That other direction is about the only official the authorities don't bother it much often sort of La La Bar in Beijing. It's sort of like a gambling establishment in a place where gambling isn't exactly illegal, but isn't exactly legal either. You can find the place on the internet. Even a picture. It's in a guide book. I'm not writing a guide book, so I will let you look for yourself.
Sitting on a vast oceanic looking couch are three women, all tall and stylish, all of them would be the envy of men. But they aren't attracted to each other, and are instaqe waiting for something, holding glasses, hands wrapped with an excessively precious precision around as if they are the stems to the glass.
We sit and there are tables around us filling up fast. There is a difference. The women on the edges are on display, the women at the tables talk with a kind of business sharpness. Some are dressed that way. Almost everyone in that center area, whether talking English, Chinese, French or art was talking business. It wasn't that it was crowded, but it was fullish.
So there it was, "the scene," of a sort. It wasn't sorted, but was sort of sad, in that it was really more about being in a place which is or perhaps might be not totally hostile. It was a place free of straightism. At best.
My companion and I had an eye lock moment. You have to realize she's taller than I am. Thinner. More of all those things that glamor magazines say a woman should look like. I'm the one who has her own make up kit and shoes that cost the annual wages of many people in China and the copies of three major fashion magazines packed into my oversized hand bag.
"You've always been a lala."
I am about to protest, at this moment more than most. But she continues.
"I don't mean to say that you are, or aren't. It was always impossible to tell. I always thought or hoped that. Well not that I was really attracted to you, but I so much wanted your acceptance... We met sort of awkwardly, but I always felt that since you weren't trying to impress me or anyone else there, that your feelings matter. There I've said it."
"That's very sweet of you. I'm not the person you knew then."
"You've told me about what..."
"Not even a sliver of it. But tell me why all of this. We could have spent a short catch up at Starbucks."
She did that look down, hand run through the hair over the ear gesture. It's sort of the universal sign of "I'm embarrassed, I'm thinking, and I hope looking more put together will some how make what I am thinking more presentable." Yes we pack a lot of meaning into our hair fiddling gestures. Get used to it.
"i'm not here to ask for anything..."
"You are here for something, there's nothing wrong with that. But... We've never been really clear with each other. Every time we've ever talked it has been around what it was always about."
"Are you saying that's my fault?"
I bob my head back and forth.
"I had a lot of repressed everything when we met. I'm really different now. I don't know if you wanted to say more, but I wouldn't have listened."
She kind of nods.
"I wanted to sleep with you have my first experience dumped me."
I sort of shook my head in wonder.
"It was that explicit?"
"Oh yes. You don't know how it was that summer. I was so aware of myself for the first time." She went on describing this and that encounter in her time working in a notoriously gay vacation spot.
"So you seem to have accepted yourself."
"No. Exact opposite. I kept wanting to be the person I though the kind of people who were the kind... That's the wrong way to say it. There were certain women. They radiated wanting sex with other women. I wanted to be the person that their eyes would fall on and take. I was straight, I just had sex with other women that summer."
I look straight at her until she continues.
"What it is really about, what all this is really about. Being a lala, is that it isn't about what other people think you look like or radiate, but how it feels to radiate it. You always have. I always wanted that."
I sat, sipped my tea, wondered where she got that, because even today I'd love to be as confident as I sometimes hope I appear.
"Can we dance? I mean..."
"I just stand up and take her hand with a kind of emotional practice. How many pose balls does it take before just doing it irl is just doing it? I don't know, but it is a long way back on the road for me.
We dance. She doesn't pull me closer, but just accepts that hour hands contact, our bodies move together. I'm a much better dancer than she is, and I almost immediately take the lead. She half giggles and starts to cover her mouth, but I keep her fingers twined.
"Stand up straight." I tell her this in my dance teacher voice. That correction filled but gently affectionate coldness that you learn amidst ths smell of wood, water and sweat.
(Continued more... I think.)