November 21, 2013

A Golden King

Twenty three, she told him: I'm twenty three.

"Twenty three's a very spiritual number," he said sagely. "I've just come to know that. It's because it is a prime number, it doesn't divide into other numbers. And there's another reason as well, but I can't remember."

She nodded. He had brought her to one of those big chain pubs, this one on the top floor of a mall. The neck of a 2012 Sauvignon Blanc chilled against the rim of a steel bucket. From their table you could look outside - still daylight - and watch the pedestrians run out against the traffic.

"I'm 28," he added. "And I'm 29 on my next birthday."

And he was 100 per cent shoulder muscle. Huge arms, really just ridiculous, he was all about those arms, which pushed out of a skimpy white t-shirt like elephant legs. Tanned, too, he'd put a lot of time into that tan which still didn't quite cover all the acne scars. When he spoke, which was often, it was in a soft English lisp, the kind of voice you can't imagine could ever be raised.

"You speak English very well," he noted suddenly. "You just need to expand your vocabulary. Your pronunciation, though, is quite good. It is American, but it's quite understandable. It's not a fault."

She said thanks, in the English that he had now sanctioned, and then pointed out all the jewellery his was wearing: the copious rings, bracelets, necklaces and chains.

"Yes, this is my gold," he confirmed. "Not all of it. And some of this is platinum, but mostly this is gold. Sometimes gold and platinum go together well." He sighed. "It's not good to wear too much gold."

She asked why.

"Well, you know," he said. "People get jealous."

Later, she told him about home, about Taiwan. He wondered aloud, was Taiwan a very interesting place? and she began a story about the deadly tsunami nine years ago that had torn through Southeast Asia.

"I'm sorry," he interrupted, "I was just thinking about gold. I was just thinking I want to get my nephew something gold, maybe a gold belt. Sorry, what was the question? Please continue."

From where she sat, she could see, over his shoulder, the exit to the bar and the escalators that ran back down to the street. Instead, she stayed.

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