I didn’t know the reasons why such a woman as Maggie had agreed to old Mr. Me’s contract but I figured that, whatever she was fleeing from, she hadn’t anticipated what she would find once she reached my house by the beach in this warm southeastern Asian country. Well, first she met with May Linh and Lily, living in the nude, and, I guess, this was a shocker enough. But that was just a start.
The Chinese philosopher Li Yu, I think, theorized that what he calls the ‘commerce with women’, meaning sex, should be thought of as a medicine. In substance, he explains that ‘commercing’ with women, often but without exaggeration over a long period of time, is extremely benefic for a man’s health. He presumed it is just as benefic for women’s health.
But, as with any remedy, he asserts that too much of it or not enough of it is detrimental to one’s health. Thus he advocated steady ‘commerce’ with women whom, he said, you could love but not be passionate about. The ying and the yang, that stuff.
Well, old Mr. Me was kind of passionate by now but, indeed, I had never been in a better shape since I began ‘commercing’ with May Linh and Lily, more than two years ago now. I’m sure the swimming helped, and I’m sure the good natural food helped too but I’m sure as well that Li Yu is right. In fact, for 10 or 15 years, I had believed my dick was dead, and I had no commerce whatsoever with my wife and I didn’t feel so great, that’s for sure.
But since Lily had helped me recover my sexual abilities, in spite of my age, I never felt so good, body and mind. Especially considering there was no more worry about money, and that helped too I guess.
But now that Maggie had arrived, unannounced, I wondered if Li Yu was still right: could Maggie be the level at which commerce with women becomes too much and, instead of a remedy, it becomes a poison? Still, now that I could watch Maggie, nude all day around me, I couldn’t help but notice her plastic. This body of hers had never worked a day in its life and it was soft and weak and pale but there was a natural lasciviousness about it that could very well make a man go crazy I figured. And that’s why she had never worked a day in her life.
That is not exactly true. I learned later she was indeed ‘working’, being a hostess to high end parties. I also learned later that this work of hers was for pocket money, not to be bored all day at home doing nothing. And I also realized that, in my former life, I would have never dared dreaming about getting close to such a woman, much less fuck her. Not a chance. So, once Maggie showed up, I wondered if she was remedy or poison…
Anyway, when Hong Kong Chinese Maggie showed up at my house by the beach, she was the one who lost her bearings, not May Linh, Lily or old Mr. Me. I’m laughing just remembering Maggie’s look when, the next day, Lily asked her if she wanted a massage.
We were sitting on the front porch, with the ocean and the big sky, alone and lost in the jungle. Maggie reacted as if she had not understood the question yet realizing that what she understood was exactly what Lily had said and Maggie’s brain just couldn’t deal with all the implications of this question and her response. Lily was looking at her with her weird pale eyes, waiting, and Maggie was nude and losing her footing.
I understood. It was hard for her. In the morning she woke up in this weird household by the ocean, in this southeastern Asian bumfuck country and, when she got up, she didn’t know quite what to do with herself. She remembered this was a shotgun house with no doors as she went to the toilet, she was embarrassed but she had to go. She could probably hear May Linh and Lily speaking in their language in the kitchen – that makes the two of us not understanding what they say I thought and it amused me – then I heard Maggie take a leak.
Will she take a shit I wondered? No, I bet, not right now. She didn’t take a shit.
Then, after peeing, she didn’t know again quite what to do. Normally, she would have put some clothes on, clothes that made her proud and confident, but there she was naked and her confidence was low. On her left, the bedroom with old Mr. Me still in bed, pretending to be sleeping; on her right, the office then the kitchen with May Linh and Lily already in it, talking. The kitchen, I bet. The kitchen it was. So I changed place in the bed and, for the first time, I settled in Maggie’s warm place. Just before going back to sleep, I heard there was conversation in English in the kitchen.
When I woke up and finally got up, I could smell the coffee but the house was empty. I went on the porch and there they were, all three of them, in the garden. Lily and May Linh had given Maggie an old pair of rubber boots and an old apron, and I think it was May Linh’s old Hello Kitty apron. They were up there by the animals, near the edge of the jungle. From that distance I could tell there were three nude women but I couldn’t really see anything, other than the fact that one of those bodies was so much whiter, looking unhealthy, than the other two. So I had coffee, a cigarette and, after going to the toilet, I went to swim.
Maggie had arrived during the dry season so the weather was very nice, sunny and comfortable and it was the best time of the year for swimming. By now, with a calm sea like today, I could really take off and swim far out at sea. It’s hard to be more precise because, since the time that May Linh, Lily and I had been living here in quasi total autarky, we didn’t care for time or what time of the day it was. Anyway, we knew day-break was at six in the morning, nightfall at six in the evening and that was plenty enough.
So sometimes I went to swim and really lost myself in thoughts while swimming and I’d come back having no idea how long I had been out there really. But I could tell how far I went by what I could see from the sea. When I could see Carter’s resort, I knew I was pretty far out. In all, as far as time is concerned, the one thing I know for sure is that every single day was going so fast and was gone so quickly. I always felt at the end of the day that I didn’t had enough of May Linh and Lily, of their free willing nude beauty. Indeed, I was still gazing at them with a passion and couldn’t tire of it.
Anyway, when I came back that day from the ocean, I felt I had been gone a long time and had gone far. It must be because they were waiting for me on the beach. And when they saw me get close, May Linh and Lily dove in and came to meet me on the sandbar with their diving gear, their goggles, their machetes and baskets for fishing.
I’m sure Maggie had gone to the beach before, with her friends, and those were nice lazy days, but this was living on a wild beach, not a picnic. Again, she was ill at ease, tip tap toing on the edge of the water. So Lily turned back to pick Maggie up and that was the occasion for May Linh and I to have a quick gamahuche in the water, which I guess was our secret way to say hi and start our day together.
When she had to cross that little distance – 20 or 25 yard – before reaching the sandbar, Maggie realized she was not in a health club’s swimming pool. I knew it was hard the first time. So Lily accompanied her, then she left Maggie to me and went to dive with May Linh. I didn’t know what to do, I was standing on the sandbar by the sea bluff and Maggie, few feet away from me, didn’t know what to do either. I had my goggles on, she had none. So I took off my goggles and gave them to her.
“Follow me,” I said, “we’re not going far.”
It seems that Maggie just didn’t know how to react but let herself be carried away by the events she had herself put in motion. I didn’t know where she was from, other than Hong Kong, but I could understand her sense of helplessness.
“Don’t worry,” I said.
“Ok,” she said.
Behind the goggles I couldn’t see her eyes.
So we swam and I took her to the closest platform from where we were. I had put at sea several of those platforms, places to rest or bask in the sun. I remember how, at the beginning, I was happy just to reach them and stand on them. Now they were just nice places over the water where to rest and bask in the sun. So I took Maggie to the closest one, I helped her to get on it and I thought for a second to throw her back in the water but I felt she wouldn’t like the joke at all. And it reminded me of the first time May Linh and I went to a platform and how we played like kids and the fun we had. Not this time.
Anyway, from this platform, Maggie could watch May Linh and Lily at work, diving and fishing, coming up for air, their head popping up here or there, sometimes together at the same time, sometimes one after the other and sometimes they would remain under the water for so long and both their head would pop up far at sea. And you’d have a glimpse of their ass as they dove, their feet disappearing then in the abyss.
Maggie had taken the goggles off and was watching May Linh and Lily’s ballet. She was stunned beyond belief and disconcerted.
“They’re mermaids, I know,” I said.
Maggie didn’t answer me, she just kept watching, mesmerized. Then May Linh and Lily were on the sandbar, their baskets full and they saw us on the platform and waived and then they indicated they were going home.
“Shall we?” I asked Maggie.
So she put her goggles on and we started to swim back. I stayed behind her at first, to see if she too was a mermaid because I knew how to recognize them. To no avail because that day I didn’t have goggles and I couldn’t see anything and I figured that if I’d let my hands and fingers play anemones, Maggie would freak out, thinking maybe she’s attacked by sharks or something. So I went to swim by her side, swimming at her pace and all the way home that way.
After lunch, Lily offered Maggie to take her to the village, to show her the place and get her stuff, like goggles and rubber boots her size and an apron for cooking maybe. But, to our surprise, Maggie adamantly refused to go.
“I don’t need to go to the village,” she said rather briskly.
She had already told me in the car, on our way back from the train station, that she didn’t want anyone to see her. There was a moment of silent uncertainty.
“I’ll go,” May Linh said. And in one long elegant move May Linh was now wearing her flowery dress and was gone.
Maggie, feeling somewhat at odds and somehow guilty, was about to sulk I could tell. Maybe this was already too much for her considering all that had happened to her in the last 24h. So maybe she figured she was due for a bit of sulking and self-pity.
That’s when Lily asked her if she wanted a massage.
Iconography: abstract by Ellar Wise