My flat is a mess, an absolute mess. The problem: I just hate to clean, mop, sweep, dust - all of those domestic chores. Doing dishes and washing clothes are really the only two household chores I do not mind. Sometimes washing dishes actually I enjoy. There is a bit of a Zen-like quality to dishwashing.
For some reason, I think of Sandy Denny when I do dishes, not her music particularly but of her, her in a little thatched roof hobbit sort of house doing her own dishes, thinking up songs, solo or for Fairport Convention. Her house, in my imagination, is somewhere out in the woods or in a glade. A hummingbird hums outside of the kitchen window which is above the sink as she washes the dishes which are not bone china but earthenware of course.
Nevertheless, I am not Sandy Denny and my flat is a mess - a bachelor mess, a boy mess. Movies, CDs, books, and clothes are strewn about. No, I am not trying to emulate heroes such as H.S. Thompson or Lester Bangs. Love those men as I do, I would certainly not want to have (or have had rather) either of their lives or livers.
And, now that I have this tooth that is okay, and I do not have to have that Robo-cop jawbone installed; I am quite happy with the molecular makeup that nature has provided me. Sure, I am not Burt Reynolds but then of course these days Burt Reynolds is not even Burt Reynolds, the Burt of old, North Dallas Forty, Gator, Everything you wanted to know about sex….but were afraid to ask.
Last week, I emailed Michael and asked him to call my ayi and see if she could come clean over the weekend. I did not hear back from him. He has a new job with ERA Realty. This is the 3rd job he has had since I met him when he found my apartment for me last February. Each job has been a better job but now he is very busy because he is really good at his job.
Last night, I emailed him again. Around 10 pm, I received a reply from him:
The Ayi will come to your home at 8am tomorrow, so you'd better be home during that time, and recently I 'm a little busy, tomorrow I want to go to Pu Dong ,so maybe we can have a meet next week .
Have a nice weekend!
The meet we are to have I hope is not a track meet because I no longer have running gear for such an event. I was never really that good in track. I am sure I could have been a long distance runner since I did so much trekking around Sand Creek when I was a waif but track just always bored me. Track did not involve Bowie or the New York Dolls and so I had no time for it. Things may have been different if walkmans had come along a little sooner. Really, though, unless I am running from someone, I am not into running. Okay, I do not mean to make fun of Michael at all. His English is much better than my non-existent Chinese. And, more importantly, he has contacted the ayi for me. Yes!
At 7:45 this morning, the ayi knocked on my door. Of course, I was fairly drowsy because I often toss and turn at night before falling into a deep sleep. Yesterday, when I got back from the dentist, I was told not to eat for two hours so I accidentally took a nap that is probably why I did not sleep that well last night.
And, yes, when the ayi walked into my flat, I think she was a bit stunned. Keep in mind, I do the dishes and the wash but other than that, the place was a wreck. I smiled weakly.
At present, she is in the garden sweeping, mopping and beating the poor unfortunate lizard, that I have left in peace, to smithereens. This summer sometimes that lizard - or his brother, maybe - hung out in the bathroom in the shower. I did not mind. Small lizards do not bother me. They, too, have a Zen-like quality. Now a lizard doing dishes is out of control Zen.
From my desk, I can see out in the garden and, occasionally, I look out to see what is going on out there. How do I explain to the ayi that she should not obliterate a garden lizard who occasionally likes to shower with me? Obviously, it is too late now because with the first whack of the broom he was already issued his lizard harp. Other than the lizard’s untimely demise, everything else is fine. My ayi really does do a wonderful job. At this point, I should admit, maybe the reason I hate housework is that I am the most untalented housekeeper ever. When I mop, often the floors look worse than before.
A few weeks ago, I half-heartedly cleaned the garden but then the rain came and when the rains comes so does the leaves, the small branches and the dirt. The dirt is a mystery. Where this dirt comes from, I do not know. The garden is tiled and walled and my beds are contained. Maybe the dirt is the ghosts of the dustbowl who have come to haunt me in China. Or maybe, the dirt is just dirt. Dirt does not have to have a hidden meaning I suppose.
Some of you may wonder if I feel like some sort of warlord imperialist in my present situation with this ayi at my disposal. Yes and no, this is tricky. I hope that I am not taking advantage of the downtrodden, the poor, the meek, the inheritors of the earth. This housework is not dangerous. I am courteous and respectful. Often, when I pay the ayi, I give her extra money which triggers a puzzled look on her part. One time, when this happened, I drew a smiley face on the calendar on which we communicate and then I pointed to myself. She laughed.
And, of course, this is her job and she seems fairly content but then after what these Chinese people have suffered in the last 100 years, anything beyond not starving to death can bring about contentment and a strange misplaced happiness.
Since we have no communication with each other - other than me saying beautiful in Chinese after she has finished cleaning, and me pointing to the dates on the calendar and writing down the time that she comes and leaves – I cannot forcibly instill any of my bourgeois Western ideals in her. If anything, I am more prone to adopt some of the Chinese ways. Let it be known now that I am definitely not a communist. Their system helps me to appreciate the system that I left behind. I do not enjoy their way of keeping everyone in the dark. Many things seem to be decided at the last minute here in China. But then, that is a tale for another time.
Really, though, the patio does look beautiful. My whole countenance changes after my place has been cleaned. Now, the ayi is in the living room attempting to arrange the CDs in some semblance of order. She really is good at what she does.
Gone are the days, the days when I first arrived and had my first ayi who mopped my flat – my first flat in China - on campus in Songjiang with the cholera mop. Those days are gone. When I think about those days, I sigh with relief. Birdflu, from what I hear, is back in Australia causing someone there trouble I am sure. Every time I think of her, I breathe a sigh of relief that she is gone.
At one point, not too long ago, the other teacher at Songjiang, the one I really liked was livid because she heard through the grapevine that Birdflu had told quite a few people that she, Birdflu, wrote all of the lesson plans. Of course, this is a complete lie which I was quite accustomed to Birdflu being ‘incurably dishonest’ (to steal a phrase from F. Scott Fitzgerald). The other teacher, I think, thought that I blew things out of proportion when it came to Birdflu’s conniving ways but then she found this out and was shocked and upset. Shortly after this Birdflu emailed her and told her she was making a necklace for her. Of course, Birdflu did not know that the teacher had found her out. Boy, am I glad those days are over. Birdflu was just a weirdo, plain and simple. Weird Dodo!
Max I miss like crazy. From what I hear, he is doing well in Australia. I hope that our paths cross someday. I think of him and as hard as that time was at Songjiang, I know that it was worth it. He went from not understanding a word I said to understanding the bulk of what I said. On those nights when I tutored or mentored him, sometimes I read short stories, fairy tales or whatever. He would sit beside me and feverishly look up the words he did not understand as I read. I think of him often. He was - and still is, I am sure - adorable.
Of course, after I left, tensions erupted between Miko and Allen in the Shanghai 90210. Tess left at the end of the spring semester of 2006 when I did. Miko left but came back as did Allen and Max. Max and Allen began a high school romance which was quite a coup for Allen since she is not a person most people would say is attractive. She is quite masculine but she always paid for everything for everyone else which made her more attractive to Max I am sure since he never seemed to have any cash.
Allen reminds me a bit of this sad rich girl that I knew in high school who had the same build as her brother, a star football player. All of her friends hung out with her because she had a ton of money and a new car which I think played Styx and REO on endless repeat in the 8 track tape player. Of course, this girl I knew in high school had absolute zero personality. Allen has an explosive temper but at the same time can be quite fun and actually bursts with personality. Allen was the planner in the group. She planned our little weekend excursions and such but then I digress.
At one point, Miko was being touchy feely with Allen which is not anything out of the ordinary. They were always very close. Allen had stated at one point that she was going to grow up and settle in with a woman. This was a phase obviously because Max came along. The touching and stuff between Allen and Miko should not be viewed as anything but innocent. Absolutely, I do not want anyone to get the wrong idea. They were just friends like many affectionate teens.
One day, Miko set something off in Allen. There was a catfight. Max was between them. Jennifer, my friend their teacher, stood aghast. Allen pulled out some of Miko’s extensions. Miko left school and did not come back. Jennifer interviewed Max to see what happened. In Chinese, there is no he or she just he. Max kept referring to Allen as a male which is really probably not that far from the truth.
Now, Allen and Max are in Australia. From what I was told, they are in different cities. Maybe someday our paths will cross. Maybe that will happen in Mongolia…or Kansas.