The writing team behind this early Easter Special would like to point out that this episode was supposed to air at Christmas time as part of an effort to bring everyone’s Christmas spirit to an all-time low. However, their main character felt that hope (a word we write with spite) was still a viable option and that when least expected, the light shone. Thankfully, he has changed his tune and has now agreed to reprise his role.
Episode Eleven – Gulag Forever
Sitting on his balcony, Jerome found himself mesmerized by the scene taking place meters away from him; down below. Still wearing his pyjamas, a cup of warm coffee in his hand and about to light a cigarette, it seemed as though what he was witnessing wasn’t real but something coming straight out of his imagination. There was a woman, topless, a blouse ripped open, shouting abuse at a man whose round face expressed nothing but surprised even at his own words. He was begging her to come home while she waved her arms like a mad woman. A crowd soon gathered; the whores, drawn by the spectacle, leaving their post on the street corner and joining an ever growing mass of voyeurs. The demented girl removed her high heel and started stabbing her boyfriend. Only trying to protect himself, he pushed her and she fell backward. The crowd laughed. She stumbled back up, got her phone out and called the police. He insisted that there was no need to do so, that he was sorry, that he loved her, that they should just go home and sleep on it, that he had too much to drink, that he didn’t mean to talk to that girl. His girlfriend wouldn’t listen and the police officers arrived, sirens blazing. It was time for Jerome to get to work. He never got to find out what happened next. He didn’t really care that much. He was just glad to be single. His singledom suited him. Not a single frog-wanting-to-be-a-prince had crossed his path in months (fifteen to be precise) and Jerome couldn’t care less. He relished his freedom so much so that when opportunities came knocking, he locked the door. Jerome was fine. Fine as one can be. Jolly good! Or so he kept telling himself. It was seven o’clock on a Monday.
Mondays were Jerome’s favourites. Not having a second to even consider having a thought, he would hop from class to class and regurgitate a well-rehearsed monologue in front of half-drunk teenagers – how he loves seeing their eyes glitter with understanding (or vodka)! Educating the next generation for a whole seven euros an hour was a lifelong dream finally come true. Jerome had found meaning in teaching the intricacies of the future forms, a meaning that made his life worth living, a meaning that made the hole in his chest less painful. So twelve hours a day, five days a week, he skipped from classroom to classroom and sprayed his knowledge like the Christians did back in the days. He educated the infidels. He was making the world a better place. And when the day was over, he could go home, confident in a day well spent, have dinner and go to bed, feverishly awaiting yet another day of rewarding labour.
And so days went by, quickly followed by weeks and then months and three years after having fled Russia, he knew no more what it had felt like to have been there and almost remembered it all fondly as if a return could be in the cards.
It’s the morning of his 33rd birthday. Jerome is sitting in bed, in his pyjamas, a cup of warm coffee in his hand, ready to light a cigarette. Everything is quiet. Everything is peaceful. He is alone, surrounded only by dead books and a not-yet-ironed stack of clothes. Today he outlived Jesus and he feels proud of such an accomplishment. Today is a Tuesday. Jerome likes Tuesday. He knows what Tuesdays bring. There will be a coffee break at three and another one at six and when he gets home, he’ll clean his flat. On Tuesdays, Jerome cleans. His routine never changes: Mondays are for washing, Tuesdays for cleaning, Wednesdays for ironing, Thursdays for grocery shopping, Fridays for preparing food for the week to come, Saturdays for sleeping in and Sundays for grading papers. So he gets up and makes his ways to the bathroom. There, facing his own reflection, he thought about what a blessing it was to have lost all of his hair, how much simpler his life was now that he didn’t have to brush it or style it anymore. He clapped at the thought of having to travel through the entire city to go from school to school; of how much time he would have, crammed in the metro, to finish reading Stephen King’s latest novel. He showers, brushes his teeth, got dressed and got on his merry way. In fourteen hours, he will be back home.
On the ride back, he checks his phone, no one has called. Jerome does not despair; he knows that his Facebook page will be submerged with birthday wishes. Unsurprisingly, his friends from all around the world have written happy birthday messages on his wall, Jerome clicks “Like” on all the messages and smiles. He has dinner, cleans the house and goes to bed.
Another fruitful day.
Another dreamless night.
How sweet life is.