As we stepped out of the car, I could have sworn I felt the music. The beats from Little Green Bag took charge, as the four of us strode ahead under the cover of a smoldering gray blanket that was the Guangzhou sky.
Along the way through the vibrant streets of the city, everybody seemed to be going somewhere. There’s a strange buzz on the roads, the kind that can never be seen when the sun’s out.
The beautifully structured five-star hotels, the immaculately manicured greenery and the painstakingly maintained infrastructure, all playing gracious hosts to traders from across the globe who had congregated there.
Walking along, marveling at the sight, I pondered over how China had opened up to the world. Just then a sinister hiss broke my chain of thoughts.
Behind me, in the dark corner shaded beneath a foot over-bridge stood a man with a beaming smile. His dark skin soft and shining with perspiration; his body shaking nervously. “Hash brother, do you want some hash?” he inquired politely. He was the first to put that question to me that night; but he certainly wasn’t the last.
A few yards ahead lay our destination – Cama. As we entered, green and yellow spotlights performed a drunken dance along the dark walls of the club, while the manger guided us towards one corner. Four men, seated along the length of the bar, its glass top drenched in condensation from their beers.
We sat in silence; the music didn’t encourage conversation. Yet, there’s something to be done here; an insane pressure mounting on us. There’s a stereotype to be adhered to. It’s supposed to be fun. It’s all designed for an alcohol-induced adrenaline rush. So we did what we had to.
Faked a grin; looked straight ahead into the crowd feigning interest or deep thought as we sipped beer, bobbing our heads to a song that we didn’t understand; periodically we returned to catch each others gaze – a wink or a nod affirming that we were indeed so cool – while occasionally pretending to have an amusing or insightful observation to share, if only the music wasn’t so loud.
Right next to us sat two women. Dressed in snug, cheap leather, they waited patiently. Their steely eyes only hold you long enough for them to deem you worthy of an effort. A warm smile isn’t what cuts it here. There has to be something more tangible on offer.
As I turned away; I realized the other side of the hall was filled with more of the same. Only those women, mostly eastern European, seemed to have found their partners. Whites, Asian, Middle-Eastern or Africans, money doesn’t discriminate.
A while later, as the clock struck 11, the crowd began to swell and so did the premium on space. Four lackeys taking in their drinks slowly, as though they were being consumed through a drip, were beginning to fall out of favour.
It was now time to put up or shut up; play the game or cop out like a wimp; be the man or…well…not be the man. It’s time to have some fun, I told myself.
So having guzzled my beer down, hailed the first cab I found, and a wandering drive later, I was alone in bed watching CNN.
Ah now we’re having some fun…