Harbin Diary October 27, 2011

October 27, 2011       Thursday

I can’t believe I let so many days pass! Monday I did nothing but rest. I was a complete bum, but Sunday night I went to Café Kona and met an alluring, quirky, and extremely bright young Chinese woman studying for her master’s degree. Her name is Sirena.

She was pretty damn fluent in at least three languages: English, Korean and Chinese and could speak a smattering of Russian and Japanese. She broke into my solitude while I was writing to ask me what “Dennis the Menace” meant. She could not find “Dennis” in her dictionary. Lord, help me. I was not in the mood to be disturbed, and, seeing as she was a young beautiful Chinese woman, even less interested, which may seem counterintuitive, but I go to Kona to write—not to be disturbed by pretty girls who want free English lessons. I caved, pathetic worm that I am, and we chatted for the rest of the evening. She knew something about poetry and that always tugs at my heartstrings. Afterward, I walked her home. She ended up living in an apartment not far—a literal stone’s throw—from Eve.

She is an incredible beauty, but—always a ‘but’ with pretty girls—has a Korean boyfriend. She slipped in that bit of information after two hours of titillating conversation and subliminal sexual posturing. Her young beau recently graduated and returned to his homeland, leaving her pining away for her absent soul mate. This man she is crazy in love with, but—again with the ‘but’—she is also a very forward young woman—almost disturbingly forward, atypical for the average Chinese girl. It seems like she is looking for something. I think she is a collector: one of those women who collect interesting people to distract herself from her inner turmoil. She has this strange habit of sticking out her tongue (Chinese people do not normally display their tongue—that’s a Western thing) and tonight she did it on purpose—I swear she waited until my eyes dropped down to her thick red tongue flapped over her perfect rosebud-shaped lips. It was disconcerting the way she squirmed and fidgeted in her seat, stretching her long arms above her head and smiling down at me, her head tilted perfectly under the track lighting to give her just the right amount of shadow and light. She flexed and unflexed her whole body like a cat kneading a section of soft furniture under its velvet paws.

The first night we met we practically melted into each other arms with the sheer joy of meeting a kindred spirit. We had the place to ourselves and were quite free in our speech. Maybe we were bored and hungry for a chat. Her command of English is as I said phenomenal. The next night I had to keep my wits about me, however, because she seemed to be testing me in some manner—not my English, although she did that too, but something else. I felt like she was probing me, probing me for something.

Something else. After walking her home that first evening, at her door we hugged goodbye—again atypical behavior. And I marveled at the magical quality of the evening. Then, I realized I had dropped my red pullover somewhere along the walk home. It was a gift from the Jolies—a warm hiking jacket of high quality and even higher sentimental value as it once belonged to their son, a dear friend of mine. I was exhausted, but I had a choice: lose my precious jacket or retrace the thirty-minute walk in the cold and try to find it. I opted for the latter. I was angry with myself the entire way, kicking myself and beating myself up and cursing my damned foolish self: the sight of a middle-aged man allowing himself to get so distracted by a pretty young thing. It was dishonorable! Stupid, stupid, stupid Rat Creature! But I felt vindicated when I found the jacket at the intersection of 西达直接 and 教化路, the exact spot where she dropped the ‘boyfriend bomb’ and as always my writer’s mind spun a web of symbolism over the entire evening. It was worthy of a short story. I should be wary of this femme fatale.

I imagine I am a difficult person to read for women: I am sensitive, bright, articulate, passionate, not handsome but not unhandsome, very warm and friendly (when I turn on the charm), but I am also aloof physically (for obvious reasons). I think they expect me to make a pass and then of course I don’t. This must be disconcerting. They are expecting to have to rebuff me and then my avuncular demeanor throws them off-balance. I am too shy and too focused to fall off my anti-woman wagon. Women are fine to be around for a chat and some intellectual poetic conversation, but I certainly don’t need a love relationship to pitch a wrench into my writing routine. No, I should allow these vibrant and acute beauties to inspire me—from a safe distance.

I am curious however.

Wow. I realized I missed her passing me a compliment. She said that she had told her friend Amy who came along the second night that she had met an American who was很牛hen niu (literal translation: very cow or bull)—which they explained means very great. I asked her whom she was talking about, but she didn’t answer directly, she smiled and demurred. Now I realize she was talking about me. Hmm. I missed that one. I thought she was talking about someone else. Stupid, stupid, stupid Rat Creature.

Whew! Tuesday I was so happy because I started my novel up again. It was such a joy, such an indescribable joy to work again on it. Also that night I went to the Lutheran Church meeting, which turned out to be a horror. I will describe that later. I did find the Catholic Church, which was right across the street! I plan on going to mass at my first opportunity. I have so many things to add to this diary. Then, I stayed up late preparing class for Wednesday.

After class on Wednesday I met with Kat—Katherine a college student of mine upon whom I spontaneously bestowed with the nickname of Kat—it just popped out of me. God if I were ten years younger and she ten years older! But as it is I am older than both her parents! Imagine. Nonetheless, she is very fond of me and I of her. This is what happens when people who love literature get together. We are such a rare species nowadays that it is almost a biological imperative that we reproduce in hopes of raising a literary genius—or at least a literarily literate person. I am working hard to be a good and wholesome teacher, however, but it’s not easy. She is such a darling really I would need to spend an afternoon listing all of her wonderful attributes. I must declare that neither Kat nor Sirena is appropriate for me: Kat is like a daughter to me and Sirena has a beau—a rich handsome one at that. What in God’s name would she want with me except to use me as foil to make her man mildly jealous? Which I would not be surprised is her plan to force him to return to Harbin. I will stir up some time to do justice to these fascinating and gorgeous young ladies. Why can’t I meet such erudite and attractive women back in the US of A?

After spending all afternoon with Kat, I went home exhausted and light and as a feather from our wondrous time together. I woke at 3:30 AM to work on lessons and prepare for the day. I volunteered (like an idiot) to help Winnie with her 100+ English Study Group. I actually performed quite well, especially given the lack of prep time and the enormity of the task of teaching so many students in such a confined space. After I prepared lessons, I again met with Kat—God, I love calling her Kat, echoes of Wolverine and Kitty Pryde—and then after a bit of translating we went to lunch again. I told her not to pay for me anymore. I stayed in the library after she went to class. I went home after a while and dithered for a bit before I went to teach one lesson at Daoli. Then rushed to meet with Sirena at Café Kona and here I am…writing. They are closing up shop so I will shut this down. I will rest and then work on my novel all tomorrow morning and then Sirena invited me over for a late dinner party with her other “teacher friends.” We shall see.


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