Monday, December 29, 2003

We Can Work it Out
Foreign barbarian coworker Jeff is on vacation, so I've been working his night shift recently (as well as my day shift) and I was walking back to the Lucky Number last night when I heard some sobbing and shouting on the sidewalk ahead of me.
I had been musing about some new posters on a temporary wooden wall fronting an upscale apartment complex being constructed across the street. Like many ads promoting a "modern" lifestyle in China - especially real estate (I've seen Bill Clinton's smiling face used for another development and also for a brand of beer though I'm doubtful he signed on to promote either) - there are no Asian faces, only white ghosts and this one is a doozy. There's a wanton, laughing woman brandishing a drink in one hand, a designer purse in the other and her dress hiked up to her thighs as she rides atop a smooth, smiling guy's shoulders; several heroin chic young folks looking fashionably wasted; a somewhat disheveled, but well-dressed businesswoman who appears to be having an orgasm at the sight of the McDonald's logo; and a 50-foot woman in black latex cat suit standing astride an urban landscape with a subway train - paging Dr. Freud! - running between her legs.
But my attention was drawn from the Attack of the 50-foot Cat Woman the more sobering scene coming into focus.
It was a young woman squatting on the sidewalk in a near-fetal position sobbing her heart out as a guy who was probably her boyfriend paced around and around her, alternately shouting and trying crudely to calm her as he sucked down a butt.
Of course, with no Chinese language skills I had no idea what the grief was about - which only made it more painful to see. Had he cheated on her? Was she pregnant? Had he dumped her? Or was it something more mundane? Maybe he'd criticized her cooking or said her jeans made her look fat.
It's easier to absorb a sad sight like this when you can understand even shred of the context, but lacking that insight I felt like one does when confronted with a hurting animal or infant, simply helpless.
I resisted the immediate urge to bust him in the chops and spirit her away to a place that's safe and warm, a sanctuary where no one could ever hurt her again, and just kept walking, of course. Some other passerbys had stopped to gawk and the Catwoman was still ravaging the landscape across the street but the young woman's choked sobs and the guy's erratic outbursts followed me to the entrance of the Lucky Number.

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