The steering wheel is cold, even though my hands are warm with driving. A car
like this should be a warm car, not cool. This is why I am here. I need your
help. I need your understanding. But your heart is not your heart. This is
why I am here.
The rain drumming the windshield becomes an orchestra of percussion. The streetlights shine into my eyes in a dance of
glittering glass. I turn my head to the side and let the rain fall on my face.
I breathe in the aroma of gasoline. As I inhale, a line of lightning strikes
in the distance, filling my car with energy.
I pull my hair on the side like a halo, letting it hang over my face like a
night sky of stars. I open my eyes and stare at the dashboard for a minute
looking for the keys.
The door slides open and I see a woman with pale skin and long hair with a
curl of gray. Her eyes open wide when she sees me. She reaches out to grab my
hand, and I let her pull me into her arms.
“My car is over there. You’re lucky.” She points to the far corner where
the car is.
“Thank you for helping me.”
“My number is 763-7877. I’m an ex-porn star. I do public relations at
the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs.” She smiles brightly.
“Wow! That’s great. But I’m pretty new at this. Can I come in?”
“Are you interested in my job?”
“No, I’m not. But thanks for giving it to me.”
“I’m really interested in you, too. We should go to the studio.”
“What kind of career is this?”
“A career. You’ll see. In fact, just hang on a second.” She turns on her
cell phone and stares at the screen. When she looks back at me, she says, “I
want you to meet Mr. Lian. He’s the director.”
“Mr. Lian? I’ve seen pictures of him. It’s like he’s a vampire.”
“Mr. Lian won Best Actor in the Golden Lion Award the other day.”
“I’ve never heard of that. I don’t think our film will get into the finals.”
“He’s just a little different. That’s all. He’s from China. He’s a real
artist. He needs a model. He just asked me to introduce you, if you don’t mind
me saying so.”
She takes my hand and pulls me toward the car. As we get to the car, she
slides in and puts her arm around my shoulder. “He’s going to help you,
honey. He’s going to give you a hand with your career.” She pulls a business
card from her purse. “Here’s my number. And I want you to stop by and say
hello to him when you have some spare time.”
“Is Mr. Lian a good model?” I ask as we get in.
“I don’t know. He’s like one of those actors from the movies. He looks like
a real artist. You’ll see.”
And she’s right. Mr. Lian is a very handsome man. He looks very confident in
a suit and a crisp shirt, and he has large hands. He even smells like
scented lotions. His voice is husky and soft. He reaches for the door of my
car and I’m shocked. I almost cry, holding my hand over my eyes. I look at my
hand and notice the blood that is still oozing out of the cut.
“It’s okay,” she says, and opens the door. A gust of wind blows the door
open, and my hand drops from my face.
I look at the sky and suddenly I feel an enormous sense of shame. The sky has
turned black, and it stretches out, dark and full of stars. Stars are like
curtains. You have to reach for them to find the door that leads to the
future. I can feel the darkness. You can see the door, its blackness, but you
can’t get in even if you pull out your hand.
The woman pulls me into the car. My mind is racing, trying to make sense of
everything. I’m in a strange, foreign city, and it feels like I’ve never been
on a plane.
“Are you hungry?” Her eyes look at me, waiting to see if I’m going to answer
“No. I ate dinner as soon as I got here.”
“Do you like to eat?”
“It depends on the meal. I’m not sure. I grew up with fast food, pizza.”
“Me too. I was born here, at the city. Now it’s really hot. I love hot
weather. But it’s a bit more than I bargained for. I live on the West side.
It’s really ugly. It reminds me of my hometown, but the people are
“I’ve never been there. Is it really ugly like that?”
“It is. People are always trying to get rid of my house. The city is a
parallel world to this one. People hate one another. I love the life there,
even though it’s not what I was used to. I grew up in the city.”
“Do you live alone?”
“I have three sisters, but they are all married, have kids. They’re all
different. I’m one of the only people on my block. I don’t think my neighbors
like me. I’m a little lonely. And I miss my old life. The city is hard on the
“You’re not lonely?”
“No,” she says. “But I don’t think I’ll be staying for long. I don’t know
if I’m ready. I just want to start over.”
“I’m not sure I can help. I’m not sure what I’m doing is helping.”
“Did it ever happen to you?”
“You’ve been through hard times a few times, haven’t you?”
“How do you handle those hard times?”
“I just accept them. It’s really hard.”
“You don’t take them too much to heart?”
“No. I just keep telling myself it’s temporary. It’ll pass.”
“So what happens when the moment passes?”
“I don’t know. I just tell myself it will be okay to take another step. I
“My uncle told me that you’re like a hero to him, a hero. He said that if
he were going to die, he’d want me to take care of you. If you’re ever in
need, just let me know, okay?”
“Of course. My phone number is 763-7877. And my email is krislian.com. And
I’m a total slob. My email is a little more formal, like [email protected]”