It was Sunday now and we were at the train station. May Linh train was to arrive in 15 minutes. For the past two days, since we know of this deadline, even the most usual things have been feeling weird. I’m sure it’s the same for her. According to our contract, May Linh had been staying, nude, with me in this house by the beach in this Southeastern Asian country for almost three weeks now and we had somehow learned to live alone with each other and, recently, a little bit less alone.
And she was leaving in 15 minutes, for a week. She appeared in my life and she’s now disappearing and her presence was but a blink I thought.
Yesterday went so fast and that day too was weird. I first went to join her in her garden which I don’t do often. She was naked under her gardener apron, with her rubber boots, her hat because the sun was back. I was in tongs.
“You’re not afraid of snakes?” she asked.
“I don’t know, none ever attacked me before,” I said, “and you’re here.”
She pointed at something with her finger. And it seemed odd to me that her fingers could remain so delicate although she was gardening every morning. Is gardening compatible with piano playing? I wondered. I guess it is. And I remembered how strong her hands feel in spite of their small size. Maybe gardening HELPS piano playing. Does May Linh play music in her head while gardening for long hours every morning?
“Those are tomato plants,” she said, “and cucumber here, cabbage, melons, spinach.” There were other things whose names she knew only in her language and I couldn’t help her because she had been here three weeks only and her plants didn’t have time yet to bear fruits that I would know the name of. I couldn’t recognize a garden plant from a garden weed anyway, I told her. She laughed and she squatted near neat rows of greens with big leaves.
“Look,” she said, “do you see the little beans? Another 30 days and we’ll have our first harvest. This beans need a lot of water, especially when it’s really hot under direct sun.”
OK, I thought, I got the message – I’ll water the beans – and I thought that was a fair price for coffee. I squatted down next to her and, sure enough, I saw the little biddy seeds that were coming to. It was nice I thought. So I used this opportunity to caress her buttocks and pet her anus. She waited until I was done; it lasted just a few seconds and I just explored the first ring of it but I couldn’t help it, squatting like that. Then she got up.
“Can we swim today my colonel,” she asked, doing a military salute.
I was stunned. Then we both cracked up laughing. We were alone in the world, old Mr. Me and May Linh, whom I still had no idea how old she was – 45? 50? 55? Less? More? I had no idea. Tai Chi I guess – and we were laughing.
So we went to swim, starting together and that was a first. We took it easy and reached the 200m platform where we laid in the sun, on our bellies. She was all wet when we settled and I wished I could have licked her dry.
“I wish I could lick you dry,” I said, a bit shy.
“Is it in the contract?” she asked.
“I don’t think so,” I said.
“We’ll write an addendum,” she said.
So I licked the salty water off her back, off the small of her back and off the crack of her ass.
Once back in the house, we showered together in the big Swedish shower and that was a first too. It was sweet and I kept ogling her. Then she shaved her legs with my razor. I guess that’s because she figured she would be without my razor for a whole week. Then again, I don’t know how often she’s shaving her legs…
She was about to fix her lunch in the kitchen when I said “let’s go eat crawfish”. She was surprised. Shit, I was surprised too. “I know there’re little shops around here that boils crawfish right out of the water and you eat them hot, with your fingers. I’d be happy to eat some with you, I know it’s good,” I said. And right away I knew where the idea came from: New Orleans, that’s where I had last eaten crawfish like that. And I used to love it. “OK,” May Linh said. And in no time, she was dressed up; she had put on her green and yellow flowery dress. I for once got out of my shorts and put on a pair of pants and a nice shirt.
“We’ll take the motorbike,” I said.
“OK,” she said.
So I got the vespa started and she sat behind me. She sat side-saddle and put her right arm around my waist. She had her silk shawl over her head, a little purse, all ready to go. What in hell!!! I started to drive and I somehow felt proud to have her sitting like that behind me. I could already imagine the villagers’ faces when they’d see us go by. Two old fools they’d think, and I was smiling in anticipation. But when I got to the gate, she told me to go the other way, away from the village. So we rode a while that way and we were now in the lowlands and the mangroves. As soon as the ground was above water, there were rice fields.
We drove for an hour, maybe. Sure enough, we arrived at some sort of inlet where there was a little shop, with few tables outside. We stopped and sat at one table, we were the only clients. May Linh went inside and I heard her talk in her language. She came back and, soon, there was a big pile of hot crawfish in front of us, and the sauce was hot as well, so she had ordered beer for me and white wine, with ice cubes, for herself. The good thing was, I didn’t have to teach her how to suck crawfish and we didn’t need to talk and we ate piles of crawfish after piles of crawfish so good it was, right out of the water, and our fingers were so full of it we couldn’t touch anything else. I thought my belly would burst out of my shirt and I felt a little bit stupid about it.
Then we stayed there a long time, drinking and smoking (only me smoking). It was dark by the time we drove home. And, again, she sat side-saddle and I could feel her arm around my waist and her small hand on my belly, holding, trusting. It was very dark – the moon had gone full circle since she arrived – and there was hardly anyone else on the road, human or beast. The only noise was the jungle ruckus of billions bugs yapping.
I spent the evening on the porch, drinking beer, writing and smoking. The radio was not on and I heard May Linh take a shower and I heard her play the piano a little bit, sad songs I thought. Then she went to bed, I knew when lights went off. She hadn’t come and joined me on the porch as usual and I hadn’t seen her really since we came back. When I went to bed, not too late because I knew I’d have to get up early the next day, May Linh was in her usual position, on her side, to her left. I slid under the sheet beside her and I felt she had her panties on. Oh, she has her period I thought. Could that be why she was taking all of her days off at once? I wondered. I didn’t know and I knew she wouldn’t say and I wouldn’t ask.
I didn’t know if she was sleeping or not, or wondering about how I would react or whatnot. I just put my nose in her hair to get a good smell, then I laid my right arm around her, my hand on her breasts and hell could freeze over, I went to sleep.
She woke me up early this morning, coffee was ready and she was already dressed, in that dark severe dress. She had prepared her little suitcase. I gave her 2.000 coppers, her wage for a month’s work.
“We’ll set up the fund when we’ll be in the capital,” I said, “and you’ll have to be there in person; I’m sure we’ll find an occasion to go to the capital.”
“OK, I understand,” she said.
We drove the 35 miles to town in silence other than the classical music radio station that she likes. I was happy to hear a few pieces I knew because I had heard them at home. “Thank you,” I said at one point. “Thank you,” she said. I think we both meant it. At least I did.
Et voilà. We were at the train station. We had been silent for the past 15 minutes, sitting there side by side on a bench and nobody paid attention to us other than a queer look here and there, from kids mostly. Now her train was coming. So we got up and she picked up her little suitcase.
“Have a good trip,” I said.
“I’ll let you know when I come back,” she said.
I knew she would come back, I had her piano. I told her that and she smiled and I could see her sharp and white uneven little teeth and I smiled too.
Then we shook hands. It was only the second time we’d shake hands and, just like the first time, I was surprised by the strength and firmness of her handshake. Then she turned around, she walked a little bit away on the platform and climbed into her car. Then, somewhere, someone whistled and the train got moving.
And there went my Asian Mary Poppins.
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