Friday, February 26, 2016

北京麻雀 - London - 1

A Novel

It was the “Kill a Sparrow Campaign” - though official Mao Zedong announced it as the: “Four Pests Campaign.” It was 1958, and Mao was reverently listened to in the land which was at the middle of the world. He announced that several vermin would be brought under control – but the sparrow was not truly an evil, and everyone knew that. Rumor has it that the sparrow was simply a persona non grata in Mao's eyes – who is to say. But millions of peasants slew the sparrows, because what Mao wanted – at that time – Mao got. It only took two years, and the sparrow population nosedived – and the reverse is that every bug they ate skyrocketed – the sparrows ate them in summertime, and feeding their young. At that time, Mao realized his mistake, but the damage was done.

And then one day in the after the Accident, a sparrow's nest was placed in Tiananmen Square. For along time it sat there, until removed by an officer of the guard, but the next day the sparrow's nest was put back up again. Until finally the response was to let it fall to pieces, and decay into memory. But though the sparrows nest did disintegrate, the story -and others like it – did not decay. Until finally there were many books with sparrow in the title. As if, magically, everyone knew what they were really talking about. And began using the sparrow as a code word for Mao's indiscretions when he was old.

It was not truly the sparrow, or anything like the sparrow before the program. Because after all it was only a sparrow.



It was dawn - though it mind did not think so, because it was a blur at having traveled over the Atlantic Ocean. For many reasons this was a confusion, but first of all to meet a girl, who he knew from writing back and forth - in letters, and a primitive chat application which only spelled out in English. There was no chapplication which he cared to use for Chinese, though there was one in Windows, which was interesting, because on the other side was Chinese woman that learned how to write in English – which was very uncommon, and who he did not know what she looked like. Only had was a dim picture, which was nothing like the thin picture that was displayed on the side of every magazine cover. But that did not bother him, he was interested in her mind – which was exceedingly interesting and special.

But the other reason he was here was professional – and dark. It was cloaked in shadow, because nothing about it needs to be on any form of printed material. So when an hour ago he walked through the checkout line of customs, and faced a customs official, he very smoothly began a pattern of what he was doing. And neither girl - which was a personal not an office accomplishment – nor the meeting with Iraqi nationals – which was the reason he was directed here by his real officials – was involved in it. Instead he talked about going to the site of a outpost in London which he was being sent to by his office, which was based in Redwood City, California – which if someone had bothered to call the line would be answered, entirely professionally, but without divulging what the office did. That's because the office was entirely to their to deflect questions raised by anyone from the outside. The location made it look like a subordinate to a national software company, so most people thought they had just rung the wrong address. There would be a moment of confusion, because they were certain that this was the right number. But then they would hang up the phone , and try a different number. A few people tried again, but very few. And if they had had too many people ringing up a third time, they would disconnect the number, and their was silence at the other end until the number had been swallowed up. Numbers were scarce.

In a way it, was truly by design, the location served as both external window dressing, and internal communications point for software which the government had often used for mining certain things which would appall various rights advocates. Not that the various rights advocates were not selected to be appalled - in fact, it was there nature, part of the reason they were attracted to the lifestyle of raising complaints, and getting stiff armed most time. There was a kind of beauty to it actually, because millions of people would be engaged in making profit, and only a few people really meant to stop them. But this swirled in to a deep eddie that was corrected, and would shake millions from ordinary lives, and leave behind a population - actually several populations – who wondered what had happened. In your time, the life of the reader, 9-11 could mean many things - but to everyone now alive it meant only one thing, a terrible ghastly thing: that left the two most iconic figures in the world falling into the sun. The World Trade Center - that moment when the United States was at the pinnacle of power - collapsed. Almost anything that you would want to know, revolves around this fact, implicitly or explicitly, and will have to mention it – even if obliquely and with ripples running out from there. This was a place different from all that was before it, and all that was after it – even though the people who ran things were the same, They came mile after mile as if they were walking along some southern bit of France in as Ezra Pounds. But there was nothing quite so old in these places.

And that is the key difference – the new people wanted a new system which they could control, and for a long time afterwards the key decision that they made was to fight the last war. They wanted to fight the last war because in their youth they were fighting the last war of their parents generation – only it was Vietnam. It was clear to those who fought about it, that the Middle East was the conflict. So when they were transponderly in charge, they were going back to the Middle East, to form a great alliance between the people who ran the conservative and liberal ends of the spectrum. They were to separate clubs which fought about absolutely nothing of importance. That's why the “conservative” end made it known to the “liberal” end that they wanted this election. And the “liberal” end said that that was all right.

What this had to do was complicated and simple at the same time. The man will get to the complications in due course, but what it meant simply, was he had arranged his life so that my professional and personal lives were in sync.

Which brings me to the girl, or perhaps the woman, or perhaps both in one. She was waiting behind the maws of the innumerable waiting signs, that divided those who had come, from those who were already here. It was as if at one moment there were faces that he did not recognize, dozens of them, throngs of them; and at the next moment there was only one. A face that he have not seen before, and in fact would never see for the first time again. She was, and was not, as he imagined her to be. In the West, at this time, Chinese women were mostly born in China. This would not be the case in 10 years - where one by one, someone who is face was Chinese, but whose body was Western, would be more and more case.

So imagine a Chinese person was born in the Orient, a face and a form which were different from a face born in the West. Gradually, of course, this would no longer be true, and the listeners would not know what you would be speaking of - them it would be a mystery. But at the time if you said “Chinese” a distinct form would be called up, which while the details varied, was, in the main, a wisp of a figure. This was not, however, accurate for her – even in the details. She was not slender, but relatively big boned. It set her apart from the imagined figure from the first. Of course in China they knew that some were big boned, at least in their mind, but that image had not penetrated the mind of the Western consciousness. She was also tall, as tall as most Westerners were, but not taller. She was not a gargantuan figure, but she was not petite either - and in retrospect, there would be nothing about her that any later generation would remark upon. The reason most people from China were short was because of the Cultural Revolution, because few got enough to eat. But to his vision, she was much taller then the average Chinese was, and she was larger boned then any Chinese woman should be allowed to be. And from the look on her face, she knew this to. It was a distinct feature that she could not get rid of on a street full of Chinese people. She was Zaftig in a Wagnerian sort of way, as an old friend who is eye ran to that direction of females would say.

But in and among Westerners, she was not in any form, large. In the West - in the West she was tall and a bit chubby, but that was all. But once you got past the chubby look of her what caught your attention was the extremely graceful way that she was put together, a particular regal way that she looked, as if others around her were clumsy – and she moved around them as if they were toys, bobbing to and fro. And that would be the vision that you had of her, if she chose you to admit it, or you were in her eyes. Because that was the third thing about her, whatever she was looking for settled into her eyes, and it froze in her gaze. It froze has if it were scared, beyond belief, or it raptured because this was a stare from her which was entirely unique. And that's the way she wanted it to be, frozen or raptures, as her heart demanded.

Even now, everyone would get out of her way, tripping out of their way in rapid fashion – so that she would get through. Deigning to speak with her shoulders, and twisting with her arms slightly, and acknowledgment that they should get out of the way – but politely as David Halberstam intones in his book The Powers That Be.

But now she was leaning over the people who were on the other side of the airport glass, searching in to see there own beloved one, one who had been away, for either a short or a long time depending on the exact moments which part of from each other. Sometimes they had not even seeing each other, as was the case between the woman and himself. But finally her stopped, and became unmoved. Her gaze on him was intense, and unflinchingly ornate as “is there love their?” She asked but he didn't know - but he knew there was an intensity which could not be denied.

He was looking back at her as well finally, his intensity would be matching her own. But hers was warm and soft, where as he knew there was nothing warm about his gaze at all, instead it had a cold reflected light - as if it were shaking the broad skylights above. It was as if they trembled on his behalf. He did not know if he liked her, but there was a mutual attraction, which neither one of them denied. Magnetic and bewitching, it drew them to each other, hypnotically and, if one could say this, deadly – as deadly as a snake. It was the call of a poisonous snake, calling to each other. And both of them warmed to it. Until it found them with their faces to the carefully walled off inches of plexiglass, they're were almost reaching for each other- reaching for each other but for a few inches of glass.

They touched there heads against the view. Through inches, there eyes were touching each other. Inches, were all that mattered. Inches that were all that separated them, though both realized that the inches no longer separated them. They did not know when the separation ended, but it was somewhere back in the fog - though neither knew when it was.

Breath, in, and, out; like the 花樣年華, which he had just watched in the little cinema at the center – literally – of the Western Pennsylvania town, that he was cooped up in for period of time, cleaning up the mess that was made – more on that later. The time before it was also a Chinese film- Xiu Xiu was the English title, though he preferred to think of it as天浴 - there was something Chinese films which clung to it. Then he realized it was just running everything it could, and Chinese films were in abundance in this area. Which he did not mind, especially not when they were excellent films. He wondered if he could get the soundtrack to these two films. But there were other problems to be handled first.

Only in that moment was a distant accomplishment ordained, because all of the movement – of greasy petulant metal gears that conveyed a legion of many scattered things, carts without horses - each one special to the one who rolled it long. For some there was paper, some with notations of where to go - others were printed material of where to eat - still others were how to get out on the place where they gathered – and get on a tram. But for him and for her this had stopped, frozen in place, with details of hats, and gloves, and each sort of accouterments that need each person look different from the other. All of this was captured in each others eyes – and frozen in their memories. It was, indeed, the connection which they all would realize had been already done 1000 times - when they looked back at it. There was a washed in sepia tone about it, though neither one knew exactly what. But from that point forward their was a bond between them. As if reading the game that she played 1000 times would make it easier than Go, for reading Kant's work on the Critique of Pure Reason.

He stopped, and assumed a position which would be one of cool aloofness, almost distant from the woman in his eye. He did not want to give a pattern, which would tell her that he had feelings for her. It was not that way, yet. Better to be wrapped in a bundle of strangeness, which only he would know whether he loved her more not. She noticed this immediately, and was puzzled by its strangeness. Had she done anything wrong? Was she, too, in his eyes - ugly? She wanted to know what was on his mind, and set to easing his, well, whatever it was that made him hold back. Only she did not know what it was. So on her face came a look of despair, and almost shame. She had a vision which was that he would reject her, if not instantaneously, almost so. He realized that this was to strong a look for him to adopt, and immediately set out softening the fringes of his expression. Which immediately caused her to bend upwards her lips, though not to kiss. But almost too. Behind her eyes, there was a longing to know what it was he was thinking, her eyes scanned his entire face looking for a single solitary clue, and then to wondering what it was.

From his point of view the noise was endemic, and if he caught a phrase, as often as not, it was not in English. He wondered what she caught, because English was not her native language, but he knew that she was fluent, though not perfectly so. Though he knew that there were surprises, and glimmers of fluency in English which went for beyond the normal Chinese speaker. He whisked aside many people were crowding in to their space. They were clearly not English people – who respected people's space. The melange of people crowding across the floor, checking flights, or looking for other people who had just arrived. If you knew what you are looking for each person was obvious whether they were looking for a flight, looking for a person, or whatever it was they were doing. It was all in the eyes. And then he realized had only eyes for her.

At this moment, just a split second later, he realized that he was looking around, and not looking at her. Which was not the appropriate thing to do. So he settled his eyes on hers, again, and tried to discern what she was thinking. She had altered her face entirely when he was not looking. Where as once she was concerned and searching, now she altered her face, to be a match of his own.

Then with a flourish and a gesture, he bowed down before her. “I think were going to get along famously. If we just make it we will be on the train into London, because it is about half an hour to get there, and the train leaves about every 15 minutes or so. If you have everything with you, shall we go?”

She nodded, it was obvious that everything was with her, and what is more all neatly packed up and ready to go anywhere. She had been hoping for this sort of reply for a very long time, for having left Beijing in fact. So and in and under the cramped quarters to the signs directed by overhead lights, they navigated past many groups that were lost, which was not case with them, they knew exactly what they were going to do, and with a gleam in both their eyes they would set a course for the nearest a accouterments to do so. It was at that moment that her grip on his shoulder became one of affection and trust. At least that was the hope, though it was barely above hope that it reign in his heart, perhaps you will look this up in his verses.

They started talking about inconsequential things, which hid the burning affection that they had for each other. One may talk about feelings, but it is entirely different for it to happen in an instant. For it had happened, though neither one knew why this was the case. A person standing there might have noticed a quick glance of affection, and an instant where things magically just happened, but even they would not know what was causing this emotional wave to, as if by magic, swell and unfold. It was magic, that is the mystery. At least according to Shakespeare in Love.

So down the corridor they went in pursuit of the tram. With each and every step becoming lighter and more airy then the last. It was not in the brain, but in all of the parts that told them they were thinking about taking the next step. The music from Shakespeare was running through his mind.

At this point it might seem just like to lonely people, making their way through the lines which describe the enemy of romance. They meet, and either there is some spark that holds together, or does not, either rushly aside, or as slowly as to seem unnoticeable. And that would be the story, each condemned the over arching themes of their life. And how to fit the other person with it. There might be patterns which would make it an interesting story, but in the main, it is still a story about a boy and girl meeting each other, and working out what it is needs to be worked out. And in truth, this is indeed one of these stories, though with forces outside which will creep in and demand a response from this woman and this man. Il duol che sopra Senna, induce falseggiando la moneta.

This is because neither of them are ordinary people, living through ordinary times. These were not horrible times, nor land times – but they were there times. Every time is unlike, if you look closely at it. There are a few people who want more than the time offers them, and so they reach out and pluck the stem- not knowing that there is a bitter fruit attached to it – or a flavor that is intense beyond words, and unique because it is the first taste of it you have. It is important to the woman and to the man from the first glowing line of their enchantment - nothing will be the same, because the outside will come plunging in, and then info though they do not know that as of yet - about the other member of the dance. They know that they have a secret, but it does not twig to them that each one is part of a small community searching out something different, and has found it in their search. And that is what the tale hangs upon. It is not that the man and the woman could get together, is a man with a secret recording a woman with a secret, each one not understanding that the secret is part of what makes them unique, and attracts them to each other. It is only secret that they all rely on, but do not tell anyone – even themselves – that this is true. True, the Pope's manners were so like Mister Joyce's – then this man and this woman were. The devil was like Jimmy Walker sayin' his his prayers. Though she knew that they were the old language of China when it was quoted. They each looked at the other.

Each one of them fascinating the other, because both knew that each one had a secret, and that secret was closely; even jealously; guarded. And the more it was secret, the more the other one wanted to know what that secret was. It was almost as if they were spinning out of vertigo, and could not rest until they knew what was driving the other person. Even if they would not like the outcome. Perhaps, especially if they did not like the outcome. Because each one want to know the others secret, but not the reverse until they knew that this one – out of all of the others – could be trusted with it.

But that is the difference between he and she: she felt that his secret was part of the outside world, not connected with what he allegedly did, where as he did not have even a clue as to how to begin to describe whether it was inside or out. The reason is because he was only logical, where as she logical, in part, but in part mystical as well. And it was the mystical side of her that reached out through his face, and reached into his insides, sure that she could figure what drove him. But he was sure that she would never figure it out, so closely guarded once his secret.

So it began this way: he was guarded beyond comprehension, and she had whiles beyond compare. And the two of them want to know, because each one of them were owned to each other, he was guarded, and she would filter out anything of value.

King and a queen of mispremption were they - going along the train, seeing green wood ways to block the view out words, because in England such was not done. So inside they imagine they were inside a forest, but in fact the trees were only to cover up the peering Eyes which were in the tramway. There were secrets that each person hid, but some of them were not important except to a few. Wear as a few were important to many, if only for the urge to look. To look at it and breathe a sigh that you were not caught the way he or she was. And then to put your head down as if nothing had happened, and you could go about your business as if nothing had happened. And nothing had happened, to you. Yet. But there was an urge that would be buried inside you that would not go away. And then would be exposed, and shamed for the rest of your life. She was sure that he was hiding one of those secrets which all the world would know. But what she would do, would she exposed, or would she be complicit?

She did not know. He did not know. But now they knew that they were going to find out, in a way that millions of people would not do. Those thousands of people who looked, glanced, but did not react to the desire that came within their heads. That desire which occurred across the world, and was texting inside their heads, the text of A Ghost in the Machine.