The Russian Scientist and the Mosquito Poison

“Come on, let’s go to a night club tonight!” my dear friend Angela said.

I had been in China for nine days, felt allergic to the pollution and was experiencing some kind of culture shock as I was not in Shanghai or even Beijing. I was in the north of China in a city of millions where at this precise moment, I thought I was the only non-Chinese.  I was also not feeling too great because of all the mosquito bites.

“Ok, but first I need to bathe in the mosquito poison.”
“Fine,” she said, “we leave in 20 minutes.”

China had been a lot of things: built up, bustling, buildings crumbling, dirty…I wondered what a night club would look like in a city where the local cobbler was just a woman in a club chair on the sidewalk surrounded by bags of tools and material.

That night I learned never to judge a city’s nightlife by its day life. Whatever this Chinese city didn’t spend on street repairs, it put double into the nightclub! The Sunny Sunshine club was spectacular. I wonder if I have seen such a nice club even in Europe. First, it was air-conditioned, which was greatly appreciated in the sweltering Chinese summer heat. There was a live singer with talent, beautiful sculpted watermelon fruit platters being served, what looked like a hundred Tiffany chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, cocktails with sparklers and a separate jazz bar, to give variety in the music.

Among the heads of black hair, nobody bothering us, the music, the 90’s vibe, I really started to enjoy myself. Angela was engaged but still remembered how to enjoy a night out. We danced and drank and it was she who first noticed Alexei. After she pointed him out, it was hard not to notice him. At 6’4” he towered over the Chinese and was looking straight at me.

Alexei was a Russian aerospace engineer in China for a few weeks to teach the Chinese something about building airplanes. After my coy flirtation ritual, he finally offered me a drink. For some reason, often when I meet a man I like and he offers me a drink, I will order something I have never had before.

“I’ll have a B52”
“What?” he said with his heavy Russian accent.

Alexei didn’t understand. I had to type it into his iPhone. That’s actually how we communicated that night when we had to, but for the most part we were dancing. Towering over me, the only way for him to get close was to put his nose in my hair.

“Your perfume is perfect.”

I didn’t want to tell him that I was wearing only mosquito poison. With Angela’s help, we exchanged numbers. A few dates ensued and coincidentally the pollution in China started to bother me less. Alexei was handsome and brilliant, so I couldn’t understand why he was single but he told me he had trouble meeting women since he was working in the field of aerospace engineering.

On Alexei’s last night in China, Angela, Alexei, his friend Oleg and I all went out for a drink. That evening, I had forgotten to wear my mosquito repellent and of course noticed a few bloodsuckers circling around me preparing for an attack.

Alexei was trying to look into my eyes and speak intently. Perhaps he was telling me what these weeks together had meant to him but I couldn’t hear a word because I was preoccupied by the floating insects. Finally Angela asked the waitress who gave us a bottle of precious mosquito poison. I guess she expected it to come out in drops but when Angela tried to apply the product on my legs, it all spilled out and got all over my lap and bare thighs.  Almost instantly I was upright and running upstairs to the restroom to clean myself off.

china night club albany edenAs I dried my legs in the unisex restroom (unisex restrooms are very common in this part of China), Alexei came in. There must be something in mosquito poison that Russian scientists cannot resist. Of course it was the restroom and my friend was waiting downstairs, so Alexei did not get what he wanted. We went back to the table, enjoyed the evening and after a great night with friends, said goodbye as he was going back to Moscow the next day.

For the next couple weeks, we’d message each other and he’d always send me emoji roses. I wanted to see him again. Angela offered to invite him to her wedding and I thought that was a perfect idea. It was strange that the spelling of his name that he gave me and the one in his email address (when I asked for it for the wedding invitation) were not the same but I thought nothing of it. Moments after giving her his email address, I got a call from Angela.

“Albany, you have to have a look at this.” Apparently, in typing his email address with the correct spelling of his last name, she was immediately directed to his Google+ page where all of his personal photos were public. It didn’t take long for me to understand that not only was Alexei married to a beautiful young Russian woman, but they had a baby together! I deleted his number from my phone when I saw a photo he posted of himself in a warehouse-like giant supermarket with a trolley full of diapers; the caption he wrote beneath this picture read: “5 minutes of pleasure, a lifetime of worries.”

I guess mosquito poison doesn’t repel married men with babies.

-Albany Eden

My #1 Dating Don’t

card key_albanyedenMarried men are off limits. My friends and I don’t play by many rules in the dating game but this one is a non-negotiable, so when a married guy makes the catastrophic mistake of slipping his hotel room key into one of our pockets, he has only himself to blame for the ramifications of this act.

At this very crowded international social event, Abby, Helen and I had just wanted to extend our networks…

*     *     *

“So, can we grab a drink sometime?” said the pimply Singaporean with garlic breath. I had to again brush off my face because of the saliva droplets being catapulted from his mouth.
“I’m so sorry” he continued, “I’m a distinguished public speaker and I’m used to talking loudly.”
I couldn’t see how this explained the spitting.
“That’s ok” I said. “You believed I was 24 so we’re good. But about the drink, it would just be as friends.” I wanted to be clear from the get-go.
Coming in closer, as if thinking a stronger whiff would persuade me, he said, “I was hoping it could be for more.”
“That’s kind of you, but I’m not interested in being your girlfriend, sorry.”
“But you are available? You are single?” He was getting insistent. I just looked at him with no response. He got the message and moved on to another girl.

At that moment, the waitress brought over a note “from the guy over there.” It read, “Do you want a drink? Turn around!” I comply and while I did notice a group of guys behind me, no one man identified himself as the author of the note. I must say, it was a clever approach that could have worked, but if a guy asks a girl to turn around, he must make it clear to her with whom she will be having the drink or nothing will happen. A little disappointed, I was glad that our tapas had just arrived.

Abby seemed to be having better luck. She had been talking to a man at the bar for nearly an hour. After staring at the tapas for ten minutes, I decided I’d start to nibble without her because otherwise they would get cold. One thing led to another and before I knew it the guacamole dish was empty! I felt like a criminal.

Finally the man she was talking to made his way across the room and I could get an update from my friend.

“Well that looked promising!” I said with a congratulatory tone, as I sat on the bar stool next to hers.
With that, Abby pulled out of her pocket a small gold envelope. I took it and realized it was a hotel room card key.
“Wow!” I was not expecting this.
“I know so gross, plus he’s married!” We were equally disgusted.

Apparently this married man thought it was appropriate to invite her to his room because, he said, anyway he was “too drunk to [fill in the blank]” so she “could just use the spa until the morning when they would finally [fill in the blank].”

“Eeeeew!!!” I couldn’t contain my disdain.

As we were mulling this over, a heavyset man approached us at the bar.

“Well hello there!” he interrupted.
Abby, always polite, looked up at him and smiled.
“Hi, um, Donald from Scotland,” she was looking at his nametag, confused because he looked Samoan.
“Oh, haha” he took the opportunity to put his hands on the small my back and on Abby’s thigh. As I saw him do this, I noticed a wedding ring on his finger. “I am not Donald, I just took his name tag so I could crash the event. So if you see Donald, warn me!”
“I’m sorry, we were in the middle of a conversation. It was nice meeting you.” I tried to brush him off politely.
“You can’t get rid of me so easily, you ladies look like you’re done with this place and could use a good time!” He was starting to bug me.
“I really haven’t gotten to talk with my friend all evening, so we would really like to just finish our conversation, but thanks though.”
“Nah, I saw you talking to those other guys. You are here for the same reason I am. But the little game you’re playing is quite cute, hahaha.” With that, he once again made inappropriate physical contact. Abby and I exchanged glances. As I moved his arm off me, I smiled.

“You know what? You’re right! We are looking for a good time. But we would rather have a good time in private. In fact, here is our hotel room key.” I handed him the married man’s little gold card key. The Samoan at first looked both ecstatic and perplexed, probably wondering which clever come-on had worked on me. As he snatched the little gold key, he was demonstrably pleased with himself. “You’re obviously too hot for this place,” I continued, “why don’t you take off, let us finish up here and then expect an evening you’ll never forget!”

-Albany Eden