Friday, August 25, 2006

Little Black Book

In that very class where first I noted ex-Mildred, Clarissa sent me a teasing, pleasing text message:-

does it easy to find a suitable China girl to sleep with?

I took the chance to flirt back:-

finding a girl as beautiful, sexy and unforgettable as the one I met on Friday night is extremely hard.

And as I tapped this off to her, another arrived:

Ok together with your sweet girl. i will find u later with a handsome guy.

The next morning I messaged her:-

Last night I dreamed of you... all night long, my Clarissa...

Normally that’s a lie when I say it. In this case it was true. I remember it clearly because it was a sexy dream, one in which I was just about to realize all my hopes; but just as I reached that moment I was woken by a text message from Tulip.

To this, Clarissa replied `ur killing me, u know?

That filled me with joy, for I took it to mean `killing me with conflict’ – that is, that she was thinking of me like I am of her, though a less pleasing interpretation would be that she meant I was a ladykiller and the she saw through my shallow moves.

But still I tried to play it a little, replying ‘Killing? O, if only I could change that double `l’ to double `s’…’ And she, quick to take up this little linguistic game, said ‘u mean kidding? I know!

This flirty tone to our relationship carried on online. A month or so after we’d got to know each other, she’d told me how she did not like to sleep alone (her husband being elsewhere on business.)

Me: yeah, i am sleeping alone these days too, and i'm not too happy about it either!
C: why not find a girl friend
Me. oh, i guess i could... but i am not good at being that serious .. so i don't really want a proper relationship
C: besides.... i would be thinking of you even if i did have a gf
C: it doesn't matter at all
Me: oh?
C: as I am not an MBA
Me: i know, dear Clarissa, i know... i would not make the rude suggestion that you were!
Me: but i hope u could be a good friend at least!
C: Don;t we?
Me: we are... but.. friends should spend time together, and, alas, u are too busy for that! what a shame...
C: know I am afraid of u
C: afraid of ... I think u know
Me: well... i guess... so maybe it is better we are friends more by msn than in person (of course I did not mean that at all, but one must know when not to push too hard)
Me: but... it would be nice
C: i know u r a "killer" but I don't want to be killed
C: I need a peaceful life
B: yes, i do understand, Clarissa. but in fact i am not really a `killer' - it is only when it comes to you that i find it hard to control my thoughts.
C: sweet man

This promising conversation ended there, since Tulip called me, following up her sms (more of her, later, too); but that was a good enough place to leave our online chat. This kind of conversation can be kept brief, hanging, for that makes it more piquant, more stimulating.

Keyed up to the pitch of needing feminine company, the day after this conversation I idled through a few contacts in my address book.

First of all, I called up Joy. Joy had studied at Tsinghua University, and (as are many from there) was fearsomely intelligent. Perfect in English, she was now following it up with German, and it was in such a class that I’d met her a few months before this.

Lecher though I am, the single sexiest quality in a woman, for me, is intelligence; true intelligence – not merely book-learned repetition - shines in the character, and it takes very few seconds for it to be obvious. Just a minute or two of conversation with Joy when I first met her was enough to captivate me – her breezy self-confidence, her brisk, pugnacious, teasing manner of talking to me. And so I’d set myself after her and, course concluded, we’d met for dinner.

Yet splendidly bright as she is, full of life and character, over dinner I saw that that life seemed to have little of emotion in it. Bracing she was, but also unyielding, wrapped in ice. I do not mean just with regard to my trifling desires, but rather that she was held back, reserved, as a way of life.

This is not quite to say she knows nothing of emotion, for she is aware of it and its complexities. But only in a logical way; she knows it, even understands it, some – but does not feel it. She is too rigid, intellectual.

Well, flaunting my ease with these things – or crassness, perhaps – I asked “Have you ever been kissed?”

“Of course I have!” she said –“Here,” pointing to her cheek, “and here,” to her forehead. I laughed out loud at this and in the ensuing conversation she told me that she would have to date a guy for at least two years before letting him her lips.

Partly it’s so absurd as to be laughable; partly it’s sad. This cocoon of bullshit, of lies; it’s what leads to sure marital sadness, as Chinese woman too often goes from chaste virgin to being badly, coolly and rapidly fucked by her cold fish husband – as she unwraps the gift she’s seen glittering in her mind all her life and finds a cold, cooked, congealed potato therein. Ah, yes, a ‘generalization’ again. But what shall I say? I can only write of what I see, what I am told. China is a sexually repressed society.

But (to get back to my search for a date) there was no reply for her. So then on a whimsy I text-messaged Holly, also a long-term background interest of mine who I will add to the growing list of women to write about in more detail.

In brief, for now, Holly caught my eye in class primarily because she reminded me of a girlfriend back in England. Echoes from the past are powerful, hard to ignore, and a certain amount of repetition in life has its charms. And this particular girlfriend back in England was a long term part of my life, and the years I spent in Germany and then Australia. I was not then the thing that I am now; China was the tutor and feeder of my riots.

Holly’s manner too reminded me of this past girlfriend, though of course that was likely more my need than her reality, me just seeing what I wanted to see. But the way she was slightly ill-at-ease (for the first time I invited her out it was with a general group of friends), the air she had, like that ex-, was of being in a milieu foreign to her… I don't mean to suggest any lack of social skills, not at all; more that she reminded me of how this ex- had once told me about going out with ‘wild young things.’ It was perhaps just that she found the party a little boring but something she felt she ought to enjoy – though would have preferred a quieter, calmer place. Her slight air of detachment, of observation… it was redolent, reminiscent of my life with that ex-.

But I got no reply from Holly, either. Of course, I could have called, rather than messaged, but that is not quite such a good way to flirt; for Holly would have been at work and thus would have been forced to respond to my call professionally not personally, for offices in China are not much different to offices in any country, and ears are open, tongues wag.

So then I sent Sweetie a message, and soon enough one arrived back from her. She was out of town. This was perhaps just as well, for I had neither seen nor messaged her for a few weeks, and to get together with her tonight purely because I wanted a woman would have been so obvious indiscreet as to have made her ha me.

And that many attempts was enough for me, so I went to Paulaner bar to take advantage of their afternoon special on beer, where, at half price, it is only surprisingly expensive rather than outrageously expensive and where (it being the afternoon) silence reigns; for in the evening Thai and Philipine bands sing, the noise is overwhelming and the crowds of easily-fooled locals, out to be seen, cram the place.

Later that evening, however, Clarissa called me, high and happy, at a party somewhere; and then again later, on her way home, 1 a.m., she called again, the party over and she on her way home; and this seemed to me a good sign, for it showed she again was thinking of me. Sure, maybe she just wants the flattery I surely provided, but even were that true it would still prove connection, frisson; she would not have been thinking of me, called me, had I not some impact on her.

Sure, I rolled out such seductive words as seemed fitting; she was after them, telling me she was sure I did not really care about her (for this was still relatively early in our relationship) – and what was that but a chance to tell her just how potently I did feel about her? How I thought of her every day? Pressed her for dinner, and she liked it but would not commit – because, to judge by the call and our online conversations she was enough interested in me for that putative dinner to undo her self-control; and, thus, while she was separated by a phone’s distance, she knew to hold to that gap as hard as she could.

And indeed she told me she had to go home to her husband – her mention of him both a barrier and an offer. A barrier because it was to remind me he was there, she was his; but an offer because, in going home to him, she showed she was thinking of me.

More, she put him there, obvious, to show he was part of the equation; that no matter what might happen between us, she would remain married to him. And that suited me just fine. I did not want to love her, exactly, but nor quite was it just a matter of sex. Yes, sex was my goal, true, but sex with at least some emotional anchor to it.

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Monday, August 21, 2006

More of Clarissa

So the evening with Clarissa had come to a slightly moody end. But she was so sexy and unusual with it that I could not forget her. Blocking her instant messenger profile was just the spiteful, childish reaction of a man thwarted in his desires. And when I woke the next morning those desires were again strong and urgent in me; and so of course she did not stay blocked. She was just too fascinating, too diverting. Now, in a city of so many beauties as Shanghai is, that’s saying something. And in truth Clarissa seems hardly standout, for she does not have the tall, slender body of a would-be model. On an objective scale she could not be compared to Deedee, but that hardly matters. It's just It. Some women'll stay in a man's memory if they once walked down a street. It isn’t beauty, or good talk necessarily. Clarissa has fascinated me from the first moment I saw her.

Morning also brought with it the clear realization hat I had been a little sulky to her in the cab. She was the one who had it all to lose, so she was the one who should call the shots. It seemed to me then that she was calling them that night too, sounding me out, sizing me up.

When she’d told me of the lover she had, older, married, rich, she’d also said that one of the problems with a lover was they always wanted more…more demands, more love, eventually marriage. So it seemed to me what was on her mind when she said that was finding out if I could be discreet, subtle. In the cab I wasn’t.

And thus when I did log on and saw she was on, too, I paused a while, not wanting to bombard her straight away. But she buzzed me first, albeit with no more than a ‘You’re late today’ (late getting up, she meant). I replied with how much fun I had had with her, and she said the same; and that was that, then she was gone.

In looking through my diary to chart the course of my relationship with Clarissa, I see that this night I had a class in which one woman in particular caught my eye. Now of course that happens all the time, but this woman has since become an important part of my life and, indeed, on a recent trip to the city in which she now studies, she became my lover.

She was cute, tallish, a sexy dresser in that discreet yet revealing way some women have… A polite style of dressing, a little reserved, because that is the way the bulk of Chinese guys (and thus Chinese society) demand it; but also with hints and whispers of sexuality, of the truer self just below that exterior, hints that most guys do not even see but that I seldom miss.

Or maybe that’s trying to dress up bullshit as a compliment, since what I really mean is the lines of her bra, white, a little bit of lace, which I could see as I stood over her talking to her, covering her breasts, where what did the trick.

This being university, I kept myself formal, teacherly, and tried not to hit on her too bad. But I could not resist teasing her when she told me her English name.

Being outside Western culture, a name is just a name to a Chinese student – why should it be anything else? And so quite often I meet young women who have chosen names such as ‘Enid,’ ‘Ethel,’ ‘Ada’ and so on, names that would be met with a burst of laughter back home. Generally I tell the student this, given that they plan to study overseas. ‘If I met someone called Mildred in my country’ I will say, ‘She would be about 70 years old. No one your age has a name like that!’ At this point the student will usually laugh along with the rest of the class, and then ask me to choose a better name. There is, of course, power in that request, for to choose a name is to mark her.

And so usually I accept, saying I will think of something and tell her at the end of the course when I have a better idea of her personality. Naturally, if she is cute, I will say at the end of the class ‘I should get to know you better before choosing a name…. Let’s meet for coffee.’

Chinese names, of course, also have this component. Thus, someone born in the insanity of the Cultural Revolution might well have the character ‘red’ as part of their name, or some other boastful exhortation as to how fine and dandy China is. Someone born at an earlier period might be called `Build China’ or ‘Love China’ and so on. I have a reasonably good idea about this and, of course, turn it to my shallow advantage saying, when I encounter such a name, ‘Ah, a good solid cultural revolution name’; which remark serves to make the class think I am a China expert. It is nothing but flim-flam and veneer, but it is effective.

As for the Cultural Revolution, for those not in the know, it was a decade of the vilest insanity when maniac Mao Zedong did his best to destroy the country even more than he had already fucked it up already, even more than the crackpot lunacies of all his other schemes, his Great Leap Forward, his Four Pests campaign, his Hundred Flowers, his disastrous Korean war, his murders, poisonings and purges, and all the other filth that spewed from his peasant mind. He did nothing good, kind or decent in his whole life. He was pure scum. He was filth. I shit on him.

China’s population remains, of course, largely ignorant of what he was. Apart from a tiny, thinking minority, many people still admire him, or at least half-admire him. ‘He made some mistakes’ students will tell me, which is a remark about parallel to saying ‘Well, Hitler may have killed a few people but at least he made the trains run on time.’ Or they will tell me, demonstrating a risible inability to think, ‘He helped the Chinese people to stand up,’ echoing the words he said at the founding of the PRC.

But enough of this; I have already vented spleen on the topic below. Taking a leaf from the fat psychopath’s own book, I will get back to women. Women, say the biographies (well… not the ones available in China, of course) were a central focus of his life, as he liked to stack up 3 or 4 in bed at the same time, and often adolescent ones. Now since as well as being a fat lunatic he was also a fat lunatic with absolute power, he could simply order any woman to bed, and made great use of the privilege. I have to work a bit harder to get my women, and thus I gave the tried and trusted ‘I can give you more advice if you get in touch by email,’ line to this student (who was at that time called Ethel, but is now called something more suitable, a name I chose); and she did get in touch and we became friends and then lovers.

But we did not become lovers until a year or so after we’d first met. The reason for this was not because she was unavailable, but rather because I knew if we became lovers it would be a big deal for her. I knew my feckless ways would hurt her, for she would want my love and commitment. And so I forbore, all the time she was in Shanghai.

Whispers of it, hints, were always there. I recall in particular kissing her goodbye outside the 太平洋 one time, after we’d met for coffee, how I read her eyes, saw the readiness, how she offered me her lips, not her cheek. Right then, as I kissed her lips, I knew I could take her to bed with just a little more wooing. And, sure, she was attractive, intelligent, all the things I like. But knowing what a big deal it would be for her, that was a path I did not take.

Not until I met her in another city – and there, under its different skies, we became lovers. And, now, as I knew would happen all along, she is half in love with me, sending wistful emails, reaching out for a love that I do not return.