Now that my house by the beach had been destroyed, Maggie murdered, most of my money gone, the contract old Mr. Me had devised, where Asian women would live in the nude with me, was moot. May Linh, Lily and I had taken refuge in an apart-hotel in the capital of this southeastern Asian country and none of us wished to talk about the life that was and will be no more. Which is only another way to say that we decided to move on and not look back. I had been badly beaten up but I was feeling better now.
Indeed, after a couple of days in the capital, I could walk alone, basically. The pain was still there but was less of a handicap. May Linh and Lily had gone shopping and they bought me, among other things, a pair of nice cotton white pants and a grey jacket, shirts and socks and shoes and they made me look pretty smart.
They got themselves a bunch of clothes and I was glad to see Lily in red and white and wearing again a new Chicago Bulls cap. Lily had bought a new leather bag and all the massaging stuff that goes with it. May Linh had bought both a black severe dress and a flowery one. They also got me plenty of beer and plenty of white wine for themselves.
In the apart-hotel they were nude most of the time, out of habit – or was it kindness to me from their part? – and we tried to make the place our own, filling it with fresh flowers, even watching Married with children on TV and scratching Lily, but it was like theatre, we were just playing our roles because we somehow knew those were the last showings. I couldn’t get enough of looking at their nude bodies but there was some desperation now in my ogling them and I could tell they’d go out of their way to show me details. The shower was so small and there were doors everywhere.
I went to see old Doc Vermoelen. When he recognized me, he didn’t like it. He remembered last time he saw me, looking for an AIDS free certificate. When he saw my face and then discovered my broken ribs, he didn’t say anything but I saw in his eyes that he figured my much too young local wife must have beaten the shit out of me, or her brothers. I didn’t tell him how awful were his wife’s paintings on the office’s walls and how ridiculous he looked himself.
“How did this happened?” he asked at last with a mean smile. I didn’t tell him about the goons from Hong Kong of course.
“I fell in the stairs,” I said.
He paused, then he shrugged. Anyway all I wanted was for him to do radios of my chest and organs and make sure everything was ok. So he did and he later confirmed to me Lily’s exact diagnosis. See, I should have trusted Lily even more than I already trusted her because I didn’t even have to come see this fart. Well, at least he gave me plenty of painkillers.
I also went to see Mrs. Wan. Only she knew were Maggie was and I was kind of angry getting there. But when I got to her office, there were workers there, doing repair work and I saw her, wearing wide and dark sun glasses. She still had a violet dress, high heels but you could tell she too had been beaten, hard, and she had a cast over a broken arm. I didn’t know what to do when she saw me and waved me in. So I followed her in her office, which was brand new and still smelled of new paint.
“They got here first, huh…” I said.
“Yes” she said, “but I didn’t tell them anything.”
It didn’t matter, I hadn’t been able to resist, how could she have resisted? In fact I would learn later through an expat that she had been brutally beaten and raped and, in fact, didn’t say anything and they had left her for dead. I guess that’s why she didn’t call to warn us. It’s only looking through her files that they found my name and figured that this remote house by the beach would be the best place to hide. Well, now that I think of it, maybe not the best place.
Anyway, Mrs. Wan offered me some tea and she asked if May Linh was ok and I told her yes. Then she asked if Lily was ok and I told her yes. I was only half-surprised that she’d know about Lily since Mrs. Wan, May Linh and Lily were from the same village up north. She didn’t asked about Maggie though and I didn’t mention her either.
I told Mrs. Wan to sell the land the best she could, when she’d have the time, and send the money to May Linh. “Ok,” she said. Then it was time to leave. She walked me to the elevator. Waiting for it, I don’t know why but we hugged.
“Adieu, take care,” I said.
“Adieu,” she said.
Then I went to see my friend Tom Miller at the American embassy. Tom is a nice guy. After serving in the navy, two rounds, he joined the diplomatic corps. I had met him about three years ago, when I just came in this southeastern Asian country. He had just gotten here as well and he had just brought his family in and I had just left mine. Anyway, we could speak together and I told him of Chicago and New Orleans and he told me of the Navy and Vietnam, Indochina like we say in French. People forget but before Americans came in this quagmire of a war, French were there first, and fucked it up just the same. So it was interesting conversations with Tom.
So I told Tom I needed a visa, a working visa, for Lily. He had to ask me why, if only to justify it later. So I told him what he wanted to hear and what he would tell his wife and kids later. I told him that Lily was a very talented and very good looking young woman, who spoke English and whom I liked dearly. But, because of a debt accumulated by her poor family, a pimp wanted to put her in a brothel and she was a good girl and I couldn’t let that happen and we had to act quickly. Judging how my face looked like, he figured I wasn’t kidding. And he did act quickly and told me right there and then that Lily would get her visa within a week. I could tell that he felt good about doing something nice for someone he didn’t really know that well. I was happy for him.
That evening, when I got back to the apart-hotel, May Linh and Lily were already there and they were naked, other than wearing aprons they had found or bought. The moment I passed through the door, the place felt warm and welcoming and for a second I thought that it didn’t matter if there was no ocean and no house and no sun and if we were now in a small apartment in the capital and there was so much noise, and it didn’t matter because as long as I was with them nothing could happen to me. And that’s how I felt when I got home, so to speak, and found them naked in the kitchen.
They were happy to see me and happy I guess that I was now moving around on my own. And they were joyful and cooking and that’s when I told them about my conversation with my friend Tom Miller and the visa to America and all that stuff. May Linh and Lily listened to me, serious now. And they knew I was right, this was it, Lily was going and so she should, she was 27 now.
“Thanks” said Lily. “Where in America?”
“Chicago”, I said, “I figured what with your love of Michael Jordan and Al Bundy.”
Lily smiled. “Yeah, sweet home Chicago,” she said.
“Exactly,” I said.
Lily then came to me and she gave me a big hug although she was careful not to crush me. Me, I could feel her nude and hairless body and let my fingers run over it and I could look through her weird pale eyes and May Linh came and gave us a hug too. It reminded me of the night when we, the three of us, survived this terrible typhoon, holding each other all night long. Maybe that’s what they were thinking too because we stayed like that, hugging, quite a bit of time, hiding our tears.
Then we ate inside and spent the evening on the terrace overlooking the city and I could hear the honks and tonks of busy people going somewhere. The bed was small for the three of us.
So, the next day, we went to close May Linh and Lily’s fund accounts and they got all of their money and I was kind of happy to see them cash it in. It meant I had kept my words, a contract is a contract, and I could tell they were happy and Lily would have some money getting to Chicago.
I told Lily my friends Ric and Mando would pick her up at O’Hare airport and that they would recognize her.
“Why didn’t you send me to Paris, like Maggie” she asked. I didn’t like to talk about Maggie. Yes, my friend at the French embassy had gotten me the visa for Maggie but then I disappeared, never came to retrieve it, didn’t even call to explain. How could I tell him that the very woman he had just given a visa to had been brutally murdered in this French guy’s home? Next day my name would have been all over the news in France. I could see the titles: “A Chinese woman found brutally murdered and burnt down in a French man home in Southeast Asia.” So I didn’t bother. But I couldn’t ask him again for yet another visa, for yet another woman.
Anyway, Maggie was made for Paris. Not Lily. Lily was ready for the States, she already knew America by heart. So Lily was going to Chicago and she couldn’t be happier. And May Linh was happy. And I was happy too. Yet I started counting the hours and getting good looks at Lily naked because, before I knew it, she would be gone. I knew, I was buying her ticket out.
“Is you family ok?” I asked Lily.
“Yeah”, Lily said, “I saved my money for the past two years and a half and my brothers and my sister and my mother have nothing to worry about. I’ve already told them that if they work hard in school, they’d come to the States, if only to see me. I think my mother is proud.”
“Did she know what your job was with me?” I asked.
“Yes. I told her I was taking care of an old white man from overseas and she knew May Linh was there too and she wasn’t worried at all, she liked it a lot better than me working in a whore house.”
“And now her girl is flying to Chicago…” I said.
“Yes!” Lily said and she came and gave old Mr. Me a big wet kiss, with the tongue.
And I could feel her body and it was there for me as much as I wanted. Yet I had to hurry.
Christ, I was so glad and proud, and May Linh too I could tell. So I answered Lily’s kiss and grabbed her ass and it was my best way to tell her how much I loved her. And she understood. And May Linh too. So Lily gave us a massage that evening, and May Linh and I played our role. The climax was incredible because there were all those emotions, joy of sex intertwined with the sadness of departure. Those massages, we knew, they’d soon be gone with Lily.
Iconography: Abstract by Ellar Wise