An Evening with a Goddess in China
I was at my computer, late one evening when Mama (she gave me my Chinese name and in gratitude I call her Mama) called to ask if I would like to join her and her friends at a night club. I said, ‘no, thanks’ but she insisted. I stalled and thought I had managed to escape the invitation but another call a minute later and a little more friendly persuasion saw me leaving the relatively warm confines of my apartment for the chill outdoors.
I jumped into a taxi and got off at the Mix Pub and Bar, paying the driver an extra yuan (Spring Festival taxi rates are higher) over the normal four for the ride.
Inside, a row of pretty women, dressed in Qi Pao’s (that sexy long dress from shoulder to the feet and nowadays, sometimes to a little above the knees and sexier still) and furry shawls draped over their milky shoulders welcomed with a chorus of sweet voices, in unison.
I smiled as I made my way in and answered the hello’s reserved for the laowai (foreigner). I saw Mama with a group of friends in one of the balcony-like alcoves. She waved cheerfully and I responded with a little less. The table was crowded with glasses, a large jug filled with ice, green tea and a generous fill of whisky from a bottle of Chivas Regal, a tray of fruits and those ubiquitous sunflower seeds. I hugged Mama and shook hands with her friends. Soon, the music , the lights and the ambience had me swaying and I danced with Mama and then moved to partner with Xiao Wei and then another until I was tired and returned to our ‘balcony’ where I poured myself a generous helping of whisky from the bottle.
A pretty and rather young girl, Cici, soon joined the party. We clcked glasses and I took a small sip from my glass. With a broken rib from a night of careless drinking not too long ago I didn’t want a repeat and preferred going slow with the booze. Cici spoke English well and with a fluency that was both a surprise and a pleasure. As we chatted she said she was a sophomore at a university in Nanjing and was studying to become a TV hostess/newsreader. Soon, a friend of Cici’s joined us. Cici introduced us and I,thus, came to meet Ying. She came through the crowd, swaying a little, a bottle of beer in hand, stacked above like very few I have seen here. We exchanged polite hellos and I struggled to take my eyes off Ying while Cici and I continued chatting, our tete a tete peppered with the click of glasses, my sips small and Cici’s gulps large. As I raised my glass to toast Cici after several rounds, she stopped, her hands gesturing a ‘wait’. I waited as she poured the remnants from her glass into another and then reached for the Chivas, pouring herself a larger drink than I had. She raised the glass and downed it all in one shot while I took my small sip. Slighted and chastised I poured myself another drink and raised my glass to toast her wonderful drinking skills. Soon, the whisky started working and Cici staggered away for a breather.
Ying was back from one of her little jaunts into the well of the pub from where she returned each time with a new bottle of beer. She stood at the railing of our ‘balcony’ while Mama played one of the drinking games with a friend. They sing, ‘xi shwa shwa, xi shwa shwa’ as they bring their palms in front of their eyes, their fingers signalling a number. The loser, by way of punishment, drank as in so many other drinking games they play in bars, restaurants and night clubs. I sat alone, watching the game, sipping slowly and my eyes fell on Ying. I got up and went to her, holding her at the waist and started a slow dance. She looked back, mouth open and brushed her cheek against mine. I moved closer, my hands still at her waist, face next to hers. She pushed my hand down, the other went up and my mouth moved to her ear. She pulled me closer and reached for my stick. We danced this way while eyes from the well observed a goddess at play. Suddenly, she let out a loud scream and was gone!
A few days later, I called Cici and she gave me Ying’s number. I called Ying and asked if she remembered and she mumbled a reply. ‘Don’t call me again’ her tone suggested…’I am Goddess Ying…and you? you are nothing!’