When old Mr. Me retired in this warm southeastern Asian country, and even after I had successfully drawn a contract where Asian women would live in the nude with me, I never imagined I would ever feel the gloom I was feeling now. Maggie had been murdered, my house had been burned down, and now, with May Linh, we were at the airport and Lily was leaving to Chicago. Christ, so much sadness! Did I pay for this?
When, after a last kiss – people were shocked to see Lily’s lovely kiss to old Mr. Me – and a last wave, we saw Lily disappear through the security check, May Linh and I went to the concourse, where we could see airplanes take off and land. It was late at night and dark so we weren’t sure which one was Lily’s plane but when we saw this one from United taking off, we were kind of sure Lily was on that one. Going to Chicago, someone was bound to notice Lily’s Chicago Bulls’ cap. God helps him that Lily doesn’t suggest a massage! And we laughed at that evocation. Then we just stood there a little while, May Linh and I, looking at airplanes come and go. Then we had to go.
Driving from the airport, neither of us had anything to say. So we said nothing. It helped that we were in the dark inside the car although the city was alit with neon signs. I turned on the radio, it was a local radio and a song I couldn’t understand. I could hear the wailing though.
“What’s this song about?” I asked May Linh.
“The song says something like ‘love is a losing hand’,” she explained.
Sadness everywhere. So I turned the radio off.
I parked near the apart-hotel where May Linh, Lily and I had spent the last two weeks but now Lily was up in the sky and I was in no hurry to get back in there. So I suggested to May Linh that we’d take a walk in the neighborhood. “Ok,” she said. So we went around the block.
We were walking and she was holding my arm, as much because I was still hurting a little bit in my chest because of Jacky Chan’s blows as she herself was looking for directions.
So we walked a little way.
“You’re free now, you know,” I said.
“I know,” May Linh said. “Then again, I’ve always been free with you.”
“I guess,” I said.
We let this sit for a while.
“What I meant”, I said, “is that you’re free in the sense that you don’t have to worry about me now.”
That was true. My cash, most of my money, was gone in flames but I still had enough left in the bank, plus my pension, to be ok for a while although I didn’t have enough to buy another house.
“I understood the first time,” May Linh said.
And then she said.
“Look, I’ll be going back to my little house in the small town I was born in, up north. It’s in the mountains. If you want, you can come with me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s only if you feel like it but know that I’d be happy to have you stay with me.”
I knew she meant it.
“I don’t want anything but to be with you,” I said.
And I meant it too. But that she knew already.
And that’s how it was decided.
“You can always go back if you don’t like it,” May Linh said.
“Yes, I know. Thank you,” I said.
“Thank you,” she said.
Once back in the apart-hotel, although it was past 1am, we couldn’t stay in it any longer, there was too much of Lily still there, her perfume, the clothes that she had arrived with when we came here after the fire, Carter’s wife clothes. So we decided to leave right away, drive a little bit north, find a motel and spend the night there. So May Linh packed her clothes and I packed my stuff. Anyway, we didn’t have much to pack. I grabbed the beers and wine though and loaded the car. Then I paid the bill at the desk.
“Thanks and see you next time Mr. You,” said the clerk, happy with the tip. I knew there would be no next time.
Driving around the block, I stopped at a bank automatic teller and got as much cash as I could, I knew that were I was going, cash was a lot more useful than credit-cards.
We drove out of the city and then we reached the outer part of town when cities become soulless areas where soulless people can disappeared and be there for no one. We stopped in a motel, from an American chain, near an American fast-food joint and an American gas station. Just like in America, only poorer and not an American in sight. How ironic! It was a perfect place for us to drown our sorrow.
Once we got into the room, May Linh closed the curtains tight and I went down to my shorts. Then she undressed, making sure to show me everything, as if to reassure me I guess. It’s true, we hadn’t talk about a contract! Under what terms were we now to be living under? And how would that affect our understanding? Christ, I could feel a hinge of panic rearing its ugly head but I didn’t dare to bring the subject up. Anyway, the look of her nude body, and how limber and free she was, appeased me. She was more relaxed than me I guess. Indeed, gazing at her, I was finally able to deal with the many emotions of the day.
Only a tiny bed light was turned on and I liked the shadows on her skin, and she was still tanned and that’s when I realized how much we had gotten used to live in the dark when we were in our remote house by the beach. I remember how we could see the sky and the stars and the only lights were those of fishermen out at sea, far.
May Linh found a classical radio station on the TV screen and I opened a bottle of white wine and poured a glass, then I put ice cubes in it, and got a cold beer from the fridge. Then we both went to sit on the bed. We cheered and sipped our drinks, listening to the music, feeling each other’s weight on the mattress.
Then we turned the light off and slid under the sheet and we found instinctively our usual position, she on my left, turned on her left side. Yet it was strange to be only the two of us in bed and it took us some time to adjust and we both thought of Lily and Maggie but we didn’t say anything.
Indeed, after all those years living together, other than the Fridays when Lily would go somewhere, it was the very first time that May Lin and I were again just her and me, like the first time we had met. In all, now that I thought of it, we had been together, just the two of us, only the first three weeks when she moved into the house. I remembered how we had slowly, slowly, learned of each other and become intimate. Christ, I could remember the day she brought her piano!
Thinking of the piano, I felt a wave of shame and I was shy again, like before. I hurried to chase this thought away otherwise it’d be too fucking sad and unfair. Better move on. So I loved my body against May Linh’s, feeling her warmth, smelling her fragrance and I let my hand look for a possible gamahuche, to see if it was still there. May Linh’s butt came to meet me and it was all still there, just like the first times, only now we knew a lot better how to do it. Christ we were still alive and had to deal with it.
So it was just a late and somewhat sad and tired French finger kiss but it was a very nice one and, although the motel’s sheets smelled of chloroform, it was very intimate and only the two of us knew about it and understood it and it was so sweet and giving and I felt the contractions and there was no lying.
And then we fell asleep, with the radio still on and I think it was Mozart.
Iconography: Abstract by Ellar Wise