I met her in a bar in the Tenderloin. No, come to think of it -- it's important to be accurate about these things -- it was in Jack's Precinct, on Sutter Street, near Polk. In San Francisco, obviously. (In California, not some South American San Francisco.)
She was very drunk and she wanted me to teach her algebra.
We talked about a lot of things before we got to that topic. Which was good, because at least we got to know each other a little first before she started crying and calling me names.
"I could certainly find you a girl friend," she said. "I can think of at least three good prospects. No four. Well, then there's another, but you ought to have somebody who's good in bed. And then there's me."
I bought her another shot of tequila and asked what had happened to her little finger, which stuck out from her right hand at a strange angle.
"Oh, I broke that in a fight," she said with a shrug.
The jokebox was playing something by Guns 'N Roses. As usual in bars, I had to strain to catch her words.
I was drinking a Devil Mountain beer. Jack's is known for having an enormous selection of draft beers. Devil Mountain was what I usually drank there.
Eventually Jasmine got around to telling me about the course she was taking to be an electronics technician. And I told her about being a professor of mathematics.
So she asked me to teach her algebra. "I need to pass an algebra test to get into the next electronics course."
I certainly didn't want to teach her algebra. It's bad enough doing that when I get paid for it. "How much algebra do you know?"
"None. Zilch. I never studied any of that shit in school. I was just waiting till I was eighteen. And I didn't even wait that long."
"I can't do it."
"Sure you can. It would be easy for you, it's your job."
"How long do you have?"
"The exam is in two weeks."
That made it simple. For her to learn algebra from scratch in two weeks was out of the question.
Then she started crying. "You think I'm stupid. You're just like everybody else. I can do it, you just won't give me a chance."
I remember that at that moment I looked around the whole bar. Hoping that somebody would come to my assistance, I guess. For some reason, the image is frozen so vividly in my mind that I can almost count the customers now. Eight, I think, although I might be missing one down at the end.
"You're a fucking asshole, you know that? All you care about is yourself, asshole. You're a teacher, why won't you teach?"
The jukebox was now playing "Mama He's Crazy," by the Judds. Judith the bartender (a young Irish lass with a charming accent) was giving me a dirty look, but I couldn't tell whether it was because of Jasmine or because she knew that I'd been the one who made the jukebox selection. (I knew she hated the Judds.)
"At least you could buy me another tequila."
"I think you've had enough to drink right now."
"Oh, so you're not only an asshole but you're cheap too. People in this city are sleeping in alleys with their kids and even their cats because there's no place to live, and you're in here drinking beer. And then you start giving me this big lecture, when all I want is a chance to learn something that will help me have a decent life.
"And I'll tell you something else, shithead. You think you're smart, but you're just too dumb to know how dumb you are. You don't know nothing and the biggest thing you don't know is how much you could learn from me. But you're so busy being Mr. Shit-Head Professor and thinking everybody else is stupid that you don't even see everything you're so stupid about.
"And I'll tell you about another thing. You're never going to get laid because women don't like men who are cheap and they don't like men who spit on them and they don't like men who are too fucking selfish to even do their job and teach me algebra!"