What Happens in Zhongshan Does Not Stay In Zhongshan

by Renée Reynolds

Fact number two: in the rush to catch the plane to Zhongshan that would connect to the family shuttle and deliver us to Xiaolan town just in time for Wei Wei’s cousin’s wedding, I failed to put the single most important object in my bag. Now don’t laugh. My GBS, my Gan Bei Sucker.

It’s a hybrid of two machines: the spit sucker at the dentist, and the catheter system that truckers and pilots use to empty their bladders. A tiny clear tube with adjustable valves irrigates from the edge of my shirtsleeve, hooking onto the lip of a glass instead a mouth, running up my arm, down my torso and leg, and into the medical-grade baggy, securely strapped over a trouser sock. I shave the tape spots or it pulls the hair. The manual pump is a small ball made of soft plastic that can be worn behind the knee (if seated) or in the armpit (if standing).

My big bro, the engineer, designed it for me after it’d become painfully apparent that I couldn’t hold down the fort. No more business dinner bombs of beer, yellow wine, baijiu and the casket-sealer, a whiskey-finish. Oh I still drink, but I drink about a quarter of what I pretend to drink, emptying the baggy three, sometimes four, times during a given meeting. Otherwise, the gan beis will empty in the other direction, squirting from my wrist like an incontinent Spiderman. Safely, I can say that countless contracts are owed to the troughs of gan beis flushed rather than swallowed. And then there’s my marriage, and of course, my health. Today though, I’d be on my own.

What’s wrong with you?

I left my GBS.

We don’t need. We have driver.


Oh shit.


Too late, we can’t go back.

I know.

What A Night About To Happen. There will be an all-you-can-eat buffet of bad hotel foodstuffs, there will be an all-you-can-drink, correction, all-you-must-drink table full of name-your-poison, and the poison-that-named-you. There will be gan beis. There will also be bright lights and oh so few receptacles. There will be no escape.

You are still having the fishing dream?

Fish dream. Yes.

Why you have this dream?

Probably because I cannot answer that question.



I’m in the sea. A massive school of fish swooshes passed me. My hands clasp to gather them but my arms are rubber. They multiply and I panic. I wake up breathless and sweating. Sometimes sleepwalking on the balcony. It’s a problem.

I’d met Lan Ning, the cousin/groom, and Pan Pan, his mute fiancée of convenience, at a family dinner the year prior. He was keenly interested in the inspection process from the US side. Rarely does any one find what I do interesting unless they have to, so I was pretty happy to share, albeit, a little guarded.

After the wedding ceremony, the details of Lan’s true face emerged with each jerk of the neck, each empty. Graceful killer, he.

The school of red faces floated in closer. Smiling watery mouths opened in my direction. Wei’s little face formed those helpless eyebrows that leave it up to me. Waiting for a clue but getting none, she folded into her own waves of the wedding.

Hovering above undone bowties and wobbly legs they came for me, and I went.

Just two little hours before falling into this shark pit, we were strolling through Wei’s Dad’s Chrysanthemum nursery. Rows of innocent pale flowers on pallets rolled passed us to become tea in the cities. Now it was my chaser.

Fact Number Three: If not this, then that not either. Over a year of using the GBS had left me defenseless against the expected empties and I was pickled long before I would have been in the old days. Time left us all. Soon there were no more glasses just straight pulls from the bottles.

Quickly next, we’re speeding down a black road — a tiny rental car full of screaming tuxedos.

There was a wild deliberation over my sunken head as I clung to the flanking seatbacks. One, two, three, maybe more U-turns before the car halted and poured us out onto the pavement. Flattened. I was bleary-eyed-drunk but the cold air slapped me and so did the tall grass we stumbled through. The mashed path in front of us consoled but I still didn’t know where we were headed.

And then I hear it:

If you wanna be with me, baby
There’s a price you pay
I’m a genie in a bottle
You gotta rub me the right way…

And then I see it:

Pink. Blue. Pink. Blue.

Come, come, come and let me out…

I’m dancing a little but inside.

Come and set me free, baby

We shoot into the door and disperse. Lan flashes me a look that I can’t take. A look that lands me back out in the grass with the shadows.

My body’s sayin let’s go
But my heart is saying no (no)

Pink. Blue. Pink. Blue.

Blue. Blue.


We set the Genie free and roll back to the hotel without the others. I am swimming. Dawn breaks. Twenty semi-conscious hours later, ground rules get laid over flower tea and Lan gets fitted for a GBS. We’ve been partners ever since.

Fact Number One: There’s no such thing.