Totally Losing Face
(Excerpt from "Totally Losing Face and Other Stories")
It was Christmas Eve 1994 and I was on my own drinking away my misery in the Moxy, one of the few foreign hangouts in Taipei, Taiwan. The Moxy was an ancient two-storied bar complete with old rock posters, cobwebs and rats crawling on the rafters. I was sitting at the end of the downstairs’ bar, keeping to myself and enjoying a quiet beer or two, when suddenly she slinked her way into the dingy, music-throbbing, light-twinkling, smoke-billowing bar, like a lioness on the prowl. I thought about ducking for cover, but instead stood my ground and ordered another beer. Watching the mirror on the wall behind the bar, I saw her sniff me out, before moving in for the kill. I was hopelessly perched on a barstool, alone in a foreign country, and bracing myself for the inevitable agony that she was surely about to inflict. Putting my beer to my mouth, I stared straight ahead, until someone tapped me on the shoulder. The attack had begun. Slowly, I turned around on my barstool and faced her.
"Hi," she said shyly, looking downwards, as if to apologize for her misgivings.
I wanted to act like one ferociously pissed off motherfucker, but civility prevailed. I said, "Hmmm," without emotion. Then I turned back towards the bar, as if I hadn’t seen her. I was hoping she’d get the hint and LEAVE. But instead, she just waited, without saying a word. After a few minutes had passed, I finally spun around and said, "WHAT?"
"I want to say sorry for you,” she said in a high-pitched little girl’s voice. I hated that voice. I had heard that shrill whine many times before. She knew how to use it well to get what she wanted.
"Why," I asked, through clenched teeth. I stared her straight in the eyes for the longest time. Her glassy orbs were so dark that you couldn’t see where her pupils began and ended; they just merged with her irises.
"You good boyfriend. I very, very bad girlfriend." She pouted her lips and lowered her head again.
I had been in Taiwan long enough to ignore the locals’ English speaking errors, much like I ignored everything else. But I couldn't ignore the pain I still felt towards her. "YES! WHY?" I angrily exploded.
"I telled you before. My before boyfriend very bad. He lie me. He tell me, I and he marry. Then he break. I very angry so I play many boy. I play you. I sorry to you."
Yeah, yeah. I’d heard all this shit before. I hadn’t been able to make any sense of it then, and I sure as hell couldn't make any sense of it now. I leaned towards her ear and said quietly with force, my teeth grinding, "You tried to fuck my fucking friend! You were my girlfriend!" All the anger was starting to come back. "WHY," I screamed. That was all I wanted to know. After four months, you'd think I was entitled to a little truth. I just looked her in the eyes, searching for sense, trying to fucking understand what was going on in that little head of hers.
“Why don’t I just take her home and fuck the shit out of her,” I thought to myself. With her silky, shiny black hair, cut short into a bob, she seemed somewhat older now, not so innocent, but she still looked good, real good. All of a sudden, everything that had happened between us came back to me in tidal waves. The pain was still there, as if it had all just happened that morning.
(To continue reading this story, please purchase a copy of "Totally Losing Face and Other Stories").
Excerpt from "Totally Losing Face," a short story in Hillel Groovatti's new book of short fiction entitled Totally Losing Face and Other Stories.