The Last Straw (Hong Kong)
4 September 2018
I woke up before my roommate got up. And when I was out of the shower, I heard them snoring peacefully and didn't want to take the risk of waking them up so I left the house without taking my belt which was hanging on my suitcase in their room. Age was on my side. I was forty-something so my body wasn't in the best shape. I think my bulges and curves could find a way to keep my pants up.
Or that's what I thought.
That afternoon, after tugging and yanking on my pants all day like I was a gangster rapper, I arrived early at 121BC in SoHo and met Paola who was all smiles from her upcoming trip to Spain. She was going home! Her eyes beamed. She hadn't been home from Hong Kong for nearly two years. She greeted me at the door by kissing both my cheeks.
"So finally get back to Hong Kong and now I am leaving!"
"Well we can catch up when you get back."
"Will you be there?" Paola asked.
"That's the schedule."
Just then, the door behind me moved.
Angel walked inside and it was like the day we finally got to have dinner after I got out of Stanley prison. She was just back from an international flight so a little groggy eyed. We hugged and turned to Paola and ordered two glasses of white wine immediately.
We spent the first five minutes catching up on us, our schedules, and covering what's going on with our families. That's when I saw the sadness in her eyes. "My grandfather passed a couple of weeks ago."
"Should you push the wedding? I know Chinese weddings will reschedule."
Angel shook her head, "Not Indian. And besides he touched my head and gave his blessing."
"I was super close to my grandfather or I called him 'Pa Paw'."
"I was too."
Angel shifted in her chair. "I still see him in my dreams. I feel like he is still looking over me."
Paola returned with two glasses half full of wine.
I took mine and held it out. "A toast to the reunion," I said.
Angel gave a sad smile and clinked my glass.
"To our grandfathers."
She nodded, "To our grandfathers."
We were waiting at Tao in the middle of Lan Kwai Fong with the music blaring and the throngs of people pushing through the club. Angel finished her gin and tonic and leaned in, "But I am nervous."
My eyebrows arched, "Nervous? Of course you should be. That's what a wedding is. All nerves. And remember your worst fights are going to be before the wedding. But don't let this freak you out. It's normal."
She leaned in further, "It's what?"
The music was booming.
"I said it's normal. Don't worry."
"I am not worried about that. I am worried about me. I am worried that I won't be a good wife."
"Impossible." I said immediately.
"Nathan is ready to be a husband and a father. But I am not even sure if I am even a good girlfriend. God I don't know what kind of wife or mother I will be."
"Shutup!" I said a little too loud as one of the dance tracks transitioned. And I reached out to my table and took my Redbull and Vodka and drank the rest. "Because you feel that - because that's your biggest worry - you will be an amazing wife."
Then I thought about my failed relationships. Then my brain pulled focus: I remembered my one and only marriage that ended up with us making love one last time in her own solo apartment in Heidelberg, Germany. I remember we were officially two single persons but we needed to be together one more time. And I remembered my ex-wife whispering to me when we laid together naked, divorced, in the cold German winter, "Don't have too much of an amazing life without me."
I laughed gently. "I want the opposite for you. You go and be President of the United States."
And her usual sarcastic tone, "Sure, a Chinese Cuban Greek woman President. Sure." She rolled her eyes. "That will happen."
I looked directly at her, "You will make it happen."
Then we laid there, kissed, and cried together. I left Germany for South Africa that afternoon.
Nearly a decade and half later my ex-wife is remarried and president of her own successful company in Atlanta.
I looked at Angel. "You will make it happen."
That's when I felt someone move beside me. And it was her future husband, Nathan. He was all smiles when he saw Angel. They kissed and I saw them in love. I raised my hand for the bartender to order another round of drinks - and an extra for Nathan. I thought to myself, "Yes, indeed, Angel, you will be fine."
Angel and I were dancing hard. Nathan wasn't much of a dancer. But he kept noticing as I moved that my hands and fingers were pulling on my pants. Nathan and I caught eyes. "I forgot my belt."
He laughed but then he got to work scouring the table. Then he moved between Angel and myself - going to the bar top. Then he returned quickly, "Here." And he held out two straws.
"What's that for?" I asked.
"You have never used this before?"
"For what? Killing turtles?"
Nathan laughed hard and said with his Australian accent, "Cheeky. No you can make a belt with a straw. I have done it on many a bender in Brisbane." Then he started fashioning something with the straws. Then he showed me what he meant - he took the two combined straws and tied them together with the two loops in the front of his jeans. Then he undid it and handed it out to me.
I took it and put it in my loops and tied it tight and yes - suddenly my pants were snug. "Holy shit! Why did I wait forty years to find this out?"
Angel looked as us. "What are you both doing?"
"Your future husband made me a belt with straws. How bad ass is that?"
Then Angel's attention got distracted. "How about her!" And she pointed to a brunette with glasses. "You want me to talk to her for you?"
The drunker that Angel became the more determined she became to find me my future girlfriend, wife.
I smiled but shook my head. "Yeah a broke, white, forty year old man with a straw for a belt. That will happen."
"Don't doubt my abilities." And then Angel dug into the crowd to go talk to the woman she thought would make me a perfect wife.
We were eating kebabs at Ebeneezer's just around the corner from Tao. Nathan was feeding his future wife so she wouldn't have a hang over. He was wobbling his head and talking in a perfect Indian accent. Angel was laughing as he spoke. Then she turned to me, "You know my family loves him more than me."
Nathan wobbled his head back and forth. "Not true."
"You know what sucks the most, people think he is Indian and think I am white. I get pissed off!" Angel said and bit into her kebab.
"I am more Indian!"
"Shutup!" And she playfully slapped him.
And then inbetween bites of food, they leaned in and kissed. When they pulled away they opened their cans of Coca-Cola. Then Nathan started looking for something. He went up to the cashier. The cashier quickly spoke out, "No we are out of straws."
That's when I reacted quickly and pulled at my belt loops. "Here," I said. And I held out two bent straws.
Angel laughed but they both took them and stabbed their Coca-Colas.