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Hong Kong Rose


October, 1987
Guess I’m not going to become an American after all.
Regina will. Tomorrow. She’s ecstatic. Now she’ll be able to come out of "concealment" as an illegal alien, and go back to Hong Kong for the first time in sixteen years. Amnesty. From the US Government and our mother. She’ll also register to vote and apply for a passport, While I’ll be facing deportation, if I’m lucky.

Poor Mum. What will she do when she finds out? How can I expect her to understand that one day I’m earning over six figures, boosted by an expense account plus enormous bonuses, and the next day, nothing? Or that the last five years spent legalizing my alien status are now classified as allegedly criminal activity? All I’ve got to show for my American exile is an extravagant co-op mortgage, non-existent savings, endless rows of dresses, shoes to rival Imelda’s and a speedboat on Long Island. It would have taken her years as a secretary back home to earn what I did in one year here on Wall Street.
It’s a good thing Dad’s not exactly around to see this.

But Dad would have been kind. With his usual resignation, he’d consider my company’s misfortune nothing more than the exigencies of life. I wish he were around; at least he’d understand that all this is about more than just losing a green card.

Now why does the East River actually look clean tonight?

I’ll miss this view. 5108 Chase Manhattan Plaza. Respectable address, nice office to swan around in, and the Statue of Liberty against the red glare of twilight. Gordie laughs when I say I never intended to live in America, that I didn’t want to leave Hong Kong — he thinks I’ve always been American at heart. Maybe that’s why I work for him. He brings out both the yin and yang in me. Besides, I can talk to Gordie about who I really am, and he listens, the way no one else ever has.

So when he told me this morning, too late, to start shredding, a bomb exploded inside me. But I did it. It wasn’t because Rent-A-Wing, Inc. was over. My recent American life has been about more than merely this job. But the Feds showing up here this afternoon unleashed the full horror of my situation. Now here we both are, prisoners in our steel and glass tower, while strangers ransack through files just outside our office doors. They wouldn’t even let us sit through this night together. What did they think we’d do? At least we each have our bottles of scotch.

But as Gordie told me only an hour ago, I’m an innocent accessory at worst. He had me managing the legitimate side of the business. I never really believed it though, all his aircraft financing from dubious sources and leasing of suitably equipped private jets to Chinese and Arabic millionaire "entrepreneurs". Gordie was running arms. Just when did I finally figure it out . . .? Doesn’t matter now. I supposed I liked the insanity of it all. Besides, Gordie made me laugh. You can get through life around someone with a sense of humor.
I suppose I’ll go home in relative disgrace. Gordie’s lawyers will keep me out of jail, I hope. He’s already figuring out what to do next, and once he’s set things up, I’ll go work for him again. At least I have a temporary home to go to. Mum may have her peculiarities when it comes to me, but she’d never cut me off completely. She may have trouble understanding why I won’t seem to care, but that's another story.
Tonight though, I close this chapter. My story, the one I’ve told Gordie in bits and pieces over the past six years, is about a perpetually reluctant dance full of unexamined, but highly choreographed, movement. How else did I end up here, in my thirty-third year, staring out of a plate glass window, sipping yet another scotch with the sun in my eyes, talking to Lady Liberty?

In January 1972, I, Rose Kho, went to college in the United States. By May of ‘74, I came home with my BS in political science and a minor in mathematics. I married my childhood sweetheart Paul Lie in the summer of ‘77. Gordie says it was those early American years that really changed my life.

Copyright © 1997 Xu Xi (aka S. Komala)