[If you have not already done so, you must
read the Introduction
001 002 Prologue 001-002 003 004 005 Chap 1 003-005
Chap 2 006 007 008 Chap 3 007-008 009 010 Chap 4 009-010 011 012 013 Chap 5 011-013 014 015 016 017
Chap 6 014-017 018 019 Chap 7 018-019 020 021 022 023 Chap 8 020-023 024 025 026
Revenge Should Have No Bounds 027
Chapter 9 (4 of 4): The Bi
There is an awkward silence between them. Both feel something in the air, like an arc sparking between two charged poles. Su-Lien does not remember exactly what happens next, but the two of them decide to share a place to live. She believes Yukiko suggested it. She does not recall remonstrating against this invitation, but feeling that it was natural it should be so. They find a tiny place a forty-five minute’s commute from the central campus.
They become, at first, inseparable. They are roommates and lovers. Su-Lien unfurls delicate layers of herself, like the petals of a jungle orchid, to Yukiko’s worldly sagacity. They do most things together: dining in restaurants, visiting discos, going to movies, walking in the parks, sharing a secret delight in rejecting the men who are openly eager to date them. Yukiko quickly establishes a dominant role. Su-Lien readily accommodates herself to subservience.
At times she brushes aside the discreet prodding of her own thoughts that she is permitting herself to be too pliant in Yukiko’s shaping hands, too yielding, too eager to satisfy. It becomes increasingly exhausting to anticipate Yukiko’s moods, her wants and her dislikes of the moment. At the end of the first year Su-Lien thinks seriously of moving out, but seems incapable of acting on her plan. Yukiko returns to Los Angeles for three months, and Su-Lien is desperately unhappy and lonely. She is absurdly grateful when Yukiko calls one evening and says that she will be returning to Japan in two days. Will Su-Lien train up to Tokyo and meet her at Narita? After Yukiko hangs up, Su-Lien throws herself on their bed and sobs for happiness. She will spend hours dressing and making up and trying to look exactly as Yukiko has told her she wants her to look.
In the course of the second year of their ménage Su-Lien allows herself to acknowledge a streak of genuine cruelty in Yukiko’s behavior. It begins with slighting remarks about her Japanese pronunciation or off-hand comments about the darkness of her skin or what Yukiko suddenly considers excessive hairiness on intimate parts of her body. Su-Lien is hurt. She can do little about her skin or her accent, but she shaves. Yukiko upbraids her for being intemperate. She is to allow the pubic hair to grow out again, but only until it looks like Yukiko’s. Indeed, in more and more circumstances Yukiko sets herself up as the template which Su-Lien is to use in reshaping herself to Yukiko’s ever more exacting criteria: looks, inflection, idioms, dress, walk, movement of the hands, tying up of the hair, lipstick, rouge, eyeliner, newspapers and magazines to read.
Failure on Su-Line’s part to achieve the goals set by these assignments prompts cyclonic outbursts of rage on Yukiko’s part. But they subside as unpredictably as they arise.
Unchallenged superiority leads Yukiko to ridicule Su-Lien’s lack of mathematical sophistication; a defiant inferiority makes her belittle her lover’s formidable knowledge of languages (in addition to the Japanese she is perfecting at Osaka, Su-Lien is fluent in five languages — Bahasa Malaysia, Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese, and English —and can get around passably in five more — Portuguese, French, Dutch, German and Tagalog — as well as Kadazan, the language of her bumiputra amah). Yukiko affects an utter indifference to Malaysia and Su-Lien’s family but talks incessantly, and with increasing vehemence, ferocity even, about America and Los Angeles. Racial prejudice in both America and Japan become prominent topics of her acidulous lectures during walks, at dinner, in bed. It infuriates her that the Japanese she meets every day remind her with overt as well as subtle strokes that she isn’t really Japanese the way they are. For example, ‘You speak excellent Japanese for an American’ – which truly enrages her, turns her inside out with feral fury. And she appears to want to blame Su-Lien for these measured affronts to her ethnicity by her ethnic brothers and sisters, raining down her stormy wrath on a cowering Su-Lien.
Yukiko’s love-making is less frequent than a year ago. But Yukiko is always the initiator, and it begins to take on a kind of experimental pitilessness, as if she wants to use Su-Lien not so much for sexual gratification as to explore the limits of her debased acquiescence in humiliation. Su-Lien has neither the strength to refuse Yukiko’s bullying nor the courage to assert her own desires. She feels herself spinning into a vortex of insignificance, and she is almost beyond desperation to service Yukiko’s erratic self-indulgences. She draws the line at performing for Yukiko with a Korean woman (to whom Yukiko can feel safely superior) she has brought home. Though petrified with fear of Yukiko’s response to this insubordination, to her surprise Yukiko dismisses her refusal with an airy laugh and serves everybody tea in the formal way. She has also bought almond cookies and rice cakes.
By the end of the school year Su-Lien suspects that Yukiko has met somebody else, but she is too timid to ask. Finally Yukiko simply says good-by and walks out. She leaves behind an address in Los Angeles, saying cavalierly it’s possible she will write if Su-Lien wishes to send her a letter. The words they do write become fewer and less frequent, and soon enough dribble off into empty formulas.
“I am not proud of my treatment of Su-Lien,” Yukiko adds by way of recapitulating coda. “She should have been stronger, should not have allowed me to behave as I did. It’s actually all her fault.” There is a dismissive coolness in the manner of the expression, almost a kind of contempt for her Malaysian lover.
I elect not to remark on this curious version of blame-the-victim but, in response, mumble some inconsequential comments designed not to offend. It is close to seven by now and my appointment is almost up. Although Yukiko had claimed earlier to be interested in learning more about me, it seems that our time together has been largely monopolized by her narcissistic monologue.
As I make ready to go, Yukiko gets up. She slips me an envelope. And pulls me close enough that her scents imprint themselves on my memory and gives me a warm hug. “I hope we can meet again. For lunch perhaps?”
When, almost without thinking, I readily give her the telephone number to my apartment I appreciate that this has been no ordinary appointment. “Yes. Call me, please,” I say. And wonder what I am doing.
She kisses me on one cheek and gives the other a brief but intimate caress.
We do meet for lunch the week after I returned from visiting my parents.
Looking ahead some months, I continued my work with Aspasia’s throughout the fall and on my private time also saw a great deal of Yukiko. Within three weeks of our first meeting, and after waiting exquisitely, we finally became lovers. By Christmas I came to an inescapable realization, that I was now sandwiched between two extremes of desire, Agung and Yukiko. Who knows where Agung was? But Yukiko was too palpably a delectable presence – until she became an absence with calamitous consequences for myself.
TO BE CONTINUED