Published Jun 01, 2002Now that the Muslim has gone back to Mothers India and Africa for a number of months, what am I supposed to do? Knit? Purl? Knit and purl? I can't very well sit around worrying about him, Osama Bin Laden look-alike that he is, recklessly trotting all over the guileful globe. (Although he only bears a vague resemblance to him, it's bizarre how so many people feel compelled to ask if he's somehow related to the world's most wanted - and hated - man.) He's already informed me via email of the racist attitudes he encountered in London, where he stayed for a week before leaving for India: a woman at a bank machine accusing him of lying in wait to steal her purse; a Bollywood club, of all things (his roots are Indian) refusing him entrance because he looked "suspicious." People on airplanes always eye him nervously, as if he's about to pull out a box-cutter or set his shoes on fire. It's so glamorous, but strange, considering he's one of the most peaceful souls I've ever met in my life.
I received an email from him from Mumbai, where he's staying with some relations in a rather dodgy neighbourhood (which, in Mumbai, is probably saying a lot). He says there are men lying everywhere on the street at night, their hands down each other's pants. He avoids eye contact as he passes by, casting his eyes down, which is good, because it helps him to avoid stepping in the human excrement. His relatives are urging him not to travel to a certain city in Gujarat, the province where his roots are from, and where Gandhi was born, because apparently slaughtering Muslims is, as he terms it, "the new delicacy." It's true, and isn't it ironic, that in some ways Muslims are the new Jews?
As we have an open relationship anyway, I decide to go back fishing online for a hot date. I wind up with a sexy public school teacher with a large member who certainly knows how to throw a good fuck. We don't get a chance to talk much, but I gather he teaches at a pretty rough school somewhere in the northern part of the city. He's very masculine and doesn't read as gay at all, so I assume he's not out about it, although he doesn't seem to have a problem putting his photos on gay web sites. I'm really fascinated by teachers, who have such a tough job and get paid so little. Plus they get to hang out with kids all the time. But get your mind out of the gutter. He prefers men his own age or older, and as for me, I've never really developed a taste for chicken, even when I was a chicken.
Actually, I had a chance to go to school myself a couple of weeks ago. A cute Indian student invited me to speak about being a writer to his grade 13 media class at a high school in North York. Unfortunately, the class was at nine in the morning, so he arrived bright and early, at around seven-thirty, to drive me there, and I was still a little stoned, having been up most of the night smoking pot and having sex. But years of travelling around the world with my movies and having to get up early for interviews after wild nights out on the town have provided me with a highly developed auto-pilot.
Sitting at a desk waiting for the class to begin, I'm transported back in time to my own high school days, which I actually remember with a lot of fondness. I used to hang out with the girls with the worst reputations in the entire town, so there was never a dull moment. I still think often of my best friend Leigh, whom everyone thought was a big slut because she dated older glam rock boys with long shag haircuts who wore platform shoes and ultra-tight flared pants that plastered their rigs against their legs. When I first started fraternising with her she wore the highest pair of platforms I'd ever seen, red ones with a floral pattern on which she teetered down the halls, habitually stoned at school. She also wore thick black mascara that was always running because she was so emotional. It seemed like we were almost romantically attracted in the beginning because she asked me to the Sadie Hawkins dance. I reluctantly told this to my male best friend, a skinny, handsome swarthy boy who was the class clown and very popular, because I knew he thought she was the town whore. I'll never forget his face when I actually showed up at the dance with her, a look of pure shock and mild disgust. We didn't remain best friends for much longer after that, as I replaced him in my affections with Leigh.
I was more of the quasi-sissy, bookish type, so when we started to hang out, we really did make an odd couple. My favourite story of hers at the time was about how one night she got high on acid and drunk and stoned and God knows what else and somehow ended up in the back of a police cruiser. They called her Mom at four in the morning and informed them that they were bringing home her wayward daughter. Her mother, a very nice, chain-smoking English divorcee, was waiting in her nightgown at the front door with a cigarette stuck between trembling nicotine-stained fingers as the police pulled up and her daughter jumped out and started to stagger towards her on her hazardous platforms. But just as the police car disappeared around the corner, her wild older friends pulled up in a noisy car and started chanting her name. Without a moment's hesitation, she turned around and jumped in the souped-up muscle car, speeding off into the dead of morning, leaving her poor mother crying in her wake. She was all of 13.
I'm wrenched out of my sweet reverie by the shrill voice of a girl making announcements over the PA system before the first bell. Then, much to my surprise, the Sex Pistols' "God Save the Queen" comes blaring out of the speakers: "No future, no future, no future now." Gee, I wish they'd played the Sex Pistols before class when I was in high school. Oh wait a minute. The Sex Pistols didn't exist when I was in high school. Never mind.
Things sure have changed a lot since I was in grade 13. The girls all look like Britney Spears, and the boys mostly look like Eminem, even the black ones. Strangely enough, though, the teachers seem to look and act exactly the same way, like Estelle Parsons and Joanne Woodward in Rachel, Rachel.
I can't help but think about the stories the Muslim tells me about when he was in high school in the midlands of England. He was the only brown kid in his class, and the white boys used to call him nignog and beat him up at recess. He used to keep mostly to himself, walking home from school by himself with his hands in his pockets and his school books slapping methodically against his skinny thigh. It makes me want to cry just thinking about it.