It’s been a weird week. We’re both being weird. Carrying on as though this is an ordinary, normal, uneventful life with no pain.
I might as well be in a remote lighthouse as here. I feel like all my bonds are cut with my past. Where are all the people I had in my life up until last year? Well – call it nine months ago, when I left England.
What’s my old neighbour Tiffany up to?
What about Ilka in Berlin?
I even wonder occasionally, too, about ruthlessly ambitious Conservative Bastard Jeremy (…he who didn’t want our child). But only in abstract terms. Because he is a man of physical beauty. He’s probably painting the queen by now.
What induced me to leave it all behind?
Why suddenly up and leave a life?
Only Tamara has kept in regular touch. What does that say?
‘Elite Social’ new exclusive Meet-up Group for informal networking at cocktail parties and fine dining events in Shanghai! Guests will make valuable contacts while socialising and networking with many quality professionals at prestige venues. Membership not open like other Meet-up Groups, ‘Elite Social’ is private club, monitors all applications and approve only people are stylish, successful, like-minded professionals, appreciate finer thing in life. Average age mid 20’s – mid 30’s, various nationalities. All member need have photo. No fake profile. Welcome to contact organiser directly re sponsorship, collaboration, business promotion, corporate/personal event inquiry.
‘Yeuch. Imagine the combination of Western jerks and oriental princesses.’
‘Totally,’Bel growls, returning to her desk. ‘This epitomises the Shanghai we get pulled into as westerners. It’s why I’ve never socialised with the international community. When you’re working in Afghanistan, the Balkans, Africa, it’s totally different. I hate how people relate here. Especially the encounter between foreigners and this privileged social stratum of Chinese.’
I consider my almost total lack of relations with the Chinese population amidst which I’ve lived for a half-year. Fei Mo Di – but he’s an old Etonian. Hong Kong Ron – but he’s Hong Kong-ese. Lily Hong.
‘When is a favour not a favour?’ Bel rants on, grimly wiping today’s layer of smut from her monitor. ‘When is a genuine compliment a fake compliment? When is an act of kindness not an act of kindness? When is a friendship not a friendship? When is a smile fake? Who can be trusted – if anyone?’
‘Um. Well, Lily Hong, obviously. Aren’t you being a bit extreme?’
‘Lily just wants a passport.’
‘Not fair. She’s your good friend, Bel.’
I reach, touch Bel’s cheek, but this unnervingly transforms her scowl into a desperate, questioning look. I just blunder on – ‘You do need to leave Shanghai. Not just for two weeks – for good. You’re being poisoned.’
Bel comes to bed at last. ‘Done it.’
‘Hey – fantastic!’ I sit up. ‘That’s fantastic.’
‘It’s not that good. ‘ She starts to undress. ‘Just alright.’
‘Rubbish. I know it’s brilliant. Look – let’s have a launch party before you fly off on Friday! I can put out word on the WeChat group; Mike Little will rally folk.’
‘I absolutely don’t want a party. I don’t want to meet people. I hate people. Everyone out to get something from each other. Nobody being straightforward. Nobody being genuine. Only being nice coz they want connections, favours, advantages.’
‘But… why put all this work into this wonderful movie if you don’t want to show it to people?’
‘I needed to kill the time. You know; get completely absorbed in a task. Before the funeral.’
‘Funeral? I thought you’d intentionally missed the funeral…?’
Sigh. ‘That was my hope.’
‘…thought that’s why you decided not to fly straight there when you first got the news…’
‘It was. But there was a delay for the post mortem, then another stupid wait for a cremation date. Bloody bureaucracy,’ she stares out of the window. ‘Funeral’s the day after I arrive.’
To subscribe leave your email address
[email-subscribers namefield=”YES” desc=”” group=”Public”]
Please subscribe to my serial (it’s free)