(Continued from A Shanghai Summer Olympic Romance)
We got to Shanghai and got dropped off at Roland’s high-end condo, and Chuck and his entourage went off to check into a hotel. Although Roland had enough room to host one or two of his American friends, there was no way he’d be able to put up Chuck and all his Chinese band of merry men. After a quick shower and after we had shotgunned some coffee, we met back up again with Chuck for a first nice dinner in Shanghai. After dinner, we took a surprisingly cheap cab ride to near the waterfront of Shanghai known as The Bund, strolled through an area that looked like it was just made up of ship docks, and entered a building that suddenly gave way to stunning Gothic lobbies, chandeliers, and wait-staff decked out in tuxedos. Chuck had just brought us to one of the highest-end karaoke/KTV places in all of Shanghai.
In a city where real estate/rent prices eclipsed Manhattan, where the average Chinese person’s salary was easily 10 times as much as everywhere else in the countryside, nightlife was also equally pricey. Shanghai was filled with tons of cheap food and wonderful things to do for free, like strolling the Old City or the waterfront Bund, gawking at the gorgeous buildings of Pudong, and watching the mass of humanity stroll the shopping avenue of Nanjing Xi Lu. But anything to do with nightlife, clubbing, alcohol, and karaoke could easily set you back a few hundred US dollars a night. We all walked into that high end KTV knowing it would cost us dearly, but supposedly this was the place where memories were made. After sitting down in the extravagant karaoke room with a full-walled window view out onto the gorgeous skyscrapers of Pudong, and the waitstaff started pouring the alcohol. Chuck wasted no time belting out tunes and brought multiple girlfriends with him, and my other friends started drinking and celebrating the end of a long road trip. There were gorgeous women everywhere, dressed to the nines in ballgowns and makeup. They were all glamorous girls with cheerful smiles, and they walked with an air of authority and looks that could kill a man’s heart and wallet. Out of the corner of my eye, I locked eyes with a girl named Natalie.
Natalie was a young 20-something stunning girl from Shanghai, dressed up in a form-fitting gold ballgown, and with a vivacious personality, and of friend of one of Chuck’s girlfriends. Petite yet busty, with her black hair in a bun, heart-shaped face, and hypnotic red lips, she sat next to me with two drinks and instantly started telling me about her life in Shanghai. In my broken, retarded Mandarin, I tried to explain to her about my suddenly mundane-sounding life in the US and as usual got repeatedly schooled by her at each and every dice drinking game. Eventually, she took me aside and we walked alone onto the balcony adjoining our room and overlooking the twinkling lights across the river. The lights of the famous Pudong nightscape twinkled off Natalie’s eyes, and with air of confidence she swept her arm across the river and said “This is the Bund, one of the most beautiful sights in the world.” I nodded dumbfounded and couldn’t agree more. She launched into an elaborate explanation of the history of Shanghai and the culture and architecture, but I only understood every fifth word she said. More like every fifteenth word she spoke. But I didn’t care at all.
We rejoined the crowd back in the room who were roaring out increasingly out-of-tune songs, and soon we were holding hands. Very soon after, Natalie and I locked eyes and had that moment when you know exactly what’s going to go down. The first passionate kiss lasted awhile, and before I had time to digest what was going on, she was showering me with more and more. I made sure to get her phone number in Shanghai, and we breathlessly made plans to meet again before I left. The night passed in an instant, and as we settled our bill and Chuck, Roland, and the rest of our entourage stumbled into the elevator to leave. I shared one last deep kiss with Natalie by the elevator, who was staying longer with some of her other friends. With her arms around me, her English was broken but I totally understand the two simple words that came out of her lips: “Call me!” I entered the elevator behind my raucous crowd with a last lingering look back at Natalie, and as the doors were closing, I blocked them at the last minute and ran out. I grabbed Natalie around the waist, and gave her probably the deepest yet quickest kiss of all, then ran back into the elevator. With my buddies hooting, hollering, and clapping me on the shoulder because of my encore performance, I saw the elevator doors shut, and my last sight of Natalie was her two longing and wide-open eyes.
I toured Shanghai the rest of the week, completely distracted. The sights, sounds, and tastes were awesome, but I had just had a Shanghainese bomb dropped on me and did it ever freaking rock my world. With Roland, Chuck, and other friends in tow, we ran around Shanghai, hit all the fun districts and clubs, but I never got the chance to make concrete plans with Natalie because all our plans tended to be last minute or she was busy. On my second to last night in China, I said goodbye to the towering and burly Chuck, who had to get back to Macau to take care of whatever ridiculous business it was that allowed him to live such an extravagant lifestyle. As he climbed into his Humvee, he shouted out “Hey, I need a new guy in your line of work to be part of my entourage and travel around China with me. Come back and take that job…we’ll have more fun!” Without waiting for my answer, he roared off in the Humvees. I couldn’t wait to meet him up again, and as I watched the Humvees tear off in a cloud of dust, I was sure life would bring me and Chuck explosively and dramatically together again one day. Part of me wonders what my life would be like if I decided to be an “Entourage” member to a big-shot in China like Chuck, but I’m pretty sure I might have ended up dying in a hail of bullets in some smokey bar like in all those John Woo movies.
It was the last night in China and Shanghai, and I was running on empty, emotionally and physically. It was also literally on the eve of the Beijing Olympics, August 7th, 2008. And somehow, strangely enough, it was also the day that was considered the Chinese version of Valentine’s Day. I had finally made solid plans with Natalie, and she was going to meet me, Roland, and a few friends out at a high-end lounge in the middle of Shanghai for a drink. We got to the lounge, cracked a bottle or three of Grey Goose, and by the time Natalie arrived, the lounge was filled with celebrating people and catchy hip-hop. Although she was much more dressed down, Natalie was still filled with that cuteness, spark, passion, and presence that made her irresistible my first night in Shanghai. We flirted, held hands, and drifted off into our own world, with all our friends drinking and dancing around us. Everything else around us dimmed, and even though there were more than a billion people in the country that night, right then and there it felt like we were the only two people in the world. I asked her to leave the club with me, and she nodded without a word. I said my last hugs and goodbyes to Roland, who handed me the keys to his place with a knowing smile, as well as all my other friends, and Natalie and I left the raucous club and the noise of Shanghai’s nightlife in the distance.
You probably want to hear every detail about my passionate last night with Natalie. You’re probably dying to hear all the dirty pillow talk, the dripping sweat, our bodies intertwined, how we didn’t sleep the entire night, how we banged each other so hard that our lower extremities were weak the whole next day, and the nitty-gritty details of every sensual moment that we shared. Sorry guys, this is The Traveling Bachelor blog, not “Penthouse Forum”. If you want to read or see some of that stuff, there’s plenty of places on the internet for that. Some things are best left to the imagination. If I ever piece all these blog entries/stories together for a book, maybe I’ll have a more lurid, unedited, “Fifty Shades of Grey” version someday when I put an e-book together, haha! Let’s just say that we both had one of those nights that will last a lifetime. And, YES, it lasted all night. We all hope we’ll have them, some of us never do, and when we share them with someone, we never ever forget them.
As I boarded the taxi in the morning to the airport with my luggage and Natalie in tow, we held hands wordlessly and just looked at each other. Our taxi pulled up to the metro stop that would take her home, and she looked deep into my soul with her huge brown eyes and, in a quavering voice, she said another easily understandable English phrase: “I…will miss you…” With that, she passionately kissed me one last time and disappeared out of the cab into the heaving Shanghai mid-day crowd. In a daze, I took the taxi to the airport while the jealous taxi cab driver jabbered to me in Mandarin that I should really move to China and marry that gorgeous girl I let walk of the cab. As I was checking in to my flight, I fleetingly and insanely thought about just staying here in China. Luckily, reality slapped me in the face, and I got my ticket and checked in my luggage. As my plane screamed off the tarmac, took flight, and I officially left the chaos of China for good, I knew I would back. And when I came back, it definitely wouldn’t be because of The Olympics.
“THE TRAVELING BACHELOR” BLOG WILL BE BACK ON SEPTEMBER 16TH. I’LL BE TAKING A BREAK FOR TWO WEEKS TO TRAVEL DEEP TO EASTERN EUROPE TO POLAND & THE UKRAINE…SO I’LL HAVE MORE CRAZY STORIES & PICTURES FOR ALL OF YOU LATER.