A Life, A Profession, An Art

[Note from Jordan, 09/2008: I wrote this story on my little adventure to Avignon (when I met the Muslim guy who took me in before I slept on the street).  It’s truly a mystery to me how this half-fact/half-fiction story turned into half-fiction/half-fact based story by the time I left France. I wrote this before I’d begun to travel and meet people, and I thought this was just crazy. It’s funny how much you can learn in a year...]

Her soft breath on his neck jolted him from his deep lustful sleep and he sighed. Slipping from the bed, he pulled the blanket over her naked body and grabbed his clothes. Quietly closing the door, he tip-toed across her Type 1 apartment to the cuisine and dressed himself. Grabbing a Perrier from her mini-fridge and half of the baguette on the table, he took one last look around the room for any forgotten belongings.

But he hadn’t been in the living room the night before, he realized with a frown. She’d taken him straight to the bedroom. He sighed again and made his way out the door, down the six flights of inner city apartment stairs, and out onto the streets.

Not as bustling as Paris, but bustling nonetheless. Aix-en-Provence was smaller than Paris but operated almost the same, sans the night-life. It’d taken him a night and a day before he’d won a place to stay this time: a full night of hanging around the same “happening” jazz club that didn’t play jazz, and nothing. There was nothing at all, no girls drunk enough to cling onto the first gentle-looking goal she saw, no girls wanting it from the older guys. He’d been to Aix before, but had left too rapidly to really get the feel for things.

That’s when he had realized where he was: the international student capital of France, even above Paris with population and concentration ratios taken into account. By asking around a bit, he’d found that the majority of girls found in a club such as that one would be foreigners: and the foreign students were warned profusely of the French men and taught harshly to exercise more caution than necessary, both guys and girls.

But that was all part of his life; his profession, his art. Learn the city, learn the people. It’d been a few months since he’d failed finding a place to sleep for a night, and his aching body had reminded him of his failure the next morning, but all is well when the following night may not only include  bed, but great sex.

She’d been young this time; probably just old enough to be hanging out at that bar he’d found her at… Perhaps even too young to be hanging out there, as the connection of her legs showed him that night. She’d screamed, but persisted for him to continue when he offered to stop.

It was never until the next morning, especially as of late, that he’d realize what he was doing and wonder where he was headed. This wasn’t the life, the profession, the art he’d been following the last decade. He was drifting, drifting from the path, and he knew he’d need to pick himself up before it was too late.

Not his finest moments, stealing a French girl’s virginity, but someone had to do it… A girl wasn’t of age until it’d happened. Why a young, virgin girl had a studio apartment of that quality in Aix was beyond him, but he’d encountered stranger things before.

In London, he’d met a few guys at a pub who invited him to crash at their place when he’d explained how he had nowhere to go for the night and the hotels and hostels were full. The three of them brought him to a flat, and he almost choked on his bring-home-booze when they said all three of them lived there. “There” consisted of a sink, fridge, TV, and sofa. When they all had climbed onto the sofa and began to snuggle under the covers, he’d pretended to throw up in the sink and pass out on the floor for the night.

That was his earlier days. Some time later, in Paris, he’d met a woman who’d brought him back to her place with a hushed warning to not wake her husband and kids, sleeping in the other room. When he caught a glimpse of the sleeping husband, he noticed it was the same bartender from the bar he’d met her at much earlier in the evening.

Then there was the time in Barcelona. The first two nights of no sleep had left him in such a  lousy and desperate mood that he’d made the decision to crash out on the park bench he’d thought looked comfortable; but as luck would have it he met a few people in a bar who’d insisted on having him sleep on their floor, and maybe even with the girl they’d had with them. As it turned out, he not only got to sleep with the girl but with the three guys as well. They’d played it almost like a game of Spanish leapfrog.

The next night, he was determined to find other accomodations, as his plane still wouldn’t leave for another few days, but he was out of luck. This time he wasn’t the frog. The next night, the girl couldn’t make it for some reason, and was replaced by two more guypals of the others.

He’d been open for a lot since then, and things only progressed more strangely with the marijuana, ecstacy, LSD, and whatever other drugs were put into his body through any possible orifice by any possible means.

But it was his life; his profession, his art. He’d finished the United States when he was much younger, at nineteen years old, and was now finishing up Europe in his late twenties. At first, he’d decided to just do two major cities per country, but as age brings wisdom, experience brings clarity: one can’t meet the inhabitants and get to know a people’s way of life in just two cities.

He’d spent a year or more in each country since he’d realized that, and couldn’t have been more proud of his decision. Picking up odd-jobs for money here and there, he’d not only picked up the languages, but also various skills that he knew he’d use again one day: bartending, waiting, driving, selling, escorting, prostituting, smuggling, hustling; he’d done it all. Everywhere his B.A. in Kinesiology could have taken him.

Looking to the skies, he realized it would begin to rain soon. In a profession such as his, this meant “get cracking.” There was nothing worse than a night alone without sleep in the rain. Cardboard boxes, newspapers, bums; all become friendly companions as the pride and dignity you thought you had washes away with your hair gel.

He looked around for a place to get started: a café. Starting early meant a different type of company for the night. Often a desperate housewife or widow, even in Europe, looking for a shopping partner throughout the day, and a different type of partner throughout the night. This normally saves money on the alcohol spending in the bar later, but it would depend on the woman’s appetite for fine dining: it was imperative to take her out for fancy meals. Cliché, but a proven fact. The nights would normally end with a bottle of wine, by the fire and “hot” sex, or just a tearful breakdown of her ex-husband and an excuse to cuddle all throughout the night. Either or, he’d succeeded.

Others he could meet at a café were the serving guys and gals that he could end up seeing at the pub later, the awkward tourist that knew he didn’t belong in this local’s café, or the guy behind the newspaper, who was always looking for the more exciting story.

If the morning café fails, there’s the afternoon cinema. Play the tourist learning French, ask the cutie if he can sit in that seat, spill the popcorn; there were countless methods that all could work. Many a depressed, single soul would subconsciously go looking for love in all the right places.

Should the cinema fail, there were the sightseers. It was necessary to exercise caution with the tourists and tourist attractions, because they might not have the hotel room yet; just like him. The lack of language barrier was always a plus, however.

After that, there were the lunchtime cafés, train stations, the tabacs, post offices, happy hours, clothing stores, grocery stores… The list went on and on. When one has done business as long as he’s had, he knows who the people are you need to meet. The people you’ll learn the life from.

But right now, he chose the café. Far from the youngster’s place; in fact, completely across town, with indoor seating. Preferably expensive to avoid a confrontation with this one. Damage control was always number one priority, even above finding accomodation for the next night, because the next night could be the same place as the night before if everything else fails. Emergency phone call, had to work, little kid hit by a bike, bank robbery… Could end up not only regaining the place to stay, but scoring points. Basically, unless he wanted the same accomodation again, he had to control the situation; in this case: avoid the kid. Repeating accomodation wasn’t bad, just ill-advised: it gets one nowhere.

Walking across town, he saw quite a few cute new faces. Girls with shopping bags and fat sunglasses, tectonic guys with fohawks and mullets. Dresses showing off curves of the legs and ass, pants tight around that French bulge… Something about the European clothing that can never be hidden. They could try their best to dress like an American skater punk, but only an American skater punk can truly dress like one. There will always be that French sense of fashion that is as prevalent and visible as their accent when attempting to speak English.

He was about to cross the street to get to the café when he saw him.

The son of a bitch.

David Mayer.

The son of a bitch.

He’d shared his heart with David Mayer. Confessed his life, his profession, his art to him. Expressed his passion. Taught him how. Passed it on.

And then David Mayer betrayed him. Not only did David Mayer go off solo, instead of the duo pair he’d envisioned, David Mayer used the way of life to make money, to become famous. David Mayer marketed the term “Accomodation Station” into a book and reiterated word for word the teachings which he himself had taught David Mayer.

David Mayer made millions with his world renowned writings and a cult fan base of his own. David Mayer still practices the profession, but it will never be his life, or his art. David Mayer practiced what was not his, and would never be the master.

He’d heard of David Mayer’s misfortunes and failures of the profession after the book’s infamed celebration; for once the world knows of you, the world knows of your failings. After realizing that they’d just denied David Mayer somewhere to sleep the night before, the public flooded the editor’s mailbox with braggings of their feats.  Nothing less than what David Mayer deserved, no doubt. World renowned.

But then David Mayer got back on the horse and wrote another book on fact versus fiction; life versus reality; truth versus paradox, and David Mayer won. David Mayer’s so-called spiritual autobiography exposed the supposed misinterpretations and irrationalities of which his first work had somehow deemed unprecendented truth.

In a nutshell, David Mayer explained how the public misinterpreted his printed words and went on to explain how important it was to dumb it down for them, since he was so much more masterful. He spurned his readers, his fans, his publisher.

David Mayer had made him laugh. David Mayer had made him cry. David Mayer then made him seethe. That someone could take his very own life, profession, art and sell, market and publicize it, only to fail it, change it, and justify it was a complete fallacy. David Mayer was the epitomy of one who did not to know of his art, profession, life. David Mayer was the anti-Christ.

He hadn’t seen David Mayer since their first, and only, duo accomodation they’d planned. They’d executed it flawlessy; however, David Mayer carried out the escape plan without him, leaving him to do the explaining that one of his profession does not leave time or energy for.

“David Mayer.”

He had walked up to him in the street, less than ten minutes after David Mayer had left without him.

“What? Shouldn’t you be asleep? There you are.” The worst response he’d ever heard. Ever. He’d turned and walked away, never to see David Mayer again…

Until now. In the same city he’d seen the son of a bitch last.

“David Mayer.”

David Mayer froze. David Mayer knew the voice, and didn’t turn around. David Mayer had fear.

“What?” came the voice of the Creator's anti-Christ, never turning to face his mentor.

“Do you remember the first thing I ever told you? The night I met you in that pub?”

David Mayer paused before responding. “We are who those we respect make us.”

“And who do you respect, David Mayer?”

“The same people you respect.” David Mayer’s back was still turned. He could grab him by the neck, cease air from his lungs…

“I believe your definition of respect has skewed, David Mayer.”

No response. No movement. The walking man turned green, yet David Mayer stood planted in the ground like a brand new tree shoved in a wooden box. David Mayer stood motionless, knowing what would come next.

“A bet, David Mayer. Your final task. You know what it is. Quantity, quality, and everything. They judge the winner, in the style of the West.”

“You are crazy, old man. Surely you know who I’ve become. Judged by subjects? That can’t be done. I think not.”

They are not the subjects, David Mayer. This is what you never grasped. That is what you had fear of. O’Shannon’s Pub. Ten tonight. And this will be put to rest.”

David Mayer crossed the street.

David Mayer didn't look back.

David Mayer stopped to buy a Nutella crêpe.

* * *

The waitress was cuter than he’d remembered. Always walking from table to table with that sexy smile. He remembered his first time accomodating with Steven; it’d been with her and the cuter one who’d worked behind the bar, chest bouncing with every shake of the martini shaker.

Steven had been real upset by that, he remembered. Words weren’t required by Steven to get across what he felt. That’d always been his weakness, his problem.

David, however, knew what was important. Nail the chick and get the fuck out of Dodge. Dodge being a completely hypothetical location, so to speak. More of a state of being, as Steven had come to realize.

Steven had always tried teaching him that it wasn’t about the fucking, that was only a plus. It was about the learning. The learning to fuck better? he’d asked Steven, who gave no response. That had happened more often than it should have.

Steven had taught him a lot, no doubt. How to read people, how to trick people. How to react to a situation, how to create a sitution. How to shoot, how to rebound, how to steal. He’d learned a lot, and he’d scored some beautiful women because of what he’d learned. He’d had a good last seven years.

The books hadn’t hurt him, either. Even after the bullshit with some mishaps, of which made him wonder how people could possibly fathom the perfect person doing something like this, the second book skyrocketed his persona even higher, from creative writer to philosophical theorist. Whatever he was in truth, he never considered himself more than a one night, one stand, one shot type of guy. Not just with the girls, but with the pick-up sports games, street fights, drug deals, drinking games, and even the books that made his life.

Yes, he’d been living great; even Steven would agree with that if he knew the types of women he’d slept with and where he’d been. That was another peculiar thing about Steven. He’d stick to one country at a time fanatically, but for some reason was getting interested in making love to any race, sex, and even species when they’d parted ways. David never quite found the rationale behind that lack of pattern. What's a life without argument?

David sipped the pint of Stella Artois with peach syrup he’d been so fond of way back when. Many memories, many memories indeed. He’d met Steven here, drinking the same drink, gazing at the same women, using the same little toilet booth.

But now, it was disgusting. Beer with peach? What were they thinking? David tugged the waitress' tight shirt and asked her to bring him a pint of Leffe Brune.

Quantity, quality, and everything.

Words, words, words, rushing back to him. His so-called “lessons” of Steven’s self-proclaimed “art” of tricking and conning people into sleeping with him solely for the purpose of a place to stay for the night. Living each night as it’s own. Some twisted genre of prostitution that he’d somehow managed to convince himself came down to quantity, quality, and everything; and not necessarily in that order.

What was everything?

What-the-fuck-ever. David had never listened to that. At first, he hadn’t even recalled those words Steven had repeated to him at nauseum, they’d go in one ear and out the other. But now, he recalled those lessons. Steven taught that it wasn’t appearance, but soulfulness. Bullshit, would cry the beautiful women Steven would follow home.

They judge the winner, in the style of the West.

The West, as in the California, Wild West every American dreamt about when Clint Eastwood was still around. Duel it out? Not quite. In Steven’s game of “life, profession, and art,” Western style of judgment meant the game was up before the round was finished. Once the deal was set, and the accomodators and accomodatees were settled and guaranteed the night, Steven and Daniel would spill the beer, and explain it all to their hosts and ask them to meet with the others for a discussion.

Steven smiled at his analogy. The day spilling beer lead to a discussion, and not another beer... He looked at the clock. Ten more minutes to go before hours of what some would make out as a group of guys and girls having fun; but Steven and David would know better.

Downright odd, to David. In fact, downright wrong and purpose-defeating. David knew fullwell that if he left with this waitress or some other beautiful woman tonight, it’d be after the sex that he’d try to explain anything. One can’t just interrupt foreplay like that; it’d be better off giving the ladies the satisfaction that he’d need to have to win this bet.

This bet. His last task, according to Steven. The ultimate goal to see what other’s think of you after just a few hours. To try to find your appearance in their eyes. To see if you’ve succeeded. Steven was never scared of this task; he just never felt it required for anything.

And that was that. That was David. Too much was at risk tonight for him to lose this bet, he knew, as did Steven, for two reasons: the first being the obvious fact of who David Mayer was now. In the literary world, he was becoming a legend. A well-known face, a legendary icon representing whatever he represented. The other reason meant more to Steven than David, but David took it into account nonetheless, for he had no choice but to respect it: should the loser feel remorse, regret, or confusion of any fashion after the judgment, he must cease the profession, the life, the “art,” until his soul is settled.

Supressing a giggle, David almost choked on his final sip of peach flavored beer. Some more bullshit-by-Steven, but David knew it would somehow grab hold of him; in fact, he’d avoided Steven all these years knowing full well that he’d be challenged to this very task. It wasn’t the judgment or “soul shaking” David was worried about, it was the satisfaction Steven knew he’d have once David lost.

As if his soul would get unsettled, listening to a few drunk bar-goers tell them how they feel about him and his profession. No, his soul would get unsettled seeing Steven’s eyes after the judgment. Knowing that he was the true master. No, David couldn’t let Steven have that.

He’d known this was coming for years. He’d always hid behind the belief that if he believed in his denial about leaving Steven, it was okay. His imperfections were humane, and he could go on in peace. Should the day come, he would face the judgment with a calm air to him, ready to take the bullshit from the strangers with a grain of salt, knowing that Steven thought he succeeded and could go on in peace, since David’s soul would be so unsettled.

He was David Mayer. What could any slut he picked up in a bar make of him? And Steven knew that. Exactly. It was no matter.This profession, this game, is about yourself and who you are. That never changes.

No matter what.

David lifted the glass to take another sip of the Stella, when he realized it was gone. Frowning, he set it back onto the bar and threw a wink at the beautiful waitress as he got up and left, not looking back.

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Jordan Urbs

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