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The International Writers Magazine
Living in China

Paul Haire
in Beijing

I watched the rugby on Saturday night this weekend, it was Scotland versus Ireland and I drank too much as usual. I had to nip out of my 9 o'clock class the next day a few times to vomit in the bathroom.  Though what do you expect when you have a class at 9 o'clock on a Sunday morning.

We watched the game in a bar called 'The Den' which is always full of foreigners and hookers who I now know charge 1000 rmb a night (about 60 pounds). I spoke to one later on when I was drunk. I met up with my friends, one English guy,a Scot and my new Canadian flatmate. We settled into our usual place, at the corner of the bar, which to be frank is a shit place to watch the games from, because you can't see the screens properly, but it's always empty and it's sort of our home now, the waitress even remembered us from last time.

Just beside us there was a girl sitting slumped at the bar who I assumed was a pro initially, because she seemed to be on her own and the place was full of them. In front of her sat a full bottle of absolut vodka which she proceeded to drink with a grim determination, very unusual behaviour for a chinese girl.  She looked like those middle-aged alcoholics you see slumped over bars back home, but she was young, maybe only 25. After I'd had a few drinks and was feeling gregarious I started talking to her, she was an art student from Beijing. She was pretty, but not beautiful, and she sat hunched which made her less attractive, her head buried in her big fluffy collar. She said she drank to be able to get a good sleep and I wondered what personal tragedy, heartache or sadness was making her drink so much. She wore an engagement ring she told me, so as to prevent guys trying to pick her up.  She swung an arm drunkenly in the direction of the bar man saying she was a regular here and they all knew her, this made me suspect she was a hooker even more but there was something about her that told me she wasn't, she didn't have the focus or alertness that hookers have, the feline-like awareness as they scan the bar for the vulnerable and lonely. This girl just wanted to get drunk, and be left alone, to dive into oblivion and forget the world for a few hours. I wanted to know why, I wanted to know her story, maybe even in the back of my mind I wanted to help her.

I watched the game with my mates and we talked and joked,  and everytime Ilooked over she was slumped motionless at the bar. Someone had placed a shot, a baby guinness, by her left shoulder, a pitiful gesture, which had remained untouched. She briefly looked up and asked me who had bought her it, with a look of irritation and confusion on her face, angry that her brief moment of peace had been disturbed.
Maybe it had been bought by one of the Irish fans as a sort of mini celebration of Irelands victory, a nationalistic gesture in the form of a drink. Or maybe it was the old man to her left who hung at her side hopefully, thinking maybe she could help him bury his own misery.

Scotland lost, though it was a closer match than had been expected. I didn't really mind too much, Scotland lose more than they win nowadays anyway. We left the bar and I wandered home with my friend and we talked in that drunken way you do. It had been a good night, but not a happy night. I wondered what happened to that girl. I wonder if anyone was low enough to pick her up and take her home, probably. One thing I know for sure, she'll feel have felt a hell of a lot worse in the morning in every way.
© Paul Haire March 12 2007

The Den
4 Gongtidong Road Chao Yang District Beijing,
Telephone: +86 (0)10 6592 6290 Hours:Sun-Thu 10.30am-3am; Fri-Sat 10:30am-6am

Visiting a Chinese sauna
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One of my students who I teach English to recently invited me to a sauna to see a show and have dinner. I was slightly apprehensive

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