Monday, September 12, 2005

Behold!...A Lady

Wearing my brand new, government issued Great Wall Balls, I decided to go out on a limb Saturday evening and contact Jenny. New Communist Balls, when mixed with the consumption of ten or twelve beers will greatly increase confidence. Text messaging is a really good idea, you can ask questions without needing to face or talk to someone, plus, it’s difficult to assess how much the sender was drinking at the time. My first message was a ‘Thank You’ type of message, just to see if I even had the correct phone number and to see if I would get a reply at all. Low and behold, I got a stunning response, filled with exclamation points, happy faces and ‘thank you too’s’ so I was forced to continue the conversation, gradually leading up to me asking her if she’d like to do something on Sunday. She had the day free and said she’d love to have lunch, or something, I’m praying for the ‘or something’, the food here can have pretty bad effects on my afternoon booty.

Xinlei and I are leaving around 6:00 pm for Langfang, so I’ve got the whole day to kill. I called her up shortly after breakfast Sunday morning, she said she was shopping and would call me when she was finished, around 11:00-12:00. Of course, this sort of waiting game sends me into a nice pleasant Sunday morning nervous fit. It’s always like this and I don't know why. I’m really not a ‘ladies man’ and have had very few girlfriends or nookie-partners in my life, but the pursuit of women is always on my mind in some way. Not in the gotta-get-laid but in the why-do-the-girls-I-like-pay-me-no-attention way. It’s strange that the thing I desire so much is also the source of so much pain in my life. I really have no idea what to expect, and in reality, it’s probably just going to be a quick lunch where she’ll realize that what she thought was interesting charm yesterday is just plain annoying, at which point, she’ll excuse herself and disappear from my life, only to reappear periodically when we’ve got people in town to entertain, at which point, I’ll be too embarrassed to even make eye contact. It’s easy to see how someone from here would be curious of someone like me, with my overgrown body, overgrown personality and pseudo-self confidence. Combine these things together; you create quite an interesting beast. All three of those traits are largely absent from the vast population of this country. The curiosity usually wears off fairly quickly and it’s back to business as usual.

Of course, I had about three hours to ponder the life of unattractive men with a little personality and my other shortcomings, because it was nearly 1:30 before my phone rang. Jenny’s English is not too bad, considering she has been taught by Chinese people, but she has a tendency to switch words around (the strangest of which is the way she misuses ‘he’ and ‘she’ or ‘him’ and ‘her’, she constantly refers to people in the wrong sex, which forces me to have a Jenny-decoder ring to understand correctly). The beginning of her first sentence was “Lucas, I’m sorry but I have to….”, normally I could finish that sentence in any number of ways, all with the same result (“wash my hair” “have a kidney removed this afternoon” “report back to my military unit” “never mind, I just don't want to see you today fat-ass”). So, I’ve already begun to wash the disappointment from my hands and begin the usual process of having a shitty day because I was stood up again. But to my great surprise, the end of the sentence was “recharge my cell phone, so I couldn't call you. I’m in the lobby.”

“It’s ok, I don't mind, maybe some other time we can…. WHAT?! Oh, ok! Yeah, great! I’m on my way down! It’s ok, I really don't mind, I’m on my way down! Just don't leave in the next five seconds; I’ll just jump out of the window instead of waiting for the elevator! I’m sorry about your phone; it’s probably my fault because of all the text messages I’ve sent you! I’ll buy you a new battery today! Just wait right there!” Or something very similar to that which, to any American woman, shows how desperate I am and how they have me in their hands.

Wiping the dirt from my shirt and ignoring my broken shoulder from the jump from the 12th story, I stroll into the lobby trying to act cool. I’m kind of like an NBA player, I always see myself in my mind’s eye from a third person perspective and am constantly thinking to myself “Hutmacher is a cool mofo, that’s a great stride, let the ladies come.” Then, I see it on videotape (thanks Marlow…) and realize it either looks like I’m smuggling a roll of nickels in my ass or looking for the weight room and obviously not fooling anyone.

Jenny is dressed super hot today, like only a hot girl can dress. Tight pink shirt, mini skirt that wouldn't cover a teacup and legs like a supermodel. We exchanged pleasantries and established that neither of us were hungry and decided to go out and just figure something out. Normally this spells disaster from someone like me who’s overmatched with a hottie looking for a way to ditch the chubby guy. I told her we could get a cab and go somewhere to walk around, but she didn't want to spend any money (I agree, I like money and don't like giving it away), then I remembered that if we were going for a meal (eventually), this cab ride is a company expense, especially since she kind of works for us. It may be a stretch, but it’s a $5 cab ride that I would have taken anyway. I said I’ll pick up the tab and we can go wherever she wants. Her eyes lit up in amazement and she quickly said that she wanted to go to the Forbidden City because she’s never been there.

The damn Forbidden City. This is the fourth time I’ve been down here; each time I hate it more and more. This time, however, it was much more bearable (anything’s cool to do with a hottie in tow. I once spent six hours at a pig farm just because the girl had big boobs). First of all, Jenny was so impressed by the taxi; you would have thought we were in a limo. Anything for you baby. Second, the cab driver must have read my mind about the limo, because he charged us double. I wasn't in the mood to argue (this thing of getting pushed around into compliance is a general theme for the day, for reasons I know not, oh, wait, I remember, …hottie…), so I paid without even thinking twice and we jumped out (I did however want to send the taxi to pick up my colleague Ernie Hemingway at the airport, but I didn't have the time). Here it is, my first excursion into the city with pride, and my first time I was stared at, not for being a monster, but for the same reason I stare at every white guy with a local girl in the city, comparing the girl to the white guy to see how he’s faring. Some guys do better than others. Today, I feel like one of the lucky white perverts. I’m such a loser; I should hire a gang of thugs to beat my ass.

The cab dropped us off at the back of the city and we decided to walk around to the front to get the whole experience, so we casually walked through the hoards of street peddlers, homeless people and other perverted desperate white men looking to find the love of their life in someone who doesn't understand how truly repulsive they are (now I notice they’re everywhere). The first thing she did was pop out the umbrella. Umbrellas, when held by someone shorter than me (which is everyone), have a tendency of being right at eye/ear level. The thing kept hitting me in the face all day, how cute (note that other umbrellas that hit me were immediately snapped over my knee and thrown into the moat).

We talked about our families, she was truly amazed that I used to have long hair, and even more amazed that I didn't get whipped or disowned by my parents because of it. She said her parents beat the tar out of her brother when his came home from college with his hair halfway down his ears. I began to realize how different our worlds are and that all we have to offer each other is our own company, but we were having a great time. The thing that interested her the most was my ‘style’ of speaking. She said the she couldn't understand a whole lot that I was talking to Jayson about when we were at the Wall the day before. I quickly realize that I have acquired another student of Luke-speak. What good is knowing English if you cant use it to create your own words (then repeat them in front of people until they start saying them)? So far, I’ve gotten to teach various students of the English language some very interesting slang. Santiago is a master of the words ‘faggot’, ‘shithead’ and (my personal favorite word ever created) ‘teabag’. Xinlei is getting very useful with the terms ‘cool’, ‘off the chain’, and ‘Skywalker’. We worked an all-nighter in Kansas City earlier in the year, so I plugged my computer into an overhead projector and watched the entire trilogy, the real one, not the overproduced sham that George wasted my time and money with these past few years. There were only three Star Wars movies ever made in my mind (no more Star Wars talk, this is another reason I’m single).

We walked around to the front of the city (which is the farthest point from the back) and in through the front entrance of the Forbidden City, to get the full effect. Of course, the place is absolutely packed to the hilt, the Sunday Forbidden City has around 15 million people there, all with umbrellas pointed directly at my eyes, pushing, clawing, begging (it kind of looked like a school of jelly-fish from above). Seeing how many people were there, and realizing how long it would take us to get all the way through the place, we decided not to spend the cash to go through the whole thing (Awesome!). So we instead walked over to Tiananmen Square (where there was a mere 6 million people) to have a look around. On our way across the street (under the street) Jenny said something that sent me into a fast forward fantasy:

“Lucas, can we find somewhere to have a sex?”

“WHAT?! Hell yeah, how about in front of all these people?” I said in a trembling voice, like a child who sees a Christmas present wrapped in the exact shape of what he asked for.

“Good, I’m tired and would like a place to sit. Why did you take your pants off?”

“Sit? Sit?! Oh, yeah, sit. Pants… wha? Oh, I uh…always take them off before sitting so I don't uh… wrinkle them.”

Damn. This story could have gotten a whole lot more interesting. I also thought it was strange, because I touched her hand earlier and she shrieked like a little girl and jumped away (minor turndowns are embarrassing in any culture…). Instead of getting busy in the Forbidden City subway station, we were off to find a place to have 'sit'.

At least this gave us a reason to get the hell out of the throng of people at the Forbidden City and the Square. Off we walked to a row of hotels. If you’re looking for someplace quiet to sit in the city, hotels are your best bet, they have air conditioners and the prices are high enough to keep the street peddlers and ruffians out. We briefly stopped under another under-street tunnel to talk for a couple minutes, this one was completely empty and it was all I could do to restrain myself from trying to sneak a kiss, but after the whole pants-off thing, it’s probably just too soon. I try to pick a little bit of time every day to not be an idiot, it’s an interesting sensation and surprisingly boring to write about.

One of the hotels was called The Beijing Something Something Something Hotel. Jenny said that it was the most famous hotel in the city because that’s where all foreign politicians and dignitaries stay when they’re in town. It looked awful air-conditioned, so I suggested that we go in and have a drink and rest.

“Really?! Do you think they’ll let us in there?”

“Why wouldn't they? I’m obviously an American and you’re hot.”

We walked into this place and Jenny’s jaw dropped, total disbelief that we were in there, just walking in and no one was stopping us. It was a nice place, but not the best I’ve seen, definitely nothing to sneeze at (except maybe by Beijing standards). We found the lounge, sat, and ordered three drinks each (neither of us felt like beer or anything, so it was a non-alcoholic break, which is fine by me, when I drink around girls I tend to make a spectacular ass of myself and I figured I wouldn't need any help in that area today). She couldn't believe how expensive the drinks were. Water was like $35 RMB, my ice-coffee was $40 RMB, her watermelon juice was like $30 RMB, and the Coke was like $35 RMB, with a grand total of about $15 US. It was kind of like when the kid gets to freestyle on the candy store in Willy Wonka. We just went nuts and the total damage was barely noticeable. I really wasn't trying to impress her, we were just thirsty as hell.

Communication between us is somewhat difficult. Most people here who speak English are really bad at it. I understand how difficult it is to learn another language, I know I could never do it, so I’m not bashing on these people, but the fact is, most of them just don't get to speak enough English to be very good at it. Jenny is no different, she reads it like a champ and speaks it decently, but she doesn't understand me very well. I had to repeat everything I said two or three times, each time slower (and louder for some reason), and it just made it difficult. We were still having a great time, but it was becoming very obvious to me that the same-planet-different-worlds saying speaks loud and true here. To complicate matters even further, Jenny doesn't even live in Beijing, she lives in TaiYuan, which is a seven-hour bus ride from Beijing. That helped to explain why she wanted to go to the Forbidden City (and maybe it was her dream to eat a peach off the tree instead of our dream…).

We decided to head back to the hotel to look at pictures from yesterday. My mind sees another booty-window, hot girl, hotel room, stop it, stop it please. She is thoroughly impressed with my hotel room. She goes to look out the window and awes at my view of the bus station parking lot. I walk up behind her and attempt to put my arm around her, she giggles like a ten year old and backs away from me. Booty-window softly clicks closed.

We sit down to look at pictures, she loves the pictures of herself and is impressed by Chile pictures. Jenny said she’s never met Xinlei before and would really like to, she’s talked to him on the phone several times and he’s responsible for her getting hired to help us out (actually, her super-model legs are responsible for Xinlei getting her hired), so she wants to wait around until he gets there. We’ve got another half hour or so before Xinlei shows up, so we sit on the couch and chat for a bit. By this time of the day, we are both understanding each other much better, so it’s much more laid back.

“I really had a good time today, I’m glad we got to see each other and hang out today.”

“Me too, Lucas. I had a lot of fun, my job is to make you guys have a good time this weekend, and I have a good time too.”

Window slams shut and breaks.

“So, today was part of your job?” I said.

“What do you mean?”

This is where it gets kind of tricky and hard to explain and the communication barrier slowly begins to rise (at the same speed of the cultural barrier). “Well, I didn't know you were here because of work, I thought we would just go hang out as friends and get to know each other. I’m sorry for taking up your whole day, you should have said something.”

“I’m sorry Lucas, I still don't understand what you mean.” Embarrassed giggles from Jenny (she always feels so bad when she doesn't understand, which makes me feel even worse).

“It’s just that, I feel that the only reason we got to spend time together is because you had to for work. You’re mother and aunt are in town, you should be spending time with them instead of me.”

“I don't know what you mean still. Did you not have fun today?”

This is getting frustrating, my English and motivation for communication deteriorates rapidly when stress and confusion are applied. Right now, I’m not really sure why we’re still having this conversation. I should just say ‘never mind’ and move on, it would be easy enough to do, but I realize that I need to continue, I need her to understand the difference, for my good and for hers. Jenny is cool and beautiful and I need her to hear me, I need to hear me. Even though we may never see each other again, this is an opportunity for practice, practice talking and expressing my feelings, practice swallowing my pride a bit and letting my guard down when the outcome is unknown.

I’ve tried this before with pretty bad results, when you get burned while playing with ice, it tends to confuse and embarrass you more than hurt you. I’ve been in love before, but it turned out to be painful. Pablo Neruda says that loving is short but forgetting is long. I think about her nearly every day and my sadness turns to anger and my anger turns to wonder and self reflection. The pain of confidence and soul repair is a long and daunting process that can feel like a never ending roller coaster. My kindness was mistaken for weakness and I was the one who paid the price, a little more scared, a little more hesitant, a lot less trusting. This conversation is necessary for me in some strange salt-in-the-wound reason, prove that the pain isn’t as bad as I remember.

“Jenny, you’re very beautiful and nice and fun. Yesterday I had a great time with you with everyone and I wanted to spend time to get to know you today. I wanted to be with you to see how I may really felt about you and to see how you felt about me, but if you’re only hear because your job requires you to be here, then I understand.”

“There is no difference, it’s my job to be here, but I want to be here. You’re very funny and help me understand English and I like being with you and spending time with you and would like to spend time with you more, but I have to go back home in two days and I don't know when I’ll be back in Beijing”

That was nice, I extended myself and it didn't turn out in disaster. I wasn't dashed against the rocks of the ocean shore, I am still in one piece and I’m not embarrassed. It was a nice piece of closure on the day. This conversation ate up our half hour. So we snapped a couple pictures of each other (put a camera in front of Jenny and she becomes a model, posing, smiling, she eats that crap up) and headed downstairs to check out. After checkout, there was still no Xinlei. A quick text message to him and he told me that I still had an hour or so, apparently in my haste of drinking, sweating and watching Jenny like a stalker all weekend I had mixed up the times.

Since I had checked out of my room, I was kind of stuck in the lobby. I told Jenny that Xinlei wouldn't be here for another hour or more.

“I have to wait here for him, I’ll just go upstairs and wait in the lounge. You’re more than welcome to stay with me and wait, but I understand you’re probably ready to get back to the hotel, it’s been a long day.”

“If it’s ok with you,” she giggled “I would like to sit with you and spend more time with you.”

“Really?! Yeah, that would be great, lets go grab a couch.”

Upstairs in the lounge, we leaned on each other and I read her some of the stuff I’ve written. I’m not sure why, I don't show to many people that stuff, but she was very intrigued by it. In China, if you have something to say or write, you just say or write it, there is no creativity in the writing. She said, “Lucas, I had no idea you were so profound.” Awww, how cute, I’m profound. That’s also a huge word for her to use, very nice Jenny.

Something had changed in us, she was not shying away from me as much, and I wasn't thinking only about her legs. We had reached a level of mutual humanity where we could just be ourselves and forget everything else.

We ended up sitting in the lounge for an hour and a half, while Xinlei waited downstairs, not knowing we were up there. It was a familiar conversation. I’ve had the same conversation several times, the last time was with Gisella in Lima.

“Jenny, I had a really great time today, I only wish we had more time. When can we see each other again?”

“Lucas, I had so much fun today, it’s very difficult for us to see each other because I live so far away and it’s very expensive.”

“Don't worry about the money, we just need to find a way to see each other, you’re wonderful and I would hate for this to be the last time we see each other. I’ll be here for 6 months, maybe longer, we have to be able to find a way to see each other again before I leave.”

“Ohh, Lucas, yes! That would be wonderful, I hope we can see each other again, it makes me happy to think about.”

I wanted to reach over and kiss her, put my arms around her and squeeze, but I just couldn't gather the strength to chance ruining the end to a really good day. So we went downstairs, met Xinlei and got ready to leave.

Before jumping into the van for Langfang, I ran back to Jenny and threw my arms around her and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. It scared her pretty good, mainly because it probably looked like I was going to tackle her, but I stopped right in front of her and said “Where I come from, this is how we greet and say goodbye to the people we care about, thank you for today.”

Goodbye Jenny, I hope this is not the last time you grace me with the charity of your presence.

1 comment:

Joe said...

Hi enjoyed my visit will be back.