“Why does it still smell like Taiwan?” Christopher says out loud. He still remembers all the attention, all the pictures, and all the fandom from being an American living abroad.
His mind starts recalling memories at will. It doesn't matter how long he's been away. He knows where everything is. He knows the morning routine. Teas and breads and dumplings fill the table downstairs. It's life. Signs of life. There's no plan for today, but he knows the expectation. If he's staying in L.A., he has to find a job. There is no other choice.
It's only day one and it feels like Taiwan still. He walks to the bathroom and it suddenly hits him. Jet lag. 'What time is it?' He slept enough, so he will force himself to stay up. He's had it worse before.
The morning is silent. Everyone understands each other. Everyone feels comfortable. There are no need for words.
The morning is just as quiet for Mary, L.A.'s newest movie star. She has fresh fruit and chocolate milk; a combination even she isn't too sure about, but the craving was there. “Today I'll make this city my playground.”
She feels safe in the back of her car with tinted windows, but she knows she has to get out of it sometime. The gym is her first priority and her first mistake. Recordings, pictures, and screams cut her time short. She feels frustrated and unstable. It's the beginning of a complete breakdown.
It's time for tea.
Christopher borrowed his dad's car. It takes around forty-five minutes to get into downtown without heavy traffic. He makes it in under an hour and parks in a meter spot. He has no agenda. He's simply checking out the new city. It seems new anyway.
All skyscrapers appear the same, but he tries to focus in on the subtle differences. The textures. The windowsills. The corners. The doorways. The arches. He's seen it hundreds of times, but he can still notice new beauty when he needs to. Here in L.A., he's desperate for it.
And then he sees something totally new. A new Asian tea shop. And they sell bubble tea. This, he has to try. He orders the original and looks for a seat. Nothing. He just came from Taiwan though. A table for four with one person is a waste of space.
“Excuse me, is this seat taken?” Christopher asks, expecting a quick reply.
Mary takes off her sunglasses and looks at the table, which has her stuff conveniently spread all over it. She already has the word 'yes' in her mouth, but he doesn't seem taken by her at all. Actually, he just looks tired.
“No, sorry.” She says and takes her things back so he has space to sit.
Christopher looks around the shop. It's mostly Asians, but they all seem to be staring at him. Everything is Asian-themed and the bubble tea is almost the right flavor. A flash goes off and Mary gives a frustrated look across the store.
“Did someone just take a picture of me again?” Christopher asks Mary.
“Do you get that a lot?” Mary asks.
“Sometimes. It can be quite annoying, you have no idea.”
“You really don't know, do you?” Mary questions him.
“Oh no, am I famous here?”
Mary laughs and looks directly into his eyes. 'There are still people that don't watch TV,' she thinks. Just then, somebody walks in and screams Mary's name. Christopher looks back and then to Mary.
“Who are you?” he asks, confused.
“Maybe it's better you don't know. At least one guy can be normal around me.”
“Thanks, I'm kind of used to the attention myself.”
“And why is that?” Mary asks, thinking how arrogant he is.
“Because I speak fluent English.” Christopher says it with a serious face, but Mary just stares at him, trying to figure him out. He doesn't add anything.
“Who are you?” Mary says, starting to smile.
“I'm Christopher. Nice to meet you. And you're Mary?” He guesses.
“I'm bad with names. Sorry if I forget it.” Christopher says right away. Mary still can't tell if this is all a ploy, but she's amused anyway.
“So what do you do?” Mary asks as Christopher takes a sip from his bubble tea. She watches the little balls get sucked up through his straw and bounce around in the corners of his mouth when he answers.
“I'm a translator. Well, I was a translator. Not anymore.” A slight pause. “And what do you do?”
Another slight pause. “I'm an actor.”
“Oh, like on the commercials?”
“More like on the dramas.”
“Anything I would know?”
More flashes strike off Christopher's eyes and Mary realizes that their faces have slowly drifted towards each other. It seems she's already figured out what tomorrow's gossip headlines will be. She backs away and lets the reality of who she is sink in. 'Surely he knows at this point. Now it's time to see his crazy side.'
Christopher replies. “Unless you're in a Taiwanese drama and can speak fluent Chinese or Taiwanese, I don't think I would have heard of it.”
“Where do you live?” Mary asks in shock.
“Now?” Christopher seeks clarification.
“Yes!” Mary says too loud.
She gets quieter. “And you haven't seen any advertisements with me in them? The ones posted on every block?”
“Not yet, but I'll be sure to look. I just got back to the States, so sorry if I seem apathetic to your new TV show. I'm sure you do a great job in it.”
“You've been living in Thailand, haven't you?”
“Thailand?” Christopher says, looking offended.
“Didn't you say something about Thailand?”
“It's Taiwan.” Christopher corrects her.
“So I said it wrong. Anyway...” Mary tries to change the subject, but is interrupted right away.
“It's a different country. Thailand is in southeast Asia. Taiwan is an island country off the coast of mainland China. They speak different languages and eat different foods. They have completely different cultures.”
“Thanks for the geography lesson.” Mary's eyes get big as she takes a deep breath and then finishes the rest of her tea. “But I have to go.”
“Sorry, but a lot of people are just really ignorant.”
She stares into his eyes again and can tell he really is being sincere. “How about we meet here again on Thursday. Same time?”
Christopher looks around because of how quietly she said it. “Sure,” he whispers back at her. And without any hesitation, she's already out the door with flashes following. It takes about thirty seconds for the questions to start.
“Wow! Are you going out with her? What did she say? How do you know her?”
Christopher says something in Chinese and leaves as fast as he can. He stumbles over the chair and spills his tea on the floor.
“Sorry, sorry,” he says in Chinese to the manager. They strike up a conversation in Chinese and people slowly start going back to their own business. 'Who did I just meet?' Christopher wonders to himself.