Obviously, it isn’t the wares the ad is peddling that interest me. I don’t even know for sure what they are, since I neither speak nor read any Chinese language. It’s the woman and the story she evokes.
There you are, depressed as hell and languishing in a seedy backstreet bar in downtown Shanghai, drinking yourself to oblivion and pining for Hilda Moriarty (see earlier post), when this vision of whatever China has to offer by way of heaven comes and sits next to you.
‘Is it a woman who is troubling you?’ she asks.
You look back at her through misted but appreciative eyes.
‘You’re very perceptive,’ you reply, held in thrall by the enigmatic gaze that makes your brain vibrate, your legs quiver ever so slightly, and your breathing adjust itself to the earthy sound of a wailing erhu coming from somewhere behind an unseen curtain. She continues:
‘Of course I’m perceptive. My ancestry goes back to a princess of the Tang dynasty, so making a man happy is in my blood. I could make you happy tonight, if you like.’
The prospect of bliss beckons and you move closer and closer to submission. But the closer you get, the louder chimes a little bell. Before long you recognise the tell tale tinkle of a cash register and realise that you have only £10 worth of traveller’s cheques left. You feel the sudden tug of a lead weight on your leg (the left one) and gradually sink back to the reality of terra firma.
‘Thanks all the same,’ you offer by way of apology, and continue the slide into oblivion.
* * *
It's late, and the bottle is emptying faster than usual.