Ou Yang was not a person who would just be with anyone. She had no interest in macho men or anyone just because they were said to be good in bed. She would only consider men who fell right into her precise mould. She was sure that she would not divorce until she found this man.
With all her prejudices and generalisations, Ou Yang fixed her next goal on a western white man. Ou Yang was not at all stupid; she had her way of gathering information like most Chinese do without feeling shy, so she started making friends with girls who were dating western men and who seemed to be successful and happy.
Among her few girlfriends who she saw whenever she had time, she would often hang out with a Chinese woman, a real estate agent who had helped them find their cottage in Lachine.
Her name was Simone, a name given by a Canadian Teacher back in China for the convenience of pronunciation, as the majority of English speaking people are said to have been the least versatile in speaking other languages but their own, which is also true for Chinese. Her Chinese family name was Wei. Simone is not an English name, but rather a French one. It was given to her because her teacher Dana Mullen* herself liked very well the philosopher, Christian Mystic and social activist Simone Weil. So she was given this name without an L at the end. It fit just perfectly.
In Ou Yang’s eyes, Simone was not just someone who could provide her with information; she was something else as well. Ou Yang was in search of a moral support. Although there were quite a few Chinese women dating Western men, Ou Yang knew well what it meant in the eyes of the other Chinese! She wanted to feel allowed to date western men. Her short love affair with the young Frenchman Marius Gallant so many years ago had long faded and now she had no idea what to do at her age. It seemed that she just needed a man who wasn’t her husband, rather than someone to fall in love with. She had simply become unfamiliar with love affaires…
Ou Yang chose Simone because Simone had an air of security, freedom, and also owned some kind of power that Ou Yang needed. Simone spoke English very well and was familiar with the history, cultures, and customs of western countries in general, because she was an English and American language and literature major at University. Her Quebecois French was fluent after years of working among Quebecois colleagues in Quebecois companies. Ou Yang herself spoke English and French, so she reckoned that communication would not be an issue when dating.
Simone immigrated to Montreal in 2000. Among all the different Chinese immigrants, even among people in general, Simone belonged to a different species. She was Chinese but she did not quite think, speak, or behave like one; if she was not Chinese, then what country did she belong to? She had a Chinese face, but her facial expressions and body language were not Chinese. Many Canadians thought she was born in Montreal, or from a second generation of immigrants, or maybe that she was Filipino, Japanese, or Vietnamese. One could run short of categories of people or nationalities to classify her, but one thing was for sure: she was not like anyone else in this world.
She was a pleasant person whose presence was always felt, and yet she was neither intrusive nor imposing. She had a childlike, genuine curiosity about the world and its societies and human beings, but on the other hand, she was respectful and maintained her decorum. She stayed mostly out of other people’s private business and had no interest in manipulating people to do things for her, or in imposing her point of views.
There was a twinkle in her eyes and a smile on her face that connected her heart to the people around her and created instant affinity. She was well loved by her neighbours, colleagues, and friends, and they felt energised and happy to be with her. These were also the reasons why Ou Yang liked her. She seemed like a woman who lived each of her days as if it were the last one of her life.
Simone was very active and played a variety of sports: tennis, table tennis, swimming, badminton, ice skating, and downhill skiing, and she played them well. She was also passionate about dancing.
But not to the slow, graceful Chinese love songs; Simone danced the Salsa, so energetic and fun, and the Bachata, so sensual and sexy, and other Latin American music. Many thought she looked like a Latin woman, especially when she was dancing. She had such charm when dancing that her movements and attitude radiated energy right into everyone and made the dance all the more irresistible, even to the most awkward person in the world.
One might doubt that there was anything that she was not curious about and did not want to learn about and make it hers. That was her spirit of a gymnast trained from a young age.
One strange thing about Simone was that it appeared she did not have any worries, nor did she understand the miseries and difficulties of life. Maybe she really didn’t have any, because Ou Yang believed she had a good career and a very comfortable life. Most importantly, Ou Yang assumed that all the nice things Simone enjoyed were thanks to the man she was dating, a nice Quebecer named Victor Point.
Everything about Simone just appeared smooth and effortless. Ou Yang was sure that if she herself had the money and the man, she would also be easy and happy. Ou Yang definitely thought Simone was a lucky girl. Simone had a good profession and had found her man who would be the Harbour to shelter her from storms of life. A harbour has been the goal for many women, especially Chinese, who have not been lucky.
Simone became Ou Yang’s private life listener and dance mentor. Nobody knew why Simone had a special understanding and deep empathy for Ou Yang. She knew that Ou Yang was in desperate need of someone who would listen to her as she vented her frustrations, but also of encouragement and information about western men. Quebecois men, to be precise.
Simone seemed about thirty-five years old, even though nobody knew her age, one meter fifty-seven centre meters tall, and weighed fifty kilos. The seven years of constant gymnastic training had helped keep her skin healthy and her shape beautifully muscular. It was hard to categorise her as a beauty, but easy to say that she was lively and charming, and therefore indeed beautiful. Her mind was a mystery. She could seem as naive and trusting as a child, but at the same time old and complex, as if she had been around for two thousand years! Was it because she came from an ancient country, so old and miserable that people had lost track of what happiness really was? It may be that hardship makes people old in heart, and gives them wisdom. As Victor Hugo once said, “Those who do not weep, do not see.”
Simone let Ou Yang hang out with her and listened patiently to her incessant ranting, hoping that sooner or later there might be a chance that Ou Yang would stop her rough voice and start listening to her pragmatic ideas, and occasionally to the “strange things” Simone might have to say. Like all other people in the world, Simone was also prejudiced, but in the ways of a pragmatic fighter and doomed winner. She was patient and loving enough to show Ou Yang a very different world that could be just the same world too, wishing that Ou Yang would use her well and absorb everything she needed for her own well-being.
To Be Continued…
*Dana Mullen is the real name of a real person. She was the author’s post graduate thesis tutor. A Canadian woman who is probably in her sixties or seventies now. The use of her name is in memory of the help she gave to the American literature studies of the author back in 1985-1987. The author had never had any news of her since she left China.