End Game (Colorado Springs)
17 December 2017
I was now 44. I saw Toby's watch showing four minutes past midnight. He nursed his beer.
We sat in the pool hall of Phantom Canyon.
"I have known you for twenty five years," Toby began. "You know me more than anyone else."
And I nursed my Heferweisen. "Am I a bad person?" And then I looked at him directly. "Be honest. I can take it. When you look over those twenty five years of knowing me, what bad things do you remember?"
He took another swig. "Well, I remember that time in college when I came home and you let your girlfriend's best friend have sex with her boyfriend in my room. I came home and caught them - and I was pissed."
I pushed my beer glass away. "I am so sorry about that." And then I paused. "Anything else?"
"Well I am a little tipsy but that's all I can remember."
"I think there are more examples."
"I feel that I am a bad person but I am fighting to be good."
Toby looked at his phone to see if his girlfriend had messaged him and then returned back to the conversation. "You know what I tell my team when I do peer reviews? And it would be applicable to you right now."
"Live like you are already there." And he poked at the wooden bar. "Don't live like you are here and you are trying to get there." He prodded at the wood again. "Live like you are already there."
"Your end game is today."
"No, every day is the end game. Live like its happening. And it will."
I waited at the daycare center. I was excited about my birthday party. My birthday was today but the party was tomorrow on Saturday. And then I saw all my friends at daycare get picked up. And then suddenly I was all alone except one of the daycare center ladies remained.
I still remember her.
She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen - early 20s - brunette, Farrah Fawcett hair. It was dark outside now. And she flipped on the television above me and I started watching the claymation version of "Rudolph Red Nosed Reindeer" on CBS.
I began to cry. My parents had forgotten me.
She tried to calm me down by holding me. And I sobbed. I sobbed deeply.
An hour later the Dekalb police arrived and the nice lady cop tried to soothe me. I didn't want to let the daycare center lady go. They had to physically pull me off her.
And I cried all the way to the court house. That's when I was told by a man they said was a judge that my parents were incarcerated (or in prison) and I would go stay with a nice family who would take care of me. They called them my foster family.
I sat on the tram with the windows open feeling the cold Hong Kong air. I looked down on the people that were scurrying here and there. So many people had places to go and things to do. People pretending the hundreds of people around them - were just like the sidewalks, buildings they were passing by - not actually people.
And I was one of them.
Here I was on my birthday - 43 years old - just released from Chinese prison. No job. No money. On the other side of the world from my family. And trying to figure out the basics - who am I? What do I want to do with my life? How did I get here?
I saw the Subway Sandwich sign ahead and got up - holding on to the handrail - as the jerks of the electricity jolted the tram back and forth. And then I went the curving stairs and started feeling in my pocket for my Octopus Card. I then wondered if I had any money on it. Finally the tram came to a halt at a red light with cars surrounding it. I took my place in line and slowly oozed out. I slid my Octopus Card across the payment scanner and it beeped and saw it went negative by two Hong Kong dollars.
On the street, I moved out of the tram's way as the light had turned green already and it was lurching forward. I waited for traffic to rush past and then scurried across. I went to Subway and ordered my tuna sandwich on wheat bread. I took it to go and walked to the IFC building - the same building that Batman in The Dark Night stood on top of. I went up the escalator stairs inside the Lane Crawford. Then I went outside and looking at the back of the Apple Store Hong Kong - I sat on a bench and ate my Subway Sandwich.
My birthday gift to myself.
I wake up alone in bed. It's a little warm December day soon in the future.
I am looking for her and she is not there. But I hear her noises in the kitchen. I still have her taste still on my mouth. I look down and I am pitching tent with the bedsheet waiting for her to come back.
She hears me making noises.
"Don't get out of bed!" she commands.
"Okay," I grunt.
Then suddenly I smell a little smoke. And I hear her begin singing, "Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you..." And she is carrying a tray of fruits, toast and eggs with a small muffin with a candle lit in it.
She is wearing her new lingerie I bought for her. Her body is barely contained in its satin.
She brings the tray and sits it on top of the bed.
She then crawls beside me. And kisses me deeply. "Happy birthday baby."
"Thank you sexy."
I look at her. And I am humbled.
"Blow out your candle." And she adds quickly., "But don't forget to make a wish."
In my mind, I don't need the wish. I am there. Not trying to depart from the here. She is my end game.
I put my lips together and blow. The candle fire disappears.
"I love you," she says.
I kiss her and then add, "I love you too, Xia."