Berlin Schönefeld Airport. End-of-September rain.
‘Welcome on board.’ The air hostess smiles, looking at me curiously. My eyes are still swollen from crying.
My flight is with Aeroflot. Cheap. Over-long. Thirteen hours to contemplate my fate.
On my lap is my half-read biography of Lee Miller, “Man Ray’s muse” in the 1930s. In the month since my epiphanic Shibari session, and in view of the project Bel wants to carry out, I’ve been googling Art Nude photography, and have thus collected interesting reading-matter for my new adventure.
We taxi down the runway.
First I will prime myself by watching Mr. Right-On New Man John Berger’s 1972 TV series Ways of Seeing. The Youtube review says it “challenged and changed a whole nation”. Berger famously said “women watch themselves being looked at”, as in, women are taught to think of themselves as always on view. But this is the 21st century. Men, too, are on view now – aren’t they? I have uploaded all four episodes onto my i-Pad. I put in my earphones…
Moscow airport. Awaiting my connection I check emails. One from Ilka already! My eyes well up again, but it turns out to be annoying.
Just visited Bel’s website. She got fixation on yu, see pics on homepage. Be worried.
I’m being made to defend Bel. Is Ilka jealous?
Last leg. Moscow to Shanghai. The plane is taxi-ing.
Clunk. Seatbelt on. I stick my nose back into the biography. Lee Miller was only Man Ray’s lover or so-called ‘muse’ for three years – so why does it seem to be her main claim to fame? Frivolous model, or professional photographer? Despite her son’s posthumous promotion of her photographic and journalistic achievements, it seems images of her are more known than images by her.
Shanghai Pudong Airport. Sudden overwhelming humid heat. China. Fuck. Fuck.
Long sleek black hair… Short skirts… Smooth slender legs… Who would ever give a man a second look? Bel could surely get some gorgeous skinny Chinese woman for this project. Why does she want me?
Eventually, at the other side of a striped barrier, I see her. Creased linen shirt and slacks. Hot and sticky. Every bit the pasty British expat teacher.
I don’t feel attracted to her. I just don’t. Ought I to?
The awkwardness of having to work out how to greet each other is avoided – thank god – by the gushing of a pretty, beaming young girl:
‘Welcome you! My name is Miss Lily Hong’ – she holds out her name-card to me with both hands. ‘Assistant vice-manager Foreign Affairs Department.’
‘Hello – “Lily Hong”, was that? Ni Hao!’
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