“Bonjour. My name is May Linh. I’m sent by Mrs. Wan for an employment interview.” Indeed, Old Mr. Me had contracted Mrs. Wan, director of a head hunting bureau in this southeastern Asian country. She was to send female candidates for a job consisting mostly in living around me in the nude in my house by the beach. I thought that would be the best way to spend my last years, far from the folly of humanity. Female nudity as an oasis.
All appointments – one candidate at a time, one candidate a day – had been set up at 4 pm. The first three candidates didn’t exactly suited me and, a bit sad I guess, I got really drunk and funky last night and I was still crashed in bed, if not passed out, when I heard the doorbell ring insistently, at 10 am! I wasn’t expecting anyone and that put me in a terrible mood. Hungover, I almost fell putting my shorts on. I opened the door and there was this women. “Bonjour. My name is May Linh. I’m sent by Mrs. Wan for an employment interview”.
“But but…,” I said, really pissed, “it’s only 10 o’clock in the morning for Christ’s sake. I believe our appointment was at 4 this afternoon…” I was fuming. “Yes I know,” this woman answered calmly. “Does it make a difference? Mrs. Wan told me this would be an all day job and I was in the neighborhood.”
Yeah, right, I thought. I was dumbfounded, also because her English was very good. Standing like an idiot, I was just trying to figure out what to do when she asked: “Are you going to let me in or you’d rather have me standing in the corridor?” She hadn’t moved and she was standing tall, looking straight in my eyes.
I was close to panic, I needed badly to take a leak and my head hurt – fucking moonshine – and I wanted to puke. “Please, please come in,” I mumbled. So this woman came in and saw it all in one look. It wasn’t a mess, I’m not a pig, but, at this time in the morning, considering I was out all night after an evening with Mrs. Golddigger, let’s say the place wasn’t tidy, ashtrays still filled with two kinds of cigarettes’ butts.
At 4 pm, every day for my appointments, I always made sure the apart-hotel looked good and had been cleaned up. I’d order fresh flowers from a local florist, right down the street, and a young and beautiful girl was coming every day, around 2 pm, to change the flowers. She was charming and I even thought for a minute offering her a deal, I could only imagined her naked. Then again I didn’t say a word because I knew she already had a passion in her life, she loved those flowers and when making her compositions, she’d explain to me what she was thinking and each one of them was extremely sensible and in good taste. So I knew she wouldn’t leave her flowers for an old fart like me, regardless of money.
But this was 10 am!!!!!! Fuck, fuck, fuck!
This lady was standing there in the middle of the living-room, holding her purse as if someone was about to steal it from her. In her late forties, early fifties maybe, maybe more, maybe less, I had no idea of her age really, but this woman looked good to me, at first sight, with long black hair and a nice figure. I felt so stupid in my shorts that I said the first thing that came to my mind, out of habit I guess: “Do you want a drink?”
The moment I said it, I knew that was terrible. There was pretty much nothing left to drink in the kitchen and empty fruit juice boxes and empty beer cans were stacked up in a corner. I knew there was no food, no breakfast. She didn’t answer me.
“Would you like coffee?” I offered, meekly. I was sweating beer.
She was standing in the room and still hadn’t moved. “Is this where I would be working?” she finally asked.
As she said that, through the headache, I suddenly realized that candidate one and candidate two had probably thought that this was where the job was to take place, in this small apartment. Indeed, I didn’t remember mentioning to them the house by the beach. Oh my god! It didn’t occur to me that anyone could think that this apart-hotel would be where we’d be living! Yet they were willing! Christ! Only then did I understand the urgency in May Linh’s question. “No no no, not here,” I said in a great hurry. “I have a house, in a far province, south, by the ocean. It’s a nice place, a traditional place. Here, I have pictures,” and I hurried up to get those pictures and I gave them to her.
She quickly but carefully looked at the photos. “This is where you live and where I would be working?” she finally asked. “Yes, yes,” I said eagerly, as if I had to justify anything. “OK,” she said. Then she looked around again, this time to see where to put her purse and her scarf. “Well,” she said, “I think I’ll have tea and I believe I better fix it myself. Coffee for you, isn’t it?” And she immediately walked into the kitchen and I left her there. First, I could finally take a piss and I was glad the toilets were not disgusting if she had to go as well.
After that, not knowing what to do, I went outside on the terrace and lit a cigarette. I could hear the honks and tonks of so many busy people and, as it turned out, I was kind of happy, proud even, that my place by the beach, in this case, had made a difference. Feeling better, I used this opportunity to empty the ashtrays.
May Linh came and joined me on the terrace. She had coffee for me and, of course, tea for herself. I invited her to sit down and she sat where Mrs. Golddigger sat last night. So I sat on my chair and we both sat there, sipping our drinks.
We didn’t say anything for a long time other than her telling me: “No, thank you, I don’t smoke.” Coffee was good though. “Thank you for the coffee,” I said.
“You know,” I said, “on this job, you don’t have to make coffee for me, I’m not looking for a maid.”
“Maids are the ones who will come to clean your room once you leave this place. I’m not a maid. If I wanted tea, I knew I had better do it myself. You mentioned coffee. While I was in the kitchen, I could do that too. After all, I’m the one who came at 10 am, which I understand is early for you.” She got up, picked up my cup, went into the apart-hotel’s kitchen and came back with both our cups filled up.
I was thinking, what if I had not been here? I knew she would have come at 4 pm and would have never told me she had come earlier at 10 am.
We were silent again for a long time. The hum of the city made another kind of infernal ruckus but it was quiet on the terrace. Then May Linh broke the spell and said: “Mrs. Wan told me of the particularity of this job. I don’t know if she told me all that she knows about this job nor if she knows that much about it but she did tell me that you were looking for a woman to live around your house naked all day. Is that a fact?”
“Yes,” I said feebly. I was glad she brought it up instead of me. I felt like a coward.
“Ok then, let’s get that over with,” she said. And she got up and went inside.
Well, at this point, I could only follow her.
She was standing right by the chair where she had left her purse and her scarf. She took off one shoe, then the other – they were flat shoes – then she let her dress come down, picked it up and folded it atop her scarf. She had white underwear, bra and panties, with lace. I was standing there like a dimwit, looking at her and not knowing what I should do, sit or stand. Then, without a pause, she took off her panties, which went atop her dress. Then she took off her bra, which went atop the panties.
Then she stood up straight, her arms by her sides, then looked at me right in the eyes – I was still standing – and said: “Now there. You tell me if it’s good for you or not. If not, I’ll be gone shortly. No hard feelings.”
Iconography: Admonitions of the Court Instructress by Gu Kaizhi