News & opinion on Greater China and the even Greater Beyond: by Biff Cappuccino.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Chorks (5800)

Buzzy got off on Oliver's constant bitching: there was the vicarious power trip, but there was also the mystery of why Oliver's venom was heartfelt.

"So how's Meimei coming along?"

"Don't get me started on women, man. Real headfucks these locals. Piss me off."

"Yeah," Buzzy laughed in return, tickled by a frisson of second-hand empowerment. He egged Oliver on with, "Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em."

Oliver rolled his eyes, "More like: can't live with them, can't shoot them."

Oliver Chow was an imported bravo, a handsome American born Chinese guy who’d figured out speech patterns and body-language for scoring local girls at will and who yet had nothing good to say about them. Buzzy, of Scotch-Irish roots, was privately flattered that Oliver chose to spend time with him. He smiled admiringly, "But you're nailing tail all the time."

Oliver wasn't interested in this thread. "And what's with all of these chorks? Loads of them. Everywhere you look." He was angry young lips set in a face of clear skin and stabbing a finger at shuffling shoals of Chinese dorks - chorks - who were a reminder of where he had come from and where, if he stayed in this bumpkin country long enough, he might easily return. He made an aggressive sweep to his left, in such an angry rush to make his point that Basel Melon (Buzzy) jerked his loose-limbed body out of the way to duck a finger in the eye. Oliver was scrunching up his face, holding his hand out like a glock, an imported hero strafing a crowd of the Great Unwashed, wiping the streets clean of degenerate Chinese. But he too was Chinese, just not local. He was ABC. "American-born Chink!" he'd roared the first time, laughing at Buzzy's dithering and confusion, his sudden weakness in the knees and inability to look Oliver in the eye. Oliver took a mocking pleasure in spitting out harsh words, mimicking the black rednecks who call themselves niggers, spinning self-doubt into pride, treating life as if it was a permanent extension of the high-school playground by daring you to question their epithets and correct their grammar.

Buzzy wondered if maybe it was the weather that put him in this mood. They were waiting out a cloudburst, pouring down in that seasonal splash of tropical bullets that kills fecund soil and reduces it to red clay. The street life had scattered, two-legged tame and four-footed feral, for the security of eaves and doorways and now all that remained were taxis flashing ‘Occupied’ and the thunderous tattoo of superdrops slamming into European-scale car bonnets. It deafened Oliver who didn't want to hear it. But Buzzy had raised an ear throughout, exalting in the opening whiff of musty street followed by the freshly-scrubbed nothing that reminded him of big sky and the thin air of the backwoods. Usually, ozone, peroxide, and two-stroke exhaust choked out Chinese shoppe fragrance like strangulating olfactory weeds bumping off the street's nasal bouquet. He was a country boy for whom the mono smell of the city was a let down.

Then again, maybe it really was the weather. Oliver had the metrosexual's dislike of weather. Sunshine meant protecting yourself with the next best thing to an annoying parasol: a hand or a magazine. Sunshine meant squinting and squinting meant wrinkles and wrinkles meant jailbait was hard to come by. He was a skin cream man twice a day. Later he'd progress to makeup. Or else weather meant rain and the vague hydrophobia of the non-swimmer and leaky building tenant. Heat and cold meant peeling off or wrapping up fashion statements. Light and dark were famous for clashing with getup and bling-bling and why couldn't the golden twilight, the most flattering chromatic known to mankind and makeovers, last longer?

In a word, weather was frustrating, irritating, unfair. Sensible people seemed to give it the cold shoulder. If you asked about the weather, locals raised their eyebrows and embarrassed you by cackling to a neighbor about oddball foreigners. They had the bureaucrat's dreamy craving for a nullity of stimuli, that lukewarm blandness which is the reassuring absence of demands and the mediocre pap of union-built nirvanas. They pined for in-between conditions, an ineffable golden mean of neither this nor that and as much of it as possible.

The rain was slowing down again, a motley wash of drizzle and bull-drops, but Buzzy could see another squall approaching; from a distance a thickening of the grey air, like a translucent blue-ash shower curtain shunted slowly over the growing pall, softening and obscuring details at a distance. As he watched, a foreground of liquid tracer bullets caught the light and gleamed like minnows jumping where they pell-melled to the ground. "Hey Oliver! What do you say we get us the motherfuck out of here and pull a runner? She's not going to let up soon. And look what's coming at us." He jerked a thumb in the direction of the squall. "Let's get a move on over to that store up there aways. We can hang out inside."

After sprinting over, they ran in the door, scattering a claque of female yes-persons in white overshirts, breaking them up like sheets of paper blown by a gust. The two young foreigners peeled off their wet jackets carefully and shook them in the doorway, scattering water with the indifference of dogs shaking out their coats. Buzzy folded his jacket over his arm, Oliver wrapped his around his waist and tied the arms of his jacket across his front in a cross knot. The small shop, with its heavily stacked, overstocked apparel spilling out of display racks made the place even smaller, while the darkening colors of early autumn fashions made the place seem ever smaller, a vortex of diminishing expanse. Oliver's size made him ungainly in this space and a sudden frisson of claustrophobia hit him.

Oliver made a smart-ass face and began swaggering, lifting up and rooting around in clothes contemptuously. But these were the actions of a suffocating man desperate to prove there was more room here than met his eye. "All this stuff's made for dog eaters, bucketheads, and bomb watchers," he wheezed uneasily, his chest glitching, catching and refusing to expand. Buzzy rummaged his hands through the clothes, pleased and relaxed by the textures and the cool stored between the layers. He had the pragmatic eyes of a rural thrift shopper and punctuated with nods of the head his approval of the sound stitching, the absence of dangling threads, and the double paneling where strength was needed. He was enchanted by the color schemes, ranging from moody to somber to gay to granola. Textures greeted his fingertips in burlap to patent leather to brocade silk. Altogether, the colorful gloom and the tightness of the place, revived memories of prowling in the fall back home: frosted maple and birch leaves, crabapple and blueberry harvests, partridge and fox on the fly, oiled gun-blue in hand. He ran his hands over unfamiliar signature brands from Poon Club to Boys Luck Club to Strangler's Treasure ('Built to flit for tombstone predator') But Chinglish was no longer a depressing annoyance, proof positive you were marooned in a cross-cultural bedlam. They’d been pressed into use as matey mockery. The ruby T-shirt Oliver inhabited was decaled in day-glo orange with "Bling Bling for Boners" and the small print explained, '1960 was key date in Elvis future history of Presley for President.' This was a pride shirt. It didn't get any more absurd than Yelvis.

Perhaps the problem was that "This shit wouldn't fit my dog, you know what I'm saying?"

Buzzy laughed again, his role recently converting to serving as witness while Oliver ventilated increasingly outrageous statements that he himself dared not make. Buzzy said, "But I think it's real. You know what I mean? It has all the right brand names though doesn't it?" But he wasn't sure. He came from a pretty part of New England and if Wal-Mart or L.L. Bean didn't stock something, he'd never heard of it. Then again, the same was true pretty much for China so he usually felt right at home. Then again, he knew Oliver would feed on this comment and hopefully work it into something exciting.

Oliver picked at the clothes again, "This stuff has to be pirated. I've never seen these sizes in the real world. Back in the World this is kiddies wear." And looking sternly at a couple of the sales staff he said loudly, challenging them in a tongue they didn't know, "And how come clerks don't help us out here? I'm scoping for product. I'm a customer. Is my Benjamins not good enough for these Chinks?"

Buzzy sniggered, a guilty pleasure hearing a word he'd never employ publicly in this lifetime. Oliver went up to one of the sales staff and said in beginner's Chinese, jawing his words slowly and inadvertently looking like someone living with tetanus, "Do-you-have-this?"

The girl just looked at him, terrified. He looked Chinese, but his skin was improbably delicate, finer than hers. And what language was he speaking? Mandarin, Taiwanese, Hakkanese, Shanghainese, English, French, German, Japanese? Too many choices. Too few words for her to contextualize and decode and make a decision. It didn't compute. It couldn’t. And nobody had prepared her for this. She went blank, confused, waiting for the masculine blow to come. The cashier, also chosen for her lack of personality - for personality meant initiative and initiative prompted embezzlement - watched with wide eyes, shrunk and disappeared below the cash register, hoping the storm front would blow over.

Oliver repeated slowly, completely undermining the tonality of already fractured Chinese, "Do You Have This!!??" He snapped fingers beside her ear and waved in front with his other hand. She jumped, startled by the suddenness, the intrusion, and ran off.

Oliver and Buzzy both laughed.

Oliver, tired of easy pickings and bored by unrequited hazing, asked again, "Hey, any news on this weather, weatherman? Man I hate it when shit pores cats and dogs, you know what I'm saying dog? I'm just minding my own business when, all of a sudden, it has to rain." His arms were outstretched, palms up, as he spoke with utmost sincerity, "I don't get this weather. Why can't it stay the same for a while instead of getting crazy-ass on everything?"

Buzzy looked outside, the cloud ceiling had risen and the color had gone from a gray white to a white blue. "Hey, Oliver, I think it's done raining."

Oliver said, "Time to flee," meaning it. He grinned happily for the first time.

A week later they headed into the hills, stir crazy after a long week in the city. They were jonesing for a spree in the surrounding high-density mountains, perennially misted, their dark looming faces a challenge. Oliver prepared himself with a shell jacket and boots astride his new Kymco KTR. Buzzy was in a tartan shirt, leather jacket and sneakers atop a decrepit Yamaha DT.

The KTR was a four-stroke environmentally sensitive model with low smoke and low noise. Oliver had refused his mechanic's advice to touch up the ebony factory paint job with zebra stripes to forestall a rip-off. Thieves usually stole with the goal of chopping up bikes and unusual paint meant difficult sales for the parts. Though Oliver loved the bike, there was always a splash of white noise in the back of his mind when he parked it on the street, locked up, and left it to the mercies of predators.

Buzzy's DT was a two-stroke rice-burner with an exhaust like ten thousand cheroots and a racket like a Husqavarna chainsaw. It was a sloppy dirty beast, it's chunky tire pattern - known as 'chocolate' in the local parlance - was designed to get a wide grip and solid purchase on uneven trails. In the city, it sprayed muck and rain water in every direction soaking riders and tailgaters alike. But it had macho horsepower and torque. Buzzy had picked it up third-hand but the price was right. He cherished the old girl because she was a rougher, primal beast, a she that needed attention and was thus capable of friendship. It was like a back home grease car with enough age and quirkiness on the day-in and the day-out to have what the gravel-roader backboys called personality. Everything from weather to heat affected performance, inputting just enough chaos into the system to make it endearing by being quirky yet manageable. The engine had been overhauled innumerable times, Buzzy having purchased his own tools and put a practiced hand into several rebuilds himself. The dilapidated state of the cranky vehicle - the warped handle bars from serial dumping, etches and scratches revealing a paleontology of paint jobs, the indifferent shop-class electrical-taped wires - meant that Buzzy never had to lock up. His machine was a vagabond poster child for machine vandalism. Like a beater Oldsmobile hiding a 350, a Holly carb and racing tranny, no self-respecting thief, glue-sniffing joy-rider, or speed-busting cop would throw it a second glance.

Seeing the DT, Oliver was confirmed in the correctness of his purchase. The KTR was a more civilized machine: sleek, stylish, a talisman of financial sufficiency and upward mobility. A street-going machine which promised uber-shopping, it's glow lured in many a pretty minnow, what Oliver sneeringly referred to as 'TABs and ornamentals'.

Yamaha's were known for oil leaks and DT's in particular emitted a fine spittle of oil from the free-running chain which went airborne and stippled clothes with permanent stains, often ruining them. Buzzy adapted, not by fixing the problem, but by wearing an old leather jacket. Black grime on black leather didn't show and it was the only oil the desiccated jacket ever saw. Besides, he had few passengers and no complaints unless he himself ever got to whining, which wasn't his way.

They hotfooted it through the city avenues and got onto the main north-south artery. They threaded the mom-and-pop utility vehicles, the 24/7 Sunday-driver Hondas and Fords complacently grid-locking the road, their timid owners troubled by decision-making, confused by signals and studiously pretending not to see pedestrians thus generating deniability and squaring the decision-dodging circle. At traffic lights, they slipped past the upscale Toyotas of the upper middle-class and left independent businessmen in their deal-making Mercedes behind. For fun they raced a glove-wearing phony piloting a Honda souped-up with a piston-destroying fan-belt squealing turbo and those low profile tires and racing shocks that jerk worse than an 18 wheeler on a dirt road. They beat him in heavy traffic; he beat them on the straight-aways.

Speeding through the foothills into Wulai Township, they continued on a lonely winding landslide-prone two-lane mountain alley and called in at the police check point. The copshop was tiny, just a cement shack with the ubiquitous front desk installed with the Chinese half-height glass panel that comes up to a standing man’s navel. Nothing occupied the walls but stains; just a fridge, TV, and a telephone filled up space. The officer was engrossed by a game show, steel balls hand thrown by excited guests rifled and bounced about a scaled-up gauntlet of gleaming pins and automated flippers. Once the ball left the hand of the contestant, he had no more input. It was a game without a skill set played by newbies without opportunity to acquire one. Perhaps that was the gimmick at the heart of its success.

The cop dragged himself away from the mesmerizing action to look at Buzzy. His eyes went wide as he sized up the unnaturally alabaster skin and he asked, "You're not Chinese, eh?"

But Buzzy looked back with a blank smile. Oliver, peeved at being ignored, barked in Mandarin, "He's just a plain old big nose. A hillbilly. He doesn't speak Chinese."

The officer looked at Oliver in a friendly fashion, walked into his space and grabbed his shoulder conspiratorially, "I'm not Chinese. You're not real Chinese either, are you? You!" he said in a gust of rice wine inflection. And with brotherly love, "American!"

Oliver wanted to look cool and appear in charge in front of Buzzy. He said, "What's with these abos? They think they're special nowadays. But they're still just head-hunters, baby-munchers and Chinkerbells to me. He's probably some jumped up Chink-a-billy with a hard on for abo culture 'cause he can't cut it down in the city." He laughed too hard, the forced effort disrupting his natural coordination and a mist of spittle parachuted to the floor. "It takes a full-time loser to work up a job like this way the hell out here in butt-fuck Egypt." And he snickered again.

Buzzy didn't understand these eruptions of racial rage. What was the point in making things difficult by adding complications? You solved problems by keeping it simple stupid. Buzzy had a mild desire to remonstrate with Oliver but he was too self-assured to get involved, too detached to be indignant, too streamlined to fetch up on a whim. His gut told him he had no business putting a dog in this fight so he kept himself to himself. He was a happy tourist in life. He just wanted a ticket to ride.

Five minutes later, they were out of there with their fifty-cent mountain passes in yellow onion-skin paper. On entering the mountain trail itself, Buzzy quickly took the lead, leaving Oliver behind in a bloom of choking purple smoke. He was a natural athlete, for whom mastery of a bike on a dirt road came quickly. He had no hesitation, no thoughts, no worries. Concentration came easily. He wasn't burdened with daydreaming or slowed up with reflection. Even if he dumped the bike, which happened now and again if you challenged yourself - and what was the point of riding if not to challenge yourself - it cost no more than the pirated parts which he himself fitted on the bike.

For Oliver, however, manhandling a bike on a dirt road was a complex procedure. His mind was constantly on the go, chatter-prone, forever thinking and suffering from thinking’s adjunct, worry. He peered wondrously into the luxuriant wildness, the elephant grass on the edge of the trail, the vines and creepers hanging off trees abandoned by clear-cut lumberjack artists. But the deer and wild boar spoor that Buzzy had earlier pointed out put him off his game. Maybe they'd hit an animal confused or maddened by the noise. He'd hit a dog crossing the street in town, slowing down only a bit in an effort to teach the animal a lesson. But his front-tire tread gripped the running animal's pelt and got carried with the momentum of the forty pound animal. It felt like a drop kick launched to the front tire, while the rest of the bike piled headlong like a train into a crevasse. He and his ladyfriend hit the pavement in a mad skidding rush, the bike trailing sparks behind them, leaving him with road rash and a taunting memory of humiliation. Maybe up here in the hills there would be another biker, a poacher most likely, hurtling down the road in a guilty hurry, fleeing the law and oblivious to safety and collateral damage. The law-abiding locals seldom paid attention to rules in the city, let alone here in the woods, not to mention the phantasm possibilities of hooch-soaked aborigines, betel-nut hyped illegal loggers, clandestine trout fishermen and scofflaw medicinal plant harvesters. Anyone could be lurking around a blind turn, and with this elephant grass and general wildness, every turn was a blind turn. Anything could happen.

Buzzy flew up the trail, alert and relaxed. He was gripping the seat with his thighs like riding an animal, amalgamating a unity of himself with the vibrating chassis. Pressing on the handlebars and leaning, he pulled with his waist against the traction of the passive front tire and pulled the motive back tire over to where he wanted. The bike was literally and viscerally an extension of himself, the running gear his upper body, the power assembly his lower. And when he leaned into his turns, he felt the road like a prospector tapping rock, as if fingering and palming the trail, its muck and gravel, appreciatively with his own bare hands.

Oliver rode his bike above and apart from it. A machine was a dumb tool to be commanded. He leaned out of his turns, his body and the motorcycle making a leaning V. Steering was largely a matter of moving the handlebar, turning it like a steering wheel in a car and letting the machine handle the road helter-skelter in its own way. The complexity of the trail's changing terrain and texture made him anxious, which in turn made his vision pull in close. He began to over-steer, cursing as he took turns too wide, then overcompensating by taking them too narrowly. His mind was alive with calculation when he splashed into a mucky mountain bog, bounced, landed a pile of nerves, and corrected just stiffly enough to dump the bike at the far end, sliding harmlessly, just wetting himself a bit. The ground up here was a forgiving compost of wet humus and needles. In rainforest, you couldn't hurt yourself if you tried.

Buzzy saw all of this in his rearview mirror and slowed down and stopped. He’d predicted it and when he saw that bog, he was full of premonition. He was one of those people who could predict kinks in the future by the twin virtues of focus and simple-mindedness. It would have been futile advising Oliver. He had to make his own mistakes.

In previous days, Buzzy had tried however. "You have to relax and let stuff happen. You've got to open the throttle up and give her. When youse piss-cuttin'-her you makes your own mistakes. But that’s fine. That’s how it should be. If she don’t kill you, you learn and get better. But youse is always trying to over-control things like. Trying to stop mistakes from happening."

"Naturally, dumbass. Like I want to screw up, right. Is that your philosophy?"

"But you cain't control the road. You don't know what's coming and you have to go with her, however she comes. Wherever you are, that’s where you are. It's hard to explain but... You can see it works for me, eh?"

Oliver wanted a discrete explanation. Concepts and a train of logic. But Buzzy no more understood why what he did was right than a tree sprouting roots, velum and chlorophyll could croak out its philosophy in a hundred words or less. Buzzy was a fan of the “Just do it!” school of epistemology. What more was there to say?

He put everything on automatic pilot. Instead of getting uptight by trying to learn how to drive, he'd learned how to relax and feel his way into the ride. He unconsciously let the instincts and servo controls implanted by 600 million years of evolution handle it. How could thinking improve on this?

All Oliver knew was that he didn't like being corrected by his social and intellectual inferior. "I don't need advice from no rice-chasing swamp yankee. Look Buzzy, when I need advice I'll ask for it."

Buzzy shrugged it off. Life was a box of chocolates. You didn't complain. Give her, boys!

Now that Oliver was back on his bike, Buzzy kicked over the DT. Oliver smirked from a distance. His DTR had an electric start as a part of a full package of luxury amenities which made his bike heavier and less responsive.

As they climbed higher up the mountain, they moved through Jurassic fern trees, aromatic camphor, wild starfruit, tropical cedars, and flying buttress hardwoods. They reached the top of a broad ridge where they skidded and slid ecstatically through a trail taking them through patches of imposing morrison and kamakami pines growing out of ankle-biting thickets of japan and formosa cedars. There were low ferns and moss growing out of the damper patches where springs burbled out of earthquake cracked slate and the sheer sharp catch of icy downdrafts, the sudden silence of needle forests sponging up sound, the oily fragrance of piney woods and cedars snapped phalanxes of synapses and revived kaleidoscopic memories of temperate climes.

They finally passed up over the leading edge of a kilometer-broad volcano cone and plunged down into the mouth. Parking their bikes where the trail petered into nothingness, they continued by foot stumbling like explorers upon abandoned low concrete dams, abandoned mill races that formerly drove power saws.

They got off their bikes and poked around. Buzzy whistled and said, "Boys, but don't she look but a tad like Africa. The elephant grass, them trees bursting through hungrily for the light up there aways. Like that Serengeti I seen on Discovery." Sensing a natural animal trail in the contours of the hillside, he pointed, "Them elephants and zebras would carry on through that break up there."

Knowledge was power. Oliver had to rain on Buzzy’s parade, "Looks like this place has been demolished by the zipper heads. It's all logged out. They chop everything down to the roots. That elephant grass is going to stop the forest from coming back for years I bet." He rubbed his hands and kneeled to take a load off his legs, "I've seen this sort of shit before. Over in China, the panda trainers and red monkeys have flattened the whole country. Looks like a bomb hit the place about 20 years ago."

Buzzy squinted and looked around. He loved the vibe of this place, the combination of recovering wildness and desuetude civilization. It reminded him of old homesteads, abandoned in the Great Depression, that still lurked in the woods back home. Nothing but forest cover was a waste of space and unadulterated farmland was monotonous. But a pocket of farmland with fallow land for game and harvesting trees was like Hobbit Town, a peaceful coexistence of harmless mankind and wicked nature.

"I don't know when these Twinks will get their act together,” Oliver sighed sadly, putting his hands in his pockets for warmth.

Buzzy noticed that his breath was fogging and reached into his pocket for a can of coffee and some chocolate. He asked Oliver if he'd like some coffee, Oliver was noticeably grateful for the act. Chugging down the caffeine seem to revive him, lift his spirits. This inspired Buzzy to ask a question that had long been on his mind: "how come you're always complaining about the locals? I mean, I suppose any country that you go to there are always going to be things that bother you. But, you really seem to have it out for these local fellows."

"It's not the guys, it's the girls I suppose that get to me. Meimei?" He gave a heads up sign to camouflage his pain. "She's history."

"No way! She was a hottie." Oliver grinned, looked up on hearing the word, incongruous on Buzzy's lips. Recognizing that this imitation of himself was the sincerest form of flattery.

Oliver kidded him, "Don't you mean she be a fox?"

"Oh stop ribbing me. Who says old dogs can't learn new tricks? Anyhow, what happened to Meimei?"

"Well, everything was going gang busters. We were a happening item. And then, she starts coming home late. She's buying new clothes and I'm wondering where the money's coming from."

"You weren't giving her spending money?"

"Oh man. You are so off this game." He made lunatic eyes, "She was spending money on me dude. Anyway," shaking his head, "She disappears for a week. She won't answer my phone calls. And then she tells me our relationship is over. She's engaged to a local stock investment counselor. I mean, where the hell did that come from?"

"Well were you doing anyone on the side? I know you, sly dog."

"Well hey, who's going to turn down action when it’s coming right for you. You don't even have to try. But she never found out. Besides, she's hardly innocent on that count."

"Well, some chicks are just in for the money. We're just English teachers, after all."

"Where you been? English teachers make some pretty poppy these days." He reflected, sucking in and exhaling consciously, "And then there's Sha-bi? You remember her?"

"Who could forget?" And his eyes dilated as he thought fondly back to her tall willowy manufactured frame with the vestigial thighs of the non-athletic tart, the copy-cat name-brand fashions signifying she was someone special, the porn-bubble hair to hide the Han Chinese mid-twenties hair-loss, the heavy man-made hooters and the implanted bridge in the nose. For someone whom you knew was largely assembled in a surgery theater, she was still a shocking success of a fleshpot.

Oliver's eyes were wide too and his hips rocked vaguely, some part of his mind conjuring up a conjugal visit. "Well, everything was going cool. We were hanging out, doing bars, pubs, being seen. I mean we were a really flash couple. I was getting invited to parties. People envied me." Looking at Buzzy with knowing eyes, "I know you did."

Buzzy said nothing, suddenly taking an active interest in the forest canopy.

Oliver continued, "And then, out of the blue, she's getting married. And you know what this guy did for living?"

"A banker?"

"English teacher. A mother fucking English teacher bumped me out of orbit."

Oliver rubbed a foot on the ground, grinding it, as if stamping out the thought like a cigarette butt. "This has happened before you know.” He hesitated, the thought catching on his tongue. But he forced it out in a desperate whimper, “Like there's something wrong with me, you know." Instead of looking Buzzy in the eyes he looked down at his feet. There was mutual silence for a couple of minutes. And then a shuffling, a kicking of the feet again. "I don't know what’s happening. What do you think?"

Buzzy was aghast. His head shrunk into his neck and a lump emerged in his throat like a gag reflex. "I don't know.” He said with a tone of complaint. He resented Oliver being weak, not playing his leadership role, upsetting the natural order of things. “I mean, I always figured you had everything going for you."

Buzzy drew a blank at this point, no ideas, and his conversation broke off. He never was much of a talker. He looked back into the canopy, his eyes following another set of breaks in the lay of the land, more animal trails. Had there been a human population up here, these trails would've been cleared, graded and made into roads, as had happened to animal trails all over the planet. As his eyes moved to the left, his ears pricked to the clapping coconut sound of a macaque’s rutting call. A solo male, it was ostracized from some nearby tribe you could find if you looked for it. Oliver was oblivious, caught up in whirling thoughts, processing doubts and trepidation but not as fast as they emerged from his netherconscious. Not so Buzzy, for whom concentration came without effort. Unlike random thoughts or directed ideation which didn’t come at all. After all, Buzzy was a natural.

A week later, Oliver was picking up his plane ticket. He bumped into Buzzy on the street below the travel office. He hadn’t told him he was quitting the country and he shuffled his feet more than a little embarrassed, "Yeah, I'm heading out of here, dude. I can't take it anymore. Too many chorks." But he smiled broadly now, a sense of palpable relief at being able to employ the word offensively and no longer defensively.

Buzzy said, "I'm going to miss you boy. You're quite a character. Nobody else around here disses the locals the way you do. Besides, who's going to teach me how to speak right? Edjumucate me in the correct street kuhnowledge and learn me racist lingo."

They laughed. Buzzy said, "Well, I always say you got go with your heart. If it tells you that you got to go, then you got to go. A lot of people don't take their hunches seriously, but I always do. Instinct is underrated."

"I guess. I don’t know. This place just gets on my nerves. Something about the vibe, the way people do things just rubs me the wrong way. I can't really put my finger on it." But he was lying. Lying to a pal who wouldn’t understand and who wasn’t interested in acquiring understanding.

A handsome girl walking up the street gave Oliver’s alabaster visage a look-over. He was handsome as ever, tall; an authority figure in a new leather coat with a half-inch deep sheen. He smelled of Benjamins. She gave him eye contact, but he answered with a stare and a twitch of the head indicating 'get lost'. He was tired of being a probationary boyfriend, a set of training wheels for practicing one’s riding skills, local chicks honing sexual licks in preparation for securing a wet-behind-the-ears meal ticket. He could score lays here forever, but he could never score a solid, a lasting relationship. Not that he even wanted one, but denial of the possibility was devastating. He wasn’t low caste so much as cast in limbo. He wasn't local Chinese, so conservative girls couldn't take him seriously as a marital candidate. The folks wouldn’t approve. He wasn't a real foreigner with a big nose, body fur, and BO that required frantic showering several times a day in the relentless tropical heat. He could take crazy customs, clueless manners, botched logic, and lunatic politics. After all, there was plenty of that back home. Even more. But he couldn't handle not being taken seriously as a man: that was personal. What was the joy in being a sexual athlete if you were being played by your audience, downgraded into a mascot, a predator become unwitting prey.

Buzzy said shyly, "Well, I'll see you around I guess."


Neither wanted a sloppy scene. And there was little to say in any event. They parted.

Theirs had been relationship even more utilitarian than average: export quality, manufactured overseas where people of necessity come and go quickly and callousness is as much opportunism as a prophylactic for the serial pain of repeated breakups. Besides, the well-adapted natural wasn't a thinker and the maladapted neurotic could only be reflective. One could see everything but a concept, the other could see nothing but. Management of the real world was too complicated when the mind was encumbered with a welter of thoughts. Buzzy was a fish in water. Third world waters where tradition inseparable from instinct and conceptual thinking can only be heresy.

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