He appeared around eight, nine o’clock in a hotel room in Prinston. This was the first time. An Asian man sitting on top of my wardrobe, legs crossed, staring at me with this stern look of disapproval.
He was wearing a simple pair of blue pyjamas with Chinese-y looking dragons weaving their way between the buttons, up and down the sleeves and along the seams of his trousers. Some of the dragons were red, some yellow. His hair was black and his small squinty little eyes were a pasty grey. He stared at me as I stared back at him. I took in the weather-beaten face. The bare hands and feet were dark brown in colour.
Of course I left the room immediately. Switched off the TV, grabbed the key and made my way down to the hotel bar. Figured I was going mad, seeing things that weren’t really there. But at the bar, after a couple of cocktails, there he was again; sitting to my left; giving me that same harsh look of condemnation.
I’d only a few moments before struck up a conversation with a wonderful little creature in a blue sequinned dress. Said she’d been waiting for a husband who was already over an hour late. I ordered her a grasshopper, joined her for another, and then we were drinking white Russian’s, talking about the price of stock, a museum exhibit we’d both recently caught and other such meaningless topics of conversation. While the whole time the Asian man was watching the two of us, his face turned up in such disgust that I almost expected him to spit on the floor in protest.
It was because of the Asian man that I didn’t invite her to my room. I would have gone to hers if she’d offered but she made no such proposal. Although, there was a brief fumbling in the lift; mostly instigated by my consumption of enough alcohol to bring about a familiar loss of self control.
We parted on her slurred comment of me being, “A very naughty man,” who should be careful of a lady whose husband was so close by. And then I was watching her stumble down the 4th floor corridor, wiggling her behind and twirling a handbag just for me, the sliding doors shutting another glorious bird out of my life forever.
As the lift continued to climb I began wiping her lipstick from my face, tidying up my hair, adjusting the waistband of my suit trousers; when whose reflection should I notice standing behind me but that of the Asian man.
“How did you get in here so quickly?” I asked him. “Why do you keep creeping up on me like that?”
Although, he didn’t answer: I didn’t need him to. I knew (or at least thought at the time) that he didn’t really exist, so what was the point?
He watched me sleeping all that night. Just like he would for so many nights to come. Typically sat by the foot of my bed, his little eyes would always be blinking through the darkness whenever I happened to wake up, urging my return to a sleeping state; and somehow encouraging me to do so with complete success; until soon I became comfortably adjusted to his being there.
During the day however his presence made me far less at ease. Mostly of course because of his disgust at almost everything I did. Brushing my teeth in the morning his scrunched up little face would be horrified at the way I squeezed the toothpaste, the amount of toothpaste I was using; my action of brushing. The TV stations I chose were beneath him. The route I took to work, my method of transportation… and once I returned home to my flat he was pacing around the place turning his nose up in reaction to the décor. Coughing and spluttering while I listened to my messages on the answering machine.
When I went out with friends, to bars and such, he’d always be scowling beside me. Flirtations with women were looked down upon. And even with clients at work I found myself unable to concentrate due to his constant silent criticism of everything I said and did.
After two or three months of this, at a loss for what to do I finally found myself wandering through Chinatown; dirty little streets and not the sort of place I would normally frequent. But I was looking for some kind of answer to dealing with my miserable little follower. All at once Chinatown had seemed like a logical place to start. The idea had struck me of a Chinese medicine man being able to help: I imagined him revealing information of how it was common and perfectly normal for such Asian spirits to latch on to people.
We were making our way through the narrow streets, a smell of exotic food wafting through the air, signs no longer making any sense to me as my language was melting away: when all of a sudden I began to notice the Asian man’s general demeanour had changed somewhat. No longer was he so much a personification of anger. In fact from the way he was now strolling beside me, glancing around at all the shop windows he appeared to be very much at ease.
Stopping by an unmarked doorway to light a cigarette I watched with interest at my strange little Asian man now bent over a pile of durian fruit. Breathing in the scent with glee he turned to me, smiling, then disappeared into the opposite fruit market.
This was the first time in a while that he’d left me alone and after finishing my cigarette, unsure what to do with myself or where to go I stepped out onto the street and paced around, gazed up and down to see Asian men everywhere. Asian women. Asian babies. Asian grandmothers. Asian toddlers, children and teenagers. “It’s almost as if I’ve been transported to China itself,” I remember thinking.
Just then the Asian man suddenly swept out of the shop with two carrier bags bursting with food. He was scowling again. But for the first time I was about to hear him speak: A string of incomprehensible words fired in my direction before he ultimately switched to English, shouting, “Why you follow me?! Everywhere I go you follow me! Bloody big-nosed foreigner, follows me everywhere!”
And as he scurried off down the street I found myself overwhelmed with the uncontrollable urge to do just that. To follow his pathetic little figure wherever he was going; to not let him out of my sight for as long as I could manage.