Normalcy (Hong Kong) Eddie and I were waiting for our order to come at Ruby Tuesday’s and making small talk I asked him if he had a domestic. He laughed and said, “Yes. My wife couldn’t handle both our boys alone.” “So how do you choose your domestic worker?” “Through an agency.” And he took a sip of his Coca-Cola. “How about you? Do you have a domestic?” I laughed. “No. I do everything myself. I wash my clothes. I was my dishes. I vacuum and dust. Clean my bathroom. I am my own domestic.” And we both smiled. “But if I did get a domestic, I would choose an incredibly hot one. I would love to come home to have someone there – you know? Someone to talk to.” Eddie laughed. ‘You mean somebody to come home to fuck.” And he giggled. I was quiet for a minute and thought about it. “Actually no. I can have sex with anyone. Really. Man, I am craving a real conversation. A deep connection.” “Then you want a wife.” I thought about that too. “No. Actually, I was already married. That didn’t fill that deep need of connection.” “So no sex. No wife. What do you want?” “Someone to talk to and who gets me.” “But what if they are not good at sex?” “A good conversation is sex. You know one of those conversations where you start like a joust – and you end laughing, laughing so hard your ribs hurt. I mean a deep laugh. And when you kiss cheeks or hug to leave – you are counting the days and minutes until you can start the conversation again.”
Eddie who was local Hong Kong was marveling at me for a second. “You foreigners think totally different.” And he laughed. “What do you mean? I don’t think I am different. Don’t you want someone who gets you?” “Yes. But a woman and man are different.” “Yes, women are better and smarter. We just have convinced them that they are not – and that’s why we run things. But that’s changing.” He laughed again. “Like I said you foreigners think totally different.” “You don’t agree?” “I think a woman deep down wants to be a wife and a mother. And if she doesn’t – she has lost what it means to be a woman.” “Or she has become the woman she was meant to be. A woman has ambition. A woman has dreams. She has hopes.” I said. Eddie began to say something but just then the waitress showed up and brought our food. He got the teriyaki chicken and I got the chicken wrap and avocado. We were starving so we didn’t wait – we started eating immediately. But I started the previous conversation again. “So you never answered – how did you choose your domestic worker?” He chewed the food in his mouth first. “Well, we have a Filipina.” “Why not a mainland Chinese?” He looked puzzled for a second. “They don’t have those.” “They don’t? I would think Mainland Chinese would be the best domestics. And if I were you – I would get a hot Mainland Chinese woman to be your domestic.” He put his fork into his chicken. “My wife wouldn’t stand for that.” “Oh right.” “No, the agency doesn’t offer Mainland Chinese. The agency usually offers Filipina and or Indonesian only.” “So does your Filipina teach your boys English?”
He took a bit and shook his head. “No. I don’t want them to have a Filipino accent. That would be embarrassing. But Australian, British, or English would be okay but not Filipino.” I was quiet as I chewed a mouthful. I didn’t like what I had ordered. It was tasteless. “So how did you choose your Filipina?” “Well, I made sure she was new. She didn’t speak too much English. And she has no friends here already in Hong Kong.” “You isolated her?” “Yes. Because if you get a domestic that has been working for several families in Hong Kong – that’s a bad sign. Or if she has been here for too long – she has too many friends. And if she speaks English – she can get herself hired somewhere else.” Suddenly, I felt saddened for Eddie’s domestic. Most of the domestics that came to Hong Kong had families of their own – but they sacrificed their children to raise another families’ children. And here I was hearing more – that they were deliberately isolated from friends and family to work harder. I was hearing now how a person was being turned into an object – something that could be bargained for – manipulated into optimization. But Eddie kept eating his food and looking around the restaurant. I couldn’t get mad at him. It’s what he taught. And on paper, he was right. He was getting the most for his money. I could imagine his domestic in her small room at night – alone – isolated – imagining her family back in their province in the Philippines. And her need was simple – she was dying for the same thing I was craving for – someone to talk to. And it’s funny how life gets turned upside down and topsy-turvy when one tries to create some kind of normal. A new normal. Where your family is taken care of, you are loved and happy, and there is someone each day you cannot wait to tell about your day to.
The days were passing quickly. And less and less, Sophia was not contacting me. No sms’s, no emails, and I would occasionally check her Facebook to see if she updated her status – but it was the same it had been days ago. I would send her – at first – polite sms’s to see if she was okay and to let her know I was worried about her. But then she wouldn’t respond. Then I would send mean sms’s – asking who was she with? And just be honest – tell me who she was with – so we could be friends – and move on.
And I found myself staying in my apartment longer and longer. And I felt the walls closing in on me. My connection outlet became writing on the walls of friends on Facebook or clicking “I Like” on photos. I would stare out my window of my apartment and look down on Queens Road to watch everyone passing by – people talking, couples holding hands, and kids waddling after their parents. And sometimes I wanted to go down to the ground floor and outside to be apart of the throng. But I needed a place to go. I wanted a place to go with someone. Eve had stopped emailing me weeks ago. I had in the past depended on her communication to get me through the week – because we were always connected – both caught in a web of chaos – of relationships that were bouncing back and forth between conflict and resolution. Her reason for stopping to email me was she said, “I can’t love two people. I can’t love him and you.” So in essence, she was saying, “You lose.” And even though Eve and I were never a couple, she was that my secret part of my heart that I kept hidden – from Sophia – from my friends – from my family. And it was something that I couldn’t even write on SoulParking.com except for through poetry. Because it was so deep – only poetry had the words to describe how it felt. So finally I forced myself out of my apartment. But it was always at the last minute, I went to meet my DJ friend – and he was in his own conflict with his wife. I would show up at the club he was spinning at – and he always met me with free shots. And the free shots helped numb the emptiness. And I would watch him – and he subjected himself to too much temptation. The girls would go to his DJ booth offering sexual favors – after too many drinks. They would pass him their numbers for him to call later. But I knew him – and I had been where he had been years ago – when I was married. He wanted his wife to want him as badly as these strangers wanted him. And his wife wanted him to want her as badly as he pursued these strangers. Somewhere in the middle – it created a gulf – a deep emotional separation. And the more they did apart – the further their relationship disintegrated. And I would dance. I would dance hard – because it was all I had. But women there at the club would read it as if I wanted them. Women would come up to me, hit on me, dance with me – and their conversations were very shallow – “How long you live in Hong Kong? Where is your apartment?” Usually it meant they wanted me to take them back home to fuck them. Or they would be direct, “Let’s go back to your place.” Sometimes they wanted to come alone or they wanted to bring a hot friend to join us. So I would say I had to pee – disappear into the men’s bathroom – and I would lock the door to the stall and look at myself in the three walled mirrors – with the puke on the toilet in the seat and the piss on the floor – and wonder, “Is this my new normal?”
Doing the standup comedy helped on Tuesday nights and when I had back to back shows on Saturday nights – I would channel this emptiness into humor. It made me feel good to make a room full of strangers laugh at the observations of my struggle. But really what I wanted to say while I was on the stage with the spotlight was on me was, “Sophia call me. And if not – just tell me why you won’t call me. Don’t blame your job. I travel all over the world and I called you. I emailed you. I sms’d you.” And when the audience gets quiet because they see me having a breakdown on stage, I would continue, “Eve why didn’t you want me? What was so wrong with me that you wouldn’t take a chance? Is passion and love not enough? If not, what is enough?” But instead I made up jokes – funny antidotes to the emptiness. And the more vulnerable I was – the funnier, the louder the laughs. And then to Bhatti Bar afterwards, after a couple of glasses of white wine – the façade was gone. And I would talk to the barmaids about Eve. “Why would she not choose me?” Then I would take a sip of white wine. “I think she was a liar. You have to love two people. Life depends on it. You have to love yourself first. And then whoever you choose to be with – second. And the second person you love – has to help you love yourself more.” Then I would stumble back to my apartment at night – and I would pass all the places we had hid together. And I remembered Eve leaning into me as I steadied her – because she could only drink two glasses of wine. And it seemed every place I passed – there was a story. There was an experience with her. But now I found myself only steadying myself. I was walking alone. Experiencing life alone. So maybe this was my new normal. This is the life I now deserved. I swayed side to side as I made my way back to my flat thinking about how to make this funny. There has to be a joke in this somewhere. “Maybe its time to hire a domestic,” I said aloud. And I laughed like a crazy, homeless man. Some people walking towards me on the sidewalk crossed the street nervously.
Written by GS Jackson, © 2009 LOL Entertainment Group, LLC (USA) Limited (HKG)
Published on Sep 27, 2009
Over a conversation about hiring a domestic in Hong Kong, Jackson discovers that he wants the same thing that domestics want - a normal life...