My dream – 

Our first rendezvous was at the train station in Nanning. From there, we took the train to Hai Phong, Vietnam. We shared a cabin. We talked, just as we write to one another. We sat across from one another, then side by side. It felt easy, natural, as if we had known each other for years.

As my sense of smell is my most trusted sense, from the moment we met in Nanning, I stole every opportunity possible to get close enough to you to smell you. It was challenging. I could smell your neck, your hands, the overall scent that emanated from you. I wanted to smell all of you.

As imagined, your fragrance was that of your essence, again, as imagined – at turns delicate and sensual, pure and carnal, reverent and blasphemous; a woman in full, where sweet and comforting gave way to hidden depths of instinctive desire, and ultimately, to freedom. In short, your fragrance was that of you – the most precious of roses, together with its thorn, to which I would gladly have given my blood if but for one more breath of you.

You were lovely – a composite, I imagine, of all that I imagine of you. Of course, I imagine you most flatteringly. My imagination is fertile. Where necessary, I employ either a modicum or an abundance of poetic license.

I could not take my eyes off of you. I wanted to touch you. I did. I was careful. I was tender. I held your hand. It was not passion that I wished to demonstrate, but affection. The precise hue of your eyes, the shapes of your features, the texture of your skin, the sound of your voice – all were but confirmed in presence as conceived in absence.

The train ride was long. I read your palms. I found the lines just as I imagined them – strong, distinct, balanced, both 阴 and 阳 in harmony. I read your cards – Tarot. We spoke of the past, the present, the future. Even the clatter of the train was silenced by the warmth, the familiarity, the privacy of our conversation. We did not struggle for words, nor did we strive to fill the hushes between them. Without the romance of love, we felt the sublime bliss of a love already having crossed romance’s threshold, now revelling in the lushness of togetherness. 

I wanted to take you to Vietnam, to Hai Phong, as an expression of reconciliation of sorts, as an apology. A Welshman, I fought in an American war, against Chinese. I could have fled, I could have refused to fight, but I did not.

We shared a room in a charming small hotel of traditional style. We were like brother and sister. There was no shyness. We were both comfortable in the same space, lavishing in it just as we were in the time. We talked and talked and talked – most often in Chinese. You were surprised at my facility with even the most intimate nuances of Beijing dialect. I presented to you the gift that I have acquired for you in Paris – a very special perfume, one of my favourites, Diaghilev, by Roja. As your hand, your heart and your soul, it sought and found its balance in perfect centre between the sublimities of your extremes.

The food was wonderful. At several of the cafés we tried, I spoke French with the owners.

On our return to Nanning from Hai Phong, I held your feet, I caressed them, I massaged them. You surrendered this nurturing to me. You fully relaxed. In your tiredness, as I gently rubbed your feet, you even slept. As you slept, I gazed upon your beauty, grateful with the fullness of my heart for the privilege to be together.

Our trip was of short duration. You had to get back to your family; I, to my solitude. We had not behaved inappropriately. We had merely consummated the relationship we had begun from the distance of Beijing to Manila.

We returned to Nanning together on the train, then you flew to Beijing, and I to Guangzhou. In parting, I held you closely, I looked deeply into your eyes, I delicately kissed your lips. We promised to continue to write.

We have.