Dispatches From Roy Kesey, An American Guy Married to a Peruvian Diplomat Living in China
Having spent the previous eight years living in Peru, where he married a beautiful diplomat (Lu) and sired two children (Chloe and Thomas), Roy Kesey (a writer with short stories in McSweeney’s Issues 6, 9, and_15_) has moved to China, where his wife will begin her first foreign assignment at the Peruvian embassy in Beijing.
Certain Gatherings, and a Fetish.
BY ROY KESEY
We have now moved: yes. For those of you keeping score at home, after seeing perhaps forty apartments all over the city, we moved about three hundred feet southwest to an apartment in the same complex as our old one, and yes, it is the one that had plate glass instead of a wall between the kitchen and the living room, as if what happened in the process of washing dishes was somehow aesthetically essential. And perhaps it is in fact essential. We took no chances, however, and requested that the glass be replaced with a slab of hardwood. We also requested three single-spaced pages of other renovations, of which 2.8 pages were accomplished, and 2.55 pages were accomplished well. Believe me when I say this: our old apartment was the boy or girl you should not have taken to the prom, and our new apartment is the man or woman you should have married. And maybe you did marry him or her. In that case, I am happy for you.
A word of advice to toddlers in playgrounds: wait until the swing has come to a full and complete stop before falling asleep.
Today in the bank there were many people, and I sat down and waited for my number to be called. Off to one side there was a television showing a video, an endless loop describing and demonstrating how one might best recognize counterfeit bills, but of course the video was in Chinese and I didn’t understand anything except the numbers they said and the word “blue.” Standing at one of the teller windows were a young women and her younger sister. At one point the older sister gave the younger one a piece of paper and told her to throw it away. The younger girl went to the corner where there was a small plastic wastepaper basket sitting next to a large metal wastepaper basket, and proceeded to tear the piece of paper into tiny pieces, depositing one tiny piece in one basket and the next in the other and so on until there was nothing left. This took her about ten minutes, and as far as I could tell she was doing it mainly to amuse me. To show my appreciation, I watched carefully, and pretended to take notes on which tiny piece of paper went where, and glanced away whenever she looked over at me. As I was leaving the bank—the two girls were for some reason still at their teller window—I pulled one of the tiny pieces out and brought it home as a souvenir.
The night before we moved, my wife took me to a fetish party at a club outside the city. (This has nothing to do with the fetish for which this dispatch is partly named.) The party’s slogan was “Leather Is Pleasure.” There were surprising lights and absinthe and what I think of indiscriminately as rave music and most of the people there were dressed only in leather, though not much of it. I was dressed in normal clothes, with the exception of the things my wife insisted on: a shell necklace, which I kept in my pocket the whole time, and a very, very tight black sweater that actually belongs to my wife, which she insisted made me look hip and happening, but in fact made me look like what my mother would describe as “that nice young homosexual man who works at the OfficeMax, remember him?” I had several glasses of absinthe, which I expected to be stronger and more bitter; the friendly American bartender who wore leather shorts and vest and booties and dog collar apologized for its not being strong enough, and explained that the absinthe we were drinking was French, and therefore was allowed to have only a certain percentage of Something (the music was very loud) but that the following week they were getting an order of Czech absinthe, and there is no legal limit to the amount of Something that Czech absinthe can contain, so I should come back then. I said that I would, and perhaps I will. There was also an enthusiastic young man wearing only a black leather butcher’s apron, and carrying a pig’s head. That is: the actual head of a pig. Because in spirit I am old and tired and boring, this was the first fetish party I had ever been to. Now I know that people go to parties like this one for the same reason everyone goes anywhere: to make time go transparent.
The Chinese character for the word “good” is the character for the word “woman” conjoined to the character for the word “child.” This is because the person who invented the character for the word “good” was not a woman who had a child who kept putting her favorite DVDs in the toaster. Now, the manner in which all Chinese characters are drawn or painted or written is as follows: from left to right, and from above to below, and from the outside toward the center. I especially like that last part, though I do not quite understand it. We have class again on Friday and I will try to remember to ask.
Here then is the fetish for which this dispatch is partly named: I wrote a story and gave it to my wife, and she read it and said, “That’s not a story, but it’s a wonderful thing.”
I love it when she talks dirty to me like that.
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