In a bookstores, with people speaking English, In Beijing
It was, of course, loud. But more specifically it was in English kind of loud as opposed to a Chinese kind of loud. The bookstore was on to floors, which opened themselves in a main level and mezzanine conflaguration that was contemporary in its structure. One could see a panoramic view from the outside with Windows that started just above the ground and rose to very nearly the top. But it was the noise which marked the space. There is a distinct difference – tonality is part of it. But it was not the only part of the distinct sound of a Western Indo-European, as opposed to a Chinese speaking of tongue. One could even capture a bit of text – Illusions to Ford Maddox Ford for example, or someone talking about how David Halberstam was at his best when writing about the best and the brightest, in a misremembered view of a war that was almost now half a century dead. Indeed it could be said to be a literate mass of conversations which might be from Washington DC or London England. You would have two sort out which of the two it was. There were only a smattering of Chinese people, know more than could be allotted in Washington DC. And that was almost certainly intentional.
The décor of the room was that of a highly revealed bookstore in cream colored white. One entered in to the bookstore and saw one floor which was the sort of latte ensemble pieces that one would find anywhere in the world which modeled itself as a bookseller. Even if there were only two streets – one place would be this kind of place. But there was a second floor, Stretched around the mezzanine layer. It was more than one and half stories up, and was supported by innumerable rows of English language books – and almost all of them were new. Across from the entrance were lower escarpments which were the entrance to a labyrinth of bookshelves which were the needier of the place. It was in these lower tiered rooms that people went to talk, or to look like they were talking. As a guess there were at least 50 people on the main floors, and one could see that there were people in the back as well. The one point of difference between Washington DC, and its real location – which was just barely in the first ring of Beijing – was that every single person was Chinese except for one, clearly in charge, westerner who was at least 50 years old, and neatly groomed. It was evening – one could tell this by the large blinds which were across the windows – and it was covering the distinguished gentleman who was in charge of all of the goings on in the place. One could see the redness of the setting sun on his face.
He looked up and recognized a face - that of the Chinese woman, but he did not recognize the Western face of the man, which was peculiar. He did not know that she was intimate with anyone, and it was an intimacy which exuded from her skin. She wore something like a Chinese style dress – a newness of rich style which would only be without a label; it had been made by a single gentleman from some warehouse district. This was not so uncommon in China, because every city had a busy district that catered to such people, because there were a sufficient number of well to do people who could afford having one; some; or all of their clothes made by hand. In China it was a choice, some people preferred buying things at faintly pretentious stores, and doing so at least once a year; while others prefer to have their own things made by a tailor who made everything for them. It was a preference, and either one made a statement. Normally, girls from large cities preferred the manufactured look, and there were other details which said that this young woman came from a much smaller town – which in Chinese style was 1 million people or so. She was, as was common to most, absurdly thin and he would guess from the Yangtze Delta, because while all Chinese said they were pure han, the reality was that people who came from the North – Beijing etc. - had admixtures from the time that the Mongols invaded them. There was a difference then of style, which the Chinese recognized but did not acknowledge – and those people outside either did not recognize, or quietly did not choose to recognize. It was part of the unacknowledged tail of Chinese genetics, a hushed world under the Dragon veil. The absurdly thin meant that she was newly ensconced as a member of the Communist Party, because all of the older ladies had a pleasing plumpness which attracted the older men who thought of it as natural and normal. Her face was round, as was the custom among the very well read Chinese, this to was odd, because normally such women would be on the arm of a Chinese man; because there status was to high for most men to attain. Normally, such women could have their pick of the wealth of Chinese men, and they were seeking to have children almost immediately. He did not like to say this, but generally when a woman is both thin, and deliberately has on her arm something other than a Chinese gentlemen, and is that good looking, it means that she does not want children at the moment. And there would be a reason for this, one only had to look closely for what it was. It could be that she is infertile, either naturally or through an abortion, and thus could choose a man based on her own proclivities having had the option of children taken away from her. This was said to him through the stages of trying out the range of companions. If one wanted a Chinese, as opposed to Chinese American, which were different in body type, one actually had to gather one from the dock, so to speak, when the natural ways of breeding were reversed. Because if a woman in Western lands was looking for a man, then her parents would select Chinese men first, it was only when a Chinese lady uncluttered with parents had the liberty of selecting which ever gentlemen she wanted. Thus it was a very small proportion who choose who to spend their gaze upon. Such was not the case for Chinese hyphens, who could do as they wanted. Their was always a story to one looked.
Inside the knew that his story was different, and if he looked in detail at it, a different story would emerge from the details. First of all, he was part of the second generation of men who were interested in Chinese women, and their were very few of them about. And as it happened, he was interested in truly Chinese women, which, as said, had a different style. Since he was far down the wealth ladder, the Chinese women who were attracted to him were in fact the pleasingly plump, and more than pleasingly plump females that were the children of Communist Party officials. Younger men did not have to plan for such things, and could be very selective; but men his age either had to look for a much junior partner, or realize that there choices were limited by the Great Leap Forward. This was a time of great famine, and the parents who were not communist party officials had to make do with one child, which most of them preferred to be male, so much so, that young babies who were female were often exposed as a child. That is to say, they died.
As Rou Shi wrote in 1930, poverty was the main cause of female infanticide in China. This was practiced until very late on in the 20th century, and the great leap forward clung to China like a great demon whose maw grasped and strangle the young females. Then communist party enacted a law saying that if the first child was a girl, they would have a second chance to achieve a son. Which only moved down to the second child the gruesome practice. But by 1984 there were an entire generation which had an in balance because, to the Chinese mind, young females were to go and take care of the husbands parents in their old age; especially in the South, and along the Yang-tzu River Delta. This gap between realizing that there were too many females, and correcting this amounted to some 20 years. Which, in the cosmic scale of things, is not long at all, but two and individual member of society, created a warp and weft in the fabric of space time. In essence, for 20 years there was a deficit of young, thin, Chinese ladies. Those who came after this time of Great Leap Forward did not know that it even existed, because no one talked about it, it was to shameful to mention. In Shanghai it was almost over, and in Beijing it was tiny – but in the smaller cities it was still enormous. Deep, Suspicious, and most importantly, away from the seascape, cities that protect their males and expose their females. It is a nasty vicious cycle – which is ended in the great Metropolitan regions, but it still has value, because the most gorgeous ladies take advantage. Such, is the way of finding mate – because in the rarefied atmosphere of Beijing and Shanghai, even though there is much less – those still some – advantage for the women, the desire is more intense. As one gets close to the three major cities – Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong – the greater mobility to alight in the main metropolitan area there is.
But this all to just a moment to think of, and already he was moving on to other things – forgetting the young woman, because it was obvious that the knew something about her that her boyfriend did not know – he knew that, in all probability, she was not going to produce a child for him. He could tell this by the look that her boyfriend had, because the boyfriend thought that there was a chance of this. Low what fools these mortals be, as the great English poet once said.
Thus he looked around for the lady which he was attracted to, and for very different reasons. He was not interested in the look, she was plain and ordinary, what he was interested in was the delicate way she would disassemble, and then reassemble the most ordinary of things – and find extraordinary circumstance behind them. It was at this point that he realized that many of the things he had been thinking of – she must already have known, perhaps before the thought had coalesced in his consciousness. Once this thought occurred to him, the next thought appeared – she must know, better than he – that she still had a chance to capture his heart in marriage. He looked around at all of the bookshelves and display cases, and realize that if he wanted to be married, he would have to decide this soon, or else be captured without even knowing it. Then it came to his attention that that could have already happened, and he should decide not here he was going to be married – because in fact that decision had probably already been made – but whether he was going to agree to this. He realized, if you get out before, that men were the last people to know, if they did not grab the chance before their eyes.
Then he thought what a beautiful thing 500 words were, they compressed thoughts to the minimum, and he realized that everything that was superfluous would have to be dispensed with. Thank you Mister James Joyce, thank you. It was you that waxed poetically, in a turn of phrase, about how liberating painting on the smallest of canvases was, even though you were making modern style; it was with the precision of an old master.