The Shanghai Connection
I met her in Shanghai. I was there on a two-week business trip. The only American in the office, they asked her to show us around town.
After all, a round-eye always wants to see another round-eye.
My coworker bailed, so it was just me and her. Dodging the rain in neon-lit streets, drinking in corner dives, talking to the locals she knew. The more she drank, the more we flirted, the more I realized what was happening.
One night was all it took, and we were besotted with one another. I couldn’t explain it if I tried. Our spouses were on the other side of the world, and there was a mind-emotional connection that clicked into place without either of us willing it to be. It just was.
We went out every night after that until the day I flew out. She taught me the only five words in Chinese I ever learned. I showed her my tattoos and let her read my palm. She introduced me to Scotch. I fucking hated it.
We never acknowledged that thing between us except for one night — the last night — in an Irish Pub in the middle of Thames Town. Both of us blitzed on Jameson and Guinness, she reached out to touch my face. A look passed between us, and I knew.
That fluttering in my chest was in hers too. The sorrow as well. Sorrow because this was our last night. Sorrow because this thing we’d found could never be. Our ties to other people wouldn’t let it. But it was real, and she felt it too.
After I left Shanghai, I never talked to her again. Not in any meaningful way. A couple of “happy birthday” messages crossed Facebook, but it eventually petered out into nothing. What happened in Shanghai had to stay there.
And I understood why.