KTVs and Ketamine

Every time I hear the China version of this song, Nana’s Lonely, I think of Huang Shan dancing in front of the speaker in a dark KTV room, wearing nothing but a bra, panties and shades. A cigarette in her hand and a couple random girlfriends dancing with her. Dominating the huge glass table is a huge glass platter covered in ketamine powder and used napkins. A straw lies on top of the pile and out of the corner of my eye I can see watermelon rinds and a couple glasses of warm, fake Chivas and Nestea.

And sometimes I think of Yaya and her friend, whatever her name was, sitting in the back of the cab singing along and holding each other as I look at them in disgust. That was the moment I decided I would never roll with China club girls again. In the back of the cab she looked at me and despised me as well. Later on she would fuck my friend and I never really saw or spoke to her again. I still see my friend all the time though … Yaya may have been inane, but she was and probably still is achingly sexy. I can’t blame him.

Huang Shan was too. And a number of other girls that float in my brainspace along with the lyrics and beat of this cloying song. I also think of the sweet taste of the Chivas tea mix and the way it stuck in your throat like a cocaine snotball.  It reminds me of dark underpasses, prostitutes, gritty air and girls I desperately wanted to have sex with, but hated to be around. It’s not a song I want to hear, but in China there are usually only but 3-4 songs playing on the radio at any given time.

When I worked at Southwest Agricultural University in Beibei, the song was Zhang Bo Zhi’s, Xing Yu Xing Yuan. I still get goosebumps when I hear it; it’s beautiful. That’s quite a feat given that I heard it day in and day out for 2 years back in 2000-2001. That’s all anyone played. Most songs that move me lose their flavor after a hundred plays or so, especially Cantopop like this. When I hear the melody, I think of the netbar that was my “office” back then. The work I did there. Antiwar.com. The smell of barbecue and playing Starcraft for hours. I think of the simple life I led and the little things I learned about China back then. I don’t really feel I have learned that much more in the many years since those nights in the tiny netbar along the dusty road leading out of town.

I remember those days so clearly, living on campus across from Satomi. Sneaking Zuoli in past the guards, smoking with Liu Jin Hai and Luo Shifu, playing basketball with Shi Lei and Huang Xin Qiu.

I can’t remember the names of people I played football with last night or songs that moved me last weekend. But Lonely and Xing Yu stay with me and will stay with me forever.

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