Buddha walked through the maze of buildings as if he owned the place. All the buildings looked the same to Brig, but Buddha knew exactly where he was going. Eventually, they arrived at the entrance of an unremarkable commercial building protected by a large iron gate and an electronic security system. To the side of the gate was a metal plate that listed the letter and the number of every rental in the building. There were twenty floors with four apartments per floor, identified by A, B, C, or D. Some apartments listed family names, while others displayed a company name. Buddha pushed 20A, a top floor button, which had no identification.
Whoever the Buddha had buzzed was expecting him. “Wei?”
The Buddha looked up at a security camera, “It’s me.”
Brig hadn’t noticed the security camera.
“Who is that with you?” the camera asked.
“This is my friend The Prophet.” Buddha reached over and pulled Brig towards him and into the view of the camera. Brig looked up, smiled, and waved, his elbow tucked in tight, his hand raised to his shoulder. The Buddha laughed. Brig looked like a frightened schoolboy, waving “hello” to his new classmates.
A loud buzz signaled their admittance. Buddha swung the gate open, motioning for Brig to enter first.
“Who are you working for Elder? This doesn’t feel right.”
“Relax. This is where I grew up. It looks a little scary, but you’ll be alright.”
Brig looked at his watch as they waited for the building’s elevator to reach them. Brig pointed at his watch, subtly reminding the Buddha to be mindful of the time. They rode the elevator to the top floor. Exiting, Brig noticed that apartment 20A’s door was slightly ajar. Brig started to follow Buddha into the apartment, but Buddha stopped him.
“Wait for me here,” the Buddha instructed. “I’ll be back in five minutes.”
Brig had gotten used to taking orders from Buddha, who entered the apartment and closed the door behind him. Brig took a seat on the building’s dusty, cement stairs and studied his flashcards, preparing for his test. After only a few minutes, the door opened again.
“That was fast,” Brig greeted, but instead of the Buddha a young girl stepped out from behind the door and into the hall.
She looked at Brig and smiled coyly, “Hi. How are you?” The English words came out clear, and easy to understand, but like many English language students, the emphasis on certain words, and pacing of her greeting was odd. Missionaries called this “high rising.”
“I am fine. Thank you. How are you?” Brig responded slowly, making it easy for the girl to understand.
“I am fine. Thank you. What is your name?” The little girl pronounced the word “name” as “lame.” A common Hongkie mispronunciation. Brigham stifled a laugh. He didn’t want the girl to feel self-conscious.
“My name is Brigham. You can call me Brig.”
“It is nice to meet…um, you.” The girl was nervous. “You know, um….”
“Danny?” Brig helped the girl out.
“Yes, yes, Danny! The Buddha! Buddha. Yes.”
“Yes. We are Mormon missionaries. Have you ever seen people like us before?”
The girl nodded her head up and down “Momuhn,” she said as she giggled and groped the door behind her. This was a common joke amongst the Hong Kongnese. The name Mormon, when spoken in Cantonese, sounded like “fondle door.” Depending on the tones you used, it could also sound like “devil door,” and was used this way by the church’s detractors to insinuate that Mormons were satanic.
“Ha ha,” Brig laughed falsely. “Your English is very good!”
The elevator suddenly jumped to life, startling them both and making them laugh.
“Thank you. I like to learn English. You are from America?”
“Yes. I am from America. Have you ever been to America?”
For a moment, she looked confused but then beamed when she figured out what Brig was asking.
“No!” she giggled. “I never go to America. But I like.”
“You would like to go to America?”
“Yes. I want to see Golden Gate Bridge and Grand, um… Grand…”
“Canyon. The Grand Canyon?”
“Yes! The Grand Canyon.” It was the first time she had ever spoken English with a native English speaker, and she was pleased that she could make herself understood. Their conversation was interrupted when the elevator dinged, announcing that it had returned, and would be stopping at the twentieth floor. Brig and the little girl watched as three mean looking young men spilled out of the elevator and into the hallway.