My boss is a crime lord. I don't want to talk about why it is that a couple of weeks ago I was online at 5:20 in the morning, except to make myself sound suitably awesome with self-validations like "insomnia," "mosquitoes," and "pixel addiction." So I'm checking my e-mail and am vaguely shocked to learn that my boss is writing me from the airport.
You say: Yeah? And?
And then I say: But I just saw his paunchiness in the bar spitting sunflower shells onto the floor a mere ten hours ago.
I quote: I got some family emergency, i will go back the states, i will call u when i got there. meantime Li Ge will take care the Biz. meantime if anyone ask for me the boss, just tell them my last name is Wang.
His lechjesty is a crime lord.
Later that night, Kyle and I sat around in bed trying to rate his potential outlawness on the patented "duvet hogger-to-serial killer" scale.
Me: Mafia? Come on, it's got to be mafia. The third-string kind -- three bosses before the final boss of level one.
Kyle: Naw. It's probably something disappointingly boring, like import-export fraud.
Me: Ooh, ooh, human trafficking!
Kyle: Subway ticket forgery.
Me: Most likely.
He reappeared three days ago, and I can't stop tormenting him. Last night, I wore a serious face and pulled the unsuspecting bastard into the kitchen.
"You know, I forgot to mention that the police came around at eight. Asked me if you were here."
Oh, sweetest revenge. Glorious, quivery, manga-eyed terror. "And you said, 'yes'?"
"Nope. Told them the boss' last name is Wang." Wait for it.... "Oh, and the ladies is out of toilet paper. Better get Little Pai on that."
Next week: "A husky man with facial lacerations and a musculature tic asked for you. I told him your last name was Owned."
There is a depressingly short dictator in all of us.
There's been some speculation as to what kind of trouble I, personally, stand to suffer from being involved, but not from anyone who's been in-country for any length of time. If there's one thing China teaches you to do, it's blink the blink of the old outsider. Here, my national identity comes with the handy perk that everyone thinks I'm a walking, stick-of-butter-eating, retarded wallet, too dense and straightforward to pick up on the intricacies of a culture whose intrigue has been cultivated for 5000 years.
They forget: I have a vagina.
The severity of whatever the hell is going on became doubly apparent when a local cop stopped by the bar to inform me that my staff would, right that second, be leaving to participate in a community rally at the west gate of Worker's Stadium.
Me: But it's Friday night.
Him: I am a policeman.
Me: But that means we would have to close the bar.
Him, helpfully pointing out his badge: I. Am. A. Policeman.
I'm grinning around a mouthful of worms, preparing for the inevitable escalation of insistence in my own little private, two-person Burma, when Calculator Nazi materializes at my side.
"The boss' name is Wang!" she bleats.
Calculator Nazi is awesome. Thirty-two, unmarried, and wields ye old register key as if it was Anduril, Flame of the West. Her other titles include Seeker of Precision in Inventory, Perfecter of the Inscrutable Hate-You Face, Scourge of Basically Everyone.
I spent her first two weeks on the job praying that she'd be reincarnated as a condom, her mouth blissfully occupied with something other than turning the bar into an episode of General Hospital , complete with neener-neener gossip and the pleasant exchange of physical injury. But that was before we accidentally started liking each other, based on the strength of our mutual distrust of children and our thighs.
Now we spend all our downtime trading cultural euphemisms. I take your "black triangle" and raise you a "box." Calc Naz's double-digit English vocabulary now includes such useful phrases as, "Bush, get out of my bush," and the increasingly poignant "No pain, no gain."
Anyway, since I figure it's only a matter of time before the place explodes in a gently fluttering storm of laundered massage-parlor gift certificates, I've decided our bar is going to double as a distributor of Beijing's underground zines. All two of them.
Putting out a zine in China has its own peculiar challenges. Being illegal, for instance. All publications, roughly photocopied or otherwise, are supposed to be registered with the Ministry of Culture and bear its seal of approval. So the problem arises when the would-be authors of our blustery city are too refreshingly angst-filled to either bother with the bureaucracy or make it past the censors.
If I'm going to martyr myself for four walls and a kitchen full of roaches, I'm gonna do it with as much pretentious DIY-pushing as I can squeeze in before being forced to recant from the bottom of an outraged dog pile.
I never was very good at pacing myself.
Remember kids: fatalism is the stuff of life.