The next Friday night, Garrison met with Jan for another date. She was surprised, however, to see that, instead of smiling his usual goofy grins, Garrison was frowning.
"Hi Garrison," she said. "Is everything OK? What's wrong?"
"I lost two classes this week," he said.
"But you work in a school, don't you?" she said.
"Yeah," he said, briefly looking away. "But these classes were private tutoring classes of mine, which I taught after the school closes at night." He looked back at her, and now he saw a blonde European instead of a Chinese girl. He twitched slightly at the change.
"But if you teach in school, you make enough money. No?"
"Yeah, I make enough, but losing classes hurts my self-confidence. I have too little of that as it is." He choked in his throat, as if he were about to cry.
"Oh, don't worry, Garrison. You good teacher. I know. You help me with my English all the time."
"But I see things...that aren't really there. I see people differently from how I should see them. I hear their voices differently, too, sometimes. It scares me." He looked down at his feet.
"I know," she said. "You a little crazy. But still nice. I still like you." Looking back at her, he saw that she'd changed back to her Chinese look.
"I like you, too," he said, smiling in relief at what he now saw. "You're my hope for a normal life."
"Huh?" she said, not understanding his meaning.
"Never mind. Let's go see that movie." They started walking, arm in arm, to a movie theatre.
"Yeah. And don't worry. You will find new students. They replace the old ones."
After the movie, which was The Dark Knight, Garrison took her home, then met with Lee, McLean, myself, and the others for another party, this time at Steven's apartment.
Beer cans were drunk from, joints were passed around and puffed on, and everyone was completely stoned within a half hour. The others debated how much government is too much, and how much isn't enough. Garrison, sometimes listening to them, sometimes not, began his mumbling to me.
"Keep government to a minimum," Corin said. "I'll believe that till I die."
"Same here," Gérard said. "I hate taxes."
"Taxes may be unpleasant," McLean said. "But they're a necessary evil. We need funding for healthcare and education."
"And to share the wealth," Lee added, "so the rich can't step on the poor."
"But high taxes are how the government steps on everybody," Corin said.
"Introduce a little anarchy," Garrison suddenly interjected into the conversation. "Upset the established order."
"Anarchism?" Steven blurted out just as suddenly. "You can't have that. What kind of utopian nonsense is that?"
"Yeah. Come on, Garrison," Corin said. "Even by your standards, that's nutty."
"Whether you like it or not, there will always be people who scramble for power," McLean said. "If it isn't government, then warlords will take over. Much worse than Big Brother."
Remembering his own big brothers, Garrison said, "Nothing's worse...than Big Brother, believe me. Oh, and you know the thing...about anarchy? It's fair."
"We all want what's fair, each according to our own individual definitions of the word," Lee said. "But it's got to be within reason."
"And people can't be left without leaders," Gérard said. "That's the proper job of church and government. As long as their interference in our lives is minimal." Corin nodded in agreement.
"Right," Steven said, sneering at Gérard. "So churchgoers can be free to commit adultery..."
"I think I've had about enough of you," Gérard spat back, getting up from his chair angrily.
"And I've had enough of you," Steven countered, even more angrily. "You and your religious hypocrisy, as well as your gossiping behind my back. Yeah, through the grapevine I learned about some bizarre stories that that girl Michelle, from the pubNepal, had heard from you about me. You lying, rumour-spreading fucker!"
"I don't know what you're talking about," Gérard said, with a look of astonishment at the accusation, a look that was surprisingly genuine.
"Don't you play dumb with me!" Steven shouted.
"You're paranoid, Steven," Gérard said.
"Guys, guys," McLean said. "Let's take it easy, OK?"
"Yeah," Lee said. "Let's just enjoy getting high."
"The door's over there," Steven said, his eyes locked on Gérard, who immediately got up and left. Corin followed, hoping to calm him down. The other three resumed their political discussion.
"I told you...that would happen," Garrison mumbled to me. "Their fighting was...just like how...Reynold and Julia...used to go at it."
"Got any more to tell me about your family?" I asked.
"Not really," Garrison said. "Right now, I'm too worried...about losing work."
"It'll all get better soon," I reassured him. "Try not to worry. It's just a temporary problem."
"Yeah, I guess. The night is...darkest just...before the dawn."
"You sure enjoyed the Batman movie, didn't you?"
"Yeah, it was great. It was all...about lawlessness, and chaos. A world without rules."
"Like you wish you had," I said. "No family rules, no religious rules, no government rules."
"Yeah, but we need...God's laws," he said.
"Not if there is no God."
"But there is. There must be."
"How do you know?"
"Look at...the design...of the world. Someone, or something...must have made it."
"Then the designer must be even more ingeniously designed; and who made Him?"
"He's always existed; He was never created."
"Oh, that's a convenient evasion for the theist," I said.
Now Garrison was silent. A few hours later, I took him home. On his chest on his bed, and in his clothes, he quickly fell asleep, and began to dream.
This is what came next, as he'd explain it to me the following day.
I, Garrison, am in a room, sitting at a table with several other men, all of whom look like mafia types, judging by their good-looking suits. A Chinese man on a TV is talking with us.
"Rest assured, your money is safe," he says.
A man looking like Heath Ledger's Joker enters the room, laughing fake laughter in a deadpan voice. Then he says, "And I thought my jokes were bad." Though his face is painted up like the Joker, I instinctively know him to be someone else.
"Azazel," I say.
"I know why you're afraid to go out at night and do private tutoring," Azazel says. "Fear of being fired again. Did your balls drop off? You see, your losing those two classes has shown us your true colours, unfortunately. This dent in your work? It's just the beginning."
"You're crazy," I say.
"No, I'm not," he says. "Look, if we don't deal with this now, pretty soon little, uh, Garrison here won't be able to get a nickel for his girlfriend."
"I've had just about enough from the clown!" I shout in a rage, then get up from my chair as Gérard had at the party. I start walking over to Azazel, wanting to kill him.
"How about a magic trick?" he says as I approach him with clenched fists. "I'm gonna make this pencil disappear." He grabs my head and slams it onto the pencil. "TA-DA!!"
I wake up in shock, then get out of bed. It's about noon, and I have to hurry over to the English school to teach an afternoon class. I shower and put on some clean clothes, then I rush nervously out of my apartment to get to the school on time.
When I get into my classroom to teach, the room's interior looks like that of my dream, like the scene in The Dark Knight. Instead of seeing Chinese kids sitting at the desks, I see mafia men in suits.
I look closer at their faces, and instead of seeing the men from the movie, I see my mother and father, Reynold, Fred, and Julia.
'Mother' says, "I knew your teaching career wouldn't last. Azazel keeps playing tricks on your sensory perceptions. You can't fake being normal, Garrison."
"Why don't you just come home?" asks 'Dad'.
"We miss you, Garrison," says 'Julia' in an almost threatening voice.
I rub my eyes, then look at everyone again. Now I see mostly Asian kids in suits; the remaining five whites are now Lee, McLean, Steven, Corin, and Gérard, all dressed like mafia men.
"Only a nut like you would advocate anarchism," says 'Corin'.
'Lee' says, "Freak," with the accent of the Chechin mafia man inThe Dark Knight.
"Freak?" I say, imitating his accent as the Joker did; then I look at myself in a mirror to my right. I'm dressed like the Joker!
"Azazel!" my students shout at me. "Devil!"
I look back at them, now seeing all Chinese kids in suits.
I look at myself in the mirror again: I look as I had when I left my apartment.
I look at my students again, and they are now dressed as they would every Saturday afternoon, in T-shirts and shorts.
"Garrison?" asked his Chinese teaching assistant. "You OK?"
"Yeah," he said, visibly shaken. "Now I am...I think."