Weeks, months went by for old Mr. Me in May Linh’s small house up in the mountains of this southeastern Asian country. Spring came, then summer, then fall, then winter again. Routine had definitely settled in but then it was December and it made me realize that, for the past three years, almost four, we had never celebrated anything with May Linh: not Christmas, not birthdays – I still didn’t really how old she was, 50, 55, 60? I had no idea – no independence day. Not even New Year’s days, neither mine nor hers. Although we’d go see the firework for her New Year’s day, we didn’t celebrated it as such.
In fact, we never offered each other anything, no presents whatsoever. We didn’t need to I guess, because we were giving much more, every day, every minute of the day, especially when we were living in our autarkic bubble down south where it’s always warm. Back then, we were living together on a contract that was quite clear for both of us and nothing more was expected.
So everything more that came, and there was a lot, was a gift. And that’s where love and affection and tenderness came from. And that’s why we didn’t offer each other anything. Even here, in her small house in the mountains, although there was no more contract, just our own free will and desire to be together, we still had somehow created again our own bubble. Somehow, in this strange world, we had found each other and that was plenty enough.
Every time I could look at May Linh taking a shower, or nude in her garden, every night her warmth, every day her sheer presence were an enchantment and, still, I couldn’t get enough to look at her, alive and proud, beautiful, to my eyes at least. I didn’t have enough space and memory in my brain to be able to record each and every moment that she was nude, so naturally nude with me, yet each of those moment was worth it and would have deserved a picture, a painting, a poem.
And I could have lived like that for ever but, as time went by, I could tell I wasn’t doing as well physically as before. Neither did my health. I wasn’t breezing so well now. I could again feel my age – Christ, climbing up back home from the market was excruciating during hot days of summer. One day I even had a dizzy spell and fell. I didn’t lose consciousness but I had to wait a few minutes before I could get control of myself again, could get up and resume the climb. But what was really weird is that, at that very moment, there was absolutely no one in the street. I mean no one, not even a kid or a buffalo. And there are always people in the streets of this town, day and night. It was as if I had just been sent a reminder about how alone I was, how we’re all alone at the end. So I knew this dizzy spell was the beginning of the end.
That goes to show, because I’m quite certain that if I was still with May Linh and Lily, and Maggie why not, in the house by the beach that we had, and still eating fresh seafood every day, swimming every day, taking the sun every day, looking at beautiful women all day long and sex often, I could have lived to be a 100.
Well, as it was, I was in no hurry to die but I wasn’t worried either. In a way, I was glad to be able to see death coming, it’s some kind of luxury I guess. Soon, I couldn’t walk that fast anymore, or go very far. May Linh knew it of course, but this was no cause for worry for either of us. The kid, whom I was now paying 500 coppers a month, told me one day that he could take me to a good doctor if I wanted to. I said no.
But we did go to the capital one last time and the kid drove us there and back and he was so proud.
Christ, in one year only, so much had changed. For one thing, there were more cars and more commercial buildings, less police road-blocks. The kid dropped us at our usual hotel. I told him I had reserved a room for him but he declined, said he had family to visit. So May Linh and I went into the lobby and the kid followed with some of our luggage. The same old moronic clerk was still there and he looked so happy when he recognized us.
“Oh, Mr. and Mrs. You, I’m so glad to see you again.” He was speaking aloud and feeling so important behind his desk that he had to let everybody know. He’d do that with almost every client. But he did have memory.
“And how’s your great daughter Lily?” he continued.
“She’s in America,” I said.
“In America, isn’t that wonderful?” screamed this imbecile.
Then he saw the kid behind us.
“So this must be…..” He stopped in mid-sentence because he didn’t know how to finish it and now he was lost: was that a boy, as in a servant, or a grand-son or something else? I let him hang in limbo and he was getting crimson, mumbling, pleading with his eyes. He wanted the tourists’ attention? He had it.
The kid was quite surprised: Mr. and Mrs. You? Daughter Lily? What was that?
But he did understand the clerk was an idiot so he told him, with authority, almost mean, in perfect English: “would you please call someone to carry Mr. and Mrs. You’ luggage?” The clerk didn’t know what to do so he called a couple of grooms to hurry. “Yes, yes,” he said. Then the kid, looking at May Linh and I, said: “Ok, boss, you’re all set, I’ll be here if you need me,” and he left and drove away and the clerk finally shut up for a second.
It was nice being downtown again for a few days as Mr. and Mrs. You, I could tell May Linh enjoyed it somewhat and me too. We went out and even went to see a movie, a space odyssey movie, to believe there’s still hope, anyway, somewhere. The last movie we had seen was with Lily and Maggie, in the house. Lily had chosen ‘True grit’, the original version, with John Wayne, because we had already seen with her a later version of this movie and, being old enough, I told them that there was an original version, one with John Wayne. Lily found it and so we watched that and that was the last movie May Linh and I had seen. From John Wayne to a space odyssey, a good resume of old Mr. Me’s life I guess, including Tarzan and King Kong.
In the capital, the kid would drive us and he seemed to always know his way and it was bizarre because he was always there when we needed him: in the lobby, he was there, after dinner, he was there, after the movie, he was there. Yet I knew he was seeing his people and I knew why. I just didn’t know how he was doing it. When did he sleep? Anyway, good for him I thought. I was just a bit worried that some cop would show up at the hotel and ask questions about the kid but that didn’t happen.
With May Linh, we went to see Mrs. Wan. She was very happy to see us and we were happy to see her I guess. She wore a violet dress, of course, high heels, and she looked very good. Better than me I thought. She too, I had no idea of her age. I knew she was related to May Linh somehow. Was she also related to those people I had met after the long trek? May Linh’s people? Was she a musician as well? Her English was pretty good too.
I had asked Mrs. Wan to sell the land I owned down south by the beach and she did and she had the money ready. What would I do with money? I laughed in my head just thinking of it. Buy a private jet? Haha. So I instructed Mrs. Wan to create, with this money, a trust fund dedicated to May Linh’s school. Living with May Linh in her little town, I had understood that the money – the good money I was paying her back then – was also a big part in her decision to agree to my contract because it allowed her to develop her little school and pay for the teachers. And that was fair.
There was no contract between her and me anymore. Indeed, she wasn’t on salary anymore but I was paying for my up keep, which is not the same. And I could be generous. What I mean is that this money I got from the land sale, although it wouldn’t seem like much considered through white guy’s standards, meant a lot here, and even a lot more in her little town. And I thought that, this way, May Linh could rest assured that her school could survive even without her paying for it. Everybody seemed happy with that. In fact, back to the hotel that night, May Linh initiated the gamahuching and there was something very light and joyful and fun to it and it lasted a long time and we couldn’t get enough of it.
Anyway, that day I also settled every legal matter with Mrs. Wan. After my death, of which she’d be informed by May Linh, whatever money left in my account was to be put in May Linh’s school trust fund. I gave her the letter to send to the French consulate once she got from May Linh the doctor’s death certificate. I wanted Mrs. Wan to handle these matters because I didn’t want anyone at the French embassy to know anything about May Linh, her little town, her school. She didn’t need government people, even with the best of intentions, go nosing in her life and ask questions.
Mrs. Wan knew how to deal with these guys and would answer all their questions and that would be that.