Passions of the Embassyboy
Employees were crowded at the guard terminal entrance waiting for the opposite doors to shut. It was already late, but people knew their bosses usually attended a morning press briefing; therefore it was ok to be late for some 5-10 minutes.
The embassyboy never used the elevator. He entered a dark office. Motion detectors turned on the lights. The embassyboy clicked on his keyboard and the pc returned from standby. Outlook was showing 5 new messages.
The embassyboy recognized the email of his designer friend. Long time ago, in their early 20s, they used to work together in television. The email message contained no words, just an image, re-drawn from the photo that the embassyboy forwarded him the other day.
It depicted him and the designer friend fallen asleep on the couch in their TV show decoration.
“They’ll think we’re having an affair,” said the embassyboy turning the wheel on the intersection. The car was approaching the farewell reception site. Security guards were checking the guest lists.
“I was in this house before. Many times.” said Amanda when they entered a yard “My cousin was in love with a former deputy and he was married. But please, don’t tell anyone. You know how suspicious they are.”
“Fine,” said the embassyboy and they entered the glaring hall of waitresses, shining glasses and full of guests dressed business.
Amanda did not attend the staff meeting. The embassyboy called her to the cell from his gray cubicle, charged with static electricity. On the other side of the line he heard Amanda’s virus-affected voice.
“So, did it get you, finally?” The city was sinking in an outrageous flu epidemic.
“Yes. It’s terrible. Only now do I understand what my daughter went through. Poor little girl,” said Amanda.
“Listen, I just wanted to check whether you received all the documents on Monday”.
“Yes I did. Can you do me a favor, please? I forgot my notebook at Sandra’s office and I cannot recall if there’s anything scheduled for me today. Can you check it for me?”
“You mean in your notebook?”
“Yes. It’s a red leather one.”
“OK.” – The embassyboy hung up and went to Sandra’s office. Sandra wasn’t there and the embassyboy could not notice anything red on the desk. He checked Amanda’s cubicle and picked up the notebook from the chair.
The embassyboy returned to his cubicle, sat down, picked up the phone and dialed Amanda’s cell again. While listening to the ringing tone, he carefully opened the notebook and sniffed the paper. Due to its newness, the notebook had no personal flavor yet.
The embassyboy received a cable concerning a 10-week program for young writers. The objective of the program was “to bring together a wide range of international and U.S. writers to examine current trends in literature including fiction, drama, poetry and screen writing.”
It was lunchtime and the embassyboy felt emptiness in his stomach together with a craving for cigarettes. He used to smoke on an empty stomach and not after lunch.
“Maybe I should quit the job and then apply for the program?” asked the embassyboy to Amanda and Kate, looking from Kate’s window, from her cubicle. Cars were rolling on the highway, behind the embassy fortification.
“Go ahead,” said Amanda, “and we will approve you,” and she handed him a cup of hot chocolate.
The embassyboy was checking a counter on his wordpress blog when the phone rang. They were calling from the security, asking about the lady who tried smuggling a sword to a meeting with one of the Foreign Service nationals in a “multipurpose room”.
The security staff asked several questions. The embassyboy knew nothing specific. Then he hung up and finally checked the counter.
It listed two unique visitors during the last 24 hours.
“So far so good,” said the embassyboy and logged off wordpress.
While typing an event memo for the ambassador, a reminder popped up on the display: “FILING TAXES ONLINE. INSTRUCTION IN THE MULTIPURPOSE ROOM. 13:00.”
The embassyboy glanced at the watch. It was 12:55. He took his cellphone, a security badge and headed downstairs.
There were 12 people in the conference hall: 4 of them from the state institutions (ministry of finance, tax department) and 1 humanitarian program assistant. From the embassy personnel there were 3 programmers, two chicks from the financial department, the embassyboy and a translator.
It was chilly. The internet was down but the taxdep folks were prepared with a pdf version on the flash drive. Amanda arrived late.
When everything was over and they were going upstairs together, the embassyboy told Amanda he was happy things like an online tax filing system existed, after all.
Then they entered an empty section, headed to the buffet and finished another bottle of wine.
It was Monday and they headed outside the city into the guerilla-infested conflict zone. Local government ministers wanted to observe a war damaged infrastructure together with EU, CoE and the US ambassadors, along with the media, to get some money.
It was freezing cold. Black SUV chain was guarded by some local policemen with quite used Kalashnikov rifles. The ebmassyboy could not feel his hands anymore holding a camera so he retreated to the armored car, which was shortly described by the embassy security officer: 7 Tons, 8.1 Engine.
The embassyboy woke up from a strange ending of his dream. As if he was preparing for a fight and a gorgeous girl was washing his head simultaneously giving him a head massage in a deserted sauna. They were sitting on the steps and his head was among her knees. And the odd thing was that although they were alone, the embassyboy knew someone from the upper step was giving a head massage to his girl too.
In the yard, while pulling out the car, the embassyboy rubbed against someone’s car. Although the sound was terrible, luckily there was no damage at all. He returned to his car, drove it to the street and started his MD stereo. Some rare old school stuff was playing and it seemed totally irrelevant for the surrounding reality.
There were times when the office was totally empty, especially when the boss was out for meetings.
The embassyboy poured boiling water into the noodle-filled cup, as instructed. Then he took a bottle of white wine from the fridge and poured it into a glass.
With the glass in his hand, he continued to read an article in “American Art” which stated: “..then there are “seminaries” where students are indoctrinated into last year’s intellectual fashion. These schools take students from every walk of life and rob them of their birthright.”
In three minutes instant noodles were ready. The embassyboy tried the noodles, then the white wine. Everything tasted fine.
The embassyboy was driving to the post. As the weather was sunny, he pushed both buttons on the door and rolled down the windows slightly. Fresh air came in. The embassyboy was listening to Coltrane and therefore, ironized, as there was something awkward and uncool in listening to jazz seriously, he believed.
The road was empty and the car was going 80km/h. The embassyboy closed his eyes and started to count. He could not last for more than 5-6 counts and opened his eyes.
When he finally arrived, the embassy CAC2 entrance was crammed with visitor marines.
Amanda and the embassyboy were in a dark storage room. “Are you sure there’s any red wine left?” asked the embassyboy while checking scattered cardboard boxes. “I’m pretty sure there should be several packages left from the last exhibition,” answered Amanda and carefully put her hand on the embassyboy’s shoulder “let me check this,” she said and reached to the closet.
The embassyboy pushed his cell phone buttons and the faint light revealed tens of sealed bottlenecks on the closet shelf.
“Voila,” smiling Amanda turned to the embassyboy “we can keep our custom.” “And what happens when they’re over?” said the embassyboy. “I guess, it will be a sign that we need to switch a job,” Amanda said.
Joking, with dusty red wine bottles in their hands, they left the storage and walked back to the embassy’s kitchenette.
The Embassyboy glanced at the phone display, then pushed OK and said: “Sophia?” It was a Ministry of Culture representative. A beauty blond, intellectual type.
“What’s up?” she asked.
“You know?” replied the embassyboy “nothing much. I’m sitting in the aquarium glancing at passing cars from the window.”
“..and it’s such a weather outside” continued Sophia the embassyboy’s monolog.
“..but I plan to sneak out somehow next hour.” said the embassyboy.
“Is it possible? I thought it was like a guarded fortress…”
“It actually is,” answered the embassyboy looking at passing clouds and the helicopter above “but you can do everything with the desire.”
“I can understand that,” said Sophia after a slight pause and then they began talking business.
They sat in the cubicle. She was a little bit overweight but with a remarkably pretty face and beautiful breasts. He noticed her a couple of months ago, while leaving the compound. She was going slowly in front of him in high heels and a tight sweater. Her round ass going side to side as she walked. The embassyboy was surprised that someone of her size could look so attractive.
Anyway, she explained to him that a bilateral agreement between Austrian and French embassies had expired so there was an issue for business travel to Vienna. “Anyway,” he said, “let’s make it via another post.” She nodded and asked to forward an itinerary.
Once back to his cubicle, he googled her name. It turned out that she was a member of a local personnel service. The embassyboy clicked the registration link and started to fill out the application.
“You know,” started Amanda, when they pulled out of the embassy parking onto the highway “Nina told me today (in the cafeteria) that if you work here for fifteen years, you automatically get a Green card.”
“Are you joking?” the embassyboy was stunned.
“No, for real,” said Amanda, running her hand through hair. The wind was blowing from the window.
“On the other hand, fifteen is too much,” said the embassyboy, steering.
“But, say, Nina has only two years left, can you imagine?”
“She’s been here for thirteen years? Jesus!”
“Yes, since Fall 1996.”
“Jesus!” said the embassyboy. Traffic slowed down. They were barely moving and he continued “on the other hand, who knows.. it may turn out that we’re just newbies and do not fully understand the seriousness of the situation. We may realize that only after ten years (or so), when we will have only couple of years left for the Green card date.”
“In fifteen years I’ll be 46,” said Amanda.
“I’ll be 47” said the embassyboy and looked out of the window.”
The staff meeting lasted way too long. People impatiently listened to the reports on the last NATO tour for journalists in Brussels. Then the attaché praised Amanda’s work on writing reports for past educational conferences. The embassyboy was having a third Belgian chocolate piece in the last twenty minutes. This was a certain way to kill boredom. Then he texted Amanda, who was sitting opposite to him. They exchanged 10 text messages till the end of the meeting.
“I won’t spend state money bringing directors that are not representing our country,” said the attaché.
“But” the embassyboy tried to look as competent as possible “he’s one of the best and we can turn it around and give an impression that our country is represented by great directors like him.”
“No…” the attaché looked very hesitant. The embassyboy always thought he was weak in persuasion “Don’t forget that we are supposed to make propaganda,” the attaché said.
“Propaganda?” repeated the embassyboy. Then two seconds of silence followed and he finally replied: “Well, sure that was quite foolish of me to forget about that.”
The section was deserted. The attaché, together with two employees, went out of the city to explore possible contacts in one of the regional NGOs.
Feeling sudden freedom, some of the remaining girls went downstairs to hang out in a cafeteria. Amanda and Katherine visited the director of a municipal library, which was recently renovated but still remained remarkably empty.
In a barely noticeable hiss of the ACs, the embassyboy heard them returning. In a second he heard Amanda touching the keyboard and then an instant message popped up:
Amanda: “It’s so quiet in the section.”
“Let’s get outside,” said the embassyboy and pulled a heavy door. They exited the heavy-conditioned embassy building into a warm concrete yard.
“That’s so much better…” said Amanda. Pleasant warmth streamed through their bones.
“Let’s go around marines’ building,” offered the embassyboy “we don’t have much time.”
They proceeded via the concrete path through the buildings. It was getting too hot. Warm breeze was blowing in their faces. Next to an abandoned playground there were a couple of benches in a shade.
“OK, maybe five minutes? What do you think?” said the embassyboy.
They both laughed and sat each on a separate bench.
Amanda leaned back and closed her eyes.
“You know,” she said “The temperature in her office is just like in a morgue.”
“When you’re talking with eyes closed, I feel like a practicing therapist,” the embassyboy smiled and looked at the remote landscape, beyond the concrete walls of the diplomatic mission.
The attaché was routinely visiting refugee camps so the embassyboy, Amanda and Kate sat in the orange room screening student films from a recent international festival. Air conditioner was positioned at 77 degrees and the lights were off. Red wine, glasses, bananas and an orange juice unevenly distributed on the table surface.
Student films were conventionally boring, although there were very few exceptions. After the screening was over Kate left the orange room.
“I can barely move,” said Amanda, illuminated by a blank white projector square.
“But you had only one glass of wine,” said the embassyboy.
“..And that’s enough for me,” she replied.
“It’s better to smoke, I guess.”
“Does it feel about the same?”
“No,” the embassyboy stared at the white projection “it’s like… you know that feeling when, because of the blood pressure or whatever, your hearing perception doubles all of the sudden? and you start to hear different frequencies, so to say…”
Amanda wanted to have her lunch outside at an open space of the embassy cafeteria. For safety reasons, the personnel, regional security office equipped the porch perimeter with a 3-meter solid fence, guarded from inside. Loaded with their treys, Amanda and the embassyboy proceeded to the exit. Blinds covered the windows with paper sheets attached on them saying: “Please do not pull up the blinds. Welding works outside.”
The guard opened the door for them. It was very humid, windy and cloudy.
“It’s gonna rain soon guys,” said their colleague and left the porch.
Just as they proceeded with a mushroom soup, water drops started making circles in their bowls.
The embassyboy raised his head and stared far away at the oncoming black clouds.
“Let’s go inside,” said Amanda and smiled.
The guard opened the same door again. They thanked him and sat nearby.
They could hear thunderstorms and see the very lowest part of the porch – the pavement – getting bombarded by rain.
“So what does the “welding” mean?” asked the embassyboy.
“I’ll check,” said Amanda and pulled out her Blackberry.
“So,” said she after a minute “Welding: 1. fastening two pieces of metal together by softening with heat and applying pressure 2. uniting closely or intimately; “Her gratitude welded her to him”.”
“Sounds like a great word,” said the embassyboy and took a bite off of his piece of mediocre pizza.
Their table was approached by a woman on high heels with a bottle of Coke and a homemade salad in a plastic bowl. The embassyboy didn’t know her name, but as he remembered, she was somehow affiliated with the embassy marines.
“So, last year there wasn’t this fence around the patio, right?” said the embassyboy to break the silence.
“No, and that’s why people were not allowed to eat outside,” said the woman.
They were sitting on a cafeteria patio surrounded by a steel fence and two guards.
“Probably it’s related to some sort of papers where it is instructed to do so,” continued the embassyboy referring to the heightened security measures.
“Yes,” said the woman on high heels, “There are lots of papers like that. In case someone jumps over the main wall… you know.”
“Can someone actually jump over this wall?” asked Amanda, staring back at the embassy perimeter.
“Well, I could, if I wasn’t in high heels,” said the woman.
The sky was without a single cloud and it was breezing gently.
On the next table women were discussing a certain type of a venereal disease, which sounded somewhat surreal.
On Tuesday morning the embassyboy sent a link to Amanda through the Microsoft Office Communicator. The picture was depicting two girls on the bench in sunglasses, eating ice-cream.
“That’s us outside,” replied Amanda, “near Chernobyl.”
“Chernobyl” was the place they used to hang out during the lunch break.
Their admin nicknamed the place like that because of the deserted, sun-exposed playground, situated next to their benches (in the shade).
Amanda was scheduled to be at the airport for the vice president’s visit. So, she was getting ready for several hour-long mind numbing idleness at the terminal, putting odd things into her bag just to puzzle a secret service: an antique Russian camera, Vaseline, FM modulator with an integrated MP3 player, detailed map of the city center and a fake, toy walkie-talkie.
The embassyboy was assigned to attend the VP’s meeting at one of the downtown hotels.
“Basically,” said the attaché, glancing at him over the glasses, “there won’t be really much to do, you will just stand near the entrance and guide anyone that will need orientation with toilets or something alike.”
“That sounds like a very interesting job,” commented the embassyboy and started to observe a new badge he was given to pass through several security checkpoints set up in the middle of the city, around and inside the hotel.
The embassyboy took left to a steep unpaved road.
The engine was small but since both passengers were thin it didn’t take too much effort to climb to the top.
The car stopped on the edge of the canyon.
They stepped out and looked around.
Winds from different directions were crossing the place, so, their clothes and Amanda’s hair were waving hysterically and changing directions each second.
It was an unusually pleasant temperature for Summer.
“So, when “Chernobyl” playground is occupied we can come here to rest,” said the embassyboy “Do you like it?”
Amanda adjusted her pilot shades and looked around again.
Two trains passed each other down in the valley.
Then one entered a tunnel and the other crossed the bridge.
The HR announced a vacancy for an outside surveillance guard, who was expected to monitor regular and irregular movements outside and near the perimeter of the embassy compounds.
The embassyboy thought about the position a lot. He imagined a romantic part of it – namely, standing somewhere as a covert agent observing surroundings and people. Then writing reports to security guys in the embassy. It looked like a best fit for his personal characteristics.
There were two obstacles though – the position’s low grade (which meant less than half of his current salary) and the current boss’s approval (especially while so many unfinished projects were pending in the nearest future).
Actually, the embassyboy did not really plan to quit the position for surveillance, but he still imagined the dialog between him and his boss to begin with an awkward and somewhat amusing sentence: “…you know, I decided to downgrade my position. I would love to become a standing, unnoticeable bush…”
It was obvious that almost no one would understand that wild decision, even optimistically assuming that it could, actually, be made.
The embassyboy was texting Amanda:
“What do you think, of the two of us, who will leave this place first?”
Amanda was taking a long weekend in the mountains, but she replied in a minute:
“I think you will leave first for a better job.”
Embassyboy returned from the shredder room (he considered shredding as sort of a psychotherapy and meditation) and started to text:
“I think of that quite often. You know, everything ends in the end.”
Amanda was too cool to fall into melancholic self indulgence. She knew, self pity was the least thing she wanted at that particular period of life, so she replied:
“No Drama, remember?”
The embassyboy had no choice but to comply:
“No Drama,” he wrote, then smiled and turned on his majestic humidifier into a heavy duty mode.
Although it was cool to work Saturday overtime, when it came to sleeping the embassyboy preferred the latter. But this time he had to take into consideration surrounding factors (again!) and meet the embassy laborers at the parking lot by 11 o’clock.
In five minutes four of them were rolling on the highway to downtown. Guy behind him was telling Friday night adventures of his own: attending a birthday of a girl he met online, going to disco with all of her girlfriends by midnight, taking last cash from the ATM and finally, crashing at the brothel, just across the embassy.
“…and you know what,” he said, “they were surprisingly gorgeous. I really had a hard time choosing. Finally, I sweet-talked one of them, you know, saying that she is so special and I respect her as an individual and I really do like her as a person. When I finally penetrated her she was shivering. She cried and said she loved me.”
“She said she loved you?” the driver stared at him, “Jesus…” and looked away.
“Right and then left,” said the embassyboy and dialed his cell for the conservatory hall.
In the morning after reception at the attaché’s residence, the embassyboy woke up too early. It was still dark and he was dehydrated and thirsty. Beyond that, strange thoughts started to creep into his mind. Layer by layer, he started to visualize his pending problems:
A car needed some repairs, there were several deadlines pressing in the embassy, which he thought he could not finish in time, documentaries he received from Washington were embarrassing (meaning he won’t be able to emotionally invest in the programming), headache, heavy traffic on the way to his son’s school in the morning and the most important, strong sense of futility. He looked at his sleeping wife and children.
Then he recalled he was quite drunk when he started a car last evening. Playing piano at his friend’s place late at night. She was leaving to London and the embassyboy went to her to say goodbye. Talked to his other friend in NYC, who left for good. They left him a hedonistic vintage piece of clothing, which suited him a lot. Those two were almost the only people who he hanged out with on a regular basis. He who left to NYC was the embassyboy’s “Special Envoy to the City’s Hedonistic Circles.”
The embassyboy got out of bed. Drank some water and opened a laptop. No one was online. He thought for a while and then carefully, trying not to miss a correct key in a dark, typed in a Google bar:
The embassyboy was waiting in the embassy car, parked in a square of a provincial town, where he had a programmed educational screening. He just left the screening room at the local museum of ethnography full of children.
Their driver was powering an electric pump for tires. Right above him stood a museum security guard, armed with Kalashnikov, monitoring the process and ready to help.
After the tire business was done, the embassyboy and the driver sat in the car, waiting.
“You know” said the driver “it’s like a swamp (he was referring to the embassy jobs). I have an impression that years pass and you don’t grow, but degrade step by step.”
“How old are you now,” asked the embassyboy, watching a cargo train pass over the bridge at the end of the street.
“Thirty nine,” said the driver.
“And for how long have you been here?”
“Eight years,” said the driver and rolled up the window.
The embassyboy pulled out his cell and started to text someone.
“You know,” noticed Amanda matter-of-factly after taking the last bite of her chicken with vegetables “even if you downgrade your position, you get the same paycheck.”
“Are you sure?” the embassyboy made a surprised face and recalled recent job announcement of the perimeter security guard, “how do you know that?”
“I know from the HR.”
“That means I can work as a bush and get paid as a whatever affairs assistant?”
“That’s so great. Next question: can you imagine me working as a bush?”
“Don’t know,” said Amanda, starting with an oversized cake. “How do you think, I gained weight or lost it? Kathie told me I looked like I lost it.. Anyway, did you ever see those security guards outside the embassy?”
“No I didn’t” said the embassyboy, “but that’s why they are called the bushes. You are not supposed to notice them.”
“Whatever,” said Amanda and put on her aviator shades to absorb most of what was supposedly the last days of Indian Summer.
On Sunday, a day prior to Amanda’s birthday, before writing his last post in the blog, the embassyboy decided to check the mail. Oddly, he had Amanda’s message in his personal inbox, which happened the first time since they got to this job – spending every workday in the same room did not require additional email exchange.
The subject said: “Bekeka’s Dream.” The embassyboy clicked on the link and started to read:
“It was September 1st. I was heading to work on my first day after Summer vacation. It was snowing and the traffic was paralyzed. Our office was a combination of a bank, the embassy and the attaché’s residence. When I got there, the people of our section met me very excited. They said they waited for me to begin a pajama party lunch. They behaved as if they were our coworkers but I could not recognize anyone.
I went to the toilet to wash my hands and saw you in the corridor. Your outfit was resembling a teenage rebellious punkster style and was funny. You told me some nasty jokes and we laughed a lot. Then someone came and invited us to join the table. We went there together and sat at the table next to each other.
Last thing I remember, we all sat in silence, eating delicious stuff served on the table.”
“That would make a perfect last post”, thought the embassyboy, “and a nice ending for a birthday gift.”
Then he skimmed once more through the text and finally clicked the bluish “publish” button in the upper right corner.
George Guledani: For the last 15 years my short stories have been published in major Georgian literary and art magazines (Anabechdi, Hot Chocolate, Arili), yet I have a great interest to appear in reputable English magazines too, as they cover larger readership who might be curious to read a prose from a country that is not too familiar for general public in the US.
I am a recipient of following awards:
– Award for best screenplay from Georgian National Film Center (2009)
– Award for best theatrical play from Shota Rustaveli State Theater within the framework of the 24-hour theater festival (2010)
– Award for best translation from Mikheil Tumanishvili Foundation and the Ministry of Culture (for translation of American contemporary theatrical play Flick, by Annie Baker) (2019).
Aside from writing, I have been working as a producer in major Georgian television channels and as an editor in various Georgian literary magazines. Since 2013 I publish literary journal Autopilot (in Georgian language) – avtopiloti.blogspot.com