[Editor’s Note : Every week we will be publishing one chapter from Ansh Das’s book, The Memory Of A Face. Needless to say, we are super excited! Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4 & Chapter 5]
Where is GWM5420?
Cute walked up the D’Aguilar Street and arrived at Lan Kwai Fong. It appeared as lively as always. He’d been there with his friends a few times but never on his own. The street looked familiar and intimidating at the same time. He had looked up the bar on the Internet and so he knew where it was. But it didn’t stop him from feeling lost.
People were walking up and down the slope. Some stood outside the bars, beer bottles in hand, busy in what looked like serious discussions; others were swaying to the music pouring out on to the street.
He made a left turn and continued up to the end of the small street from where he could see the entrance. Club 97 looked crowded. He wondered whether he should go in and find the guy, or SMS him. Deciding to save money, he walked in.
The bar was a long oval shaped ring that appeared like an island in the middle of a sea of people seated on barstools. The lighting was dim yet comfortable. There were some seats against the wall on the left side. He went past them and stopped for a second. The corridor to his left went towards washrooms. He turned right towards the high tables. There was a DJ station in the opposite corner. Between the dance floor and the entrance were a series of low coffee tables with soft sofas, most of which were taken.
A waitress walked up and smiled at him.
“What can I get you?” Her white teeth flashed under the ultraviolet light as she smiled.
“Er…I’m trying to find my friend. I will order in a while, please.” He flashed in return.
His white tee shirt glowed, making him feel a bit conscious of his own appearance. Cute realized he was on his own; he had failed to spot the guy. Everybody around him looked much older than he was. He could feel people eyeing him; sizing him up and down as if he were fresh fish in the market. In a way, he was and he wasn’t comfortable about it.
Clutching his bag, he pushed his way towards the entrance and stood there for some time. From his vantage point, he could screen the people that walked in.
“Do you want a drink?” It was the same waitress. When she realized it was him, she moved away.
Cute didn’t have enough money on him. It didn’t make sense to waste any on a drink. That would defeat the purpose. He was here to find someone to sponsor him instead.
“Can I buy you a drink?”
Cute turned towards the voice to find a middle-aged Westerner smiling at him.
“Yes.” He surprised himself with a smile.
Since he had to wait for the other guy anyway, there was no harm in getting a free drink.
“Well, come on over then. What would you like to have,…?”
“Xavier. My name’s Xavier,” he said. “Beer. Thanks.”
“Hello, Xavier. I’m Richard.” He caught the eye of the waitress. “One Corona, please.”
Richard walked towards one of the sofas that looked relatively less occupied. Cute followed him.
Richard introduced Cute to his friends and then they made some more space for him to sit down.
The waitress arrived with a Corona.
“Put it on my tab, Suzy.” Richard turned towards Cute who had picked up his beer.
“Thanks,” said Cute. He had no idea what to talk about next. “Do you come here often?”
“Yes, on most weekends. I have not seen you before. Are you with someone?”
“Yes, this is my first time.” Cute let out a nervous laugh. “I am waiting to meet my friend here. He’s late.”
“You’re welcome to join us for as long as you’d like to.”
Cute didn’t know if that was a good idea but he decided to play along.
He wasn’t very good at drinking. Alcohol turned him red. He wasn’t sure what his capacity was but he knew it wasn’t much. He’d have to build on that. He must learn how to drink without getting drunk. He needed to learn the ways of being more attractive. People who could drink would obviously get invited out more often and be popular with foreigners. He held the bottle to his mouth and gulped down. It still tasted as bad no matter how he drank it. He must remember to smile and not throw it all out.
“Tell us more about you, Xavier. How old are you?” Richard asked.
“I’ll be twenty-one soon. And you?” Cute lied. He didn’t want to be rejected for being too young. Well, the difference between nineteen and twenty-one wasn’t much anyway.
“That’s a nice age.” Richard smiled. “I’m forty-seven.”
“What do you do?” Cute asked Richard. He decided forty-seven wasn’t bad at all. He had expected Richard to say fifty-five.
“I have a toy company. Our manufacturing units are in China. We export mostly to USA.”
Cute choked on his beer. What the hell! Out of all professions in the world, why did this guy have to be a toy manufacturer? He was scared that somehow it would all connect back to his dad. No way. This was a dead end. He had to get out of there!
But he couldn’t just run away. The guy was polite. He had bought him a beer. And most importantly, he came there every weekend. There was a big chance they’d bump into each other again. No, he had to find another way out.
Where on earth was GWM5420? Cute realized he didn’t even know the guy’s real name. They had just chatted using their login ID’s. Sigh. He had to excuse himself from the table. He needed to think.
“Washroom,” he told Richard.
Cute picked up his bag and walked towards the toilets. Finding one of the stalls empty, he got in and locked the door behind him. He put down the toilet lid and sat on it.
Should he ditch his plans of meeting up with GWM5420? Should he go with Richard instead? Was Richard a good guy? What if GWM5420 turned up suddenly? Could he trust Richard? What if Richard knew his dad?
He got up and walked back to Richard and his friends.
“Richard, I have to leave now. My friend’s waiting for me.” Cute lied.
“Oh, where is he?”
“Nearby. Thank you for the beer. See you next time.”
“Have a nice time. See you around.”
Cute hoped his abrupt departure wouldn’t affect his chances with Richard in the future. Even though, he was in the toys business, he seemed like a good person.
“Hey, you’re leaving already!” It was Suzy. “You didn’t even tell me your name.”
“Xavier.” He smiled. “See you next time.”
Cute waved at her and walked out of the place, clutching on to his bag as if it provided him with some invisible support. He went around the corner out of sight.
Now, should he call GWM5420 or just call it a day? He felt tired. The whole dating game was so stressful.
What about dinner? He walked down Stanley Street towards the noodle places. They were tasty yet cheap. Afterwards, he’d take a leisurely walk back home to Causeway Bay.