It was late September as Gareth strutted into the break room where myself and all the secretaries were eating dinner. I was managing an English language school in Taipei, Taiwan and Gareth was one of my new recruits. He smiled and said “hi” to all the ladies in his slow Canadian drawl. The secretaries all smiled back and tried to attract his glance. He had recently arrived in Taipei, just finished teacher training and was scheduled to teach an adult night class in about an hour.
He paced the front of the room with his head hanging down. He played with the knobs on a broken radio, erased the whiteboard, and occasionally looked up when he thought of something to say. He was like a shy puppy. The secretaries thought he was extremely handsome. I thought his eyes were too small and close together and his jaw was too big. But he seemed like a cool guy. He was about twenty-five, very reserved and not too animated, but he had a dry, humorous side.
He started making me laugh talking about “douches” and “enemas” knowing the secretaries, with their limited English abilities, wouldn’t understand.
Once the secretaries left the room I decided to ask what was troubling him. I really wanted to just sit back and enjoy my English newspaper during the break, but he looked so pathetic I thought I’d try to help him out.
He leaned on the big glass window looking out over Taipei onto a busy intersection below. The cars and the scooters whizzed on by. “There’re just too many women and not enough time,” he muttered as if this was an agonizing statement. “I mean, what if you get a girlfriend, how can you be faithful with so many beautiful women running around here? Okay, what if you do find a great one, and she’s the hottest chick ever? How do you know it’s the right time? What if you don’t want to settle down, yeah? What do you do?”
He looked all bothered and sexually repressed so I said, “Maybe you just need to get laid.”
“Oh no, I don’t need that! I got laid twice yesterday by two different women! I didn’t even want to! One is a friend you know. She calls me up and has me come over, and then she cries and I didn’t want to, but I had to, you know.”
“Yeah, I hate when that happens,” I said almost feeling sorry for the guy as he looked out the window, touching it gently and drawing circles with his index finger while making sad faces to no one down below.
Excerpt from “Gareth’s Dilemma,” a short story in Hillel Groovatti’s new book of short fiction entitled Totally Losing Face and Other Stories.