(From 2008:) The Door, Neo...

Looking back on my personal Facebook stuff, I just found this, and thought it might be interesting to share:


- So you're saying that my English is terrible and that I'm not going to pass.
- I did not say that. You are unfairly manipulating my words.

He looks at the photocopied page of vocabulary suggestions, some of which he might well use. On the back of the page, there's the transcription of the recording of what he produced on Tuesday afternoon. It is a mangled mishmash of sentence fragments, badly conjugated verbs - the whole lot.

- All I'm saying is that if you do what you've been doing, you're going to get what you've always had and things are not going to change.
- I don't agree.

Well, he wouldn't, wouldn't he? As an upper-middle-class twenty-something, he considers it his right to take four weeks of holiday in August and ignore a relatively simple speaking exam task for the better part of three months, then go back home, raising all kinds of hue and cry and phoning every English teacher in SEGUNDAMANO, because he's worried that he just might fail. Again.

No, I shouldn't say that he's worried. He knows he is going to totally fail this exam. When I shake the wet filet of hand that he offers, the two fingers and section of palm that he offers as a matter of courtesy and little else, it is so drenched with cold sweat (and it's almost 30ºC outside) that I half expect his eyes to roll back in his head and his knees to give out, and for him to flop backwards like a clueless Broadway ingenue. Cold sweat. It's still summer outside and he's wearing a long-sleeved shirt. Our poor boy knows he's going down for the third time. And that's not an exaggeration. There are no fourth chances at the Escuela Oficial. Which means that, from here on in, it's Cambridge First Certificate at €179 a pop. And he's confessed to failing that four times.

- I think that the best thing is that I need to find another teacher to take class with. This, in English.
- I think that's an excellent idea.

He doesn't want a teacher. He wants someone to pat him on the head and stroke his cheek and tell him that everything is going to be okay. He wants a cheerleader, a nanny.

He offers to give me back the sheet. Thanks, but I already speak the language almost comes out, but I cut it at:

- Thanks, I still have the originals at home.

What does he expect me to say? THAT's what I don't understand at all. Does he, in all seriousness, expect me to go on endlessly about his linguistic ability? Does he want me to lie like a rug and tell him everything's gonna be all right?

We walk back along Avenida de Badajoz and he keeps his space so much that he walks out into traffic rather than walk behind the bus shelter with me.

- You ever seen "The Matrix"?
- ¿El qué?
- The Matrix.
- ¿El Mundo?
- No. Matrix. La peli con Laurence Fishburne, Keanu Reeves....
- Pues sí, hombre.
- ¿Te acuerdas de lo que dijo Morfeo cuando Neo se planteó abandonar el mundo para entrar al Matrix? (No answer.) Te puedo mostrar el puerto, Neo....

He offers his hand and a perfunctory, slimy handshake, and slouches off.

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