Chapter 35 – Vengeance Unfitting
While travelling through Sri Lanka with my Chinese girl Yun during January of 2013, our room in the guesthouse at which we stayed in Nuwara Eliya had been the nicest we’d experienced during our two weeks in the country. In addition to a dependable WiFi connection and hot showers in a relatively clean attached bathroom, it had a big comfy bed with lots of pillows and a nice thick blanket. Nuwara Eliya is a town up in the hills with many old tea plantations and, due to its elevation, can get pretty cold at night. So each day after exploring the area during the daylight hours, when the darkness would roll in bringing the chill along with it, the two of us would prefer to shower up and spend our N.E. evenings doin’ it like the Isley Brothers and snuggling “between the sheets.”
“Yo,” I said to Yun while loungin’ in bed one night and fuckin’ around with some photos on my laptop, “have you ever visited the western part of China?”
She told me she hadn’t.
“Well, you interested in seein’ some pictures from out there?”
She told me she was.
“Alright,” I said, “come over here and get close to me. I’ll take you through it.”
After showing her some of my snaps from Kangding and Tagong, I started getting to ones from the more remote shit like Litang, Daocheng and Xiangcheng – places where there’d been little to no public transportation options available.
“So, yeah,” I told Yun while clicking through photos of desolate wastelands, “for hours and hours I’d walk along these winding roads up in the mountains with that big-ass bag on my back hoping someone would stop and pick me up. Sometimes I wouldn’t see a car for hours at a time.”
“When are these from?”
“This was in late October, just a few weeks before I met you. It was cold as fuck with snow flurries falling in some parts which was weird ‘cause at the same time I got the worst sunburn I’ve ever had.”
I kept clicking.
“Over the course of like four or five days, it’s ridiculous how many different cars I was in and out of. Even if the people could only drive me for like twenty minutes before reaching a fork in the road when they’d go one way and I’d go another, I’d be super grateful. ‘Xie xie! Xie xie!’ I’d smile and say. And pretty much every car I was in, people would offer me candy, gum or cigarettes as their way of showing friendship.”
I continued to click as Yun examined the images on the screen.
“Most of the cars I ended up getting into, I’d hear coming from behind, then I’d step off the side of the road and try to wave ‘em down. But one time pretty high up in the mountains, these two dudes’d pulled over and were pissing on the side of the road when I went running up to ‘em, waving my arms and yelling for a ride. At first, they probably thought I was a fuckin’ rapist that wanted to cut their dicks off or somethin’ like that but when they realized I was just some stupid foreigner ill-equipped for mountain travel, they too ended up giving me a ride.
“Ah, yeah, here,” I said, showing off an aerial photo of a dirt road zigging and zagging down a mountainside. “This is what the roads are like in western China – particularly between Tagong and Litang. It’s totally undeveloped. It’s like a completely different world from where you live on the east coast. You really wouldn’t believe how primitive it is out in the Wild Wild West. And walking along those dirt roads with cars blowing past is horrendous. That shit got in my eyes and in my lungs every time even though I had shades on and one of those pollution masks people wear in the big cities. You ever wear one of those things?”
“You kidding me? I don’t wear that shit.”
“Ah, right. I forgot how beautiful you are, Yun. It would be a sin to cover up your face with one of those ugly things even if you will die ten years earlier than someone who does wear one from constantly breathing in China’s toxic air unfiltered.”
She smiled and called me an “idiot” before I redirected her attention back to the screen.
“But uh, anyway, right around where I took this photo, I got picked up by some Tibetan guy who was probably about thirty-years-old. From what I remember, he was a skinny motherfucker that’d been wearing a green US Army t-shirt and didn’t understand a word of English. Even though the air temperature was cold, the sun gets so hot up in the mountains that this guy had been sweating his ass off in there. It was dripping off his forehead and his armpits were soaked. And, uh, on the speaker system, he’d been listening this bizarre mix CD. Most of the songs on it were Tibetan ones with the loud, wailing female singers and all the gong and whistle sounds, but then every once in a while there’d be a western techno song like ‘Barbie Girl’ thrown in the mix. Know that song? ‘I’m a Barbie girl, in my Barbie worl-url-urld. Life in plastic – it’s fantastic!’”
“No,” Yun laughed. “I don’t know that.”
“Ah, well, that’s what he had playing. And as he drove along with that shit on the radio, there were some cars in front of us and they were kicking up so much fucking dirt, we couldn’t even see out the windshield in front of us. And the whole time I was just hoping we wouldn’t blindly drive off the side of a cliff, y’know.”
I clicked a few photos ahead.
“See this one here. We had to wait in this spot for like twenty minutes because that Tibetan woman in the background there couldn’t control her herd of yaks that’d overtaken the road. There were like twenty of ‘em and she was throwing rocks at ‘em and whistling and yelling but they didn’t seem to give a fuck and just stayed chillin’ there. But, yeah, we eventually got past ‘em.”
I again clicked.
“It was right around this point – I’d say after I’d been in his car for about three hours – when I noticed the driver’s eyes kept closing and his head would nod down as if there was absolutely nothing he could do to stay awake. So the guy looks over and starts playing charades with me and does his best to non-verbally convey that he’s too tired to keep driving and needs me to take over. He pulls over on the side of the road and, before he gets out of the car, I attempt to explain to him that I can’t drive a stick shift.”
“Manual transmission. Most of the cars in the states are automatic. But with manual you gotta switch gears at different speeds and shit.”
“Ah, okay. I never got a driver’s license so I don’t really know about that stuff.”
“You never got a license? What the hell’s the matter with you?”
“My parents were always too afraid to let me drive. They’re always too afraid to let me do lots of stuff.”
“They weren’t too afraid to let you go to Sri Lanka to meet up with some perverted white guy you barely know?”
“They don’t know I’m with you.”
“Oh, so I could kill you and nobody would know? Thanks for the heads up,” I made a creepy face at her before continuing. “Anyway, uh, speaking of parents, when I was a teenager we didn’t own a car with manual transmission, but my dad would always offer to teach me how to drive one. He always said we could rent one on a Saturday afternoon and he’d show me how. He always told me that he learned how to drive one when his dad sent him by himself go pick dinner up from a place called Gale Street Inn. It’s not the easiest thing to learn so, when he was trying to do it, he was grinding the gears and stopping and going like a fuckin’ retard all the way from his house to the restaurant. But, I mean, eventually he learned how to handle it smoothly and wanted to teach me. But in response to his offer, I’d always say, ‘Yeah, sure, let’s do it, but not today because I’m too busy masturbating’ or whatever the fuck else I was doing. So yeah, I never learned. And never more than on that road in western China did I regret not having taken my father up on his offer.”
“So how were you able to tell the guy that you couldn’t drive his car?”
“I wasn’t able to tell him,” I laughed. “Since most cars in western China were manual, he must’ve assumed that any man should know how to drive a stick shift and shooed me over into the driver’s seat. And before I even started driving, he plopped down in the passenger seat, closed his eyes and fell asleep. And then a couple minutes later, he was woken up by how shittily I was operating his car. It was making all these awful noises and I couldn’t even keep it moving. And he looks over at me in an angry confusion and points at the wheel and says something in Tibetan. I just shrug at him like, ‘Hey, I tried to tell ya I have no idea what the fuck I’m doin’ here.’ So at that point he realized that if we wanted to get where we needed to go, he was gonna hafta keep on truckin’ himself.
“And not too far after that – I’m really glad he took over the wheel because there’s no way I could’ve handled this on my first day using a manual transmission – there was some construction going on where I guess the CCP is trying to start paving roads out there and this was the dustiest stretch of any we’d driven on. It was really fucked up and thankfully my driver decided to just take it nice and easy so we could get through the area safely. But other drivers didn’t feel the same way and had been trying to pass us on these skinny-ass roads on the side of mountains. And one asshole who was trying to fly past us temporarily lost control on the dirt path and ended up side-swiping our car which – there wasn’t a lot of damage done – but had been kinda scary because we easily could’ve been bumped off the road and ended up tumbling a thousand feet down the side of a cliff.”
I clicked through a few more photos.
“But, yeah,” I said, “that seems to be about it as far as interesting hitchhiking photos go. But if you want, I could give you the computer and you could click through the rest of the ones from western China at your own pace and ask me about ‘em if you have any questions.”
She said she’d like to do that and took my computer from me. In the meantime, I sat up and put my arm around her. She rested her head on my side while she continued shuffling through the snaps.
“What the fuck?” she laughed a few minutes into the photographic exploration. “What is this?”
“Oh that? That’s in a town called Xiangcheng. You ever hear of it?”
She shook her head no.
“I’m not surprised. It’s a shithole. Don’t ever go there. I had an awful time which is why I drew that there.”
She gave me a strange look that I didn’t quite understand.
“Well,” I began explaining “the guesthouse I stayed at in Xiangcheng was pretty big – two floors – but I was the only guest there. Other than me, it was just the middle-aged female owner and her son. They had private rooms available but since I’m a long-term backpacker on a tight-ass budget, I opted for the cheapest option they had which’d been a dorm bed in this massive room on the second floor with a super high ceiling, about fifteen beds, three couches, a couple leather chairs and a bunch of cabinets and drawers around the perimeter. The entirety of this room had been painted in a ‘traditional Tibetan style,’ I guess I’d say. It had a bunch of weird art ‘n’ shit all over the place and was actually one of the coolest rooms I’d ever stayed in. The only problem was that the walls were really thin and this dorm had been right next to the son’s room.
“So on the first night, as I went to go to bed, from the son’s room next door, all’s I could hear through the thin-ass walls was the constant gunfire of ‘Halo,’ ‘Call of Duty’ or some other ‘kill yo ass’ video games mixed with the same three or four songs on repeat over and over and over and over. They were western songs. One of ‘em was ‘Someone Like You’ by Adele and the song by Beyonce that goes, ‘Baby I can see your halo.’
“Like, this kid’s entire fucking room musta been made outta speakers because he was blastin’ the shit at a hundred-and-thirty decibels. It was so loud through the wall that I couldn’t believe a human being could actually physically sustain those noises from the other side. It was outrageous. I couldn’t sleep. And this shit went on until about three or four in the morning.
“So, the next day I got up all grumpy and shit from the lack of sleep but still decided to make the most of my time there and go have a walk around the town, exploring this and that and then I ate dinner and it was dark out and decided to go back to the guesthouse and get some sleep because I was leaving early the next morning on a bus at six. But by the time I got back, the front door to the building had been barred shut.”
“Didn’t you have a key?”
“Like, I had a key but the door to this place was an old-fashioned wooden one – shit that gets locked by putting a thick piece of wood between the handles on each side of the door on the inside. Kinda like shit you’d see in Robin Hood the way they bar shut the castle doors and shit. Know what I’m talkin’ about?”
“Yeah, okay, I think I understand.”
“Okay. So yeah, the door had been barred shut and I was left outside in the cold darkness. And all I can hear from the inside is the song ‘Someone Like You’ being blasted over and over again as I pound on the door, yelling for someone to let me in. No one hears me, so I start walking around the building, looking for a window I can climb into when some fucking pack of really shabby looking stray dogs comes up and they all start barking their asses off at me and, in fear of getting bit, I scamper back to the front door.
“At this point I’m frustrated as hell so I just start tossing rocks upstairs at the son’s bedroom window. It wasn’t made of glass, but wooden shutters. And after I hit it a few times, the kid finally stuck his head out and saw me out there and I pointed at the door for him to come let me in. He did and I thanked him just to be polite even though I was really angry.”
“Why do Americans do that? It’s so fake.”
“Do what? Say ‘thank you’ when we don’t really mean it?”
“Yeah, that and how everybody says, ‘Have a nice day!’ That’s such bullshit. You don’t care how my day goes. Why you even say that?”
“Because we were always taught you’re an asshole if you don’t say it, even if you don’t mean it. Because America’s all about appearances. So even if your mind is filled with ugly depressing thoughts, it’s part of our culture to make sure you always come across as nice and have good manners.”
“Good manners,” she laughed. “That is so fucking stupid.”
“Yeah, you’re right. And maybe if I wasn’t so phony with the ‘thank you’ like that and yelled at the guy instead, I wouldn’t have felt the need to take out my anger on the guesthouse in such a passive-aggressive way.
“So, as it happens, I went back up to my room to go to sleep and the kid continued playing his loud-ass video games and playing his loud-ass music and I couldn’t sleep so I started pacing around the room, opening up random cabinets and drawers just for the hell of it. All of ‘em contained dust, a few of ‘em contained blankets, one of ‘em contained a tiny, seemingly no-longer working television and one drawer contained a notebook. More than the others, the lattermost had caught my interest.
“As such, I picked the thing up and started flipping through it. Except for the front page which’d had a bunch of Chinese characters hand-scribbled in black ink, the rest of it remained blank. And since I was in such a shitty mood from all that’d happened, that’s when I decided to pull out the trusty old blue pen I’d kept in my backpack and drew what you see right there at the bottom of the page with all the Chinese writing – an absolute fucking masterpiece depicting three men fucking each other in the ass and in the face and cumming all over one another – and left it there for those assholes to find. Pretty sweet, right?”
“Uh, I guess so,” she chuckled. “But do you have any idea what the message says?”
“C’mon Yun, you know I can’t read Chinese.”
“Yeah, right. Well, you know how you said it was just the woman and her son in the house?”
“Well, that’s because the man of the house is dead. The message on the page in that notebook is a letter from that boy to his dead father. And you drew three guys having gay sex on it.”
“Oh. Shit. Really?”
“Yeah,” she laughed. “You are such a dick.”
Few of the photos from Western China that I showed Yun as mentioned in the story…