(This novel is translated and adapted by Ms. Shuang Wu. The original novel 海外剩女 by author Ms. Xi Zhang was published in China earlier this year. It tells stories of female students from China struggling to find love in Boston, and has received rave reviews. A play in Chinese language with the same title will be staged at Northeastern University on Oct. 10, 2015. The photo of flamingos in wild Africa is by Boston photographer Ms. Feng Chai.)
A Woman Approaching Expiration Date — Chapter 5
“Wow! How sexy! You look beautiful!”Harrell was excited when he saw Jingzhe on camera.
The broad smile on his face made Jingzhe relax. So Jingzhe started making some polite inquiries about the condition of his mother. Harrell answered some of Jingzhe’s questions, and then quickly switched the topic back. Could Jingzhe please get up and turn around for him to have a better look? He begged Jingzhe.
Bearing what Li Qiu said in mind, Jingzhe took it as a good sign. It is no big deal, she tried to reassure herself, and got up and made a quick twirl in front of the camera.
Harrell got turned on immediately and kept staring at her body, making compliment.
Feeling somewhat uncomfortable, Jingzhe tried to start another conversation,“How long did you stay with your ex? Why did you break up?”
Harrell smiled,“Two years. She was crazy, and we parted.”
“Have you considered getting remarried again?”This was what concerned Jingzhe the most.
But Harrell didn’t answer the question directly. He only emphasized that his ex was a crazy woman. He didn’t seem to care for discussing any topic other than Jingzhe’s body at the moment. While Jingzhe was at a loss of what to do, he all of a sudden asked tenderly,“Dear Mary, do you like giant American trucks?”
Jingzhe had no idea what he was talking about, and told him that she knew nothing about trucks.
“Mary, once you see them, I’m sure you’ll like giant American trucks.”Harrell insisted in a fervent fashion.
Jingzhe was still confused, and did not know what he wanted to do. Then Harrell begged, “Baby, could you pull down your straps? I want to take a look at your breast. Just one look, please?”
When Jingzhe refused, Harrell didn’t seem to mind at all. Still with a smile on his face, he continued to beg,“Well, tuck up your skirt then. I want to check out your long legs.”
By this time, Jingzhe had finally understood what’s going on – she met a pervert. Flabbergasted, Jingzhe fumbled around looking for the off button on her laptop, and before she found it, she saw that this man, with his eyes half-closed, started to fondle himself, and was getting more and more aroused. He then unbuttoned his pants and pulled out his penis.“Oh Mary baby! Come on! Let me kiss you! I want you!”He groaned.
After some frantic search, Jingzhe finally found the off button and turned Skype off promptly. But what she didn’t know was, she actually didn’t exit the software completely. As a result, she could still see Harrell, while he couldn’t see her. He got his eyes tightly shut by this time, and was crying out,“Oh baby, don’t go! Oh please don’t leave me, baby, please! I know you can see me.”
Jingzhe ran out of her room in a panic and left her laptop behind. She pushed open Li Qiu’s door, and dragged her back into her room.
When Li Qiu walked in, Harrell was still groaning with his eyes closed,“Oh, Mary, don’t leave me. I know you are still there and you can see me. You like giant American trucks, don’t you?”
Li Qiu howled with laughter,“What? So you only showed your arms, and you got this man to go crazy on you?! How amazing!”
But Jingzhe was unimpressed and indignant. She was about to shut down her laptop when she was stopped by Li Qiu,“Please don’t do that. Let’s sit back and relax. Enjoy the free porn performance!”
Jingzhe shook her head,“I don’t know about this. He scared me to death.”
“Come on. This is just nude chat. In recent years, it’s getting quite popular among online daters. It’s nothing new. However, it’s the first time I heard about the new term ‘giant American trucks’ though. How interesting!”Li Qiu said, unperturbed.
Jingzhe got red in the face and ran to the bathroom. When she came back, Li Qiu asked, poker-faced, “Are you sure you want to delete this guy permanently?” Jingzhe nodded in confirmation.
On camera, Harrell had sunk his body in the chair, as if wasted. Li Qiu clicked on some buttons, and the man was erased.
Li Qiu suggested to Jingzhe that she should take a break and then continue her online quest later. Jingzhe accepted that’s a good idea. In the meantime, Jingzhe started to seriously reconsider her career path.
That night, Jingzhe’s mother called her on the IP phone.
“Mom, I have something to talk over with you.” Jingzhe said, sheepishly.
“You want some money?”As usual, Mom jumped ahead before Jingzhe could finish talking.
Jingzhe sighed,“Mom, I don’t need money. I work for the lab and make enough money for myself. I just wanted to talk about something else.”
“So what it is?”
Biting back her thick lips, Jingzhe steadied herself and let it out, “Mom, I was thinking about taking the exam to get a license for registered nurse.”
“What?! You want to become a nurse?!”Mom was in disbelief.
“Why not? You don’t like nurses? In America, they are much sought after in job market. Also, they have very high income.” Jingzhe went on to explain to Mom the different categories of the nurses, their income levels, their education requirements, their respective job prospect, and so forth.
But Mom was totally unimpressed,“Why do you tell me all this? You’re already on your way to get a PhD degree. Just make some efforts and you’ll be there.”
“But mom, in America, PhDs in biology are a dime a dozen. On the other hand, there is a growing need for registered nurses. The population is aging, and they’ll need a lot of professional health-care workers. I only need to study for a nursing degree for two years. Then with the license I can make sixty to ninety thousand dollars a year.”Jingzhe has done her homework and was excited about the prospect.
“Stop it right there! Perhaps I put too much pressure on you lately. Just forget it, and make sure to stay focused on your PhD degree. Also, try to publish more papers, and try to finish school early. Then just get out there and find yourself a job, OK?”Mom issued her commands, as usual.
“Mom, I just wanted to bring up the possibility. I haven’t quite made up my mind yet, so you don’t have to tell me yes or no right this minute, all right? Anyway, I’m tired today and want to go to bed now. Let’s talk about it another time.”
Given Mom’s attitude, Jingzhe knew continuing the conversation probably won’t get her anywhere, and quickly made excuse to get off the phone. But secretly, she had done some research on her school’s postgraduate nursing program. Once admitted, she would tell her supervisor and abandon her PhD degree. She would then transfer to a master’s degree in nursing, Jingzhe figured.
Back to the online dating world, there is a man named Jim who kept sending Jingzhe flowers over the net, and gave her his cell phone number. Out of curiosity and politeness, Jingzhe answered his greetings. On the phone, after they exchanged some initial greetings and information, Jim told Jingzhe he lives in Rhode Island. Would Jingzhe like for him to come to Boston and meet for dinner? He asked.
“Well, perhaps I can try to make it.” Jingzhe was tentative at first.
“Tell me something – do you like massage?”
“Uh-huh.” Jingzhe answered vaguely, for she did not catch the word.
“That’s great! From your photos, you look sweet. I think you need some time to relax, though. What’s your schedule like this weekend? Could we meet for dinner?” Jim sounded excited.
“Yeah, perhaps.” Jingzhe remained uncommitted.
“I promise you, I can help you relax and make you feel very comfortable indeed. When was your last time having it done to you?”
Jim had a thick Southern accent, and again Jingzhe did not get what he said. So she said sorry, she was busy at the moment, and asked him to call back later.
In fact, Jingzhe had mistaken the word “massage” for “message” and was quite confused about what Jim was talking about. When she went to ask Li Qiu, Li Qiu quickly figured out the word must be “massage”, not “message”. The two women chuckled about it.
“So, why not?” Li Qiu then teased Jingzhe, “Somebody wants to drive for two hours to see you, talk sweet to you, and most of all, let you enjoy a nice massage. Why do you want to turn him down?”
“Are you not worried about me? I really did mix up the words. It’s not often that I hear the word ‘massage’.” Jingzhe was still unsure.
“Oh, it should be OK. He did not ask for anything out of ordinary.” Li Qiu encouraged Jingzhe.
“Then how about you come along with me? I’d be too scared to go out on my own.” Jingzhe asked Li Qiu.
Li Qiu eventually agreed to come along on Jingzhe’s night out, and also suggested a bar in downtown as a place to go.