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Friday, May 22, 2009

Made in Taiwan

One time I flew to Cancun with a millionaire I'd met a week before the trip. Whenever I tell this story people ask " Were you whoring it up?" Let me tell you No. If I was, I would admit it with pride. But flying to Mexico with a stranger was just the kind of impulsive stupid thing I did in my early twenties because I was bored.

Roger had gone to high school with my friend Nicole. They'd gotten in touch somehow(this was before Facebook, when most of us didn't have computers). I didn't get an email account until I was 25. Since I didn't know how to type it took me an hour to write one letter using just my two pointer fingers and my thumb.

Nicole found Roger somehow and the three of us began hanging out every day. He paid for movies and sushi lunches. None of us had jobs. Nicole was on summer break and I was on a longer break of periodic unemployment.
Roger was the son of a Taiwanese millionaire. He also owned several luxury downtown apartment buildings. I was living with my boyfriend, a man I'd met at work named Hans. He was 10 years older than me and his favorite snack was upending a Hershey's syrup bottle in his mouth. Once he came home drunk when I was painting a watercolor and, despite my protests, downed the paint water in one long refreshing gulp. Although not technically homeless, he had the look and mannerisms of an old school, train hopping, can of beans over the fire hobo.
I'd managed to finish a degree in technical welding, almost purely to spite my high school guidance counselor. She'd taken me aside when I dropped out to inform me that she was sure I'd end up living in a trailer park on welfare with four kids who had different daddies. Even though I had my certificate and could have gotten a job with it, I knew deep down I wasn't a very good welder so I'd been working at a bakery instead. Every morning I'd watch as the employees licked the croissants and mixed up the salads on the floor. I didn't tell anyone, but I did quit. This was not a high point in my life.

Roger was obsessed with a woman named Amy, who was engaged to another man. Not five minutes went by without him mentioning her. He petitioned for advice, opinions about whether we thought she loved him and how to make her leave her fiancee. He was clearly having some kind of affair with her. She was also clearly not very into him. Whenever there was a break in conversation, Roger brought her up. It was annoying, but the sushi was free and we had nothing else to do.

Roger and Amy were scheduled to take a trip to Cancun. When she backed out at the last minute, he offered the trip to Nicole. She couldn't go, but I could. So, despite my mom's absolute certainty that I was headed off for certain death or white slavery, I boarded the plane. Before I left my mother took a picture of him then made him wait while she went to kinkos and photocopied his driver's licence.

When we sat down to enjoy our mimosas in first class, he handed me 600 dollars for spending money. He began to share some new information about himself. Did I know that his father was the head of the Taiwanese mafia?
Had he told me that when he visited his father they were forced to travel with armed guards in armored cars to avoid assassination? Even in the states his fear of getting taken out was so great that he carried a gun illegally.

No, I did not know that.

Had he told me the story of how he'd had an accident while driving drunk but avoiding jail time by paying off a judge?
Did I think that Amy would leave her fiancee?

I had no idea, having never met her, and I didn't care because suddenly I was sure that the man behind us had the furtive, menacing look of a killer for hire. When I got up to use the bathroom he pretended to read the paper, but his eyes stayed fixed on me. I wondered for a minute if Roger was making it all up, but he seemed incapable of guile, as sociopathically blank as a man sized two year old.

" Jesus Christ," I thought " My parents were actually right." Nothing pisses me off more than this, so I was in no mood for Roger's incessant prattle about Amy when I got back to my seat. I watched the hit man out of the corner of my eye as Roger went on and on.

" Why you think she date me but she not leave John? You think she love John or me?"


It was intolerable. By the end of the plane ride I was praying the killer would put a bullet in both our heads. White slavery seemed like an entertaining diversion from Roger's endless narcissism.

" SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP" I thought. Surely I would have some peace when we got to the hotel. I could lay by the beach and read abook. Maybe he would go to the bar for a drink. In line for customs, in the cab ride, checking in to the hotel, it was Amy this and Amy that and Why?Why?Why?

" I'm going to the beach for a walk."

" I come too."

And so it began.

Roger could not be alone. Not even for thirty seconds. He was unfamiliar with the term "comfortable silence" He followed me everywhere I tried to go. When I got out of the shower I was greeted by his little face, eyes lasered on the door, willing me to come out.

" Amy say she love me, but she no leave John. Why?"

"Maybe she has a tiny penis you didn't notice. Did you check for a baby dick tucked up in there?" It was like I hadn't spoken at all. His mind was a goldfish in a bowl, swimming around in circles.

As I got ready to go out,he followed me. While I blow dried my hair he waited patiently beside me so he could start talking again when it stopped. The most unforgivable sin he committed was trying to have a conversation with me while I was reading, actually putting his hand on the book and pushing it down.

" Have you seen the movie "Clear and Present Danger?"

" Yes."

" I love that movie. It has this Harrison Ford who is a CIA agent,he in trouble with his work he has to fight bad drug dealers-"

" Yes I know. I saw it."

"-and his boss is president and...."

I am going to stab you, I thought. I'm going to fashion a shiv out of the silverware in the dining room and stab you in the face. I was going to a Mexican prison for stabbing a Taiwanese drug lord and I was looking forward to the break.

All day long he reminded me of our itinerary, which he'd written down on tiny cards he carried in his wallet.

" 12:45 we eat lunch. 1:15 we go see dolphin show. 2:30 we walk on beach til 3:00. Then we rest for half an hour. 3:30 we go to musical dancing show." He pulled his cards out of his wallet and rattled them at me at least a dozen times a day, usually while I was trying to read a book.

" You think Amy really loves me?"

" Oh wait, are you talking about Amy N____? I know her, she dated a friend of mine. He said she gave him a case of genital warts that made his dick look like a forest of button mushrooms. You better go get checked out by a doctor. Why don't you go now?"

No response, just a blank stare.

" Have you seen Speed? It have Keanu Reeves, he a bus driver and...."

I began to really lose it when he took my passport and hid it from me.

" I have to go home Roger, I'm sick." I faked a sneeze. " Get me some Nyquil and go change the flight."

" You not sick. I have your passport in my wallet. You stay here. We go see Flamenco show at 7:45."

He talked all the way through the Flamenco show.

That night he wanted to go out drinking. I begged off, drank a third of the Nyquil and fell asleep as he moussed his hair to go out.

" Bye! " I was filled with euphoria. Maybe he'd get kidnapped by bandits. Since he had my passport I'd have to sneak across the border with the help of a coyote but I could handle that. I still had 400 dollars. They wouldn't speak any English, and I'd get a refreshing swim across the Rio Grande.

In the middle of the night I was shaken awake.

" You take picture!"

Roger was standing over my bed, shoving a camera in my face. Next to him was the tallest woman I'd ever seen. She was wearing thigh high white vinyl boots, a black bra and glitter mini skirt. She teetered, drunk, resting her hand on my shoulder.

" Don't throw up! She take our picture!"

I snapped a picture of him grinning beside his whore and fell back into my Nyquil daze.
The next day, in addition to asking me why Amy didn't love him 800 times, he peppered our itinerary talk with odd non sequiters about his whore.

" I meet that woman in lobby. She not a prostitute."

" I don't care."

Swimming in the ocean, over the roar of the waves crashing in on the perfect Caribbean beach,

" She give me blow job. She not a prostitute."

"I don't care."

It was there on the beach, lying in the sun, that I saw the man who'd been eyeing me on the plane. The hit man had found us. He was sitting straight up on a deck chair not 10 feet away, surveying the people swimming and laughing. THEY had nothing to worry about except the pickpockets going through their shorts while they swim, I thought bitterly.
He looked innocuous in his orange swim trunks, applying sunscreen like any other tourist, but I knew better. He was going to kill Roger and take me out so I couldn't identify him.

Again I thought of my passport in his wallet. Even if I escaped I'd have to stay there. I could imagine my mom,
"You just HAD to go off with some strange Chinaman and now you're stuck. Maybe next time you won't be so quick to hop on a plane when you get a wild hair up your ass."

I had no marketable skills! I'd have to find Whores R Us and buy some white vinyl boots! I wondered what the exchange rate was for a blow job.

" Roger, get up. I'm sick, I have to go home!"

" You not sick. We stay here. At 4:15 we go wash up and see Cultural Museum."

" No! I have to lay down!"

Back at the hotel I crawled under the covers, refusing to budge until he left. Good, I thought. Let the killer shoot him at close range in the Ancient Mayan wing. Maybe he'll grab the whore from the lobby for company and she'll get popped too.

I got up to find a payphone and call Nicole.

" I'm dying! He's killing me! He's some kind of mafia freak and I'm going to get shot!"

"Oh I know, isn't that weird?"

" No, you don't understand--his dad is the head of the mafia over there! There's a man following us and Roger WONT SHUT UP! I can't take it anymore!"

" Dude why do you think I didn't go?"

" Why didn't you warn me?"

" I don't know, I thought it might not bother you. Why didn't you warn me that Hans was licking the croissants?"

" I deeply regret that now."