It was clearly stated in the contract that the women living in the nude with old Mr. Me in my remote place by the beach in this southeastern Asian country had two days off a week, just like in any work contract. What I didn’t anticipated was that May Linh and Lily, who were now sharing my home, would take their days off all at once and, every three weeks, be away for a week.
It felt so weird to be home alone, the house seemed so big, huge! May Linh and Lily were now away for a week and I had been gone for four days. The construction workers repairing the typhoon’s damages had worked well in our absence and they were almost done. The guest-house was like new, the dirt road was like new, the jungle was like new, the beach was like new, they were just finishing the last details.
That’s why I wasn’t exactly alone the first two days I came back from the capital because workers were there and I had to be up early for them.
So I went to the village and spent part of the day at the Lemon Tree playing backgammon with Carter. It was good indeed that I came to see him early because tourists season was picking up as we were now well into fall and that was the beginning of the dry season and, for the next four or five months, the resort and the village would be beaming with tourists from all over the world. So Carter had time to play only in the afternoon now.
I’d start with coffee but would quickly switch to beer. I don’t know what it was, but I would always beat Carter at backgammon, which is weird. If you know backgammon, no matter how good you are, you can always lose a game here and there, and sometimes more, just by the draw of the dices. And Carter knew how to play, he was a good player but, against me, he was lucky if winning 1 or 2 out of 8 games. That defied the odds.
Once, it was the last game in a best of five series, I got my guys in the box very, very, late but I started running him up with doubles. Still, he was way ahead and finally had one pawn left to pull out, I had four. My turn. Double-2! I had won with four doubles in a row in the money time. What in hell? Even I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry. Carter was dejected with that one.
“Mr. You, this is spooky, you are spooky,” he said and I could tell he half believed it.
I didn’t tell him I had name my dices May Linh and Lily and that their spirit was with me.
The resort was back in shape. The village was still under repair but I’m sure tourists were hard pressed to imagine that, less than two weeks ago, a monster typhoon had come through here. I’m sure some of them, as they arrived, didn’t even know that many people, not far for here, had died. The harbor had been cleaned up and dug and was now working. I was impressed.
“Say Carter, do you know the fable about the oak and the reed?”
“Sure,” he said. “It’s the story of this mighty oak so proud facing the storm and shoving it to the reed, bend all the way flat, until the wind brakes the oak in two and the reed is still standing the next day. Is that what you mean? Wasn’t it written by a French guy?”
“Yeah, La Fontaine,” I said.
“Why you’re asking?”
“Just a thought. The people here, they don’t try to fight the storm, they’re very poor, by white people standards, and they bow under the typhoon and their few worthless possessions can fly off and away, the next day the people here are up, they start cleaning, bury the dead and life goes on. Remember Hurricane Katerina in New Orleans? Remember what happened, how people treated each other? And those in New Orleans are the rich people of the mighty oak country. You come back ten years later and things are not completely repaired there; here in two weeks, life is back as before, save for the dead. And even the forest revives from this destruction.”
“Yeah I know,” said Carter. “In Australia, it took us a long time to understand the point of those big fires in the bush.”
“So?” Carter asked.
“Nothing, it is just that I went through hurricanes in New Orleans and now a typhoon here and I can tell the difference on how people react. And it made me think of that fable, the oak and the reed.”
“Yeah I see what you mean,” Carter said. “I had a few tourists freaking out the other night. They wanted me to call a helicopter!”
And we both laughed hard and he paid me a last beer, for the road.
I came back early enough from the Lemon Tree to made sure everything was ok on the job site. Everything was. I paid a beer to the workers but, to my surprise, they had time to hang around this time. They explained to me that tomorrow would be their last day of work. But they already had told me that in the morning. Then, I understood, they were curious. Only a couple of them spoke a broken English but I could understand.
“Today, no May Linh? No Lily?” One guy asked me. I could tell they were all waiting for my answer.
“No, no May Linh, no Lily, days off,” I said. “Understand day off? Like Sunday. No work today.”
“Ha,” they said when that guy translated for them.
“May Linh, Lily, tomorrow here?” they asked, hoping, I could see.
“No, not tomorrow and not tomorrow after. Seven days, one week,” I said and I was showing them with my hands.
That puzzled them and they didn’t insist.
“For the bill, May Linh and Lily will pay you. Money, May Linh, Lily,” I gestured.
“Yes money May Linh, Lily,” they nodded. That was not what interested them.
So we all remained silent for a while, drinking beer.
“You know,” I said, “I really like your work. You guys are very good. Work very good,” and I gave them a thumb up. They could see on my face that I was sincere. They liked that and smiled and relaxed finally and talked excitedly among themselves in their language. Then the English speaker, so to speak, said: “May Linh, Lily, very good,” and he gave me the thumbs up. And all the others to approve: “May Linh, Lily, good, good,” and they would talk among themselves and laugh as if they were remembering some good moments they had with the girls. I knew what they meant.
“Yeah,” I said, “May Linh, Lily, very good,” and that’s one thing we kind of all agreed on and the next beer was a lot more fun. I still had no idea how May Linh and Lily had explained their presence in my home. These guys would have loved to know more I guess – I’m sure they had ideas but they still couldn’t figure the whole story – but they understood we couldn’t have any kind of conversation so they left it at that.
After that I spent four days at home, finally alone. I could, finally, go back to swim the way I like it. Like I said, the good season was coming and swimming was a true pleasure. I realized that I could now swim farther than ever and I could tell my body needed it after four days of doing nothing in the capital.
In the evening, back on my porch, looking at the ocean and the big sky, I had time to think. God, was I thinking, I had more adventures here in the past two months than old Mr. Me had in the past 15 years and I don’t mean it in a sexual way, well I don’t mean it only in a sexual way. I was glad in a way to be alone again, drinking beer, smoking my French joints, music blasting. These were some peaceful moments and the ocean and the sky and the moon were perfect and the bugs in the jungle were singing a quieter tune too, the rut period being over I guess.
I was mostly thinking of May Linh and Lily though. And after a few days I started to miss them dearly. Not so much for sex. Sex is just a glimpse and, really, over quickly. Sure, sex was a huge surprise – it wasn’t in the contract at all! – and it happened only when Lily revived old Mr. Me’s dick, thought dead, and, yes, I now appreciated sex with May Linh and Lily very much.
But I had lived without sex for more than a decade and, at the end, rather than sex, what really made me most happy was to watch them both, nude and beautiful and easy, living with me without fear. Sure I pay them but they’re here by their own will, under a fair contract. So they are just beautiful to look at when they’re nude all day around me and I can gaze at every details and they’re alive and healthy gorgeous women, living epitome of beauty and I can fondle them here and there. What could I want more? What could old Mr. Me want more?
And I felt like I had reached my goal in a way because that is what I originally wanted, ogling at nude Asian women without head or heart aches. Pure beauty.
So I missed the two of them equally but I still had wonderful evenings alone on my porch, by myself. It’s hard to explain. I couldn’t wait to see them back, yet I was in no hurry. So I enjoyed missing them I guess. I even scared myself a few times: and what if they wouldn’t come back? Fuck, I had to chase those mean thoughts right away. To think something is sometimes to make it happen so I didn’t want to think that they may for some reason never come back and I’d never see them again. So I’d think of nice memories with them and I’d laugh alone and have another beer.
Saturday, I had to go to the village and I picked up flowers, including white ones for May Linh’s altar. When I came back, there was a message from May Linh. She always calls when I’m away somewhere. Indeed, I don’t recall ever speaking once on the phone with her.
“We’ll arrive tomorrow with the 3:45pm train,” the message said.
“We,” she had said! Please help me god!
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Iconography: Gustav Klimt, Water serpents II