Thursday, July 17, 2008

With Friends Like These

For some reasons, I tend to attract female friends whose behavior is... shall we say, unusual. I've already told you about my friend from Ottawa. I have another friend who's in the same category, i.e. a citizen from Coocooland.

S. is Chinese. I met her when she first came to Montreal to study, some twenty odd years ago. She was penniless then and my future ex and I helped her out a lot. We sorta drifted apart with the years, but recently she got back in contact with me.

S. loves to tell the same old tales of secret agents, spies and mysterious K.G.B.-ish people that are part of her life. If you listen to her, you'd think the whole Chinese community is a network of spooks. She tried to get a job at my workplace, a UN specialized agency, but was unsuccessful and became very bitter about it, so now our conversations are always on the same subjects: the entire Chinese delegation is spying on her and all of the Chinese section's translators and interpreters are incompetent because they were recruted for their loyalty to the party and not for their language skills.

So I tend to avoid her a bit. But the other day, she called me and said that she's got to see me, because she has something very important and urgent to tell me. How could I say no? I suggested meeting her for lunch, and she told me to meet her at noon sharp at the corner of X street and Y street in Chinatown. Let's say noon-ish, I suggested, because I can only leave for lunch at noon and it'll take me 5-7 minutes to reach Chinatown. No, no, she said, at noon sharp. All right, I said, I'll sneak out 5 minutes earlier.

She didn't arrive until 12:25. This is not the first time she's late at our appointments, so I was already resigned to waiting, but she must have seen some trace of reproach on my face, because as soon as she got near, she reached out and patted my stomach and said: Hah! Are you 6 months pregnant?

Now I must tell you that I am absolutely impervious to any criticism about my physical appearance. First, because I used to be quite a beauty in my youth (I know, it's hard to believe, looking at me now, but I have photos and witnesses still alive) so my self-confidence is pretty strong. And second, I'm at an age where I really don't care what most people think, because I'm convinced that I'm surrounded by assholes. So normally I would have just laughed at her jab at me, except this time, I can see, as clear as the sun, the meanness behind her words: it wasn't a joke, she meant to hurt me. But like most people, she didn't have the courage to be openly insulting.

"I know what you're doing", I said to her, looking her straight in the face until she looked away. "You are embarrassed because you are late, it's a loss of face. So to cover your embarrassment, you are attacking me, to avoid having to apologize for your rudeness." She pretended she didn't hear me.

- Look, I brought you some food that I just cooked for you.
- What? I thought we're going to a restaurant. Isn't it why we're in Chinatown?
- No, I went to a restaurant here with my son the other day and he got sick, the food was so dirty!
- Well then, let's not go to that restaurant, let's go to another one.
- No, no, they're all dirty. The food I made you is very clean.
- I don't doubt that, but I'd rather go to a restaurant.

She dragged me to one of those office buildings near Chinatown and we sat at one of the picnic tables the offices provide for their staff. Then she took out from a plastic bag a yogurt container full of dumplings, a cold boiled egg with broken shell because it was at the bottom of the bag and a lukewarm soft drink.

- Here, here's your lunch.
- Uh, thanks, and what are you having?
- Nothing, I've already eaten.
- What? WTF are you doing? You dragged me here for this?
- I am very careful about the yin and the yang and the seasons when I cook, you know. This food I brought you is very good for you, very healthy.
- That's it! I'm going back to the office.
- You don't want the food?
- S., I didn't come here for the frigging food. I brought my own lunch, but I left it at the office, because I thought we would be going to a restaurant cause you asked me to meet you in Chinatown because you had something important to tell me. So what is it you wanted to tell me?
- Well, you know the Chinese delegate. His wife is trying to find out all about me and she asked about me with the nun who's teaching my son...
- That's it! THAT'S IT! No more, S. It's the same nonsense you told me last month, and the month before that and every single time we met. It doesn't concern me at all, it's about your community. If there is something I can do to help you, tell me exactly what you want me to do. Now! Tell me now! If not, I'm sorry, but I cannot do this anymore. I do not want you to cook for me, I do not want to spend time listening to the same old stories. Don't call me for the next six months. OK, S.? Have a nice summer.

And I left.

No comments: