Short Story: Registry

Title: Registry

“It’s not like there’s a Chinese gay kama sutra,” Wei Min says, leafing through the pages in the book. “Seriously, how is that even possible? We invented noodles.”

I can’t even look. It doesn’t matter because I have three ties slung over my shoulders and I have no idea which one I’m supposed to wear. They all look the same although Wei Min assures me that they are not.

“I’m editing the drawings, and then we can wrap it,” Wei Min says. I can see him in the mirror, Sharpie in hand, doing something intently to the pages.

“I already put the slow cooker on the gift table,” I mumble. The second tie looks good. It’s gold with little flecks of something in it. Or are those grease spots? Did I wear this in the kitchen at work? That one’s out then.

“We bought them a slow cooker?” Wei Min asks, and for a second I can just hear the squeaking of the Sharpie on the glossed paper. “Laaaaaaaame.”

It’s possible that this could be the start to an argument, but on the other hand, probably not. Wei Min doesn’t care about the gift, not really. He just likes weddings, especially when he’s not related to the engaged. This time it’s my side of the aisle, and since this is the first wedding we have been to in three years that we have not been in (or worked), we are enjoying a busman’s holiday.

Though being in it would have been better at this point, because then at least I wouldn’t have to figure out what tie to wear. I turn and toss them both at him. “Pick the right one.”

He does. He always does.

Three minutes later, Wei Min closes the door and slips the hotel key into his inner jacket pocket. “We get to share a table with Tai Tai,” he says. “I told Greg we’d take the same shuttle to the church.”

“You can’t call her Tai Tai,” I say to him. “Really. “Don’t.”

His smile is electric, and when he kisses me it’s a wonder that my shorts don’t catch fire. “Stop me after I’ve had about three beers,” and I know that the evening is going to end in glares and possible shunning forever.

There are worse things than being excommunicated from my sister’s life, I think, when we get to the elevators and I look at her very unhappy husband trooping down the hall behind her. His tie is very tight and straight. He gives us the baleful look of the oppressed dog when they pass us. Wei Min waves with both hands, and I have to kick him in the back of the leg.

“Don’t do it,” I warn, and he flips a hand like he’s ineffectively swatting at gnats.

#

Sometime over the course of our fifteen years together, I must have decided that there was only so much I could do to protect myself from the generous wave of humor-filled trouble my partner surrounds us with like so much static cling. In fact, I must have welcomed it, because through numerous family vacations, outings with friends, and work-related soirees, I have only attempted to hush him once, and that was because he was screaming about Grindr whilst we sat behind a table of nuns at a local Applebee’s.

It just doesn’t seem right, like owning a big dog in the city where there’s no yard to run about in.

So when the wedding is over and the reception starts, Wei Min downs one imported domestic micro-craft brew after another, and by the time I realize the three bottles on the table are his, it’s too late.

Craig and Ben are happy and dancing, and cake is cut, and the DJ has already gotten the obligatory YMCA out of the way so that no one has to address it again. Wei Min and Greg spend the sit-down dinner portion of the evening arguing about whether or not school vouchers would improve the education system. I don’t have anything to discuss with my sister except for the fact that we have to do something with Dad in the next few months. I’m pushing for a retirement community. She’s pushing for a live-in Swedish nurse named Urs, but that’s just because she doesn’t want to sell the house in this shitty market.

She keeps shooting mournful looks at the adjacent table filled with married heteros.

“Laaaaaaame,” I murmur under my breath.

Wei Min uses his pocket-church-key to flip the cap off his latest beer. “I knew you’d regret the Crock-Pot,” he tells me. His tie is loosened, and his face is red. But he’s taken off the suit jacket, and he’s wearing those adorable and yet useless sleeve garters. I don’t know when he decided that they were cool, but he’s right–they are.

“I was just thinking about what it would be like to get married for real.”

Wei Min lays his forehead against my shoulder. “I guess we’d have a lot of Crock-Pots,” he drawls. One hand creeps across the table, fingers interlacing with mine. The music is something slow and plodding, something for beginning dancers, which we most certainly are. I pull Wei Min to his feet and back up to the wooden dance floor.

I can see Craig and Ben doing something showy in the center of the floor, and as the crowd pushes back to give them more room, we are confined to a very small corner of the square surface that the hotel probably put down just this morning, along with the twinkle lights and red bunting.

We take turns shuffling each other about, and by the time the song is over, we are stuck on the same two-by-two feet of temporary parquet. Both our shoes have been stepped on so many times that the shine is completely gone.

Something canned and horribly similar to the Backstreet Boys starts, and I bury my face in Wei Min’s shoulder.

“I always thought this song was about anal sex,” I mumble.

“That makes Burger King’s choice of it to use in their ads slightly more hilarious,” Wei Min says with such seriousness that I wonder if we haven’t magically switched blood, and I am wasted instead of him. I sway a bit, thinking that I might just get a little drunk myself. It’s not every day that you can go to a real gay wedding in New York, except that this is just the first of many, right? We went to a dozen that first day, standing across the street and cheering when they came out, but never grabbing each other’s hands and running towards the door ourselves.

And now that enough time has passed for lavish things to be legally planned, for hotel deposits to be made and the paperwork to be changed to, ‘party of the first part/party of the second part’, the full weddings, planned ones with a band and caterers and giant cakes are rolling out onto the social scene.

Craig and Ben must have been on hold with the caterers that whole first day, watching the married couples spilling down the steps on the telly.

“So, are we going to get married?” I ask Wei Min, softly.

“Oh, I dunno, all the cool kids are doing it now, so I suppose we should.” He spins me out so that I fall into Craig’s sister in her groomsmaid dress, then pulls me back into his arms. “Then again, just because we can, should we?”

I shrug. Craig’s sister bumps into me in a mirror image of what I just did, and her curls flip in my face. She smells like Shalimar. Possibly Jägermeister.

“Is this what it feels like to be straight?” Wei Min asks, slowing and swaying from side to side as he mock-thinks. “I thought it would be so much more centered on martinizing and vag–”

His mouth is soft when I press against it. He tastes like the fifty million beers (re: four) beers he’s had. His hands tug on my waist and I am aware that we have stopped dancing, which wasn’t too much of a trial since we hadn’t really done more than tip back and forth for a few minutes.

Like most things, I have long given up on trying to keep him. That’s not my job. My job is this.

Wei Min bites his way to my ear and sticks his tongue in the hollow of it. “Ha ha,” he says when I pull away. “I killed the romance.”

“Muchly,” I say, but it was just as well, because I was going to propose, and this was not the place. And he would want to remember it, so now is not the time.

And not when Maroon5 is playing. What would we tell the children (oh dear god children excite excite excite)?

“I see Junie,” Wei Min says, and his grip slackens. I have just a few seconds to register that we’re spinning around and around across a quickly vacating floor.

Wei Min’s arms fling wide as he dances towards my sister. “Don’t–” I warn.

“MAI TAI!” he says loudly. “Come dance with me, you gorgeous Grecian goddess!”

Junie freezes, as if she’s not sure what she should do. She doesn’t like Wei Min, for many reasons, but she lives with it because well, that’s what we do with our in-laws.

She lets Wei Min whisk her away, and when Greg and I shrug and swing by the bar for vodka tonics, I imagine that I hear her laugh out in the fray. Just a little.

#

Downstairs out by the pool, someone is playing old John Lee Hooker songs. The fall wind is sucking the curtains against the screens in the open windows and then blowing them out into the room. There’s a splash and a little giggle, and someone from the after party has fallen into the pool. There’s a clack of heels on the cement, click click-click, click click-click, a dance move on repeat.

“Last call…for alcohol,” comes a voice from the carpet on the side of the bed. Wei Min is on the floor, where he has been banished since I am afraid he’s going to boot again. I sit on the bed with the reading light on and page through the book.

“I think we should give this to them,” I say.

“Craig will love it,” Wei Min moans. “Coffee table book.”

“You know like over half of the people in these drawings are women,” I tell him.

Wei Min’s face is pressed into the carpet. “Pec implants.”

“And this one here where she’s being impaled in two different–”

“I’m sorry I called your sister a useless married woman,” he groans. “Please stop asking me dumb questions.”

“Actually,” I say, peering at an illustration that Wei Min has made into gay Chinese kama sutra by drawing coolie hats on everyone’s heads. “You called her a Mai-tai. Not the most rational thing, I admit, but you know, better to be a tropical drink I suppose.”

“Please, no–”

“What’s in a Mai-tai? Gin?” I flip the page and stare at the flat coronet hat he’s drawn on one man, and wonder if that’s offensive or not. Craig would probably like it. I could always blame it on Wei Min, which, actually, isn’t remotely not the truth. “Maybe vodka? Or that grain alcohol stuff that’s illegal–”

Wei Min lurches to his feet and staggers into the bathroom. I smile and uncap the Sharpie, choosing an unabridged page to draw a Fu Manchu mustache on a man pleasuring himself in a way that I covet. Outside the click click stops with the music, and something softer takes its place–a few people softly singing ‘Yesterday’.

“You better not be drawing Asian shit in that book,” Wei Min says from the bathroom. “You’re not allowed unless you are one.”

Sharpie doesn’t erase, so I slam the book shut and toss it on the overstuffed chair, also home to our suit coats and ties. The fan is on in the bathroom, but it doesn’t disguise Wei Min’s dry heaving. I wonder if we have any of that anti-nausea drug left, the one I used for my chemo. I rummage through the toiletry bag and find a dusty foil packet. It expired three years ago, but it will still work.

The bathroom doesn’t smell that bad, because he’s showered since we got back, and he’s pretty good at hitting the toilet. But he’s kneeling in front of the bowl, head pressed into his arms as he leans on the seat.

“You do this at every wedding we go to,” I say, sitting on the floor next to him. He lifts his head from his arms and wipes at his lips with the inside of his t-shirt collar. He watches me peel the foil from the plastic and hold up the small foam disk. “Under the tongue.”

A minute later, mouths are rinsed, washcloths are pressed to foreheads, and the light is off, so that the only illumination is from the pool patio outside. ‘Yesterday’ has become ‘Hey Jude’, and then a very slow version of ‘Hard Day’s Night’. The fan is off, and now we can hear them better, a mix of voices, indeterminate to the point where it is difficult to tell how many men or women there are.

“You drew on a mustache, didn’t you?” Wei Min asks suddenly, half in my lap, long legs stretched out into the hallway. I scrunch my legs up a little and pull him up towards me more, so that I can cradle his chest a bit. My leg is going to fall asleep in about five minutes, I can tell.

“Yeah.”

“White people,” Wei Min laughs. “You go right for the mustache.”

“What can I say,” I drawl. “I have a thing for Ming the Merciless.”

“You’re going to hell,” Wei Min tells me, rubbing his cheek against the bend of my elbow. I lean down and kiss the top of his head.

“Marry me,” I whisper into his hair.

His fingers slide along my forearm, and I can feel the huff of his breath on the hair on my knuckles. “Every day,” he says. “Every damn day.”

END

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About Amanda Ching

I write. Fo' you.
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