7h05. John was standing in the back of a tram. He liked to be shaken by the old Bratislava trams. The jerky movements of the tram threw him against the steel railings in the back. He got bruises from his daily commute, but the physical pain distracted him from his emotional pain.

He was contemplating the similarities between O and Sabine, his first girlfriend. Both had black hair, both were dominant, both were smashing dressers, both were self-confident and rather rational. Both had been extraordinarily sexually attractive. They had breathed sex with every movement.

Sabine had shown much more initiative of course. She had wanted him, O didn’t seem to give a fuck about him.

She had also had naturally black hair and blue eyes. O had brown eyes and dyed her hair black. Z claimed she was gradually burning her hair that way. John hadn’t even noticed she was dyeing it. He was just blown away by her and didn’t give a shit if she was dyeing it or not. She could lose all of her hair tomorrow and he’d still want to be with her of course.

An other difference was that Sabine had made jokes. O was serious. O didn’t joke as much. Perhaps she was different with her students. Based on what his students told him she seemed to make a lot of jokes with a sexual subtext.

He’d shown pictures of O to his therapist. In several of them she was standing around with half naked students.

The therapist had been clear: ‘This is crossing borders. This is not ok. How do you feel when I tell you this is going too far?’

‘I feel loyalty towards her’, he had said, frowning.

‘I can see that.’

‘If she crosses borders then I also cross border. I discus drugs with my students for example.’

‘Yes, but you’re not sexually arousing them, are you? And there are many ways to talk about drugs. I suppose you didn’t tell them to go and try all the drugs they can find?’

‘No.’

‘What she does, goes too far.’

‘It’s not her fault that teenage boys are horny’

The comments of the therapist had lingered in his head. O didn’t sleep around with students, he was sure of that. He also didn’t think she was teasing and provoking them on purpose. And what should she do? Throw a burka over her head instead of a dress?

There was one female colleague who kept repeating that what O did with her students was going too far, but John knew this colleague was probably just jealous, because she wanted to be the most popular teacher in school, and O beat her to that title all too easily.

People are very quick to judge, but we rarely take the time to ask them about their motivations.

John watched sullen looking people get in and off the tram and thought about those first conversations with O, when the tone hadn’t been serious. They had bantered. He’d told her to come over to his place dressed in nothing but a table cloth and they’d had fun. There had been a cheerful aliveness to their conversations.

Why couldn’t they just continue on that line?

It was so obvious to him they could have this galvanizing man-woman dynamic together.

She didn’t see it that way of course.

And she had told him she still wasn’t over her last boyfriend.

That ex-boyfriend had told her he’d had nothing to offer her.

John was curious to meet that guy. Who in the hell walks out on O?

He was also very curious to know more about O’s longest and -from what he gathered- most important relationship. An English guy named Paul.

Pragmatic little O had told John she didn’t believe in ifs.

But John was convinced of one if.

If he’d been single when the two of them had met, they’d be discussing what to call the baby by now.

He switched from tram 9 to tram 5 in Karolova Ves and whipped out the papers he had to copy for his students.

He hoped they wouldn’t notice he was bleeding inside and got himself into a Robin Williams ‘Dead Poets Society’ or ‘Good morning Vietnam’ kind of state.

He heard one of his students say to an other boy in the tram: ‘That guy in the back is the coolest guy in school.’

‘After you’, John told the boy. ‘After you’.

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