We were driving back to my place by the ocean from the train station where I had picked up May Linh, who had accepted my job offer to live naked with me. We hadn’t said much since then. I wanted to talk about the scenery, which I liked, but I figured this was her country so what could I say? “It’s very different here than from where I live,” she said.
“Is your house far?”
“No,” I said.
In fact, we were arriving at the village a few miles away from where I lived. She asked: “is there food at your place?” “Some,” I said, “mostly canned food and fruits, and a frozen pizza.” She asked me to stop when she saw the market. I parked and waited for her in the car, watching her go in my rearview mirror. She came back in a few minutes, with vegetables, some cooked stuff and fresh noodles.
Driving through the forest, we were soon at the entrance of the dirt road leading to the house. There was a gate. I beeped and it opened.
“Did you install the gate?” she asked.
“No it was already there when I bought the house,” I said. “In fact, when people ring the bell, it opens automatically but it rings in the house and then you know people are coming. It takes a few minutes driving on this dirt road to reach the house.”
“This is a big property,” she said.
“Yeah, it used to belong to a Dutch diplomat, I think, but it’s not as big as it looks. This dirt road is mine to use but much of the forest you see belongs to owners I don’t know.”
Then we arrived and I parked the car. From the ‘garage’, just an eave really, set up on top of the dune, a little path led down to the back of the house. There was a little covered porch, with a table and chairs and a barbecue and storage space underneath it. I left her suitcase there and she dropped her groceries on the table. By then it was already quite dark out there in the wild.
“Let me show you the house,” I said.
Then we got in. It wasn’t locked.
The entrance was through the kitchen, a big occidental kitchen with a huge fridge, a huge stove, two huge sinks, a big table in the middle with a chopping board and, everywhere, numerous cabinets and cooking utensils I never used. A Viking’s kitchen I hadn’t touched and kept as is.
It was a shotgun house, I explained, pretty much like those I knew in New Orleans and Mississippi, so all rooms were laid one after the other and, because I had taken away all doors, you could now see all the way through it, and, even from the kitchen, you could thus still see the ocean.
After the kitchen, there was a little room which I had set up as some sort of office. That’s where I put my books. There was a couch, a desk, the Internet connect to the Brave World, the sound system and a small TV.
From there, May Linh followed me through the bathroom. There were two sinks, cabinets, the toilet and a big Scandinavian shower, with no wall nor curtain. When you were done with showering, all you had to do was pull the water with a special broom and drain it off. Plenty of space, easy cleaning, a great Swedish shower just the way I wanted it.
May Linh wasn’t saying anything and I was just saying stupid stuff like: “this is a cabinet, another cabinet, this is the shower, this is a mirror, etc.” I felt like a complete moron. “Now, here’s the bedroom,” I said, like a salesman. I would have been selling shoes, I would have been Al Bundy. The bedroom was big though, with a big bed, a big bed indeed, and a closet and a mirror and nice and efficient local furniture.
Then I led her to the main room. This one was huge because I had taken down all the walls and separations that this idiotic diplomat had put in there. It was all made to look out to the porch first and then the ocean. There were a dining table with six chairs, a couch and two armchairs facing a big flat screen TV, bit of furniture. But the room was basically minimalist, as in Japanese architecture, yet comfortable and I really liked this big space unencumbered by shit accumulated from years of bullshit and lies and pain. On top of it, it made the locals’ craftsmanship plainly visible; the crew that rehabbed my house was very good I thought. Then again what do I know?
“I thought you didn’t watch TV,” May Linh said. “And there are two TVs…”
“I don’t watch much TV indeed, but sports sometimes. Sports is still mostly a fair endeavor where the best, the most talented, the most hard-working people usually wins. Yet there is always a part of luck in sports and you can never really predict the result, and I like that uncertainty, although nowadays the richest teams win most of the time. So that’s when I watch TV,” I said.
She didn’t comment.
Then we were on the wooden front porch. It had traditional roofing and there were chairs and tables with my ashtrays: three armchairs around a coffee table (although it occurred to me that, in this country, those couldn’t be, ‘coffee tables’) and a tall wooden table with four high stools. A nice railing, then few stairs led down to the beach, from which you could see how the house was built, on stilts.
So May Linh and I stood on the porch, looking out at the ocean in the moonlight.
“The ocean,” I said, more moronic than ever.
I showed her also the outside shower. This one was set with a simple curtain on a small lawn next to the house with an entrance from the beach to the kitchen. “It’s great to wash off after swimming or simply cool off when it is too hot,” I said for lack of having anything else to say. Next to it, there was a second toilet, with a door. I told May Linh that, a bit farther beyond the yard, hidden in the jungle, there was a second little residence, with walls and doors, for guests.
What saved me I think is that there were flowers everywhere in the house, from the kitchen to both porches.
“I hope you like the house,” I said.
“I like it,” she said. “Who restored it like that?”
“I did,” I said. “I mean a local crew did the work but that’s how I wanted it,” I added and I saw in her eyes that she liked that.
“So you have a maid?” she asked.
“A maid??? Christ, no, I don’t have a maid. Why would you ask?” I was dumbfounded.
“Because, the house is so clean, and all those flowers. I remember how you lived in the apart-hotel where I first met you so I figured you must have a maid.”
“No, I don’t have a maid and hardly anybody comes in here. Deliveries are dropped by the garage and that’s where the garbage go, the garbage truck coming once a week. I cleaned the house this morning and bought the flowers yesterday.”
“Very well then,” May Linh said. “Let me empty my suitcase and put my stuff away.”
I walked with her back to the kitchen. She took her suitcase from the back porch and went into the bedroom. “Do you want something to drink?” I asked. “No, not right now,” she answered. So I got a beer and went to smoke a cigarette on the front porch, thinking she may want to be alone while undoing her suitcase. I thought I heard the clang of a toothbrush hitting the bottom of a glass but I wasn’t sure.
Then I heard her coming. Better yet, I felt her coming. I could feel her walking through the vibrations from the wooden floor and I could feel that she was bare-footed. I turned around, and she was nude, entirely nude. She saw I was stunned and mesmerized so she stopped and let me look at her. I was trying to take it all but that was not possible. Her lovely face, her long black hair, her olive skin, those two breasts hanging firm and proud, the belly a bit round, the perfect small dark triangle of pubic hair… She was beautiful and I was frozen, looking at her.
“Do you want me to bend over?” she asked, with a straight face. I didn’t know if she was serious or simply making fun of me, in regard to our first meeting. ‘Yes, if you could’ I thought but I didn’t say anything. She had just arrived and was here to stay, at least a week according to our contract so I figured I’d be patient.
“Care to join me on the terrace?” I asked.
“No,” she said, “not yet. Let me first discover the house by myself.” And she turned around and went back toward the bedroom. I took a good long look at her ass as she went.
Later, I heard her ask me: “Can I turn on the radio?” “Yes,” I said. I heard her search for the right frequency and there she had it, a classical music station. I decided to go to the kitchen to grab another beer – I had drunk the first one not even realizing it – and she was in the bedroom putting some of her stuff away on the shelves and she was nude, nude, nude and I could look at her and it was ok.
I filled my eyes with her then I went through the bathroom; there was only one glass left, with two toothbrushes. I didn’t know how to interpret that. In the kitchen, she had brought in her groceries and she had water ready to boil. I took my beer and walked back to the porch trying very hard to act as if everything was normal.
I was happy to sit down, smoke another cigarette and drink a beer watching the ocean. That’s when she joined me with a cup of tea. She sat on an armchair and started to blow on her tea, too hot I guessed.
Just her lips blowing on that hot tea were incredible. I wanted to pinch myself to make sure this was real but I resolved to stay cool.
“This is a very nice place, I like it a lot,” May Linh finally said.
“Thank you,” I said. “For all purposes, feel at home.”
“Thanks,” she said.
On the radio, I recognized Anton Dvorak’s New World Symphony. I thought that was fitting.