Well here we are continuing from last week. Clete has finally gotten around to wanting to clean up two artifacts he has picked up during his travels about the Island. He brought them to the metal shop and hired Ba (or Eight) to clean them up for him, but the conversation caught Eight's mother's attention, Da Mei's, and she has brought herself right into the conversation.
Clete is laboring under the misapprehension that all of his relationships with these girls' mothers are all strictly platonic. He's kidding himself because he is in deep denial. He really, REALLY feels that he owes a debt of loyalty to the girl who walked out on him 30 years ago.
But as smart as he is, he is slow on the uptake about such things. To him, Mei is the most platonic of all nine. They like to interact as buddies and pals. That is, until Mei doesn't want to anymore. Ba thinks the whole dance between him is silly. She thinks it would kind of nice if her mom had a boyfriend, and why not Dr. Wong? It would certainly raise her prestige among her peers if that were the case.
So I guess today's question is: Can you really be 'just friends' if sometime in the past (including past lives or hyperspace dimensions) you might have been soulmates? And how awkward is it getting to know each other again? (I think "very.")
But as we come back in, Clete and Eight are talking while her mother Mei has stepped away for a minute. It's the love advice given by a 17-year-old girl to a confirmed bachelor in his 50s in the wooing of her mother that you will hear
... as the story continues ...
I figure you must like her and you’re probably thinking about it
tis not only , but I want you to do it
“BA!” yelled Mei. “HOW RUDE!” and we had not noticed!”
“Well he is! Looking at you hard. And you opened up your shirt more than usual before you walked over here to us earlier, so it worked.”
“Well, Eight …” I said, “… as your science teacher, I suppose I should be gratified that you’ve been honing your powers of observation.”
“And Ma, you may as well just take off your shirt completely. He’s seen everything the Third Branch aunties have to offer. You look at LOT better than on top than Lum or Ting Ting. Auntie Qi though, has the most perfectly shaped nipp…”
“That’s quite enough!” said Mei picking up the two items I had brought and putting them in Eight’s hands.You get right to work Young Lady. Now.” Mei grabbed my elbow and started to escort me away from the work area. “I have pipe work to do. And I need to test the flood pumps. We’re in for some rain. I can feel it. Therefore, YOU will need to get in as much field work as possible since you’re probably going to be down at least a day, Professor—and not waste your precious time talking about acid production with silly, little old me. When the rain and halts your work and , come and if you really want to be with me.”
She put her hand under my chin and pushed it up so that my eyes were looking straight into hers. I guess they HAD wandered down into her unbuttoned shirt, again.
“I guess she was right. I like the do like aesthetic play of light in there. When guys work out, we like to say things like ‘you’re starting to get good definition.’”
“So have I got good definition then?”
“You’re like a goddamned, fuckin’ Random House Unabridged.”
“I guess that’s a compliment. It’s good to know that you can be male now and then. Some of us were wondering.”
“ daughter sure says what’s on her mind doesn’t she?”
“YOUR student is highly unfiltered. Just like you. She wasn’t like this before she started going to your classes. a very bad influence. Even so. Sigh! By the way, thank you.”
“For bringing back Nu. We were all worried about her. Mu was beside herself.”
“She seemed quite calm to me when she hired me.”
“She’s never been that distraught in my life! She held it together for you.”
“I hear that Mu was going to tell you all about us.”
“Yeah. She did. Just a few hours ago.”
“So you know everything now?”
“Not everything. But enough I guess.”
You probably think we’re terribly backward and superstitious Don’t you?”
“I visit a lot of different countries. Everybody’s got different ways of living. I’m not entitled to tell you how to live your lives. Given your objectives, what happened makes sense.”
“Does it? Some days I wake up and think about how we live. There can’t be anyone else like us. We must be odd.”
“You guys? Nah. You should hang out with the Trobriand Islanders. Now THEY’RE weird.”
“Trobriand? Why were you there?”
“Some idiot thinking they have offshore mineral deposits off one of the smaller ones. Thought it was worth developing and convinced me to go check it out.”
“Not really. Spent a week hunting. Found some tin. That was a surprise. But it was on their best residential land and to get it out would really uglify their living space.”
“Did you tell your business partner?”
“Nope. I was hired to advise only about offshore. But I did tell the Mothers’ Council there about it. In case they ever want to buy themselves a power plant. They’re like you guys. You’d like them. All the moms are in charge. NO male egos ruining things.”
“Think they’ll ever mine their island?”
“Nah. They don’t need to. They’re all about just getting by. They got all the fish and yams they need. Leaves are money to them, so everybody’s rich. What a country! They’d make lousy Americans. And nobody has a problem getting laid. Don’t know why it’s so unique. Get into the right social circles in L.A. and it’s pretty much the same. Since we’re on that topic, there’s no question that you guys’s certified organic, all-natural insemination technique not only got the job done, but according to Mu, was not disruptive to the donors’ families at all. Seems pretty tidy and ethical to me.”
“It’s reassuring to hear you say that.”
“… uh course! Mu told me that the procedure didn’t quite work in your case right off the bat. That you had to go through about guys before something took.”
“On the other hand, she you found the process quite enjoyable—that you even worked out a ranking system with all the guys who got friendly with your thighs. She’s said it turned out you’re a pretty randy bitch. All respectfully of course.”
“I AM NOT! That is a lie! I am as virtuous and loyal as any of my cousins! AND I did nothing of the kind! Why would she say something like that! Excuse me, I’m going to go give her a little hell … I will not be dishonored …”
“Hold on there sister,” I said restraining her as she was about to run off and clobber Mu, “I’m just messing with you.”
“Messing with me?”
“Pulling you leg, joking with you.”
“Joking? Where is a stick? I’m going to teach you not to mess with me about such things. We do NOT joke about fidelity here! Stick nothing. I’m going for a wrench …”
It was all I could to hold her wrists and steady since she was so much stronger than me.
“Let go of me! I don’t like you anymore.”
So I let go. “You asked what I think? You know. I think I’m pretty lucky.”
“The man you selected to give you that little girl over there? He may have won the DNA war, but I actually get to have a face-to-face relationship with her. And with you. So he’s a sap, and I win overall.”
“Don’t say things you don’t mean. This is another joke right?”
“Mei. Is something wrong?” She was not throwing me her usual pushback.
“How do I know if you’re being nice or sarcastic or mean?”
“Beats me. I don’t even know sometimes. It’s why I don’t have any friends.”
“I’m not your friend?”
“The way you figure me out is you have to spend time with me I suppose.”
“When do you have time? Am I supposed to come over and knock on your door every day and ask if you want to come out and play with me?”
“I’ll be goddamned if that’s not what everybody’s been doing since I got here! Mei. I like you a lot. I think it’s because of everybody, you take me the least seriously. We CAN joke. Are you my friend? Yes! I think we’re pretty good buddies. You look deflated.”
“It’s because I didn’t learn to play a musical instrument. Isn’t it? I think that’s it. All I know how to do in my spare time is watch old videotapes of foreign movies. I’m the Metal Princess, but I’m not really that good with it. Lee has to help me more than half the time.”
“Have you always been this insecure?”
“No. But it’s gotten worse.”
“Since you showed up.”
“What have I got to do with any of this?”
“Is Ba right? Do you want to kiss me? Or not?”
“Hunh? It’s not like I want to NOT kiss you.”
“‘Hunh?’ to quote someone. I don’t even know what you just said. What kind of fookin’, half-assed answer is that to give a girl?”
“You are not a some silly schoolgirl! What’s gotten into you?”
“Oh, I forgot. I’m your ‘buddy’ that you make fun of, the ‘friend’ who you don’t spend any time with, and who’s only good for a laugh over shop talk. I got pipes to fix. Crummily too, you might add.”
“I don’t think ‘crummy’ has an adverb form. Mei. Don’t be like that.”
“I can’t help it! This is how I am! I’m the Metal Princess! But I’m normal! I am so exceptionally normal!”
“I think you mean ‘unexceptionally’ normal.”
“SHUT UP! Do I go around correcting your English?”
“No, but you should correct my Mandarin and Japanese. As an educator, I’d appreciate the help.”
“Unnngh! Sometimes I just want the same thing every other mother around here seems to have. Why does Feng get to play music with you all the time? Why does Lee get to have breakfast with you every day? Why does Na get your help in gutting dead walruses and turning manure piles? Why does Qi get to have you give her a bath at night?”
“Well, Qi kind of stinks if I don’t …”
“And what business is it of yours if she does? Just AVOID her. Until she put you under house arrest, you never had anything to do with her. She ALWAYS stunk before you came. She’s always been a filthy, overly-pious, lousy mess. I see you opening your mouth to explain. Don’t! I don’t want your explanations.”
It’s true. I had my mouth open ready to explain why I hung out with Feng and Lee and Qi, and even Na. Not all of it was voluntary. In fact, it was all pretty logical. But I knew that was not she wanted to hear. Hell! I didn’t know what she wanted to hear. But this happened to me once before. There was a woman engineer, Lorena, on one of my projects a long time ago with whom I likewise got to be “buddies.” And it was fine until she didn’t want to be buddies anymore. She turned into a “girl,” but she never bothered to tell me about it. I really, REALLY hate when that happens. Why is it that even the most platonic of female, platonic friends want to take a stab at being “Barbie” at least once? It’s goddamned disconcerting. I didn’t like disappointing Lorena, and I hated the situation because I was married. But she didn’t know I was married because I didn’t seem to have a wife. And I never explained why I didn’t have a wife, because it was too complicated. It’s never a pleasant situation.
But at that moment, I needed to figure out what was really on Mei’s mind. She was obviously fixating on her daughter’s comments encouraging me to kiss her mother. So, it was again time to activate my little-used, internal heterosexual male software operating system that personal history had shown I was incompetent at deploying in times past.
“Why don’t I come along and help you with your piping and pump jobs, and if there’s time left over, you can assist me with my survey? We can be each other’s assistants today.”
“Lee will have my head if she finds out I took you off your contract work. She’s very protective of you and your time. You probably don’t know that. You’re very sweet that way though.”
Mei stepped very close to me. She is the tallest of the Cousins, but even so, she is still very petite by American standards and as we were standing there, face-to-face, her eyes were at about my mouth level. I could feel her breath on the bare chest skin, exposed by my open shirt.
“May I ask a personal question?”
“When your, uh, sperm donor gave you Ba, did he … kiss you?”
“OH, heavens no! That would have been totally unacceptable. He didn’t even see my face that day. Mu didn’t explain any of that this morning?”
“Not the mechanics of it, no. She just said it happened.”
“Lee was very ingenious. She built a chair that holds two women, quite comfortably I might add, where a man would stand very much like you are now in relation to me, embrace the woman in the upper position with his arms and mouth, but could service the woman in the lower position. We still have it around if you want to see it. We called ‘The Throne of the Ugly Queen’; it sounds pretty funny in Manchurian.”
“You know, I think it’s at the guest cottage in the room that I sleep in. I’ve been wondering what kind of furniture that was.”
“I’d kind of like to see it again. Can I drop by?”
“Mei! That’s just … fuckin’ … weird. That thing is gonna creep me out now. I’m going to be imagining each one of you in it. I hope you washed it between uses.”
“CLETE! YUCK! So are you saying you don’t want me coming around?”
“Lady, if you show up, I’ll put you in the top seat.”
“Wait, what is that supposed to mean?”
I’d never be given just the right lead-in comment ever again, so I just took her wrists into my hands and held them firmly at her sides so that I would not get slapped as I moved my face in on hers.
“STOP!” she said as my lips were about to touch hers. So I stopped.
“As I recall, your daughter gave me full permission and told me ‘Go for it.’”
“This is a pity move, isn’t it? Because if it is, don’t do it. I don’t want a pity move.”
“Bu shih! NOT. OK?”
So I moved back in on her because it seemed the right thing to do.
“Just for me, I want you to pretend that you actually want to be doing this. That will make me feel a lot better about this.”
“I’m not going to pretend any such thing.”
“Then let go of me. I don’t want it. Not like that.”
“You’ve never been kissed by a man before, have you?”
“I’m over 50. I’ve had a child. But no. I’ve never been kissed. Pitiful isn’t it?”
“You’ve locked yourself into a virtual convent. It’s not unreasonable. Anyway, it’s not as life-changing or as mind-bending as everybody thinks. It’s only that way in comics and romance novels. In fact, if the other person has poor personal hygiene, it’s nauseating. Come on! Let’s just get it done so you can check it off your list and move on.”
“I want it to be at least as sincere as Feng’s was. I heard it was wonderful.”
“When I kissed Feng, it was staged and it was purely academic. And … the timing was right. Let’s just do it and then once done, we’ll discuss it.”
“Ok, ok, OK, I’m ready.”
So, I was hoping the third time would be the charm, and I made my approach again.
“Mei. Skip it. We both got things to do. I’m outta here.”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so so sorry. I just happen to like … honesty and sincerity. I want to be assured.”
“You are setting the bar way too high on this. It’s not like we’re buying a house and picking out color chips at the paint store together.”
“I only want to do it if you want to do it.”
“Did I ever say I didn’t want to?”
“You said you weren’t going to pretend.”
“That’s because I don’t have to pretend.”
“If it helps, except for Feng the other day, I haven’t kissed anyone in years so I’m out of practice. Lower your expecta …”
The fourth time she was ready. She pulled my face down onto hers. I need to also comment at this point Mei has a highly kissable face. Her lips are large and purple and look like they would taste sweet as berries if you connected your face to them. And if you believe that to be the case, the mind will follow through and deliver that message to your brain whether they’re objectively sweet or not.
I think I described her before, but consider the archetypal hula girl you find on a man’s aloha shirt—not a version of Betty Grable colored in with the burnt sienna Crayola with black hair, but the hula girl who actually looks somewhat Polynesian. She looks some years older than the girl on the shirt, but possessing all the girl power nonetheless. That would be Mei to me.
I need to also comment at this point Mei has a highly kissable face. Her lips are large and purple and look like they would taste sweet as berries if you connected your face to them. And if you believe that to be the case, the mind will follow through and deliver that message to your brain whether they’re objectively sweet or not.
“Less than you were expecting wasn’t it? But it all comes naturally.”
“It was fine. Your teeth are VERY clean, Professor. I’m impressed.”
“Well don’t kill yourself overdoing the compliments. However, I will say that since I switched to an electric brush, yeah it’s great. I highly recommend Sonic. And don’t underestimate the importance of regular checkups.”
“You were thinking of someone else though, don’t lie.”
“What makes you think so?”
“You were transmitting great sadness to me. Loneliness. I almost cried. I felt like you were kissing me … goodbye. Who were you thinking of?”
“I can’t imagine. I’ll have to think about it.”
“Maybe it’ll come back to you. More data Professor?”
© Copyright 2012 by Vincent Way, all rights reserved.