Condo Chronicles: Thy Fearful Symmetry

Okay…if what Brian says is true, I get it. I don’t dabble in that world of flesh for fantasy… but I recognize quality when I see it.

Though she was a pretty woman who probably came from somewhere around Beijing, she appeared to have a hint of Mongolian ancestry in her cheekbones. That’s also probably where some of those curves come from…Assuming that she had just changed out of her office clothes (since work clothes was somewhat ambiguous at this point), she chose to wore jeans and a blouse that accentuated her frame. I would have complimented her choice of clothing, but since the general consensus regards such remarks as creepy, I elected to keep those opinions to myself for the moment.

“Hi, Donna,” I said, now on my feet. “It’s good to finally meet you. I was just talking to…your friend…”

“My cousin, Huiwen,” she said, finishing my sentence for me. Even though there was a modicum of an accent, it was so slight to be almost completely gone. “He’s also my accountant, and he helps me with keeping my finances in order.” She turned to her bloodline, throwing a few choice words in Mandarin his way. Immediately, he closed his laptop and started to pack his bags. “But he’s leaving now, so that we can be alone.”

Well, she certainly acts like a girl from northern China…

My partner in crime abruptly threw me a quick nod as he left the apartment, leaving just Donna and myself. She smiled at me. “I heard him try to talk to you…what were you talking about?”

I shrugged. “Oh, just something about wanting to find a place to party with his friends…and then getting the evidence to blackmail them for favors…you know, guy talk.”

“Yes,” she affirmed without any hint of surprise, “That sounds like Huiwen. He has many ambitions, but he’s not as smart as he thinks. But still…he tries. Again, I apologize for not getting out here sooner, but I just got home: I was working late at my law firm. Can I get you anything to drink? Water?”

“Got any Tsingtao in the fridge?” I asked half-joking.

“Yes, I always keep some around for Huiwen. I’ll get one for you.”

“Thanks! I actually didn’t expect you to have any…” As she made her way to the kitchen, I couldn’t help but ask. “So, Donna…do you prefer that name? If you want to use your real name, that’s cool, too. My pronunciation is good enough, though you’ll probably still laugh…”

Even though I don’t mind being addressed as Peter, I have certainly envied the names of my Chinese friends. Stacked against my mine, a moniker like Jin Lung (i.e., Golden Dragon) wins without breaking a sweat, and I would have accepted an offered trade without a second thought. Of course, it’d be more appropriate if the name was ported to a more American version, like “Machine Gun Monster Truck” (with the implied yet optional bumper sticker that says “Nuke a gay whale for Jesus”)…but despite the element of honky attached to it, I would still don such a title with childlike zest. In the case of my current host, I was expecting something equally impressive, like Xiùlán (i.e., beautiful orchid) or Jin NǎiNǎi (i.e., golden boobies). It was probably something akin to the former, but I was hoping for the latter (which would probably be apropos in her case, based on the contours of her blouse).

“I prefer my American name,” she replied, surprising me with her candidness. When I asked for her Chinese name, she quickly said something that sounded like Mèng jiàn erzi, though I could have been wrong. “It basically means dream son. It’s common for grandfathers to name children, and my grandfather really wanted a grandson…And so, out of spite, he gave me the name of his lost hopes.”

Though I know that it’s usually for the best to not comment on family matters, I couldn’t resist the temptation in that moment. “Jesus…what a dick move…Well, I certainly understand why you would want to go with your new name instead,” I commented, graciously accepting the opened bottle of Tsingtao from her. “Thanks, Donna.”

As I took a generous gulp of the rice-laden lager, she opened one for herself. “So…”, she began, “Aren’t you curious why I asked you here?”

I nodded politely. “Well…yeah. And I figured that you would eventually get around to it. Does it have something to do with the pending case in the building? Are you now their legal counsel, since you’re a lawyer?”

She took a small sip from her opened bottle. “No, I’m not involved in that…I would not want to mix my professional life with building issues. There are plenty of other things to worry about…Instead, I have various business interests, and I’m hopeful that you can help me. Especially since you now seem to be good friends with the mayor.”

Hmmm…business interests…like opening up your own practice in Little Peru…or selling your used underwear on Reddit and/or opening a nearby “massage” parlor? Though it was true that I now exchanged emails with the mayor on an infrequent basis (especially to check on Flukeman’s health), I was a little startled how such a casual relationship had become the stuff of tabloids.

Apparently, the egg of my surprise now covered my face. “Do not be alarmed,” she commented, “I am not stalking you. But I do have friends around town, and they tell me about those things that are interesting…and someone who is a friend of Mayor Dwek is interesting. Maybe, then, you can help me.”

I didn’t like being in this position again, much as I had been at White Mana…but there was nothing to be done about it. “And why would I do that?”

She leaned closer towards me, with a seductive smile. “Because…I have something that you want me to give you.”

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.

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