My Chanteuse, Part Five
I wanted to yell after her that I knew, that it didn’t matter, I wanted to tell her so many things but I couldn’t see her any longer. All I had left of my chanteuse was an email address and a computer full of images.
Work continued at Survarnahbumi Airport but I never again stayed at or visited the Sofitel Hotel. Once I pulled into the parking area and walked up the inclined drive to the doors and when the doorman held the doors open for me all I could do was stare past him looking over to the left where I knew the lounge was located even though I couldn’t see it from there. Turning I walked away. As pleasant and exciting as my memories of her were, she somehow haunted the inner recesses of my mind and feelings of loss and maybe guilt resided deeper still. On the surface there were only questions. Why didn’t I stop her and tell her I knew, tell her it didn’t matter, that as wonderful as she was any man would be thrilled to be with her sighted or not? The truth was how could she believe me if I wasn’t willing to be that man? She’d never asked and I’d never offered, but I wasn’t in a position to offer her more than a few weeks of my life and even then I was writing checks my conscience couldn’t cash. I’d never expected to have feelings for her, to find her so incredible, so intoxicating, such a perfect fit both physically and mentally. Accident? No, I went into this with my eyes open and participated in the physical and mental best reserved for the most private of fantasies. Except she wasn’t a fantasy, she was a real living breathing woman who touched my soul in ways I never knew it could be touched. I’d have to live with that.
Our email exchanges were brief, I think both of us knew how close we were to changing our lives and didn’t want to be the person to make the first move and possibly hurt someone we didn’t know. She had assumed when I told her my computer had broken down that I’d lost the images and I let here think this was true. The truth was I’d went home the day she left and transferred them over to set of DVD-R’s and put them in my filing cabinet with all my other sessions, never really going through them all, processing them, or reliving the moments I never deserved in the first place. I was seriously depressed, maybe heartbroken, and riddled with guilt. Logically I knew she didn’t look at it that way, possibly she blamed herself and was feeling guilty for the pain she thought she was causing me. Thoughts like these are why we fit so well, how we connected so suddenly, and why we were both probably thinking of each other almost a year later.
Ten months later I finally broke down and pulled the DVD-R’s from the filing cabinet and reloaded them into my workstation. That night I didn’t sleep, frame after frame I relived each of those sessions in exact detail made possible by 16.7mp high resolution images as seen through the finest lenses available. Well into the next day I sat there adjusting levels, cropping, arranging, and making perfect my memories. Setting the system to back up to my server I fell into bed exhausted and even though I hadn’t slept in days I lay there and tossed and turned. I wanted a solution but I couldn’t think of one. She had to see these pictures but my now she’d surely lost her sight and maybe she didn’t want to see them, but she must.
Finally drifting off to sleep I found myself on the set of American Chopper being yelled at my Paul Sr! He was telling me to go back to the design room and find a way to get the specifications for a part sent to a master caster on the west coast. I was holding the part in my hand, but it was a custom carved emblem so how could I make the caster on the other side of the country know exactly what I had in enough detail so he could replicate it? Paul Sr. picked up a giant spanner wrench and chased me to the design room where I ran in and locked the door behind me. The goofy guy that hand draws designs on the graphics tablets was sitting there looking at me and asked what I wanted and when I told him he took the custom emblem and placed it in special 3d scanning machine and minutes later handed me a CDR containing a file that I could send to the master caster on the west coast which would give him everything he needed to replicate the emblem exactly. How? The caster had a machine that took these files and like an ink jet printer lays down dots of ink to form an image, this machine lays down very small bits of a casting material layer after layer to reproduce an exact size positive of the piece. The physical size is only limited by the physical size of the machine. Getting on the computer I attached the file to an email and when I went to press the “send” button my arm couldn’t push the mouse over far enough. I was trying, but Paul Sr. was putting his back into that huge spanner wrench and it was coming through the door chunk by chunk! He burst through the door with mayhem in his eyes and raised the spanner wrench over his head and brought it down and all of a sudden my big toe hurt really bad and I woke up in pain! At the end of the bed my parrot was standing on the wood dressing bench holding my watch. She watched the second hand moving around and then bashed the watch into the wood bench a few times really loudly and checked it out again. I suppose she wanted that second hand to stop moving and when she couldn’t she decided to wake me up for some help and what better way than to chomp down on my big toe? Just then the housekeeper ran in and collected her apologizing for not watching her more closely and looking at my now questionable watch I saw it was after twelve noon! I must have really slept, but what a dream!
Excited I took a quick shower and getting on the internet quickly found what I needed. Three weeks later I had the necessary software to create 3D files of my images and then transfer them to the specifications needed to make a life size positive. Five weeks later DHL knocked on my door and collected duty and tax for my order. Taking the box into my office that has no windows, the only light once I close the door is the LED’s from the electronic equipment. Keeping my eyes closed I opened the box and piece by piece I took out the 1” thick positives and sitting back in my chair ran my fingers over each one until I knew exactly what image it represented. There were 24 positives total. That day I made reservations to Siem Reap and the next morning with only a box and a small knapsack to carry I touched down in Cambodia where my old friend Mr. Ros Phansey (excellent tour guide and driver, highly recommended ([email protected] // (855) 063 965 592)) picked me up and we immediately went to the small shop he once showed me. Once there he helped translate my English to the craftsman’s Khmer and we’d soon reached an agreement. At this point cost wasn’t really an issue, but the value was excellent nonetheless. Leaving a deposit with the craftsman and the payment due with Ros I flew home an hour later.
Almost four weeks later DHL knocked on my door once again and taking the much smaller box to my office I turned out the lights and opened it. This time it was perfection! Thin but strong 8×10 inch sheets of sterling silver had been hand formed to match the positives exactly and the smooth but lightly textured surface had been hand worked so the fine detail like hair, clothes, and even white lace stockings could be discerned. These didn’t take much room, were fairly light, and while they’d tarnish they’d never rust and could be restored to new if desired many times during their lifespan. I sat there for hours with my eyes clothes, fingers lightly touching each detail as my mind built each image in the precise way I had lived the experience a year before. The edges has been folded over and smoothed and each piece was enclosed in an emerald green satin pouch, embroidered in each corner were the raised letters and numbers that read “My Chanteuse, Bangkok 2006.” The first image was one we’d taken together, the next dozen where selected from her best regular poses, and the rest were intense personal memories that I hoped would bring back the same vivid imagery to her that it had to me.
Tracing the IP from her emails wasn’t at all difficult so I knew she lived in one of three small towns. I’d flown down three days before and had finally found what I was looking for, the town with a private catholic school and a church service offering a choir. I considered attending the church service but feared the “introduction” phase of the service would be awkward, so I filed that idea in the “last resort” bin. Besides, it was Thursday and I’d probably find what I was looking for before Sunday. It was more difficult than I thought and I’d almost given up having visited every hotel and entertainment venue I could find by 9pm Saturday. I hadn’t eaten so carrying my knapsack I ducked into a small noodle shop for some Malaysian noodles and after placing my order asked the waitress if she could recommend a place where they had good female singer. She asked what language? Why hadn’t I thought of that? I’d been going in tourist places which were all English speaking until now so I asked if there was a talented lady who could sing in Chinese or Malay. Immediately she asked me “the blind lady?” Of course I’d been expecting this but I didn’t know for sure, I guess I was hoping I would discover I was wrong. Still, even though I was expecting it I felt let down, saddened by the confirmation of her blindness. I finished my dinner and the waitress had drawn me a very serviceable map and I set off to find her.
I had asked to be seated away from the stage and was quickly brought the cola I ordered. The wait wasn’t long, the lights dimmed and the audience became quiet and Mei-Ling was introduced and was led out on the stage by the MC and soon she was singing and even though it was in Malay it brought me back a year and I couldn’t remember enjoying her singing more. 90 minutes later the set was over and during her performance I’d went to the rest rooms and while back there looked around and found her dressing room. I had put the gift wrapped box in the center of her dressing table and taken a seat over to the side almost three meters from where she would sit. I’m not sure what I expected, if she’d immediately know I was there, if I’d just watch her for her reaction and leave after she left without announcing myself, or if I’d just say hello the minute she walked in. Really, it was kind of stupid to chance getting caught on my own back there and telling that I hadn’t yet even a plan as to how to introduce myself again. It’s been some months since this visit and looking back at it now I can only say my emotions were so confused I wasn’t being entirely rational or even smart.
Hearing footsteps approaching and voices a lady asked her if she needed help getting dressed and I heard her voice answer no. She walked in and closed the door behind her and paused getting a sense for the room. She was even more beautiful than I remembered and I was pleased she hadn’t taken to wearing dark glasses. Confidently she crossed to her seat and reaching up unpinned her hair and as she was putting the pins down on the table she found the box. Shaking her hair out over he shoulders she put the box on her lap and felt for a card, but there was none. Watching her I held my breath now caught up in the moment of the surprise, if she’d like them or not. A single pull and the ribbon fell away and the lid of the box lifted off and she reached inside and brought out the first piece. Running her fingers around it she found the embroidery but I don’t think was able to make out what it said. Pulling the drawstring she reached in and pulled out the first silver tin of her and I and her fingers went to it and it only took a few minutes for a huge smile to cross her face. She spent several moments on each piece and I’d swear she blushed at the last set. Carefully putting them in the box she turned to me and said “thank you so much.” “You’re more than welcome” I replied, “how did you know I was here?” I could smell you, I always could smell you and besides, there’s only one chair in the room. Crossing to her I reached for her hands and held them in mine and soon we were hugging and there were tears.
“You knew?” she asked and I told her how I’d found her medicine and suspected before that. She started to explain why she didn’t want to tell me and I stopped her telling her it wasn’t necessary. I started to tell her why I didn’t talk to her when I found out and she stopped me saying “it’s not necessary, I knew you weren’t free to be with me from the first night we spent together.” “But I wanted to” I said slowly and realized that for the first time I admitted to myself that I really wanted to. “But you can’t” she replied, “so let’s not do this to ourselves. Go and don’t talk more. The next time I hear your voice it can only be if you’ve become free.” I choked up, wanting to talk more but respecting her wishes more I reached for her hands and held them tightly. Bending down I lighted kissed her forehead, released her hands, and left. Closing the door behind me I stood still for a few moments hoping she’d call me back and we could talk more but the moments passed with silence and soon I was out the door and on the street walking back to my hotel room.
We haven’t contacted each other, no emails, no calls, nothing. My life is like it’s always been in most ways, but in some ways my life has been forever changed. Experiences change all of us and Mei-Ling was an incredible experience. I’m happy she had obviously adjusted and was performing her art with the same love and intensity she always had before. The DVD-R’s have long been put back in the filing cabinet, but the images remain in my mind just as strong and intense today as they were that day when she was ordering me to “NOW!, do it NOW!” and her touch on my hands is permanently etched in my consciousness as her beautiful voice is in my heart. Life happens, things change, perhaps there will be another time for my chanteuse and I?
When I looked down on her the last time I held her hands, her eyes instinctively looked back at me even though they saw nothing. Her beautiful green eyes are now mostly darkened, but no less beautiful. Change does indeed happen and I find this reassuring, more I find it comforting. Change is inevitable, necessary, and more it’s our last hope.
Until next time..