Four Men


Four men, four countries.

We agree on English, so that we will all know a few words, how to apologize. We speak slowly, pause often, move our hands, look at each other, smile.

Danish gurgles a little laugh at our efforts. It sounds as though his real name is devoid of vowels, and none of us were able to pronounce it to his satisfaction, so we simply call him Danish. His eyes are half closed, and he has lit a stick of incense, as though anyone in this sleepy hostel would care about the smell of what we are smoking.

Rinaldo is doing all the talking. His English has improved with each circuit of the thick joint, and sometimes he speaks too quickly for Yurichiro, the compact Japanese with a walkman on a chain. “Too small. Not in US. Stolen this.” After some debate, we determine that he’s worried of having it stolen, and he bought it legitimately in Hong Kong.

“If you go down, very down in you,” Rinaldo says, pushing his palm from his throat down towards his stomach as he lies stretched out on the floor, “man wants woman for sex, and children, and house, only.”

Danish nods. Yurichiro is concentrating intently on Rinaldo’s words. Every person is a new English teacher. He has never tried marijuana before.

“And if a woman looks also down deep, but no listen to… lesbos?” they look to me: Rinaldo for confirmation, the rest for translation.

“Lesbians,” I say, nodding at Rinaldo. I will not try to stop his argument. I am an impartial messenger for the language, and will debate the idea separately. “A woman who likes women,” I explain to the other two. Danish says, “Ah,” and Yurichiro stares at me blankly.

Rinaldo makes a peace sign with the fingers of his right hand and looks at Yurichiro. “Woman,” he says, and Yurichiro nods, “who do like this,” and he slaps his tongue into the crotch of his fingers, and slops it all over the sides of the V. Danish howls and slaps Yurichiro on the knee, knocking himself backwards in the process. The Japanese blushes, “Hai,” he says with a smile.

“So,” Rinaldo continues, “if woman no listen to LEZ-BEE-INS,” he sing-songs at me, “she know she wants man to have her and to protect her. She wants to protect children also. So, man and woman have separate jobs,” Rinaldo finishes.

The other two nod. Yurichiro doesn’t seem to understand why this is an interesting subject.

“What about if a man wants to take care of the children instead?” I ask.

Rinaldo pauses. “I think,” he begins, “I respect his… decision?” he looks at me and I nod. “To become a woman,” he concludes.

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