Harbin Night Market: That’s a lot of Wangs.

Peter texted me: I break up with my girlfriend.

I texted back: Did you break up with her? Or did she break up with you? Or did you both decide to break up?

We fight. She say me if I love her. I say no. She cry and left. Game over.

Peter is not a playah, but he sure acts like one. He goes through girlfriends more than he changes his chonnies, which is not saying much since the guy lives in a pseudo-basement apartment with no running water or electricity and rarely has a chance to shower. He sucks electricity off the office building next door and defecates in a plastic bag over a pan and dumps it into the gutter before the street sweeper passes by his cell phone shop at daybreak. I know when he’s been too lazy to get up because his little closet store smells like night soil.

I politely tell him, “Dude, it’s kinda ripe in here.”

He claims it’s the kitty litter, that he hasn’t changed it. I know the difference having owned cats off and on and having had to crap in my own hands because there wasn’t a place in which to cop a squat. Nothing teaches you humility better.

Peter texting me this bit of information means I might have to babysit him for a little while. Although he has always cheated on his numerous girlfriends and always watches porn all day long, he was basically a kid. His behavior led to tearful break-ups but sex was really just candy for his (I’m assuming) outsized membrane. He was attracted and attached to (i.e. codependent with) a girl based on how sweet her pussy was. He met all kinds of girls who were looking for a good time (but also secretly hoping for something lasting) and inevitably they’d go away crying. There were a lot of one-night stands. I know cuz Peter often texted me photos of him and his conquests au naturel. I told him it was not funny and that he ought to have a little more self-respect. He thought it was funny. I did not. Most of the girls were fine looking, too, I’ll have to admit. I often warned him that one day he’d get his. And he did once, for all the good the experience did him.

He met an older woman, Sun Cui. A real piece of work that one. A wild woman with the cutest most divine little boy. How the hell she ended up with the Dalai Lama for a son I’ll never know. Just goes to show you that life is fucked up. I hated her the first time I met her. She was essentially a Chinese version of a dumb blonde bitch. One of the most irresponsible mothers I’ve ever had the displeasure to meet.

This human cat ran around with several guys at a time, utterly shameless, protesting to each one that she was faithful, dumping her kid on whomever was at hand. And I get the whole double standard thing. I do. It’s one thing when all parties agree to free love, but cheating on your other is heinous and dishonorable. On top of that, ditching your kid so you can go drinking at a KTV? There has to be some sort of Mega-Bitch Award for that kind of behavior.

She got her claws into Peter and gave him a taste of his own medicine. Peter was distraught because whatever talent this woman possessed in the sack enchanted him to desperate distraction. He was not himself. In other words, he was undeniably irretrievably and indefatigably pussy whipped. He got into a couple of fights trying to stake her as his own. She never let on that she didn’t want to be exclusive and made up all kinds of excuses why she kept waking up in some other guy’s bed. Sometimes leaving her handsome little Buddha child in Peter’s care. This worried me. Peter was not the kind of guy that should be taking care of a little boy. I had to babysit the sweet little tyke on more than one occasion. “Where’s Mama? Where’s Mama?”

Absorbing all of his laments about his two-timing dragon lady, I pounced on the irony of the situation, but at the time Peter only looked at me with pained eyes: “I really love her! I really love her!”

“No, you don’t. You barely know her, Peter. It’s just lust. Sex. Don’t let her do this to you.”

He would call and call, and she’d ignore his calls. I gotta hand it to Peter cuz he’d track her down, find her with another guy, and a brawl would ensue. Peter might be a kid at heart, but he’s extremely powerful.

I’ve seen him pick up guys who weigh over two hundred pounds and bounce them on their heads. Literally. It was a move he picked up from his shuaijiao days. I told him not to do that move in a fight. He could seriously injure someone’s spine or even possibly kill him. Between the bouts of crocodile tears, he’d smile; crying from Sun Cui breaking his heart, but smiling with the predator’s pride of being able to dominate the savannah. He might be the toughest lion in her pride, but she was still shacking up with every Li, Zhang, and Wang in a fifty-kilometer radius. That’s a lot of Wangs.

One shattered heart later, umpteen other girlfriends later, umpteen donnybrooks later, we were back here again.

This latest GF, a tall Harbin girl (slightly big in the hips with long heavy limbs and as educated as a bag of hammers) had lasted a lot longer and I knew why. She spelled Peter at his little cell phone store so he could meet with me and go lift weights or practice archery. I never much cared for the dumb chick, but she did have her uses and I pointed that out to him. She essentially learned how to run his shop (and put up with all his bullshit) while he ran around town with his buddies—male and female buddies. Love gave her the wherewithal to become an impromptu businesswoman. I admired her for that. The things we do for love. The things love enables us to do. No matter how you slice it, it’s masochism. But at the end of the day any girl stupid enough to pin her hopes to Peter’s comet was short a few million cells in the grey matter.

I sighed. It was unfair to her (I never could remember her name—that’s how little she mattered to me, supposedly Peter’s best friend) and I pointed that out to him.

“Peter, last week you were telling me how much you loved her and that you two were gonna get married. Shit, your Ma wanted you two to get a house together.”

That was true. He tried to borrow money from me, like several wan, and I didn’t have that kind of money. I stalled and stalled because I was not gonna get mixed up in that money pit. It was inconceivable to me that a guy as young and sexually irresponsible as he was could even think of marriage. I mean, I know I’m not one to talk, but this was clearly a situation where someone’s traditional expectations were crashing on the rocks of reality. His mother and ex-girlfriend were high on baijiu if they thought Peter was anywhere near taking on the responsibility of a family. Probably most of China’s population was not anywhere fiscally prepared to marry and raise a child, but that didn’t stop parents and grandparents from harping on it. They ought to advocate celibacy and homosexuality. The last thing China needed was more people.

Peter wanted to drown his troubles. I told him in no uncertain terms that we were not going to go get drunk.

“Just a couple beers.”

He wanted to introduce me to one of Harbin’s night markets. It was down on Hongqi Street. Fine. I could do that. But no drinking.

Night Market

Night Market

Night Market scene.

Night Market scene.

When I saw him, his face was ashen and drawn. His skin was grey and rough anyway, like the Grey Hulk from back in the Sixties. Peter didn’t get to bathe often since he lived in that stanky basement. The Grey Hulk analogy was apt since Peter also had a bromance going on with the Big Green Behemoth.

Hulk # 1, the Original

Hulk # 1, the Original

In addition to photos of him and bimbo du jour, he’d often send me pictures of the Hulk, telling me he wanted to look like Hulk. Like I said, big kid. I would send him pictures of Namor or Green Arrow since that was the body type I aspired to, although at my age I was just trying not to look like fucking George Costanza. In my defense, I doubt Jason Alexander possesses my physical skill set even if we could pass for twins.

Namor the Sub-Mariner! What a swimmer's bod!

Namor the Sub-Mariner! What a swimmer’s bod!

Original Green Arrow

Original Green Arrow

Oh George!

Oh George!

I figured we’d walk around the night market for a while and I’d try my level best to stick to my diet and keep him out of trouble.

We ended up having a good time. We goofed around taking pictures, trying on women’s hats and whatnot, me blanching at the disgusting food they had on display. I refused to eat or drink and he respected my terms.

Worms anyone?

Worms anyone?

Big Black Beetles

Big Black Beetles

Grasshoppers I think.

Grasshoppers I think.

Bu-FUGLY caterpillars.

Bu-FUGLY caterpillars.

More Worms and coccoons

More Worms and cocoons

The Ubiquitous CHUAN, creatures on a stick.

The Ubiquitous CHUAN, creatures on a stick.

That first night was special. The weather was pristine. Cool but not cold. In fact it was just cold enough that milling around with the mass of unwashed humanity kept you warm. Of course, sexy svelte lithe Chinese women everywhere. Christ, Chinese women are so fucking achingly sexy and beautiful! I wish I were either younger or richer. Either that or a goddamn sexless robot. That way I wouldn’t feel the horrible riptide of desire every time I brushed past a Heilongjiang beauty.

Night Market 8

Night Market 8

Night Market sweets.

Night Market sweets.

We went to the night market every night for five days and after the first coupla nights it was boring as hell. Eventually I started trying the food and we had a couple of brewskies at this small tea shop out of sheer boredom. I brought my laptop and did some reading while he posted pictures of our misadventures on WeChat (China’s FaceBook).

I never got so bored that I ate the barbecued semi-formed baby chicks that Peter swore by. He said that eating these eggs in which the baby chicks had begun to take shape helped put on muscle mass. I told him he was fulla shit. I didn’t care how much muscle it might put on your biceps, there was no way in hell I would ever let that pass my lips. Jeez, even if I wasn’t (usually) vegetarian, even if I was a diehard carnivore, I could never eat that. It sounded like someone’s nightmare. Imagine that: you’re trying to eat a hardboiled egg and discover there’s a dead little chick inside. Yeesh. Gives me the shivers thinking about it.

Chick egg fetus. Yum!

Chick egg fetus. Yum!

I held Peter’s proverbial hand every night. I didn’t mind being away from home. Hobbit was still treating me like a red-haired stepchild in a black family, so I needed the distraction too. I also realized I had missed being around people, believe it or not. I was off so much on my own and alone (in China of all places) that I forgot the simple pleasure of just people-watching (as opposed to girl-watching which is less of a pleasurable activity and more of a painful involuntary hardwired biophysical response).

I even bought a few stupid baseball hats. The last night we went to the market, Peter brought me a new cell phone. I had been complaining about the other phone (that incidentally he had given me for free). I appreciated that it was free but the damn thing was so cheap it caused more headaches than it solved. I even asked him to find me an iPhone, something I should never have done since I knew where—and how—he acquired them.

Peter, despite my warnings, engaged in several side businesses besides repairing cell phones and slapping on those silly plastic protective coversheets. In fact, these side deals were his most lucrative transactions. He still maintained a few connections from back in the day. He’s a businessman right? Most businessmen with such thin margins are always ready to make a little extra money and you know if you weren’t too circumspect about the origins, well you know, as long as it wasn’t a habit. Peter had Johnny Law or rather Zhang Law come down on him before and he had to spend a few nights in lock up while the Po-po went through his store and confiscated everything they thought looked suspicious. A few nights and a few thousand kuai later he was released on his own recognizance. Basically the police just took all his goods and any cash he had on hand and kicked him out with a warning not to accept stolen goods ever again. Like they gave a shit. Peter swore he would walk the straight and narrow but that only lasted a short while.

“How much is this?”

“Don’t worry. It’s a present for you. Take. Take!”

“No way, man. How much? You gotta take something.”

“Two kuai.”

I pushed it back across the table. “I won’t take it. I will fucking pitch it right through this window.”

He just smiled his big shit-eatin’ grin.

I played with it. This was China’s answer to iOS and Android. Some Chinese company had obviously ripped off Apple and Samsung and rolled out this cheaper version. This Chinese “Apple” system was all the rage now. Later I found out just how expensive the phone cost, but at least Peter took some money for it. Fucking capitalism. It absolutely corrupts all of us, absolutely.

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