
The car is crowded,other immigrants going home after a hard days toil.
A man of possible Mongolian descent occupies the seat opposite us,he doesn't hide the fact,he wants the woman I'm with.
His intent is obvious to me,I sharpen up,the fur hat he's wearing looks heavy,his eyes start to droop.

“It's just as well for you Susie,a horse has more value than you.”

The trolley bus draws to a halt,Susie looks at me aghast.
“Better leave the smoke alone Joe,it changes you for the worst.”
She hisses this statement at me:I look around for a cop.
We walk the first hundred metres in silence,I take in the tree lined street;tall old fashioned houses shower my mind with Gothic beauty,the ornamental stone work and small balconies caress my fuddled thoughts.
“Beautiful houses,what you think Joe,lucky to live here,aren't we?”
Once again Susie astonishes me with her eastern philosophy;her thinking is mirror like and stark.
I loosen up.
“Yeah Susie,I guess you're right,it's a terrific area we live in.”
We once again relax with one another.
“Tell me Joe,how come these old buildings didn't get bombed.”
I give a little chuckle with good humour,I'm not going to upset her again:not this close to home.
“I think they were Susie. After the war,over eighty percent of the city was rebuilt;although you wouldn't realise that now,would you.”
Susie looks at me with a look of disbelief.
“You kidding me Joe?”
I tread lightly once more,I can see the owner of our apartment building;sweeping the pavement,keeping a check on his area of the country. I reassure her.
“No,I'm not joking Susie;when you get a chance,pop into the library,go to the history section:they have stacks of photographs,it's well documented,I think there's even a shot of our street. I tell you Susie they had the life bombed out of them;the whole place was practically annihilated.
Probably explains their attitude eh.”

Susie checks me out,and seems to accept my story.
“I didn't know how much this city suffered,that's what I mean Joe,you and your wife are so intelligent,you notice things...”

I got to tell you,I softened right up,like marzipan;once again,one soft feminine word,and I'm straight back to childhood.
We stop and look at each other,I give her a peck on the cheek.
“Thanks Susie,you're real sweet.”
She seems to notice something in my eye.
“What's the matter Joe?”
Over her shoulder the house master observes his tenant's.
I catch the look in his eyes;I have to tell you,up until now,I've never realised how much animosity and dislike my place of birth has caused some people.
I mean,what can I do? Drain my blood,change my Caucasian,get a new Father perhaps;anyway the negative thoughts leave my head,I can feel Susie's hesitation. I take her hand,I whisper reassuring words...
“Come on Susie,what can he do,throw us out on the streets for being different.”

He stands there.
Hands clasped over his precious broom handle,his pot belly protruding over his thick leather belt. He looks over his wire rimmed spectacles..
“Guten Abend.”
Susie and I chant.
He replies in his guttural tongue.
Susie and me scramble through the large double wooden doors to safety.
As the door slams shut,we break into laughter as two children,who've just got away with a naughty deed.

“Oh Joe isn't he strange,did you see the look he gave us?”
I put my finger to my lips,a vision of the fat old man listening at the keyhole,flashes across my cinema screen.
We stand in his old fashioned marble hall. A collection of the tenants bicycles lean both sides of the hallway. I notice a speck of oil underneath my Dutch classic;I remember Anja telling me only last week:he the house master told her to make sure I cleaned up after my self.
I rub the offending oil stain with the toe of my boot.

Susie gets impatient and rings the bell for the old fashioned lift.
“Come on,what's keeping you?”
“Relax Susie,it's old and grumpy like you know who.”
I nod back at the door,this sets her off again,laughter peels upwards,echoing as a church bell.
“Ssch” I tell her.
A loud whirring sound tells us the lifts on it's way.

“I like this house Susie,it's like something out of an old French film.”
She looks at me as though I'm making a joke.
“It is old Joe! And it creaks,and why can't we have a proper lift with doors,you know,closed in,then I would feel safe.”
I pull open the black lattice gate.
“come on Susie it's safe,just watch out for your fingers,that's all.”
I usher her and the plastic bags into the open cage. The cables whirr. We both watch the wooden stairs spiral around us.
“It makes me dizzy Joe.”
I check her out,does she mean the lift I wonder. I decide not to answer and let it go.
As we reach the third floor I can hear the sounds of Carmen,coming from my apartment.
“Sounds like Anja's home Joe.”
I pull the gate open and give Susie a wink...
“You going to be alright with those bags Susie?”
A voice from above answers for her...
“come on Susie,we got work to do.”
Two cheeky teenagers peer over the banister rail.
Susie ignores her brothers.
“Hey Joe,bring Anja out one night,we have good meal,what you say eh.”
I wave up to her family,her mother has also come out onto the landing.
“Hey Joe.”
A crinkly happy face smiles down at me.
“hello,how are you all?”

I hear the front doors open,I quickly close the lift gate;the lift ascends with a creak.
“See you Susie,thanks for the beer.”
I wave up to my neighbours,and make my escape into my apartment. I can feel the house master lurking three floors below,scowling over the oil stain.
The casserole I prepared earlier wafts down the hall,I check myself and remove my boots.
Anjas the most tolerant woman I know,but when it comes to her original wooden floors,she has a tendency to yell.
My slippers await me,I take a look around,I have to admit the fact;she has good reason to be proud. Almostt single handed she's restored this large five roomed apartment to it's original granduar.
Not that I'm helpless with a hammer you understand...but when it comes to handicraft,I prefer the kitchen.
Well I reason to myself,every man has his forte.
A voice sings from the living room...my heart swells.
“I'm in here Joseph”
As I walk down the hall the reflection of a retired gangster,smiles at me,from the full sized mirror encased in gold leaf. I pop my head around a potted fern stretching for the sky.

“Hello Sugar.”
Her green eyes and full lips answer at the same time,for a split second no words are needed. She presents the picture of a female wolf,relaxing in her lair.
Her legs are drawn up under her,as she lounges on the dark leather chesterfield,a glass of wine in her hand. Her mouth slides into a sensual smile.

“Hello Darling,I've been waiting for you:how are you?”
I think...God,this woman has so much power. I feel my veins fill with rich dark blood,for a moment I'm helpless.
“I've been helping Susie.”
I stammer,she gives me an understanding look.
“Would you like a drink Joseph,you look as though you need one.”
She indicates the wine bottle standing on the table.
“Joseph,a question,why do you call her Susie? I don't know how you get away with it. You know she's called Wo-lee,and the thing is,she never corrects you.”
I fill my glass and give her my best cheeky little boy look.
“Give me a kiss,sugar.”
She doesn't resist.
She holds her hand up;I wait for a telling off.
Wo-lee and her husband work very hard in their restaurant,I just think you should give her a bit more respect.”
I duck the sentence.
“Yeah,your right Anja,she asked us out for a meal by the way.”
She relaxes,that's better,I don't need an argument.
“Joseph,why are you wearing my Fathers hat and coat,you look like an actor out of a B movie,in the eastern sector.”
I feel awkward,her Fathers been dead four years now,but I know how deep the pain is for my best friend...deep.

“Sorry Anja,but you know how much I love this coat,it's extremely warm...Your Father had good taste.”
I notice her fingers tighten on the wine glass;my mind sharpens up,I wouldn't hurt this lady for the world,I stroke her cheek...
“I love you Anja.”
She smiles a warm smile.
“I know Joseph”
She kisses my nose.
The atmosphere calms.
“I won't be a minute.”

I escape to the wardrobe and hang up the offending hat and coat.
I feel so insensitive.
I could kick myself,why didn't I think first I ask my slow brain.

“Joseph,I bought you some new ink cartridges,they are on your desk.”
I hear the tone in her voice...thank God,I must pay more attention to my wife.
I go back into the room.
“How was your day Anja?”
She loosens up.
“Good you know,well ,you know full of eager youngsters,not wanting to learn too much,but good.
And your day Joseph,how was your day,what have you been doing;apart from Susie that is.”
The joke strikes me...I take it.
“I've been checking it out,you know the area,the people,talking,taking things in..you know.”
Anja gives me a knowing look.

“Playing or working Joe,no don't tell me,Susie was a prostitute and you were her pimp.
And I suppose you played the Russian,who couldn't speak the language.”
I started to laugh...
“ I think you know me well Anja...but I'm lucky,playing,working it's all the same...writers are allowed some lee-way no.”

“And teachers also need to play...we'll eat later shall we.”

Gott sei Dank...I am alive!

Said piece was written by Kevin Gallivan as has been registered as such.

3 comments:

  1. galli=gauls=EUNUCH

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ha,ha...I'll let that through...you're an educated .....!

    ReplyDelete