Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Is that really you??

My god, it's been years. But you haven't changed a bit. Same old thin-lipped, slightly crooked smile; same mocking head-tilt. And, yes, the same smooth curves, the delicate waist.

I remember the night we met. You came into my favourite restaurant* with a gaggle of my younger teaching colleagues, a rather boisterous, lager-loutish bunch. They'd picked you up out on the street somewhere. Heaven knows how or why!

But soon they'd moved on, and you stayed.

I did get very drunk that night. I completely forgot that I'd taken you home with me. Rising, still tipsy and befuddled, to answer the call of nature the next morning, I was at first rather shocked and flummoxed to find the outline of a female form dimly visible through my shower curtain.

I suppose I should have been concerned that you were slumped, completely inert, on the floor of the shower..... but it was still only 4 or 5am, and I was very, very, drunk.

Despite my fatigue and mental confusion, though, I think there was some dark corner of my brain that realised that there was nothing to worry about, that there was a non-threatening explanation behind the situation I'd just surprised myself with in the bathroom.

The explanation was...... well, that you were not quite the woman of my dreams. In fact you were barely even half that woman. You were, let's be frank, a limbless shop-window mannequin.

I adopted you that night to ease the discomfort of the Boss Man in the restaurant - who probably feared that those wild young lads had looted you from a clothes shop, and that the police might descend at any moment and interpret your presence on his premises as evidence of his complicity in a scandalous incident of vandalism and theft.

In fact, it was pretty evident that they had picked you up from a roadside trash heap somewhere. When I got you home, I discovered that you were absolutely filthy - hence my dumping you in the shower. Alas, I then collapsed into a crapulent coma, and utterly forgot - at least temporarily - about who you were and how you came to be with me. I'm so, so sorry. It was not the most romantic start to our relationship.

Why did I name you Cynthia? I forget now. It was a spur-of-the-moment thing. Perhaps it was a fragment of my Classical education reasserting itself: Cynthia was one of the many names of Artemis/Diana (also sometimes known as Delia - references to the supposed place of her birth: on Mount Cynthus in the isle of Delos). I'm not sure that I've ever particularly liked the name; but I don't dislike it, either.

I gave you an elevated perch, balanced precariously on top of the microwave oven on my windowsill - to improve your stature (I always worried that, as a mere torso, you felt a sense of inferiority about your height) and give you a commanding view of the college courtyard below.

The police never came to investigate your history or reclaim you for some putative owner. And so you stayed with me, my companion throughout that stressful and lonely first year in China.

I assure you that it was not without regret that I abandoned you in the apartment when I left the college that summer. I was moving in frantic haste, and I had so much other stuff to take with me. And I really hoped that you might be welcomed by my successor; that you might perhaps find him or her a better friend than I had been to you.

I did think about you several times during the following months, and even years. I did, in fact, return to the college the following semester to try to recover you...... but it appeared that you'd already 'moved on', and no-one could tell me where you'd gone to.

And then, this morning, while I was out running around the hutongs, I came upon you once again, reclining by the side of the road. You could have knocked me down with a feather! Where have you been all this time? What have you been doing with yourself? I suppose I shall never know the answers.

It was you, wasn't it? Or do you have a sister??

* It was, of course, The Adventure Bar. Incidents such as this are how it got its name.


steve said...


that's fuckin hilarious

you really need to get out more

Froog said...

Perhaps so.

The social life in my first couple of years here was severely constrained by poverty. But I often feel that the life of the mind was richer because of this.