Is anybody out there? Hello? Oh, it's Labor Day Weekend. Everybody's at the beach or attending a barbecue someplace ...
Well, when and if you eventually get around to reading this, you'll find it's basically the part of the standard story formula after the "Boy Meets Girl" phase, namely the "Boy Gets Blue Balls" phase.
There's a remark between the characters here about happy endings in Chinese fairy tales. Those stories about dragons, judges, exorcists, demons, ghosts, and whatnot, are heavy influences on me if you couldn't tell. If you haven't read many, you should, but the endings never wrap up cleanly. When I was small, I hated them because of that. But later realized the "unhappy" ending always make you think about the story more. If only one of the earlier steps were different, it would have been better for everybody. They invite you to be a story-writer.
So, you are probably wondering whether this story will have a happy or an unhappy ending. We're many weeks away, but I will let drop here that there that I'm not sure myself, so there will be both an unhappy and a "happy" ending and I will give you both. But eventually I'll have to pick one. The happy ending is already written. The unhappy one is being worked out in my brain as a ride the train home from work every day. But hold on, we'll get there.
And so we continue. The story:
I declared the post-film discussion over coffee to be done and advised Feng that I would then take her home. Everybody piled back into the jeep and we returned to Feng and Wen’s cottage. It was silent as we made our way back over the bumpy dirt perimeter road, but it was a contented, restful, thoughtful silence. I parked and Feng waited for me to come around and offer my hand to assist her in alighting. We walked to her screened in porch and stood there to talk just a bit. I looked around. We were by ourselves.
“We seemed to have lost the class,” I said. “I know they got out of the back of the jeep. I heard them.”
“I am sure they are nearby,” said Feng. “I suspect the older ones have instructed the younger ones to stay back. I owe you an answer to any question that you want to ask, Dr. Wong. Now would be a good time.”
“I don’t need you to tell me anything you don’t want to offer.”
“That hardly seems fair. You’ve disclosed much more about yourself than I ever would have asked.”
“Would you agree that sometimes a story needs to come out of you? Whether you want it to or not?”
“There has never been anyone for me to tell that to. And telling something like that comes much more easily, when you know you’ll probably never see the listener again.”
“So you think you will never see me again?”
“After I leave, no. You have your life here. I’ll probably never be approved for another visit. I seem to be nothing but trouble here.”
“You ARE making the case for denial quite easy.” She paused. “Wen’s sire is the scion of an old Dog Island family who once had the responsibility for maintaining our rice terraces before the Great Earthquake and Surge put them under the sea. We were never married. He is in fact lawfully married to a wife with whom he has three grown children at this time. They all live in Protectorate territory.”
“Wow,” was the only thing that could come out of my mouth. “Feng, you don’t …”
“Do you think poorly of me now?”
“Are you still in contact?”
“Not since Wen was conceived.”
“He knows she exists?”
“He has offered no support.”
“I have forbidden it as a member of the Royal Family. As you might imagine, this situation is … awkward.”
“Do you want to be with him? If he had no wife, I mean.”
“Wen knows who he is?”
“Does it matter what I think? About you?”
“I would like to hear it.”
“What I think … is that I had a lot of fun with you tonight. If we were in Los Angeles, I’d ask you out for real.”
“And I think I would probably say yes.”
“You need to work on your opening.”
“Oh and now you’re an expert?”
“I learn fast. Thank you, Clete.”
“We are both people with a history. It’s embarrassing not to have a history when you get to our age though. It means you haven’t lived.”
“Indeed. Thank you for telling me your story. It was sad though.”
“What are you talking about? It had the typical happy ending for a Chinese fairy tale.”
“The demon girl goes away and the son becomes a scholar! Turn in your Chinese ID Card right now. I’m confiscating it.”
We both had a good laugh at that.
“There’s something I’ve wanted to do all night,” I said.
I reached up to her hair ornament.
“I get the feeling if I simply pull out this rod, something interesting will happen.”
“No, don’t …”
The great knot that held all of her hair on top of her head, fell down about her like a great waterfall of hair. It was a marvel. I expected her hair to hold a wave, but no, the weight of all of it pulled it long and straight.
“Wow,” I said.
“Your second use of that word tonight. You need to expand your vocabulary Dr. Wong.”
“It shines in the waning moonlight. I’m impressed.”
“So glad you approve. I suppose it had to come down at some point tonight. That is a certain weave and braid we have developed here which is all held by one pin. ” She threw her head back to get strands out of her eyes. “Are we done then?” she asked.
“There is a finishing move. And the man makes it at a certain peril.”
I took her hands into mine.
“It’s just like the first approach and gambit. He has to read the woman correctly to see if it will be well received.”
“I see. And what is the peril?”
“If he does it wrong, she won’t want to see him again.”
“Well, seeing as how we will be together here on this Island for another several … mmmmph …”
Taking her hands was purposeful. She could not raise them to slap me as I put my mouth to hers. I could swear I heard some squealing in the vicinity—probably the Seconds. I had moved in easy and gently. The taste of her lips brought back a replay of everything we had consumed together that evening. Tea. Coffee. Sugar. Salt. Tomato and basil. And definitely the taste of Feng. She did not pull away. I let her hands go so that the slap could come. Thankfully, it did not.
“So that’s what it’s like to kiss a princess,” I said.
“Is it disappointing?”
“I’m just glad I didn’t turn into a frog. On the contrary, it’s VERY nice. For someone who spent nearly two decades in a colony of women and girls, you’re a natural at this.”
“I think I need to study this sensation a bit more. . . for education sake? Do you mind?”
“To higher ed and social science.” I needed no additional prompting, but I thought we needed some privacy for further exploration. “Let’s move to the back of the cottage where it’s a little darker and away from prying eyes.”
I led her by the hand around to the rear. It had been years since I held someone like this. It’s surprising what the arms and hands remember how to do. We leaned in close to each other. I put my arms about her and kept my hands on shoulders and back. Natural instinct was kicking in on her too. Our kissing became deeper and intense. I pulled away for a moment.
“Clete. That is so . . .”
“It’s strange. Suddenly you smell, . . . wonderfully tasty.” She pulled me back into her for another round. After a bit, she broke off and pushed me off a bit.
“Oh God, Clete! What’s happening to me? I feel, I feel . . .”
“Maybe we ought to … to step back into the light?”
“Oh GOD, no. This was a bad idea. A REALLY bad idea! Wen? WEN! Get over here.” She put her hand to her chest.
“Something wrong?” I asked.
“Mother? Is something the matter?” It was Wen who was by us almost immediately. She must’ve been close by.
“You need to take me in the house. Now. Good night Clete. It was wonderful, really, but I have to go. I cannot be in your presence for another moment. No, dear, not inside. Take me to water. I need to cool down. I am so hot! To the bathhouse.”
As Wen guided her mother away she made a gesture to the other girls who were still out of sight. I’m not sure what it was but it had the nature of a fist pump. It had indeed been a pleasant evening. Topped off as it were with at least the motions of physical pleasure. But I stood there feeling somewhat empty and hungry. This, I now remembered, is what I hated about dates. It just filled you with a sense of unfulfilled longing and physical frustration. A voice of disapproval sounded off behind me and brought me back into the moment.
“What did you do to her?” It was Lee.
“I just kissed her goodnight.”
“You KISSED her?”
“It’s customary to end a date on a kiss. For educational purpose, I assure you.”
“What is the meaning of all this anyway? What possessed you to run this … what’s the word in English? Charade?”
“You want to know what started all of this? You. She originally came to me with a question about you.”
“And Feng learned that you are trouble.”
“I didn’t intend for it to turn out that way.”
“This is not your hometown. Nobody knows how to react to you. You need to take others into account.”
“Sorry. I’ll try to do better next time.”
“So. You enjoy kissing her?”
“A gentleman does not talk about his female companions, especially regarding such things.”
“I am glad to hear that you have some restraints. You said she originally came to you asking a question about me. What did she ask?”
“She asked me what my intentions are with you.”
“She was concerned that I seem to spend a lot of time with you.”
“Why would that concern her? She’s one of the ones who assigned me to monitor you! I am supposed to spend a lot of time with you! To make sure you stay out of trouble.”
“I told her that exactly.”
“What an IDIOT! And tonight I leave you alone, at her asking, and look what happens to her. She gets all emotionally overworked and over-stimulated. Ha! She is like a civet in heat now. It is her own fault. I do not feel sorry for her.”
“I think . . .” I added a high note of conjecture into my tone, “that she feared that I might be manipulating your emotions and setting you up for a heartbreak.” Lee’s mouth opened so wide that I thought everything around us would fall in.
“THAT GIRL! She think she so smart! Smartest one of all of us. She fall into her own insecurity!”
“Lee, you’re getting excited. Your verb forms are going plural. . .”
She decided to curse me in Cantonese. I’m sure she selected it because that’s what my people speak. God I love the sound of southern Chinese dialects in heightened emotion. It’s like the climax of the “Hallelujah Chorus.” I think I got called a “rotten turtle egg” somewhere in there. The insult is not so much the content as the delivery. She eventually finished.
“Lee, what are you doing here anyway? How did you get down her so fast from your place?”
“I was in the back of the jeep with all the girls. Such a bad driver. You weren’t even paying attention to your passengers. I needed to see if you can drive my jeep in the dark.”
“Did I pass the driving test?”
“NO! I am driving back. You almost rolled us. You come along while I shut down the generator.”
“Why do you need my help? You’ve been doing that for decades.”
“I do NOT need your help. What I need to make sure of is that you do not go anywhere near Feng. You are to be watched tonight. You will help clean up the porch and cooking area too. I will not be getting any sleep tonight it appears. Get moving.”
“Actually I think Wen was taking her to the bathhouse or the lake. You’re treating me like a child boy.”
“Act like one, get treated like one.” Lee gathered Ling into the jeep and we started toward the utility station. “What did you tell her your intentions were with me?”
“I see my main job here is to make you happy.”
“HAH! Congratulations, you have made me laugh—for once.”
“Ah, you’re getting used to me. See, I figure that if I continue to conduct myself as I have, on the day after I leave, you will feel like you have died and gone to the Pure Land.”
“And may that day come sooner than later! What kind of drinks were you concocting at my house tonight?”
“Instant coffee. If you’re going to stand guard duty over me all night, I’ll make you some.”
© Copyright 2012 by Vincent Way, all rights reserved.