Curiosity and the Asian Pirate

At some point in your career as a software consultant with IBM, they funnel you into a small featureless room with 12 uncomfortable seats and a bubbling projector on it’s last few hours. In this room, you are taught how to survive on the road, in the hotel, and at the client site. I only took three things from this…

  1. Always do your dry cleaning outside of the hotel, it’s exponentially cheaper, and you can bring mountains of clothes from home and the salvation army to clean for the same cost as doing it at the hotel.
  2. Chicago is a shitty hub airport to fly though for about 10 months of the year. I can only infer that Chicago is shitty as well.
  3. The receptionist is your first and most valuable friend at any client site. He/she knows everything that is going on and usually are in dire need of some conversation beyond the passer by saying Hi or Goodbye.

One receptionist, let’s call her Janine, was as happy as could be. Always huge smiles on top of her very round torso. She was young and always in everyone’s business. One day I gave her my blackberry number so a group of us could meet at a concert which I made an excuse not to go to. A week later she sent me photos of her smooshy boobs from behind the front desk. An hour later and the photos were still arriving of other areas of her body. What the hell was going on in that lobby? As I left work that day I had to pull her aside and firmly whisper to her that my work phone could not receive these sort of things from a client’s receptionist! Janine liked me and I didn’t mind.

A week later as I made my coffee in the kitchen, I was approached by Li Li (pronounced Lee Lee). Li Li was an elegant looking friend of Janine who was clearly first generation Chinese from her very thick accent.  She stood up tall and straight and almost shuffled around when she walked. It was hard to say how old she was but I presumed 30 and that’s why she enjoyed hanging out with the gossipy Janine so as to grasp on to her youthful years.

“Luke, I got somethin’ tell you. It important.” she said in her stereotypical Chinese accent

Up until this point, my interaction with Li Li was no more than 15 words exchanged as we passed in the kitchen or the halls. “Sure, what’s up?” I replied.

“Janine like you. Want to go on date with you. Why you no ask her out?” she quickly blurted out.

So to set the stage for my upcoming answer, I was a month or so into one of the many break ups I had with my ex-girlfriend. My dating life was dismal and I knew it. I loathed meeting girls at bars. My roommates chided me constantly for not talking to more girls or doing more about my situation. I needed to do something, and quick.

I awkwardly replied with, “That’s nice but I don’t like her like that. But Li Li, would you like to go out with me tomorrow to a comedy show my friends and I are going to?”

She had zero reaction. No blinking, no stammering, nothing. I started to get antsy after a few seconds but she finally replied. “OK. I send you email with phone number.” and walked away right passed where Janine was sitting and watching. I stood there alone and sipped my coffee. I wondered if her unexpected and odd reaction was at all any sort of foreshadowing.

Tyler and Marla, my buddy and his girlfriend, had bought tickets to the Laugh Factory and invited me to go as long as I brought a date. The three of us carpooled and I had arranged for Li Li to meet us at the sushi place before hand. Li Li was running late and after a round of beers and sake she called.

In a very frantic voice, “Luke! I outside. Come get me!” and then she hung up with no further instructions.

As I went outside, I heard some commotion near the valet area. As I approached I saw the valets screaming at a lady who apparently had skidded to a stop, diagonally, in the valet area and wouldn’t get out of her car and was blocking the rest of the traffic. She saw me as I jogged over trying to avoid the gaze of the valets, and she got out and sat in the passenger seat. I got in the driver’s side and quickly parked the car.

As Li Li got out of the car, I realized that she now had an eye patch over her left eye and was using a cheap looking cane. Neither of which I had ever seen before or even at work when I had seen her hours before.

“Li Li, what happened?! Why are you leaning on that cane and wearing a pirates patch?” I asked trying not to laugh.

“Well, I wa’ itching eye and my finga’ go too fa’ inside.” she casually explained as if this is a problem we all face at one point in our lives. “And when I leave building I trip on rug outside. I sue them I think.” again as casual as can be.

I convinced her the cane was unnecessary but the patch had to stay.

We got back to sushi just in time to catch Tyler and Marla getting up and saying we had to get to the show before it started. Brief introductions were made, Tyler made a crack about the eye patch which Li Li didn’t quite understand, and we were off.

The show was hilarious every which way. Li Li didn’t laugh once. Li Li didn’t drink her two drink minimum since she said she was on some sort of eye medication. I had given up on the date and impressing Li Li and tried to enjoy myself. We went for more drinks after the show. Tyler, Marla, and I kept the conversation light and jovial but Li Li never really joined in. She sat there very poise and straight backed, scanning the restaurant with her one good eye.

At some point, Tyler and Marla “went to the bathroom” and left Li Li and I to entertain ourselves. I tried to ask how old she was, which she avoided. I tried to ask about how long she worked at my client, which she avoided. I tried to ask how long had she been in the United States, which she also avoided. And on and on it went.

It turned out that “going to the bathroom” really meant going to Tyler’s suburban and fucking and then going back home without me. Thanks. In the end Li Li gave me a ride home. I pecked her on the cheek where her good eye could see me and I left without looking back. What a date.

As bad as this date went, I ended up seeing Li Li a few more times over the course of a few months. Come on, I am a guy, and at the time anything was a good thing. It became known that Li Li was well into her 40’s and remained to be as awkward as ever.

After many weeks of not seeing or talking to Li Li, I had gotten back together with the ex-girlfriend. We were coming back from a date at the beach and she was riding on the back of my motorcycle. We passed my roommates on the way home who were waiving at me frantically trying to tell me something but I just figured they were saying Hi. The ex and I arrived home and went into my room.

I came out to get some water and who should I find there but Li Li and my roommate sitting on the couch. My roommate looked at me with a helpless shoulder shrug saying “She said she would wait until you got home. I tried telling her that it might not be for days but she insisted on staying. She has been here like three hours. We haven’t said a thing to each other for ages. It’s so weird!”

Li Li looked at me and said “Is your ex in room? Ex you say you don’t want to be with?” to which I nodded meekly. She continued, “I thought you say is nothin’ serious between you guys?” I stuttered a bit saying how it wasn’t serious.

“If dat true, I want hear it from her.” she stoically demanded in her accent.

I was a little taken aback by the request. I tried to ignore my roommates watching and snickering. Fine, if it would get her to leave, fine. I told Li Li to wait one moment while I went in to talk to my ex.

As I entered my ex spoke first, “Who’s that? Is that the old asian lady you told me about? Oh my god.”

I turned on my salesman voice, “Ya it is. OK look. I haven’t seen her for months so don’t worry about it. OK. Here’s the deal. She wont leave until she hears from you that you and I are nothing serious and we are not getting back together. Please, can you just say that to her?”

“Are you fuckin’ kidding me Luke?! Fine. Whatever. I’ll say that. Looks like I ain’t lying anyways.” she said.

I went out and brought Li Li into my bedroom where my Ex was sitting on the bed. I made the introductions, unsure if I should suggest they shake hands or something. I then told Li Li that my ex had something to say to her.

My ex angrily said “Luke and I are definitely nothing serious. I don’t even know what I am doing here. We are just having fun, I guess.”

Li Li, now with two good eyes, just stood there taking it in. She didn’t say anything, long enough to give my ex and I enough time to look at each other, then look back at Li Li, and then finally Li Li said, “Good.” and turned around and shuffled out the door leaving me to deal with whatever the fuck I had created for myself. I felt I had been raped and pillaged by a pirate.