Assumption Day – RJ Smith

Yesterday it happened again. I didn’t do anything bad this time. Nothing substantive, anyway. No calls for revolution or drinking on the job or sex with students. In France such practices land you promotions and book deals. It was because of my dossier. Wasn’t above board, they said. Some documents are forged they said. Something about my primary employer not existing as is required under French law. Dossier not kosher, Monsieur Smiss. Troubling irregularities. I didn’t contest the allegations.

So I woke up late. It’s a holiday anyway. Assumption Day to be precise. The day Mary ascended to heaven. Eternal virgin. Mother of God. A day to celebrate chastity and faith. That which is pure. That which is good. I’ve been thinking about God recently. Considering a re-conversion. That would piss off my wife. Maybe that’s why religion seems so appealing all of a sudden.

She’s staying at her sister’s. Things haven’t been rosy of late. We’re not seeing eye to eye. My news is unlikely to help. She always told me to get my documents together. Stop playing games with the administrators. You’ll get caught eventually. She was right of course, which makes the whole thing worse.

I’ve been playing online chess all day. Some 952 rated Indian forked my king and queen with his knight. I can see his avatar. A kid with one bar of internet. Sitting in a slum in Bombay laughing at me. I scream and swear and nearly throw my computer out the window and manage to get it together and tell myself how fucking stupid I’m being. Get it together, man. Get outside. Christ, take a look at you.

The weather is good for a change. After six months of cold it turns nice on the day of Our Lady, Mother of Christ. I put on my shoes and walk along the canal, passing skaters and lovers and friends. I am wearing black pants and a sweater. Warm means 65 degrees here. Where I’m from that’s cold no matter what time of year it is.

I reach the road that runs parallel to the river. There are crowds beneath me on the boardwalk but no one on the sidewalk. I can breathe easy here. Here I’m a ghost. Here I can stroll untroubled by the swirls of life I both need and am repelled by.

There’s a docked vessel ahead. A small army of men onboard. Some are wearing female clothes. Fluorescent wigs. High heels. What kind of crew is this? A flag flies at the stern. Must be the LGBTQI+ flag. I walk closer. There are stripes but they’re diagonal. There are colours but not of the rainbow. And there’s some kind of logo in the middle which looks like a paw print. Finally I can read a sign beside the boat. Les ours de Paris. The bears of Paris.

I lean on the barrier between the road and the boardwalk and watch the bears. It’s a world I do not know. Gay men are supposed to be feminine. But there is nothing feminine about bears. Even the transvestites are manlier than me. They are drinking beer and vodka. They have beards and muscles and tattoos. No women in sight. Sweating. Heaving. Grinding their teeth. Flamboyant pirate energy. Glitter cock platoon. These men are on a mission. Lord knows they’ll get the job done.

Maybe I’ll try out being gay when it’s over with Audrey. Put my cock in some hairy assholes. The idea makes me wince. I’ve never even fucked a woman in the ass. Maybe I’m the real fag. Monogamous me. Woman fucking me. Me who fucked my wife missionary from time to time. Now not at all. Me with the smooth face. The bears are realer men than I’ll ever be.

I watch them disembark. Greeks, nobles among us. Cruises by day. Beer and champagne. Hard drugs and rounds of wanton ass fucking by night. I better keep walking. One of them might see me looking. Think I’m curious and ask if I want to join the afterparty. I wonder what I’d say.

I walk away and reality invades my mind. Hi Richard, I just got a reply from the head of HR. Looks as though there’s no chance of the university renewing your contract in the future unfortunately. Sorry about that. Fired by text message. Harsh, but for the best. When I got fired from the bar I worked at when I was a student the manager invited me in just to tell me not to come back. That was uncalled for. That was humiliating. This way I’ll never have to see my former colleagues again.

The Notre Dame—Our Lady—comes into view. I remember the day it burned. Everyone was upset. A strange reaction for a country where crucifixes are banned in schools and bears rule the waves. These people believe things very strongly. Only they don’t know what they are or why.

The sun hovers high above the city. Days so long. Forever days. This day will never end. Bells pierce the air. Today is Assumption Day. The day a throng of angels carried Mary into the sky. I want to go there too. I want to go on a mission from hell to heaven like Dante. With Beatrice I could ascend through the nine orders of angels into heaven. Take flight above the city. Go to the highest place.

I stop at a supermarket on the way home. That was why I went out in the first place. A man needs a reason to do things else he’ll never leave the house. I take a frozen pizza. A meal fit for a king. My little feast of the assumption. Today is the day I might just go to heaven.