24. March 2013 · Comments Off on Linda · Categories: I. 11 to 12 years

Linda is a tai tai.  A tai tai is a lady who can roll out a full service household as smoothly as a silk scroll without doing any housework herself.  Some tai tai’s are bred for centuries, as in our family.  Some aspire to it.   Some are just born that way.

Linda tells her own story without any apologies.  Her family was not wealthy, but they were well to do until her husband became a slave to the opium demon.  To support his increasingly expensive habit, they exhausted all their savings, borrowed from their families and friends until all doors were slammed in their face.  Her husband sold the very doors to their house before he disappeared.

She had three small children to feed.  Like many others in her plight, she fled the loss of face in her village and found refuge in a city brothel.  Being my father’s common law wife allows her to be a tai tai again.

She is good at it.  She has worked out a complicated system of having all household chores done elsewhere and delivered daily. Cooking, laundry, cleaning, whatever, is delivered or picked up every day at just the right time.  There is literally no room for error.

I think everyone else in the family goes to bathhouses, but an exception is made for me.  I never ask why.

Every day, a small tub is carried into my room and filled with warm bath water.  An attendant waits to help me rinse my hair.   Then everything is carried out, including the towels and my soiled clothing.  Each school morning, my white school uniform, professionally starched and ironed, is on my bed, along with clean underwear.

Except for sleeping and eating, no one stays in the house.  My father goes to work and does not return until dinner time, after which he and Linda go out again.  I don’t know where my brother and the two boys go.  But each night they turn the boards into a sleeping platform and sleep in the front room.

Someone says that Linda spends a lot of time playing mah jong at the emporium.  Wherever she goes, she takes Ah Nui with her. Actually, I don’t know how Linda finds that much time to play.  I figure we are living in a sort of hotel.  It can’t be that easy to run a full service hotel without even a telephone. Besides, I’ve seen how nothing is purchased here without drawn out cat and mouse games of bargaining.

I don’t talk about Linda with my sister in the few times she comes back.  From the moment they met, there was an instant antipathy between them so thick you could cut it with a knife.

Somewhere, they are circling each other like wildcats defending their turf.  Linda knows that my sister is a threat if she decides to fight.  My sister obviously does not see this as a fight worth winning.

I think she comes back at all only because my mother said to take care of Doreen.  My sister’s loyalty to my mother is cast in stone.





Comments closed.