Deedee turned out to be a student at
This was something of a surprise to me. See, another part of the image of Shanghai Woman is bimbo. And while in my right-on liberal way I try not to categorize so crudely, Deedee’s late arrival to class (she had missed the first session entirely) and her good-time-girl demeanor, led me to the lazy conclusion that there was more to her exterior than her interior.
But, shallow as I am, I was still exceedingly keen to impress her, and this I tried to do, in what, to a Western woman, would likely have been amateurishly obvious. Since I know most of the universities here, I asked her ‘Do you study at the Songjiang or
‘Two years at each,’ she said, telling me she was studying German. ‘But I hate it’
‘Guess what I studied as an undergrad?’ I asked.
She of course said ‘I don’t know.’
‘German’ I told her – at which she laughed and blushed.
This was of course shameless flirting, and while I half expected she was quite astute enough to see it, it was less obvious to the two guys in her group, since guys here, on the whole, have fuck all idea about flirting, even flirting as crude as mine. As we talked I tried not to gaze at her perfect good looks too closely; but dragging my eyes away was hardly better. As she sat she leaned against the wall, sitting at right angles to the proper direction of the seat, her body full of life and movement, her legs up on the seat next to her. Because of this, I pretty much had to keep gazing directly into her eyes – otherwise I would be looking at her breasts or at her panties, since she was wearing a very short skirt which, with her legs up on the seat. This is not to say I did not look – of course I looked – and even though all I could see from my brief, furtive glance was the fabric of her black tights under the skirt, it was still quite enough to make me need to pull down my sweater after I’d done talking.
As I talked to others in the group I scored another hit or two. The other girl among them asked one of the guys how to say jinmi in English – and I supplied the translation, ‘calculating’ (they were talking about
Now I’ve been here five years but I’m a lazy swine so my Chinese sucks – as does that of most foreigners here. Most of us expect the locals to know our language, rather than bothering to learn theirs; and thus there is some kudos in being able to speak it. And I was so pathetically keen to impress this woman that I wanted her to think I was one such foreigner.
Pathetic and also fickle, since the very next day, in a different class, another Shanghai Woman grabbed my attention -- Echo. She was not quite so cute as Deedee, though dressed sexily; but with her it was more what she talked about with me that hooked me. She’d studied fine art at university, so I asked her to describe a show she’d been to. She chose Seiji Ozawa’s recent visit – something I had been very keen to go and see, but had got pickpocketed on my way there. She told me the concert was great, but also that Ozawa was a bit irritated by the constant stream of latecomers. This is an irritation every artist has to put up with, since audiences here lack the common graces of back home. Indeed
At the end of this class Echo lingered to ask ‘What are you doing tomorrow night?’ I assumed she wanted to have coffee to get my advice about language stuff; but not so. She wanted to offer me two tickets to a Bartok concert, which she could not use due to having class. I was really most touched she offered them to me, and gladly accepted. ‘I can give them to you now’ she said. ‘They’re in my car.’ And so she took me to it, a new blue shiny one. And thus she turned my head – musical, fashionable, well-heeled. Quite worth a chase… and chase her I did; and will write about that, too, later.
But to get back to Deedee; my next class with her was a week later or so, but I did not really expect her to turn up. Her absence in the first and half attendance in the second made it fairly clear she wasn’t much interested in learning. Many students are pressured into these classes by her parents and only attend grudgingly, and I assumed she was one of these (something she later confirmed.)
And indeed she was not there; but, half an hour into the class she turned up. The door opening slowly and her peeking her head round, knowing I would tease her on it. But I just smiled at her lighthearted entrance and let her go to her seat with little further comment (normally I make the late students say why they’re late, partly to get them talking but also since it makes the others laugh, which makes them more confident to talk). And then I spent the rest of the class, up until the break, trying not to check her out too much. But as I called the break I saw her pulling on a scarf. I knew she was going to make a run for it. Not alone from her putting the scarf on, but also from the conversation she’d had on her mobile phone, whispering quietly (but not so quiet that I could not hear) to arrange meeting people. I knew she would wait until I left the room so she could escape without my comment, and I knew if I had stayed in the room she might not have had the bottle to go. So I could have kept her there just by staying put.
But I made it easy for her – out of an ulterior motive, of course. I slipped my wallet from my coat into my pocket and went out into the corridor to lurk; there I got chatting with one of the guys from the class. I heard the classroom door, out of my line of sight, open; and I heard the precise click of high heels on the tiles. I knew it was her. She was clearly hoping not to get rumbled and gave me a sheepish smile when she saw me. I smiled back, keeping it genial, fairly light, though I could not resist saying ‘It was hardly worth coming!’ Then I walked down the steps with her, so that, out of sight of any other student, to save her blushes and mine (for I did not want to so obviously hit on her in front of the class), I could extract from my wallet the business card I had made sure to put there before leaving home. She smiled at this, and I could not read the smile. I like to think it was a smile of surprise and pleasure at this unexpected thing. But a more objective interpretation would be that it was the smile of a woman used to getting hit on. She told me her name – this was the first time I’d heard it – and off she went. There was a car waiting for her across the road, shiny, new, other people her age in it,
As the car slid off down Shitu road into the noise and night, she turned to wave goodbye to me, smiling; my heart leapt and sighed, but I did not expect to hear from her again.