Mister Micawber

In Love Again


Some days turn into extraordinary affairs.  Today, I have wandered into the U.S. Open Badminton Championship Semifinals in Los Angeles. All but the Asians have been eliminated, with most of the survivors Korean. They are skilled survivors.  As those who have played it know, the game is fast and sure. Its chief demands are quick reflexes and nice control. With men, it is an aggressive and powerful contest, the shuttlecock a projectile. With women, it becomes an exquisite ballet, the racquet a willow withe dancing.

I have fallen in love with the girls in the Doubles, two Koreans on one side of the net, two Chinese on the other, all in soft immaculate white cotton, their porcelain arms and legs perfectly formed by the benedictions of youth and health and exercise. Each wields only the most fragile of racquets, diaphanous, slender as an ivory chopstick, and each wears a small, surprised look of concentration, her lips parted, her eyes wide and cast about.

My most anguished love is for Kim Lee, eighteen, slight and unprepossessing, only a suggestion of hips, mere kisses of breasts, her dark hair cut short in bangs to keep it from obscuring her eyes, which remain black and secret.  She moves very well. She dances around her partner, stretching up to drive the bird like a high arched rainbow into the opposite backcourt, or bowing low to coax it lovingly, floatingly, over the brim of the net.  And in the hush of play, in the silence of tension, my fey beauty cannot contain a soft 'dac!', the little cry a lover gives, and then a short sharp 'hai!' of satisfaction, in a voice so feminine that I sob.

Instantly, her cry casts me back with a gasp into the arms of the smallest and most gentle of Hong Kong girls, who loved making love but did not, in the end, let it interfere with her arranged marriage. When the time came, she calmly returned to China and her parents' plans, leaving me stunned, unfinished, and still unhealed today: it all still nestles in the warm and silent fastnesses of my mind, and everything that is, is bound by the threads of its memory, and journeys with me always, to awaken at such an innocent soft sound or silent movement.