Friday, August 11, 2006

Seducing Simone

Some months ago – never mind how long precisely – a new contact popped up online, greeting me with what have become very standard words - ‘Hi, do you remember me?

Quite how a student expects me to remember them when they first contact me I do not know, given that all I see of them is their sign-in name which, even if it is a variation of their real name and not a more creative handle, gives no clue to their identity since I seldom teach any one group of students for long enough to get to know their names. And yet, after every class wraps up, four or five students will begin a conversation with those very words.

But given that in this case the sign-in name of this new interlocutor, Simone, was clearly female, I judged it best to make it seem as if I did recall her, and so I gave my catch-all answer, ‘I taught you English, right?

She told me that this was right, and she was glad I remembered her.

By dint of asking open-ended questions I established she was a student who’d come to one of the universities I work at for an oral exam, and that she got my email from the website information form used. But still I was unable to remember anything specific about her. However, given my penchant for the Lucky Dip, I let the conversation grow and unfold, and, by its end, had agreed to meet her for coffee during the following few days. For even though I was not quite sure who she was, I liked the pot luck of going to meet her. The anticipation of who will be waiting for me in the coffee shop (or wherever the rendezvous is) is always stimulating.

Now it so happens – with a dash of the chance, the pattern, the echo that I so relish in life – that this very same day that I met the (at that point) random woman was the day Clarissa flew overseas to her new life. I thought of Clarissa all that morning and particularly at 2pm when, me amid a class of guppies, she flew out. I knew I would miss her a lot, and so I did, for I was falling in love with her.

But this did not make me any bit more reflective, for I still kept the appointment I had made to have coffee with this woman who I remembered nothing about. And thus even as one woman left, a woman I cared greatly about, I was off questing after another.

Yet even as I was going to meet Simone, I ran into Alice. Alice was a staffer who worked in the accounts firm that’s in the same building I live in. I’d got to know her a little, and had come to the conclusion she was pretty certain, and passably cute with it. She’d emailed me once or twice to tell me the sense of frustration she felt in her life, asking if I thought she should take the risk to change to a new job. Naturally I urged her to do so; but more to the point, in the email in which she asked that she also referred to her ‘husband.’

She had mentioned this guy to me before, when we’d shared a coffee. But that time she’d told me he was her boyfriend. Either in the present email that use of ‘husband’ was a mere slip, or, last time, she’d lied to me; and if she had, it was a fine sign indeed. There’s but one reason a woman downgrades a husband to a boyfriend, and it is the same reason that she airbrushes her other lovers out of her life altogether when meeting a new guy.

But at that time I was busy with other women and other classes, and so I decided merely to put her on pause and maybe apply myself to her a little later on. Fundamentally she was dull; but dull and cute, and a fuck’s a fuck.

And so keeping matters brief with Alice, I headed off to the rendezvous with Simone.

If there was a moral plan to the world it would have been just deserts for my scoundrelly ways if she had turned out to be a fright – but not so; the woman who arrived to greet me was young, sexy, snappily dressed and, I was sure within a very few moments, almost certainly a cinch to seduce. And I did now remember her from the interview, and remembered being rather struck with her.

She was young, just 20 – which, in this culture often means more like 15 in emotional outlook -- and she was indeed 15 in some ways, a little timid, and most certainly corralled and controlled by her parents.

She told me she could only stay for two hours, since her parents had told her to be back home by half past six. She also told me her mother had, at first, wanted to come with her but had settled for getting my phone number from her. Such parents! They give her the curfew of a ten year old.

I told her she had partly herself to blame for accepting this. She said she had tried to change her parents’ minds… but obviously had not tried hard enough.

As we talked, I assessed her. Attractive, and rather a trim body. I felt it would not be too hard to charm her to bed; indeed, as, later, I walked back with her to the tube, my arm guiding her from time to time, I was sure I was home; and had the train not been quite so crowded, I’d have kissed her as we parted. I sent a follow up message saying I had enjoyed meeting her, and that she was cute. She replied in kind, and we exchanged a couple more messages in the same vein during the rest of the evening.

But I was sure Simone was not quite the wholesale innocent she appeared, for she had a boyfriend (at the time; he is long since gone). ‘Do your parents know?’ I asked of this boyfriend – expecting and getting the too-common look of amused horror on her face – ‘Of course not! They would kill me!

It is an old story; parents here seldom know the truth of their daughters’ lives. Sara, my full-time girlfriend, for example, has to lie to her mother every time she stays with me. No matter that she is 25, and, in a few days, flying off to begin her postgraduate studies in Canada, she must still tell her mother that she is going to stay with a girlfriend. As with Sara, so too with Ellen, Jingjing, Mona; again and again women here pull the wool over their parents’ eyes wholesale, a lie necessitated by the older generation’s failure to see what life is today.

Sure, Simone looked and acted the virgin, but while I was not so gross as to ask, I suspected she was not; she told me her guy was a bit of a rogue so I concluded he had put her to it – opening a path for me, I hope.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Chasing Clarissa

Clarissa was bright, vibrant, electric when we met. She’d been at an office party and had clearly had a couple of drinks, a tinge of flush to her face, animation in her manner, eyes sparkling. She was, in short, even more stimulating than I remembered her from class.

As we drank and listened to the jazz naturally my words (and hands) became wider, more expansive.

You’re leading me along, like a fox’ she said -- but didn’t stop me. And indeed her talk was sexual and her body language mirrored mine. So we had a good evening of it. She enjoyed my flattery and attentions, and it seemed to be going well to me, though several times she told me she was faithful to her husband. Now the mere fact she said this was a clear enough sign she knew what was in the offing. And when she went on to tell me that she let her husband think she was a virgin on their wedding night, my hopes rose.

Letting him think this was not a lie, she said, since he did not ask and she did not, thus, deny. But still it was a crack into which I felt I might drive a wedge.

Smart as she is, of course she knew this when she told me.

Later, the more I thought it over, the more I was inclined to wonder if I had not been played, and played with some expertise at that. If I was, it is no matter, for after all I was playing a role too, and if she was indeed playing me, I was content to be played.

Yes, she was good. ‘I’m going to go home, have a bath, and wait for my husband to come home in the morning.. and maybe fuck me.’ Now there’s a rare thing to hear – such verbal directness is rather rare in Chinese women. Yes, they will be emotionally direct, but even then their words are often couched in more delicate terms.

I played along with Clarissa’s provocativeness in, I guess, a pretty obvious way – ‘How about some pix?

No way!’ she said, before telling me that they had taken pix, and a film, of their lovemaking. A sexy woman altogether! But even with this fire she tried to bank and ebb my ardor, telling me she was happy with this husband, and that they were good together in bed. I asked why she had married so young – she is around 24 – she said, sexy smiling, ‘To save the cost of going to hotels all the time!

As the jazz wound down and the crowd thinned I noticed a hooker trying to close a fat Westerner on the table next to me. She was past her prime and I doubt he had ever been in it; and her play-acting, now loving, now cold, now happy, now hurt, was pretty risible.

But she saw me looking and flashed me a smile of complicity –‘Yeah, this fat slob ain’t much, is he?,’ her glance said. And I was briefly taken in, briefly felt a sympathy for her in her unhappy lot, before the clarity of the corollary meaning of her glance stuck me in all its obvious truth – she was trying to establish a tie with me in case it did not work out with fat guy, for then I might be her night’s fee.

When it was time to go, Clarissa at first wanted to go alone, but I said I would drop her home and then go on my way. ‘I know what you want’ she said, and of course she was right.

By chance her home is near Gloria’s, and, as we headed there in the cab, past the familiar buildings and territories of my relationship with Gloria’s, this restaurant, that coffee bar, I did feel a slight sense of melancholy at the upset I caused in her life and the messy, astonishing way our relationship ended (I shall write it up in due course.)

But of course I did not stay melancholy for long. Saying ‘Come here,’ to Clarissa, I drew her to me for a cuddle, which she allowed, gladly. Naturally I caressed her, and this too was okay. As also were one or two kisses, but not too much of that, for she pulled away. I eased her back and she lay in my lap. Then I erred, blowing in her ear. Earlier, in the bar I had caressed her earlobe and the effect was strong.. she arched, and said ‘Don’t.. that makes me…’ These words of course had the opposite effect, making me all the more keen to caress her there.

But now in the cab that soft puff of air in her ear was too much, and she pulled away, a scalded and no longer sexy cat; and indeed was quite irate, for when I put my arm to her again, it was ‘NO!’ and ‘DON’T’ in tones increasing peremptory and strident.

I let her cool awhile and tried again. She had not cooled. The opposite. So this riled me a bit – no one shouts at me, I thought, in my semi-drunk choler (for I can be a dyspeptic, arrogant fuck when the beer takes me a certain way and my pride is dented) – and so I became insouciant, detached (a mistake I was later to make with Tingting, though that mistake is now healed, forgotten, and she is back in my life).

My cool goodnight to Clarissa was met with, ‘Now I’ll see what you’re really like.’ In saying that, she was referring to conversation earlier in the evening.

In that conversation, she had told me she had avoided meeting me in person thus far, preferring to keep our acquaintance net based. Why? I asked. ‘Because if we met, I knew what you would want.’

Quite right. And I admitted it; ‘Yes, to be truthful, I do want that..

You admit it?!

Yes, but that’s not all I want.. I like you a lot and enjoy your company even if we don’t…

She was doubtful.

Well, you will be able to tell … if nothing happens tonight and I never call you again,’ I said.

Hence her parting shot, hence that ‘We’ll see what you’re really like.’ She meant that if fuck was all I wanted, she would not expect to hear from me again, but that if my claim of liking her company was true, I would keep in touch.

I remember as I rode home in the cab thinking, What am I really like? I could not decide for sure. That night, I blocked her chat profile and was inclined to leave it so, for I felt she was playing me and wanted an admirer, preferably rich and definitely hands off; which was no role for me.

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