Elle and One Word entered the back entrance to the studio. She leaned one arm on the wall and squeezed her side with her other hand. “Does your stomach hurt because you ate too much?” he asked.
She nodded and took deep breaths.
“Is it worth it?”
Elle nodded her head again and was determined to get her purse on her own two feet. “I…cannot…return him…to…his…father…with a…stomach ache,” Elle said, pushing the words out.
He laughed. “The things we do for kids, right?”
She nodded with determination. One Word pressed the button for the elevator. Elle shook her head and showed him with her two fingers, so he led her to the stairwell.
“You know,” began One Word, “JZ isn’t a bad guy. He really likes you.”
“If…he…likes…me…why…does he…make me…mad…all the time?”
He laughed. “Guys only make girls mad because they like them. And guys make girls mad because that’s how guys get girls’ attention. Since JZ likes you, he will get your attention by making you mad. If you willingly give him your attention, he won’t make you mad.”
“Can you…type that…on your…phone?”
He took out his phone and typed it, then stopped and showed her. She read the translation and laughed hysterically. She sat on a step, leaned on the wall, and held her stomach as she continued laughing.
“What’s so funny?” he said, not understanding her reaction.
He heard her say something unintelligible so he waited a few minutes until she stopped laughing on her own. She cleared her throat and asked light-heartedly, “How do I get him to not like me?”
“Why don’t you want to date him?”
“He acts like a child. I don’t date children. I date adults. Also,” she pointed at her arms. “I don’t want a guy that hits me.” She got back to her feet and continued up the stairs again with less pain in her stomach.
After a short moment of silence, One Word said, “JZ is composing songs again.”
“What does ‘compose’ mean in English?” Elle asked.
One Word typed it on his phone and showed her. She responded, “He always composes songs about girls he likes.”
“What you told him last week meant something to him. You wrote that because he doesn’t write any of his songs anymore, you don’t know his feelings and you don’t hear his thoughts. I agreed with you since I thought you made a valid point. But coming from a fan like you and someone he has feelings for means a lot more to him than a fan who knows his concert schedule, goes to every concert, watches his every promotional appearance, watches every commercial he’s in, buys all his CDs, and positively comments on all of his songs. I think that is why he’s going back to a time he knows you like and revive it just for you.”
After he finished, she stopped and pantomimed typing on his phone. He stood in the middle of the stairwell and typed everything he said. “I don’t know what to say,” she said.
Back in the cafeteria JZ was probing for information.
“What do you know about her?”
“I know that even though she’s your girlfriend and she works for you, she won’t take more money in salary than she thinks she’s worth to you. She’s really honest and fair when she deals with business.”
“How long have you known her?”
“I don’t really know her. I met her when she moved in, I see her around the neighborhood, and she taught me a few lessons in English.”
“Why did she teach you English?”
“I heard my dad say that he made an arrangement with her. If she taught me English on the weekends for that month, she wouldn’t have to pay her utilities for that month. It only lasted a month.”
“Why only a month?”
“Because she was teaching me all of these boring things like I was in grade school.”
“You knew that she didn’t know that much Mandarin, right? That’s probably why she teaches first graders and not college students.”
“I didn’t know she was a teacher at all. The way she taught seemed like she pulled every lesson out of the moment. First she taught me the alphabet. Then she taught me how to say stuff. It was so boring. She said for every 20 ‘important’ things – the boring things – she taught me, she would teach me one ‘more important’ thing – the useful thing.”
“What would be an important thing she taught you?” asked CeeCee.
“Hi. How are you? Hello. My name is Xiong,” he said in slurred English. “Things like that,” he said back in Mandarin.
“That’s pretty good for someone learning another language so late in their life,” said CeeCee. “What was the more important thing she taught you?”
“Hey beautiful, let me paint you in my museum of art,” he said slickly.
CeeCee laughed. “It’s a pick-up line,” she told JZ.
“Does it work?” JZ asked with a hint of curiosity.
“It only works on girls 1-5, not 10s like her,” Xiong replied and glanced at CeeCee. “I tried it on the girl I was learning it for, and she rejected me. That’s why I stopped learning English.”
“Didn’t she teach you to say something else when the girl says ‘no’?” asked CeeCee.
“Yeah, she said if the girl said, ‘Really?’ or ‘Do you really have a museum?’ or something along those lines, she said to say, ‘Of course. Let me introduce your beauty to the world,’ he said slickly. “Girls that are 6s and 7s reject the first line but they agree when I say the second line.”
“Do you know what you’re saying?” asked CeeCee.
“The way Miss Elle explained it, I was telling the girl to come back to my art studio or something small-scale to paint or draw her.”
“What about the second part?”
“I know I was confirming that I had the art studio, but the last one was more difficult for her to explain. I think it was showing the girl to somebody famous.”
CeeCee laughed again. “That art studio or something small-scale was an art museum. What the girls’ responses were in the sense that they did not believe you had an art museum. The last thing you said was you wanted to introduce her beauty to the world.”
“Really?” he asked a little disappointed.
“Why are you disappointed?” asked JZ. “She didn’t give you something small; she gave you the whole damn museum, which is where you can show her beauty to the world. CeeCee, you said it was ‘introduce,’ not ‘show,’ right?” CeeCee nodded. “The girl’s beauty hasn’t been discovered yet, and that’s why when you found her, it’s your mission to introduce her to everyone in the world. Kid, she gave you the biggest thing one can get. I guess you’re not that smart after all.”
“Why are you saying it like Elle actually gave him a museum and he threw it back at her,” asked CeeCee.
“That’s exactly what he did, figuratively. I saw how disappointed he was. He probably thinks museums are boring, that’s why he was so disappointed.”
“Please teach me, Mr. JZ,” he said with his head down.
“You only get one more lesson. People who go to art museums are typically educated or art fanatics. You were going for a sophisticated girl, right?”
Xiong nodded his head.
“Miss Elle knew you were after that kind of girl and the girl is out of your league, and that’s why she gave you a pick-up line for that type of girl hoping she would be impressed with your museum. It’s not because of Miss Elle, it’s because of you or the girl that the pick-up line didn’t work.” He took a breath to cool himself down. “CeeCee would that have worked on you?”
“If I wasn’t famous yet and if I thought the guy was cute, I’d give him my number for a date or coffee,” replied CeeCee. “This kid is a teenager; I’m not a teenager.”
“Go try it on Hero,” said JZ. “What would she be?”
“She would be a 9,” replied Xiong with his head still down.
“Let’s go,” said JZ with a serious tone.
“Where are you going?” Elle asked, walking to their table.
“Do an experiment,” replied JZ without stopping.
“What is he doing?” she asked in English.
“An experiment,” said CeeCee.
Elle’s face wrinkled. “Let’s go Xiong.”
Xiong stood up and handed Elle the 10 Yuan bill on the table. “This is yours,” he said.
“I was only playing about the money.”
“But you won the bet.”
“You’re a kid. I’m not going to take money from a kid,” she said light-heartedly.
“But you won,” he repeated.
“I want you to have it. Good luck money,” she said with a smile.
Xiong looked at JZ and said, “I told you you’d have to make it impossible for her to take something. She’s making it impossible for me not to keep her winning.”
“Come on, we have to go. We don’t want to miss this subway.”
“Ok,” he said and slid his guitar on his back.
“See you tomorrow,” they both said and waved good-bye.