Elle returned to Buzzy’s workroom with a red nose and puffy eyes.
“What happened?” Buzzy asked, concerned.
To CeeCee, “I cut the tour short,” she quietly said.
“But you were gone for more than an hour,” he asked, a little frustrated at the absurd answer she gave him.
“I’ll try not to be gone that long next time,” she told CeeCee.
“Tell him the poem cannot be turned into a song. I’ll write something else and he can resume working on his own songs.”
“What do you want me to do with this paper?” he said as he took the paper from his marker holder.
Elle extended her hand to take the paper back, tore it in half, and dropped it in the trashcan.
To CeeCee again, “Can you ask New Guy if there is a bookstore nearby?”
“Yes, there’s a bookstore a few blocks from here,” New Guy replied. “What are you looking for?”
“Tell him I’m looking for a Chinese-to-English dictionary and a rhyming dictionary.”
“They might have it there. I’ll go check,” he said, getting up from the floor.
Still blocking the door to the room, she said, “Ask him if he can take me there.”
New Guy nodded his head. Elle picked up her purse from the floor, and the two of them left.
Walking in the hallway, New Guy felt the silence but did not want to hurt Elle any more than she already was, so he did and said nothing except walk with her. Once they exited the building, Elle went in one direction and New Guy went in the other. Seeing that she went the wrong way, he got hold of her hand to get her attention. She immediately turned her head with angry eyes to her grabbed hand, then she shot them at the grabber. Seeing New Guy’s innocent face, she relaxed her eyes and went in his direction. They continued to silently walk to the bookstore despite the busy streets.
Once they entered the bookstore, the cashier greeted, “Welcome. Hello.”
“Hello,” both New Guy and Elle said in their normal voices.
“Can I help you find something?” asked the cashier.
“Do you have Chinese-to-English dictionaries?” New Guy asked.
“Yes, they’d be in your first row all the way in the back,” he said and pointed.
“Do you also have rhyming dictionaries?” New Guy asked.
“They should be on the wall next to the Chinese-to-English dictionaries.”
The two of them walked to the back where the dictionaries were. There were only three kinds. Elle flipped through them, reading the characters she knew with their translations and definitions. She randomly chose a couple of the ones she did not know and asked New Guy, “What does this character mean?” as she compared his answer to the English translation. Elle chose the thickest one with the largest print. There was only one kind of rhyming dictionary, so she took that and took it to the cashier with New Guy.
As he was ringing them up, he asked, “Are you really the girl all over TV?”
“I’m not,” she simply replied.
“Yes, you are. I’ve seen you on TV,” he said, like he was up to something.
“Have you seen me on the bus?”
“How about the subway?”
“No, I don’t think I’ve seen you in a bookstore,” he replied, thinking back.
She glanced at New Guy smiling.
Uncomfortable with what was happening, the cashier said, “Your total is on the screen.”
Shocked at the price, Elle knew she would not have enough money in her checking account to also pay rent. She took out her wallet and saw that New Guy was handing a credit card over to the cashier. As the cashier swiped the card and waited for the transaction to process, he asked her, “Are you dating JZ?” with a tone that showed he was fishing.
“JZ has a girlfriend,” she replied simply, “I’m dating my job.”
“Are you dating this guy?”
The cashier handed back the card with a receipt, and the two left.
Uncomfortable with the silence, New Guy asked, “Did they really put you in Japan?”
“They put me in front of a very important building for Japan.”
“Oh!” Elle remembered, “can you take me to buy music sheets, too?”
“Yeah, sure,” he said, and they walked back the other way.
Another awkward silence.
“Why are you interning at JZ’s studio?”
“It was a great opportunity and I was quite lucky he chose me. I want to be like JZ someday. He’s successful, he’s talented, and he’s great with the ladies. With hard work, I can be just like him,” New Guy replied with a smile.
She smiled, too. “Has he taught you anything to have the ladies?” she curiously asked.
“No, we’re not that close. I’ve only been here two months.”
“You look like you have a lady in mind.”
“Yeah, I do,” he shyly admitted.
“I don’t know very much about her, except that she looks like a goddess and she’s smart and complicated.”
“What is ‘god’? I haven’t heard that word before.”
New Guy pulled out the dictionary and showed her the character he used.
“Ooo! How long have you known her?” Elle said with a smile.
“Not too long,” he said shyly.
“The more time you spend with her, the less complicated she will be, only after she becomes more complicated. Do you understand?”
“No, not exactly,” he chuckled.
“Maybe I’m not saying it right. First, you spend a lot of time with her. Second, you will learn that she is even more complicated than you think. Third, she will become less complicated. Is that better?”
Before they knew it, they already arrived at the studio.
Elle was determined to write a successful song, so immediately after entering Buzzy’s workroom, she sat on the floor and took out the Chinese dictionary to look at characters that appealed to her. Feeling a glare from Buzzy, she looked up at him. There was indeed a glare.
“Sorry I took so long. Can I help you with something?” she asked casually.
His eyebrows raised for talking like that to a superior. “Go find One Word, he wants to talk to you,” he said in a stern voice.
“Do you know where CeeCee is?”
“With the musicians,” he replied in the same tone.
“Do you know where One Word is?”
“In his workroom.”
“Thank you,” she said politely and left.
“Hi everyone,” Elle said to everyone in the music room. “CeeCee, can I borrow you? One Word wants to talk to me.”
“Yeah, sure,” she replied and left with Elle.
“One Word is in his workroom, can you take me there?”
“Yeah, let’s go.”
“Do you know what he wants to talk to me about?”
“No, but we’ll find out together.”
They both smiled.
They reached One Word’s workroom. It was an expansive room with a table for two that rested closely to the wall for a window looking down at the pool, gym, and cafeteria. There was a comfortable couch with a huge picture of a beautiful woman effortlessly in a dance pose in mid-air above it. The wall-sized whiteboard on the couch’s opposite completed the three decorative walls.
“Hi,” said CeeCee.
“Hi,” Elle said with honorific emphasis.
“Hi,” he said back. “How do you like your first day so far?” he asked casually.
“So far it’s been eventful,” she replied calmly.
He laughed. “How do you like this place?”
“I don’t understand the question. Can you be more specific?”
“How do you like your work environment?”
“Everyone here has been nice to me, despite the way I smell.”
He laughed. “That’s good,” he said. “How’s your poem transformation?”
“I threw it away and plan on starting a song.”
With a confused face, he asked, “Why?”
“It could not be done.”
Elle nodded her head.
“But you’ve only been at work for five hours. How do you know it can’t be done?”
“I think really fast.”
He wore a smile that hoped she was not serious, “Have you attempted any changes to it?”
“Yes, I have. I thought of what I could add to it as a chorus and nothing worked. I tried disassembling and rearranging it to make it longer like a song would be, and nothing worked. However, I found that I missed something that would make better, but it would not be a song.”
“Can I see what you inserted?”
Elle went to the whiteboard, took a marker from the case beside the whiteboard, and wrote in English:
In vibrant pinks and purples
The essence of
Beauty and tenderness
In pairs and singles
Until one dies
In the home
Living and deceased
In five petals
Enjoyment, death, rebirth
In the center
“CeeCee, can you translate this in characters?”
“Yeah, sure.” Elle handed the marker to CeeCee and she translated it.
“I see…” his voice drifted, admiring the poem’s improvement.
“With Buzzy’s constructive criticisms,” Elle began, “and the purchase of two dictionaries, I can write a song for JZ. Don’t worry about it, I will have it done.”
“Can I go back to work now?” Elle asked.
“Yes, yes. Go, go,” he quietly said, still admiring the poem.
“Thanks CeeCee. I’m going back to Buzzy’s workroom and don’t plan on talking to him, so I guess you can return to hanging with the musicians. But then again, I’m not your boss so you can do whatever you usually do.”
Elle concentrated on her Chinese dictionary for the next two and a half hours, determined to write a successful song. Suddenly, both Buzzy’s and New Guy’s phones rang. They both looked at their phones and left the room. When Buzzy noticed Elle did not follow, he asked, “Aren’t you coming?”
“Where are we going?” she asked confused.
“To the common area to analyze your poem,” he said.
She did not want to go, but she got up and brought her things with her. JZ was on stage reminding everyone of their assignment. “Let me read you the poem again, ‘Wind / Bend grass / Breath / Bend people.’ So, why is this poem so special?” he asked the crowd.
“The wind bending grass comes from Confucius. He was talking about how a ruler should rule like; ruling with benevolence. For breath, one could talk and gain influence over the other, for example, bend the human will, much like a ruler. A woman could do the same thing to a man and get the same result. In the literal sense, if Miss Elle were to blow you an air-kiss, wouldn’t you be under her influence? She’s showing that way back in Confucius’s time, rulers should rule without force, and bringing it to the 21st century for common people like us, we also exert influence over others without force. If you look beyond that, she implies a criticism that the Chinese government implements strict censorship and surveillance,” said Buzzy, loud enough for everyone to hear.
Surprisingly, everyone clapped.
“Good, Buzzy. That was what I was looking for,” said JZ. “So why is it perfect the way it is?”
“Because you can’t openly criticize the government in writing, on their censorship and surveillance of their own people,” Buzzy said again.
Elle did not understand very much, but JZ’s approval was good enough for her.
“That’s right. You are now free to do whatever you want,” announced JZ.
After that, Elle looked at the clock above the window, and saw that she had 10 minutes to get to the subway station for the next ride, and she figured that she would have just enough time to go to the ladies room and then straight to the station. She went to the restroom, and when she came out, the famous one was waiting in the hallway. “Why must you listen to me while I’m on the toilet?!” her inner-self said frustratingly. “He would take my hand if either of them were free,” she thought, so she held her purse handle with both her hands.
“If-,” JZ began when she walked past him like she did not see him.
He walked right past her and blocked her way. Not looking at him, she asked, “What do you want?” like she was tired of the obstacles he intentionally creates.
“If you have free time, I would like to talk to you,” he said gently.
“I do not have free time,” she replied a little frustrated and tried to squeeze through the space in between his arm and leg to get to the other side.
He lowered his arm. She stepped on his knee and hoisted herself up, and stepped on his shoulder with her other foot. Feeling the ceiling close to her, her legs pushed forward and she landed in a roll, got up, and strutted to the front door.
She barely made it to the subway station. She looked for inspiration with the people riding on the same subway as her, but none was present, despite all the stops. Everyone was resting from a hard day at work, listening or watching something on an electronic device, or were extremely skeptical that the ugly beast that was all over TV was riding on the same subway car as them, but they did not do anything except converse over their phones.
She walked along the dark Happiness Street and thought about writing about the people there, “But what message do I want to send?” she said to herself. “What could I say? How would the people feel if I did write about this place and its residents?” she thought, as sweat continued to form.
She entered her dark apartment. Nobody else had electricity in the neighborhood. She took three steps and put her purse on the counter, then walked across the room to the bathroom, and she smelled his cologne. “You are spending too much time with me,” she said, exhausted from the day she had, coupled with the heat. She turned on the shower and closed the door behind her.
He got off the bed and stood by the bathroom door frame and casually said, “I’m not spending enough time with you.”
“I’ll see you at work tomorrow. You didn’t have to go through all the trouble to get here on such a hot night,” she said over the running water.
“I don’t want to wait. And since you didn’t have time right after work, I came to you, knowing you would have free time,” he said with a smile.
“I’m too tired tonight,” she admitted. “Let’s talk tomorrow,” she said as she dried herself.
“I don’t want to,” he replied.
“I have to sleep so I can wake up early and get to work tomorrow.”
“If I stay here tonight, I can take you to work tomorrow, and as the boss, you can come to work as late as you want.”
“If you stay here tonight, I’ll sleep outside. Anybody can do anything to me while I’m asleep in this towel,” she said, taking his hand and placing it on the wet towel against her body.
Concerned about the real threat, he did not say anything. He slid his hand down the towel. She immediately slapped his hand off her.
“Go home or go back to work,” she ordered tiredly as she went to her closet and groped for her pajamas.
“This could be my home and I can work here,” he said optimistically.
Concerned about this threat, “If you live here or work here, I will move somewhere else, and you won’t know where I’ll be,” she said as she returned to the bathroom to put on her pajamas.
“It’s almost 10 o’clock. Do you really trust me to drive at this time of night?”
“Yes. Get out. We will talk tomorrow,” she said as she pushed him out of her apartment.
“Do you promise?”
“Yes, I’ll give you 10 minutes to talk.”
“Only ten minutes? How will I say everything I want to say?”
He laughed. “You are being unreasonable.”
“I spent more than an hour with you today. How will I work if you take more time from me?”
“I’m the boss, you don’t have to work.”
“Do you want me to quit?”
“Half an hour.”
“Ok. Now get out.”