I’m going to marry you. This will stop you from taking off again and make you write. In two days you will be at a desk in my apartment with your exciting new manuscript. Can’t tell you how much am looking forward. Tamara‘I’m getting married!’
The apartment block’s landing is sunny on this April morning. I am perched on a stool outside my flat in order to use an electrical socket to power my netbook, and to receive internet access from a teacher across the hall who has kindly given me her password.
The waiban has not repaired the flat’s electricity since the fuse-box exploded. They are keen to see the back of me. I am not, after all, an employee. Without you here, Bel, I am nobody. No electricity means I have no hot water for a shower, no landline, no cooker or microwave or means of making a cup of tea. The fridge-freezer is dead and defrosting onto the floor-tiles. But I don’t care; I’ve given up on food, anyway, and tomorrow is my flight. At Tamara’s I will write, write, write. The novel, then Part III of my trilogy, then the next thing, and the next…
Lily Hong shows up to help me carry seven cardboard boxes from the flat into a waiting taxi. She looks me up and down appraisingly. ‘Legs like bird legs. Break if you not careful. You need eat lot of rice.’ She leans across the small lake in which the fridge-freezer is now swimming, plucks from its door a tattered paper taped onto it, and stumblingly reads aloud my poem. It’s the one that Bel blogged about.
Stick-thin hipless bare-balconied oblong, On the day these blank-looking smoothed-off faces on that day these frogs will belly-flop happily
up top a penthouse’s smoked-glass pyramid,
at the foot topiary peacocks, a marble portico.
Its many square eyes stare down,
dark spectacles framed in chrome,
to where frogs chirrup and giggle
in a landscaped swamp among peonies,
willow, a large palm, privet cut in shapes.
rupture with black yowls, the day this concrete
topples into the car-parks, when girders snap
like breadsticks and cars get hammered flat,
when doors unhinge while lethal dust plumes up,
into the water pooling afresh among severed cables,
utility pipes up-ended, broken glass, detritus.
Across the trashed city these wide-lipped fat frogs
will plop goggle-eyed into water-holes, barking happily,
not squashed dead under rubble but smiling
slit-mouthed, fleshy-bottomed, belching happily
then belly-laughing in this freshly re-created world
amid the lushly-rotting corpses, succulents,
humidity, the vivid greenery.’
‘You did great! Thank you. You did great. Really. Your English has really improved.’
For once she doesn’t beam; remains pensive. A care-worn look. How old is she, in fact? Perhaps, setting aside the frills and bows, mid-thirties?
‘Please could you come to the post office with me, Lily Hong? I must be sure that these two boxes go to England – Yinguo – and the other five go to Antwerp, and I need a receipt.’
‘Of course I come with you!’ – at last she grins. ‘You help me a lot: promise find me husband!’
Stick-thin hipless bare-balconied oblong,
On the day these blank-looking smoothed-off faces
on that day these frogs will belly-flop happily
Ah, yes. A final issue to deal with.
pls – a favour. Cd you meet up with Bel’s former colleague Lily Hong – that pretty girl you noticed at Trish Little’s preview? See her contact details below. She’s on Wechat. She wants to marry a foreigner and start a new life outside China. I think she likes photography. Well, selfies. Hope you hit it off. I wish you a happy return to Australia.
PS I can’t marry you myself. Sorry. Am marrying someone else.
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