Shenzhen, China: Funny Business.
A duel with the Rockstar.
Shenzhen. The wild east.
Inside, I’m a mess. I’ve got a broken jaw and half a dozen nails holding my features together. I smile a welcome to my new company & I feel my bones move & my stomach shift. I should be in bed, but sleep is for the weak when there’s work to be done. Despite my predicament, on the outside, I look whole and I don’t telegraph anything but control. Out here, that counts for 101% for nothing is quite as it seems. Not even my face.
12am - time to get to work. Tonight’s outing is a precursor to a deal. I’d rather be watching CNN, but that’s not an option. Game on.
I feel the thick atmosphere of Shenzhen invade my senses as I make my way into the club. Wall to wall China, I am marinated in the stench of cigar smoke, sonic beats, top shelf alcohol and the searing flood of UV lights. Welcome to the underground - the illegitimate face of a city where serious business and funny business co-exist in the same heartbeat.
I am in the company of an old friend, a new business associate and his revolving door of female sycophants, their fragile admiration bankrolled on the sale of his NQR luxury goods. We are a sight. It’s a soap opera gone wrong and tonight’s main event stars the Rockstar, the Mafioso and me - reformed corporate shade, like the odd couple gone threesome. As I take my seat at the table, the whiskey begins to flow. We talk business, flirt and feign camaraderie, each of us working our way to closing this deal. Smiles surround me. I sheath my razors, we’re all friends here - for the moment...
The Yahtzee dice fly across the table at the same rate Johnny walks my veins. Deal details are interchanged with social challenges and as we test each other to the limit, the night ebbs into dawn. I lose my senses. In these later moments, the true mettle of our personalities are tested in an unspoken ritual. Each shot brings us closer to the abyss - who will be the first to fall to temptation? I have the attention of a few admirers, facilitated by my new Chinese friend, but I’m not for sale at his asking price. Accept the offer and I become property - I’m not green to this game. My glass drains as my brain fades, and the world becomes a blur. Eventually, the three of us check out of the club - innocence intact.
A checkmate of sorts and the social test is complete.
Back at the hotel, the rockstar, our new friend Weida and I begin our real discussions and they continue until the late hours of the morning. Finally, the handshake signals the end of the night and a deal come good. Its bedtime and I’m so thankful, but as usual - everything has a catch. Tonight’s dilemma? Three drunk guys, two beds.
By now, my new partner Weida has taken the liberty of consummating our new relationship by commandeering my bed. I scratch my whiskey addled head… it is a most unique situation. I wonder: what is the social protocol for a mafioso style business associate who has decided to catch some zzz’s in your bed for the night? Two decisions present themselves to me: Sleep with the Rockstar, or sleep with the fishes?
After a moment’s hesitation, I go with the known quantity and kick the semi conscious rocker to the left side of his bed. He isn’t my idea of a good night, but at least I know the feeling is more than mutual. Keeping my underwear on like a suit of armour, I’m in la la land before I hit the pillow.
Morning. Light. Oh. My. God. My head…
I roll out of the bed onto the floor and crawl towards the bathroom as my senses reel. I’m so wrong, I know it and my reflection confirms it - the cracks on the inside are showing on the outside. Slowly, I get it together and wake up the rockstar for reinforcement. He rolls over. Ignoring my swollen appearance through slit eyes, he says…
“Hey man, ugh… who cut the cheese?”
Huh? I stare at him for a moment, wondering what in god’s name he is talking about. Then, as if someone flicked a switch on some latent olfactory circuit gone haywire in my head, I smell it. The air is thick with it, a stench so powerful it is not just mere cheese, it is a force with a dark heart that has come to eat us alive for breakfast. As if on cue, I gag as he gags and we gag together in a pre-puke duet. Looking at each other through watering eyes, we scramble to the door without another word. Racing past the still sleeping Weida, we don’t pause to wake him. Its survival of the fittest now. For all we know, he has asphyxiated on during the night… and there is no time to check. It is what it is and this is not the US military. We have no policy regarding men left behind.
Now standing in the hallway, wearing nothing but our underwear, we both give a cheeky grin and wave a casual hello to the hotel maids through gritted teeth, like it is perfectly normal for two barebacked white gorillas to parade around public hallways in their underpants. The maid’s shocked expressions and excited chatter, followed by one of them making a hurried phone call bring us to the reluctant realisation that we are going to have to retreat back into the room and deal with this situation.
We take a deep breath...
Gasping, we re-enter the lair of the beast. Half laughing, half crying, we smell our way through the room. As we take turns smelling out the source, burning our nasal cavities with each inhalation, we gradually work out that the entity is living in Weida’s socks. We exchange a horrified glance. What to do? All sense tells us to just check out of the hotel room. It is a sensible idea. A good idea.
But curiosity killed the cat.
Without a word spoken, we each grab a sock. Hand signals provide the count down: 3, 2, 1… In unison, we yank the socks from his unconscious form and are rewarded for our efforts by an explosion of smell so intense, it belongs in a science fiction horror flick. The scene is just as pretty - his feet are caked with flaking flesh and the socks are caked with a decaying goo that used to be tinea before it used to be part of his feet. We retreat in revulsion, still clutching the socks, each one of us with his mouth agape. When the shock fades from us, simultaneously, we throw the socks at each other and run in the other direction - shrieking like school girls. A bitch fight follows over what to do with the socks. There is finger pointing, panic and hysteria.
The socks have to go.
Necessity is the mother of invention. Not sure how this is going to play out, I go into the bathroom to seek out inspiration. Going through whatever amenities are at hand, I come out with the hotel comb and a shoe horn. It is McGuyver time. I step over the cringing rocker and chop stick the socks into the bin without making any further hand to sock contact. It’s a good move and I get the thumbs up from the rocker. Motivated by his approval, I take the bin and hurl it out of the hotel room door into the hallway. Closing the door behind me, we grin at each other and breathe a shared sigh of relief - crisis averted. We go back to bed. As I start to drift into a post alcoholic sleep…
DING DONG! DIIIIING DOOOONG!
WTF? I struggle to get up and I go to answer the door. I’m thinking that this is the fallout from our underpants parade earlier, so I get the bath robe out and warm up my ‘It wasn’t me, you must have the wrong hotel room’ routine. I open the door and prepare to speak…
Something flies into the room and strikes me in the chest. I go down and as I fall, I release the door. It swings closed with an ominous thud. I slowly open my eyes and I see, lying by my head, is the bin. My eyes begin to water again. Scrambling to prop myself onto my elbows, my stomach twists into familiar knots. Oh lord no… it can’t be.
The socks have returned.
I finally realize - something this powerful cannot be denied. In complete resignation, I crawl across the floor. Never could I have realized that a pair of socks could be so formidable an opponent. I reach what used to be my bed and slap the sleeping Weida awake. No time for niceties - every second smells. He opens his eyes in shock and I seize his attention. My new mission: to return the socks to their rightful owner and return the owner from whence he came.
Lord Vader. Rise.
A moment later, Weida is outside the room in his underpants, in perfect time for the hotel security who have arrived to check on the maid’s welfare. I wave goodbye as the door closes.
Let it be known: foot odour can be a deal breaker. :oP