Menu

 
   
..:: CONTENTS ::..
   Volume VII, Issue I

..:: POETRY ::..


..:: PROSE ::..

..:: ETC ::..
   Contributor's Notes

..:: ARCHIVES ::..
   Volume I, Issue I
   Volume I, Issue II
   Volume II, Issue I
   Volume II, Issue II
   Volume III, Issue I
   Volume III, Issue II
   Volume IV, Issue I
   Volume IV, Issue II
   Volume V, Issue I
   Volume V, Issue II
   Volume VI, Issue I
   Volume VI, Issue II

 
Poetry


Typhoon Warning in Fujian Province
Stephen Dorneman

     I sat on the bed in my studio apartment while Claire started flicking through the books and CDs.

     "Wo ai ni." I said. She wouldn't tell me what it meant, so I had to go and look it up.

     Her shrill laugh flooded the room with a singing clatter of English words and Mandarin tones. I had no idea what else she was saying, so I pulled her down to the bed and started kissing her. She smelled of ginger and citrus, of cosmopolitans and chocolate martinis. Claire pushed me away and moved back to the shelves. Her hands were still wet from the rain.

***

     Claire wore a white tuxedo blouse and a long black skirt every sunny Sunday morning. Her roommate did, too. Holding hands, with their glistening red purses and well-worn prayer books, they looked like twin Catholic schoolgirls that refused to grow up. They took the subway to an interfaith service held at Josiah Quincy High School.

***

     My favorite class in high school was Earth Sciences. The longhorn steer is a ruminant, a vegetarian with the kind of stomach that forces it to bring food back up into its mouth for a second chewing. Its horns are hollow. Swarms of jellyfish precede and follow the steering currents that funnel typhoons into the East China Sea.

***

     We met in Professor MacLean's Communication, Media, and Society class. Claire was a Visual and Media Arts major. I am an Advertising and Public Relations major. I didn't see her come in that first day, she somehow appeared. A tall, thin statue in motion, a construction of shining obsidian-black hair and amber skin. Her birth name, her Chinese name, is Wenling. It means the sound of jade chimes in a summer breeze.

***

     Clair's family were Buddhists that had recently converted to Christianity and she remained a vegetarian, the kind that eats eggs and cheese but not chicken or beef. I didn't know that when I took her to Longhorn Steakhouse after our first real date, a movie at the Fenway Cinemas. She sat there quietly at dinner, hands folded in her lap, with a wistful expression on her face I attributed to the Wuthering Heights remake. I ordered the New York Strip, rare. She ordered two side dishes and the house salad, and didn't say anything until I offered her a piece of my steak. Her jaw muscles flexed, and I was afraid she was going to be sick.

     "I don't take flesh," she said.

***

     Amber is harder than talc, softer than gypsum, golden drops of ancient resin hardened by time and pressure into stones of beauty. My own damp fingers pressed and unhooked and caressed in a gentle, growing insistence. Claire's skin beneath me hardened at first then eventually yielded and moistened, pressure reversing the formation of stones.

     She didn't say no, not out loud, not in any language that I could understand. The bed crashed into my makeshift shelving and words and music flooded down upon us.

***

     She never raised her hand in Communication and Media, never spoke to Professor MacLean unless spoken to. Her pen, though, preached volumes -- adding exclamation points to dull platitudes and question marks to unquestionable facts, she covered her notes with slashing red lines that struck at the heart of the secular humanist worldview.

***

     "You have devil horns," Claire laughed, twirling two fingers into the crest of my shaggy curls. I drew her hand down to my mouth, and licked her fingers with a devil's delight. She tasted of cayenne and lemon from dinner. Her nails were long and sharp, tipped with luminescent swirls of silver-flecked polish. Infinite galaxies suspended in heaven, five to a hand. She taught me hen piao liang, "this is beautiful." Ni hao ma means "How are you doing?" Before I leave I try and ask Claire in Chinese how we are doing. I'm not sure if I said it right. She giggles something I don't understand and kisses me goodbye on the cheek.

***

     Our first meal together was in the cafeteria. I took my tray and sat down at their table. Everyone looked at me like the stranger I was. I smiled at Claire and introduced myself to the other two girls. They started speaking in Chinese, but Claire stopped them, and introduced them to me in English. Ten minutes later they were all talking in Chinese again. I smiled and nodded along, adrift in the conversation except for the occasional anchor of local places and names of professors I recognized.

***

     Her roommate swore at me in Mandarin. Her roommate said she was leaving Emerson. Her roommate said Claire would never speak to me again.

***

     Claire always smelled of ginger and citrus. Ginger root is not actually a root, but rather a rhizome, an underground stem that travels horizontally below the surface of the earth. Citrus fruits hybridize easily, crossing the cultures of the plant kingdom to create new breeds.

***

     Claire effortlessly hammered out assignments for every class in the last hours before they were due, stabbing at the keys on her thin black laptop in a crowded dorm cafeteria as if she were the sole occupant of a Buddhist monastery. It took me three days to write a paper the same length, and English is the only language I know. In the cafeteria I stood across from her in a grey hooded sweatshirt and waited for her to notice me. She finally looked up, and blushed. She said nothing. She had no idea how long I'd been hovering over her.

***

     I was the one who asked Claire if she wanted to come back to my apartment with me. I had asked her before, but that time she said yes. Her high-heeled stride cracked in the rain-slick cobblestone maze that runs around Faneuil Hall, and I wrapped one arm in the belt of her trench coat and steered her towards my doorway.

***

     "Wo ai ni." She said at the end, at the last, "I love you." But all the while she was crying. Like the proverbial longhorn steer in the china shop, I realized too late that I had shattered something precious.

***

     At the Gypsy Bar we took a break from the dance floor to watch the living fireworks pulsate and revolve in the jellyfish tank. Rain threw itself against the windows, shrouding the night in rippled sheets of water. Claire told me that one million people were evacuated from Fujian province two months before, in the face of the typhoon, including her entire family. She said they returned to find their home untouched by the waves but the few things of value they had left behind were gone, looted by bandits.

 

 

//   Advance   //