26. May 2013 · Comments Off on Someone Not Me · Categories: Romancing the Edge

A letter arrives from Hong Kong.   It is from Len.   I remember a tall, lanky young Englishman.   He was at my fifteenth birthday party that my sister threw for me at the Ritz night club.

There was a lot of merriment at the party.  They made a fuss when the cake was brought in, and the band played my favorite songs.  My sister had let me design my dress.  She said I looked so chic and grown up in my navy silk halter dress.

It was exciting and fun, especially the dancing.  Still, I felt a little bit as though I was playing dress up.  I was the only one who drank a ginger ale “Shirley Temple” with a maraschino cherry on top.

Len’s letter is a volcanic declaration of love.

How can that be?  Who is this person he is writing to?  I don’t remember dancing with him or even talking with him.  He was quiet, even shy.

I read the letter again.  It fascinates me, as though I am reading a lover’s letter meant for someone else, someone who inspires this kind of passion.  But there is a puzzling escape clause.  He says that he knows it is “no good” and that it is impossible.

I do not know how to answer.

One evening, Len and his friend arrive at our house.   Ah Ngung ushers them into the parlor with the uncomfortable hard rosewood chairs surrounded by antique vases and bric-a-brac.  That’s the room we call Outer Siberia.  Our friends never sit there.

Len phoned earlier and spoke with Titi who arranged the visit.

After a few minutes of polite conversation, we go on a group date.  Several cousins come along.   We go to the Central Hotel and Casino.   Not a single spark flies.  Not unless we count the ones between Uncle Artur and his girlfriend, who are dancing on the other side of the room.

The following summer in Hong Kong Len offers me a ride in his car.  I’m sure that the feelings he expressed in that one letter have long given way to reality.  Besides, he knows that I am leaving the country in a few weeks.

I hop in.   We make a bit of polite conversation but mostly I am enjoying the breeze and the sunshine.

He stops the car in the middle of nowhere and opens the door for me so that we can admire the view.  But there is no view.  There are just a lot of bushes and grass.

It gets awkward.

Mimosa copy

Suddenly, I see a mimosa plant.  I reach out and touch it, and the leaves close.  Look, I say, a touch me not plant.

Without a word, Len opens the car door for me.  We drive back in silence.

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