Monday, April 11, 2016

北京麻雀 - Beijing - 9

13
Later that Afternoon,
Along a narrow room,
Connected to a Hutong just at the edge of the second rim
Beijing, 2008


They had come to a doorway, which came from the alleyway behind the. This was the third ring of Beijing, and it had a scruffy angular way about it, with taxis which were shown their age of on blocks to repair. What people drove was different as well, there were none of the imported cars here. And most were at least a decade old, and trying to get a bit more mileage then was good for them. This was a place where the Chinese handmade present met the Chinese imported present, and the two of them settled in together. This was where things were repaired and replaced. The modern China did not like to admit that around every large metropolitan zone, was this gray area. The men had teeth missing and were thin; the women were large and formless – and yelling at the men.

An alley between the large thorough fairs was just large enough to fit a Chinese style van – but just barely. Forget about getting a Japanese style taxi, though a Chinese style taxi could be wedged in by an a suspicious driver. But he would have to be clever about it, one could tell by the way his face was carried – their was a certain look to the ones who could do it. Along the space near the doorway, there were three or four closets – which held a variety of junk, which no one wanted, but they would be ill to throw any of it out. They reached the doorway, and their was no sign on it, because it was shared by four people – each of whom taught classes at one time or another. The door was slightly ajar, and she led him in to the room – standing along the opposite wall was a thin man – but if you looked closely, the features between himself and the woman bespoke of some resemblance. They were in fact brother and sister, even though they were 15 years apart. If he noticed the two at the door he did not show it. It was a slightly off white room with a blackboard, literally, on one side with three long wall-to-wall desk in the middle – which had accordions from very old to very new. There was only one light in the room, and that was the top with no covering on it.

What was curious to the American man, was it seemed that there was no one to open the doorway. So he edged around the door, and looked down to a small fluffy black cat – which looked back at him. The Chinese girl motioned that the cat had opened the door, something that had not been seen by the American male. Of course, these were the same people we have been following – but there was something about them that was different, they were not him and her, but they. Yes, she was chubby, yes, he had a paunch - but for the first time they were a couple, and everyone who looked at them realized it. It was a communion of souls, granted by whatever deity one selects – a melange of piles of scores, Memorabilia – such as accordion vessels around the world, for that is what her brother taught – picture postcards, and some hand written letters from various teachers and students, as well as accordian both old – with keys – and new – with buttons.

“This is his teaching room, though I think you can see that already.” She began, as it she needed something to say to start a conversation, because there had been none to this point on the drive over there. He nodded – and then realized he was to make a verbal interjection, because the nod would simply have her racking her brains for another entry into dialogue. Realizing that this was actually something he wanted to gain some information upon, he shook his brain into conversation mode. That was the primary difference between most men and most women - men had to go in to conversation mode, where women were always ready to launch into any topic under the sun. And he was among the most gregarious of men.

“He seems to like French a great deal. Am I write about this?” Glancing around at where he most likely had shown up, and reading some of the correspondence that was laying around. A less observant onlooker would not have grasped such details – now or even later, it was a gift from his forbearers. Along with other tricks of memory – there was a difference between bright and gifted, though he was both.

“Yes, he even speaks French better than he does English, if you can believe that.” She too was looking around, a fresh, looking at the memories that each object conveyed to her – whether she was with him or receiving postcards from him. Since he was so much older then his younger sister, it was clear that she was in awe of him. From the time she was small, he opened up a another world. Teaching any foreign subject was a trial, and though she did not know it at the time – he had the tenacity to engage in it.

At this point, a thin and tall man came walking in, though he was obviously the older brother from his face. But the juxtaposition of his thin features came as a shock, there was none of his younger sisters fleshiness of form. But there was the same intensity on his face, and intensely of look which said that he was seizing up his opposite number, and measuring the intelligence, cunning, and eloquence – even if his partner had not spoken. This was his gift – by looking at the innumerable signs, to measure a person, almost as if he were made to be what he was. The zen of the body. The American noted this – and would be more careful than usual - there was no telling what he would pick up from the smallest glance.

With a bound, he crossed over the room and offered his right hand in an offer to shake it. “Her sister has told me so much about you, when date did you become enamored with the instrument?” he had sculpted the movements of his face and body to reflect a wrapped attention – and he formed his eyes very tightly on the altar brother's. It was as if he were saying with every attention that he was listening only to one person, and paying close attention. But in reality, he was preparing his mind to be absolutely bored with the delicate sound of the accordion, which his not one he usually thought of as pleasant. This distance between his outward appearance and his inward reticence was nothing new to him, he almost thought of it as a duty to her. A kind of tipping his hat off to her. Because while musicians new other musicians, accordion players new other accordion players, and that is it. They were a crowd unto themselves.

And he was rewarded: after a short greeting the brother launched into how he was both teaching his regular students, and getting ready for a European tour which included three stops in France, two in Italy, and an additional two in Spain. There were details about which people they were going to stay with, which ones were dearest friends, and talking about the difficulties of playing old style ones in some places, and new style ones in others. Then the American realized that he would go on for ever – if he was allowed to do so. It seemed that he too was born with the gift of gab, and it made the American question his sexuality – because there was a degree - though not definitive – between the flourishing tone of voice and some degree of homosexuality. He had learned this because to of his uncles were the same way.

On the side, she was watching very closely – for signs of his distress. She was carefully watching whether he would be offended - or worse – by her brothers antics, though that was not how she thought of them, keeping in mind her worship of him from small. She knew – as opposed to the guessing – what the details of his life were like. That is why she was born, as a matter of fact – because he would not bear any children. While her parents grappled with this, they knew that there was nothing they could do about it. So by manipulating their doctor, they caused an additional child to be brought into the world. And even if it was a girl – she had at least the prospect of having children. This to two lower order members of the Communist party was not as big a deal as for some, it would still be a blotted on the family. Because each one of them was an only child – so they did not want to have their line extinguished.

They both agreed to watch him teach – one of the brother's best students – go through her paces. The brother was obviously proud, of both his teaching and that she was precociously apted – even bright, for there was a difference. An apt pupil copied thing by ear – a bright pupil understood implicitly and went beyond. The were verging on the latter though her playing, but as yet there was something missing. And perhaps would always be.

14
A little restaurant of the 3rd Row
Beijing, 2008

It was a typical restaurant, and it was packed even though it was extraordinarily late – in fact, the evening crowd was dawdling with the last portions of the meal – while the early morning crowd was entering in, feasting on dumplings and wontons. They were of the evening crowd – and were trying to brooch the topic of deciding whether or not to formally live together. But each time one of them struck the nerve, the other one had a hesitation. No one knew where the rapture came from, it was like God had dissented to close their mouths. Even though neither man nor woman believed in such a vision as God. It was a spirit in abstentia. So they prattled on little topics, but there stare was clean and intense, against the white walls and red decorations which spelled out double happiness. She tried to hummed the words to Mac the knife, but she did not know all of the transitions. At one point he asked her if she knew the German, which she did not know, though she shook her head, rather than speaking. In a crude voice he began, only a little bit of a key, he remember all the German words to Mac the knife. He do this because she did not speak German, it was one of the affairs from before he met her.

Und der Haifisch, der hat Zähne
und die trägt er im Gesicht
und Macheath, der hat ein Messer
doch das Messer sieht man nicht.

Ach, es sind des Haifischs Flossen
rot, wenn dieser Blut vergießt.
Mackie Messer trägt 'nen Handschuh
drauf man keine Untat liest.

An 'nem schönen blauen Sonntag
liegt ein toter Mann am Strand
und ein Mensch geht um die Ecke
den man Mackie Messer nennt.

Und Schmul Meier bleibt verschwunden
und so mancher reiche Mann
und sein Geld hat Mackie Messer
dem man nichts beweisen kann.

Jenny Towler ward gefunden
mit 'nem Messer in der Brust
und am Kai geht Mackie Messer
der von allem nichts gewußt.

Und das große Feuer in Soho
sieben Kinder und ein Greis -
in der Menge Mackie Messer, den
man nicht fragt und der nichts weiss.

Und die minderjährige Witwe
deren Namen jeder weiss
wachte auf und war geschändet -
Mackie, welches war dein Preis?
Wachte auf und war geschändet -
Mackie, welches war dein Preis?

And then he finished, and looked at her trying to divine if she understood what he was trying to say: that he was no good for her. But she brightened because her older sibling transcribed the music and played it for her, somewhat maudlin, but with a cheerily tone. Then a smile crept on to her face, and she was dreaming about the times they had spent together dreaming of a time when they could be together. This communicated to him that she did not understand, and might never do so.

They left no tip, because that was not the custom, and poured forth into the cold air which was like James Joyce's cold summer in Ulysses, tinged with Tuscan and arabesque with the old Latin literature of Virgil.