If anyone knew that I obsess about Casino Royale (the movie) in the way I do, they'd say I was bananas. I've seen it three times so far (which is nothing, really); I read about it in film magazines, look through Greg Williams' book Bond on Set: Filming Casino Royale, read cast and crew interviews on the internet, and listen to the soundtrack CD. And I keep thinking about it, not like a fan or a stalker, but like a writer, a colleague in the creative business--only an amateur, but somebody who wants to think about the inside of the movie's story, the elliptical transitions, the nuances, the technicalities in conveying an effect, the work on-set, the missing scenes and dialogue. Because there are missing scenes and dialogue, anyone knows that. And there's what goes on outside the frame. It's not everyday life, it's another life. Okay, maybe I'm not explaining it clearly. And even if I did, you might say I was bananas anyway.
      I've never met anybody who wants to think about a film or TV show or book the way I do, and who wants to examine its aspects in minute, exhausting detail. It's been a fucking major frustration my entire life.

      Of course, there are internet forums for this sort of thing, but (no doubt unreasonably) I tend to presume that forums are populated by nutters. Besides, what I want is an immediate exchange of ideas any time I want with the same person(s), without them worrying I'm perhaps a tad, peculiarly, over-absorbed in those topics and not enough in real life.

      This is one of the reasons I miss Kyle [not his real name]. We talked about almost anything and got each other's jokes, references, short-cuts, opinions. We didn't meet much though we lived in the same city, but we talked by e-mail all the time. He wasn't a writer or artist as far as I know; he was an intelligent, irreverent bloke who knew the things I knew. In 2005 he began to suffer from depression. Then just before Christmas 2005 his wife left him (she said he wasn't communicating enough). Then he had to deal with selling their house so she could get her money out. Then in January 2006 his brother died in an accident. Kyle went away to contemplate life and things. I've not heard from him since.

      It's hard to lose a pal whose brain worked the same way as yours. I'm selfish, yeah, but wait till you lose somebody like that, and you'll see.

      Even Kyle, though, couldn't quite share my overpowering need to mine the inner depths of Hard-Boiled, say, or Alias, or Len Deighton, or Sophie Marceau in The World is Not Enough. Last night I lay on the living-room carpet in the dark, the only light was from the stereo which was playing the Casino Royale soundtrack; and I thought about all this, and what I want to write next. I'm beginning to suspect that maybe only Quentin Tarantino could discuss stuff the way I want to. Not that I know him.

I slept last night – for the first time in a week. And I slept in this morning – a luxury usually reserved for the weekend. When I woke up this morning it was like waking up to a new world with a new sun.

I was in a good mood. I’m never in a good mood in the mornings – but then, I didn’t wake up in the morning today. With the sun shining bright through my window and my mind clear for first time in days it was hard not to feel a bit giddy.

I can’t get away with this, though. I fight with myself. Any happiness is always laced with guilt and doubt.

Don’t be so quick to be happy,’ part of me told myself.

‘I can be happy,’ the other half responded. ‘I feel great for the first time in ages. The sun is shining in the middle of winter! Sure, I have to teach, but my classes have actually – oddly – been enjoyable lately and I am going to try to enjoy these too!’

Of course, this kind of optimism only churned up the doubt and cynicism it was thinly covering.

‘And after my classes,’ my optimistic side continued, ‘I have a nice evening planned with my friends at a pub. Today will be a good day!’

But I doubted myself. I took a shower and got ready, and I knew that I would be reminded why I am slowly killing the optimistic side of me.

I took my anxiety pills for the first time in a month – to try and medicate away all this negativity – and I walked out the door into a sunny day and headed toward my first class – with plenty of time to get there.


“Enjoy the rest of this spring day,” my student said as I stepped on to the elevator without him. This is the warmest winter recorded in Prague in over two hundred and thirty years. And this was one of the most beautiful spring days we have had this winter.

‘One class down and one to go!’ I thought to myself, with no sign of an inner struggle over the wordless joyful feelings flying through my head. Maybe that medication really does help with my anxiety.

As I headed to my next class I decided to check my phone for any new messages. It is Friday, after all, there were probably thousands of text messages flying around this town making plans for the evening. I had one new message, from Amanda, wondering if any final plans had been made as to the pub or the time for our relaxing evening.

I sent a text off to Jay to see what he knew, since he had been awake far longer than I had and was probably already arranging the plans; and this was all up to Angela, anyways, since it was her night to choose. It took a while to get a response, but I finally got one while pulling into a station on the metro.

“Angela is sick and has called off the plans,” it said. “So I am going to take Alice out, instead,” it said. All my fucking friends have girlfriends. I get left alone on date nights.

I passed on the news and it was the same all around. Friday night turned into date night and I was left with nothing to do and no one to do it with.

I sent a message back to Jay. “Damnit, man!” I said. “I knew I’d be reminded of why I am not an optimistic person,” I said.

“If it makes you feel any better, my computer crashed this morning,” he said.

“We’ll, I guess I’ll have time to try and fix it!” I said. “Please save all applause for the curtain call,” I said. The cynical side of me comes out quickly when the optimistic side has had it’s chance and failed.

“Settle down. You can go out with Alice and I if you want,” he said.

I didn’t need his pity invite. I’m getting tired of pity invites.

“I’m joking – you know, mostly,” I said. “And I wouldn’t butt in on your time together,” I said. “But my cynical witticisms are far funnier than my usually mundane self.”

I knew I was being an ass. I didn’t really care - I wanted to be an ass. But I figured it was unfair to take it out on one particular person, especially a friend. Anyways, that last message, of course, got an actual call in return.

“Sorry. I’m being an ass,” I said, “but not toward you or anything like that,” I said. “You just had the displeasure of hearing it. Sorry about that.”

“It’s okay,” he said. “Everyone is pretty stressed with the end of the semester testing – fuses are short.”

“It’s not that,” I said. “But it’s okay.”

“What it is then?” he asked. I didn’t answer, though. I didn’t feel like answering. I didn’t feel like explaining how slowly killing optimism is an ugly business. I didn’t want to explain how it was something that had to be done. “Okay, I’ll talk to you later then,” he said. “Have a fun time with Alice, tonight,” I said. We hung up.

I meant it though – about them having a good time. I hope they are having a good time right now. The only person I am every cynical about is myself.

By this point I was arriving, just on time, for my last class of the day – of the week. I went to the front desk to announce myself. I was told my student was in a meeting, so I waited. I read my book and I waited. I waited some more, and I got a text message. That fighting thing was back. But this time the optimistic side was the underdog. My optimistic side wanted to hear some good news from somebody with some plans.

I opened the message, it was from Jay. “Hey,” he said. “Can you pick up some toilet paper on the way home?” He said, “I keep forgetting.”

The bird
When I got to work this morning and got out of my car I saw a dove sitting on the wooden fence that surrounds the parking lot. The bird had a bit of dry grass in its beak, looking like it was heading off to build a nest.

I got out of my car and the bird was staring at me. I looked back a the bird and said "Hi", expecting it to fly away. It didn't.

I reached into my car and got my bag, locked the door and swung it shut. When I looked at the fence again the bird was still there. Looking at me.

I said "bye" to the bird and started walking to the building. After a half dozen steps I looked over my shoulder and the bird was still there, in the same spot, with the grass in its beak, staring right at me.

I walked on and when I reached the bottom of the stairs leading into the building, I stopped and turned around. The bird was still there. It was still staring at me. Shouldn't this bird be busy doing something? Like building a nest? Why's it so interested in me?

It was really starting to weird me out. I started thinking maybe it was a sign. But a sign of what? Let's see, it's a bird. A dove I think. Didn't a dove bring Noah an olive branch in the bible? This dove's got dirty grass in it's mouth, but that's close enough. Maybe I'm supposed to build an ark?

Or maybe it's trying to tell me something, like, don't go into the building today, it's going to explode or burn down. Maybe it's a warning dove, sent by some secret society out there that knows I'm The Chosen One and is looking out for me. But why send a dove? I'd expect some cool monk with ninja skills to come and warn me if I were The One, not a bird.

What if it was the soul of some dead relative and it's keeping tabs on me for some reason. Like a guardian angel or something? I'm not sure how helpful a flying rat could be. And I sure hope that when I die I get reincarnated as something better than a dove.

Anyhow, as I stood there and my brain flashed through all these "meanings" for the dove's presence, the bird flew away. It fluttered over to the pine tree near my car. It's probably building a nest in there and was just waiting for me to get lost so I didn't see where it's nest is. Instincts, probably.

As I walked into the building I forgot about the bird and started thinking about how cool it would be if I was some kind of Chosen One and some little ninja monk guy came up to me one day and told me I had to come with him and save the world from evil aliens or something.

Little ninja monks are cool.

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