If memory serves, a famous Roman Emperor once said: “Nothing lasts, but shame, and its name is Mojito.” My memory has seen better days, in fact, much better nights. We had Mojitos. A lot of them. But the shame part, I don’t know about that. Sure, I am accustomed with Mornings of mourning in the sorrowful silence of former day liquor legacy. But in this particular case, I was only the Mojito-moulder, not moulded by it. My sister had invited some of our closest friends to a cabin in Denmark she had rented for two weeks. You know, like those school trips some of us still have fond memories of. Anyways, she had marketed it as this epic shindig with booze and board games and strict rules against any form of electronic equipment. No distractions, just us, good food, dunes, beach and barbeque. Essentially, just the essentials. Yet, Francis had managed to make my famous, albeit fabricated Roman Emperor very, very proud by getting completely and utterly smashed, raving, in mad Mojito Mania. I’ll leave out the details but at some point, he had started hitting on my sister, again. So, I had to send him home on an eight-hour trip with the late-night bus.
I know what you think, I may have overreacted. But there is an end to my patience…. after years of mischievous “how is your sister”-questions, big brother stops watching you and starts punching. So, to avoid hitting my friend in his delirious face, and still adhere to my duties as Big B, I had sent Francis home. The only catch: this morning I saw the blue light on the phone I secretly brought along to surf the web. Francis had called me multiple times during the night and had kindly left me forty minutes of voice messages. So, while the others were still asleep, I went outside, sat down on the porch and started listening. “Hey Sean, this is Francis…. Again. You don’t pick up your….well… I guess you know that already. This will have to do… so…. Here it comes….! I AM SORRY. Now, can we be friends again? Please?” I put the phone down for a moment. There is no way I am the bad guy here, right?
My thoughts drifted for a while, surrounded by overgrown dunes, the weeds and heath jittering in the wind. Our cabin was only a few minutes from the beach, so one could hear the ocean breath, smell the salty, rushing waves in the breeze. This was the Denmark I knew from my childhood. The minute I’d see the first Danish flag past the German border I’d shift gears. This was a calmer land. More in tune with nature or I tuned to it. Once, I calmed down a little, I started the second message. “PICK…. UP…. YOUR…. PHONE! Man, you can’t just act like this…this blonde wigged Muppet and treat me like a Mexican. NOT COOL DUDE. You know what… I take it back. I’m not SORRY. MY PEOPLE have rights too”, little disclaimer here, Francis was born into a rich white family in New Haven and his comparison an insult to Muppets of all colour, including purple.
Whenever he felt betrayed, Francis started to get… let’s say… “creative”. Sadly, the noise of the bus didn’t drown out his awful impersonation. “I have a dream, that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. “I don’t know why… but this felt…so… terribly….. wrong. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. Try to imagine yourself… in somebody elses shoes… see things from their point of view.” I knew why he ad lipped Atticus Finch because I sat next to Francis in the same freggin’ seminar on racism in popular media. For the briefest of moments, He managed to find his way back into the speech: “I have a dream that one day on the green hills of Denmark, the son of former slaves and the son of former slave owners will be able to sit down TOGETHA, at the table of brotherhood and have… too…. many…. Mojitos”. Suddenly I heard cheers in the background. Did he really just rally the passengers of the late-night bus for a revolution? “I have a dream that one day even the state of Manchester…” Nope, Mississippi. How do you even mix those…. “a STATE… SWELTERING with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression” I heard clapping and the occasional Hmmmm hmmmm… “will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children” Wow. Let’s take a moment to appreciate the Irony here. The guy who said and I quote:” Commitment is like a bad haircut, ugly, itchy and usually ends with someone picking up the blade” unquote, suddenly a father of four…. He continued… “will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. Every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; or gay, or whatever you feel like.” He was completely freestyling now. “But leave the animals out of it. The Anchovis and Orang- Utans… and Fruit Bats and Breakfast Cereals… ” Python too? I thought he hated them?
Then there was rumbling, followed by an ecstatic standing ovation. I think someone was crying,too . “Thank you, thank you…. I have to go back to my people. YO sir, sir! May you be so kind to enable my premature exodus from this fine vehicle here?” Did he just leave the bus? I started the next message right away. “SEANny boy, my little honey Boo boo child. I’m on my way back… met a bunch of your kind, Deutschland-Dudes on their way to some indoor beach party… I stole one of their water bottles. Don’t judge me, gotta stay hydrated…. you know…. Sun is already coming up again…. Gotta cross the anvil before the desert consumes me. Nothing is written!” Sometimes, I love this man.
In that moment I noticed my sister Ellie peeking through the kitchen window. ““Aha, got you! No phones! You know the rules! Are you talking to Francis? You can tell him to go Fennimore Cooper himself.” She only half meant it. But like me, my sister has always been a grumpy and frankly, pretty foul-mouthed creature in the mornings, so, in an ingenious moment of self-improvement, we decided to replace all curse words with authors. Not because we are prude or anything, its just more fun to call someone a huge Dickensian or compliment someone’s Lovecraft. I should be able to go through at least two more messages before she is ready to enter sunlight. “Tihihi Sean, I’m almost back and you know what, that bottle I stole… ITS NOT WATER. Hü hü hü. I started the next one in anticipation of more silliness. “The doors are locked. No windows open either and I’m standing in front of yours right now. I’m watching you sleep….hach….we are just like Edward and Bella.” I had the sudden urge to scan my room and body for traces of….entry….But away, dark thoughts, here comes my sister to bid me good morn. “So, how is he?”, “I think he’s back? Not quite sure, yet. I played Ellie the next message. “Ok, I’m done. IM DONE. I’ll just… lay down… in the car… and you can think about what you’ve done. What I’ve done. You can be a real Gaiman sometimes. No, not a Homophobe, I mean a real Neil Gaiman. Have you seen American Gods? It’s like talky, talky, talky, and suddenly without any warning, Violence and Blood and guts and again talky talky talky and BOOM, Blood and… Violence and..” Francis went on like that for another thirty minutes. You have to respect his commitment to deconstructing the media, The Gertrude Stein of screen rants.
My sister and I listened, laughed and cried laughing the entire way through. Once we finished the last message, she punched me in the side. “You are both idiots…. Besides, Francis and I made out on your last birthday, or was it new year’s? She jumped up, tried to avoid eye contact and started to sneak away to the front of cabin. “Oh you’ll have to be faster than that”, I ran after her. When I reached the cars, I saw Ellie, waking up Francis with an aimed slap in the face, nearly throwing him off the back of my pickup truck, where he had slept. “I forgive you, now, you two do the same. It’s almost one o’clock. And we need someone to fix breakfast…. mojitos.” Francis, flashing a red stamp of my sister’s hand on his right, looked at me with one closed eye. “Is there anyone left? Anyone, I didn’t offend last night?” I looked at him with a stern brow. “I heard that’s exactly how you get into politics. But before you run for office, you should get rid of this evidence.” I smiled, passed him my phone and headed back inside. He never ran for President. Luckily, he didn’t delete his messages, either. Though I’m not sure my parents felt the same way about it, when I played the entire forty-minute “audiobook” as a toast to Francis and Ellie a couple years later. As a famous Roman Emperor once said: “Nothing lasts, but shame, and its name is Mojito.”
Julian was listening to The xx – Reconsider (Jamie xx Remix), Tame Impala – The Less I Know The Better, and of course the August 28, 1963 speech of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., while writing this story.
PS: Apologies to Neil Gaiman, who isn’t really responsible for the series anyways…. I did it for the pun… love ya <3