Searching for the Mermaid寻找美人鱼
Never mind the fact that I did not take a long hot shower, wash my face nor shave that morning. The real issue at hand was a much needed cup of "hot smokin' Joe". A freshly brewed American coffee with a spot of milk and a dash of a sugar substitute was my morning mubiao. My quest was simple: I was searching for the mermaid.
The newly opened subway from Xiasha to Fengqi Lu was not very crowded for an autumn Tuesday morning in Hangzhou. The train car was filled with random business folks, some old ladies and a lot of entry level workers looking to be the next Robin Li or Pony Ma or somebody like that. Never mind the fact that I did not take a long hot shower, wash my face nor shave that morning. The real issue at hand was a much needed cup of "hot smokin' Joe". A freshly brewed American coffee with a spot of milk and a dash of a sugar substitute was my morning mubiao. My quest was simple: I was searching for the mermaid.
As I stumbled down the Yan'an Lu past state-owned banks, ritzy hotels and luxurious office towers, my Italian-style driving shoes, which I bought in Istanbul, made a squeaky sound caused by the circular rubber grips on the bottom. I didn't worry about my khakis being wrinkled because I was sporting a freshly pressed cotton dress shirt. It was a light blue, Oxford cloth, button down that matched my eyes. Quickly, I zipped past bankers, department store employees and shaojie who were making their way to and from work in the Xiacheng district. I needed my coffee and soon.
So I traipsed along while scanning the building facades. Where was the mermaid who coquettishly posed with her twin tails? I started to feel a twitch in my arm and my hypothalamus began to whine like an unfed panda bear in a zoo. Acids in my stomach were doing somersaults as I quickened my pace, all the while looking for large green letters in English.
Perspiration formed on my brow as I visually skimmed the signs in English and Mandarin. Finally, on a second story of a large building, there she was in all of her green glory - the siren of caffeine, the goddess of java. She was beckoning me to come inside and spend my hard-earned RMB. Only, I was unable to find the entrance. nd
A department store security guard was standing watch in front of the store's front doors, epaulets on his shoulder boards suggestive of his sacred authority. I made a pathetic attempt at pronouncing the correct phrase in Putonghua.
"Kafei?….. Starbucks?" His face looked perplexed and he made it clear that I was not getting past him. Then, he smiled a snaggle-toothed grin and erratically pointed at a staircase to my right, while making some odious grunting sounds. Our game of charades was over as I bolted up the flight like a wild banshee heading to the 21st century equivalent of an opium den.
Bathing in my own sweat, my crisp blue shirt had become somewhat of a body napkin. The meinu at the counter eyed me suspiciously as I raced up to place my order. In my best Chinese, I said, "wo xiang yao yige meishi kafei." She pursed her lips, looked me straight in the eye and, in perfect English, blandly said, "Hot or cold." It was then that I knew. I had an emotional epiphany - a Kerouac-like satori. I had found my mermaid and all was right with the world.