‘Good afternoon, my name is Tess and I want to thank you for reading our news paper. And because you are now reading our paper, I’m here to offer you an upgrade for your subscription. Am I calling at a good time?’
‘What the hell do you think you are doing? I have told you people over and over again not to call me and I do not want an upgrade or any such thing. I will give you a grade, a zero! Now for the hundredth time stop calling me!’ Beep Beep Boop.
The cursor is blinking at me from my computer screen. I don’t know what it is trying to say, but I’m blinking back with my own eyelashes. I cannot help but laugh. I also don’t know whether I’m laughing at the new cursers and spitters over the phone or because I just landed in my own worst nightmare. Will accept any job accept call centre work.
Reject call, close file, save. Next. Good afternoon, my name is Tess and I am going mad. This is literally the thousand time I am stupidly reading you these lines and I can’t help it I’m here. Frankly, I would rather put pickles in a jar in a factory than to be sitting here talking to you but for some reason this seems to be my faith. So you can shout and scream and curse at me for all you like but you are part of my faith now, a fellow sharer of the mess I landed in and I don’t care whether you want the darn upgrade or not, all I care about is pizza tonight and getting rid of my Dirty Ghosts.
‘I brought wine and made homemade pizza from the one and only wood fired oven,’ say the heavenly golden locks when they enter the room. Macy and I are at the table that is set with the finest table wear Levine has. He wanted to surprise us. What an angel. Just what I need, an angel at my side.
An angel with walls decorated with guitars, 1966 Epiphone, Strat, Gibson acoustic, they are all there like an art piece splashed all over the wall, as if they where simultaneously thrown at the wall and tied down right there where they landed. By chance. Not by order. By accident. Not by predetermination. Surfboards for coffee tables, crates for closets, and plants like your own personal Amazon. Welcome to casa the Levine with exquisite cuisine.
‘I present to you a 1962 Chateau Margaux which drinks like heaven down on your tongue and tastes like the knowledge of all that is good,’ says Levine while he pours the wine into our classes. I read the label on the bottle; it says Chablis. ‘Hey, don’t ruin the ambiance now. I was getting somewhere.’
‘Wherever you go, baby. I am going with you,’ I say while I raise my glass and so does Macy, who adds: ‘Here’s to crappy jobs, crushed dreams, failed attempts, ex-lovers and rain all day long. May our lives be as crappy as Tess’s and her Dirty Ghosts.’
‘Cheers,’ we sing in chorus.
‘Now tell me, how bad was it?’ asks Levine while he takes a bite from the most delicious pizza in the world with a tread of cheese that is so long you could build a bridge. I take my slice of pizza, build another bridge and compare it to his. ‘Brooklyn Bridge,’ I say with my mouth full. ‘Sydney Harbour Bridge.’ ‘Ha, I win. Brooklyn Bridge is longer.’
‘Okay, here is how it works. First I get spit and cursed on at my former job by my former boss, right?’ They nod in complacence. ‘But now I get spit on and cursed at for a living,’ I enter a silence to enhance the drama of the moment, ‘you see I get paid to be spit on and get cursed at. So, if you think about it, I am now a professional, though slightly underpaid, sucker.’
‘Wow, that sounds great,’ the thread of his pizza is now so excessively long he can spread both arms and it will still bend through. I pick it up in the middle and put it in my mouth; I am going for the Lady and the Tramp moment. We gnaw on the cheese until we get closer. ‘There is an advantage to being a professional sucker, you see,’I say whilst gnawing, ‘first of all you get paid for it, though my allowance when I was a kid was bigger than what I’m getting paid now.’ ‘And,’ adds Levine with cheese dripping from the corners of his mouth, ‘this way you don’t need protection from the saliva of the designated spitter.’ My mouth is so full with cheese I can’t speak, so I raise my hand and point in his direction. We are now so close kissing becomes almost inevitable. Meanwhile Macy is laughing so loud the table is shaking and knives and forks are beating against each other in unison. It makes the destruction of our bridges even more exciting. ‘Hey, you know what I just realised,’ she says, Levine and I are inevitably looking into each other’s eyes; there is no other direction we can look. ‘Isn’t Chablis your favourite wine? And pizza your favourite food? And didn’t we just toast?’ Levine and I nod. Our heads clunk. ‘Well, this sounds like we are celebrating. Or, more likely, this is your Dirty Ghosts celebrating their success.’ I free my head with a jerk. I raise my glass once more and say: ‘Professional Sucker.’ ‘To Dirty Ghosts and professional suckers,’ we all toast.