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Salt Lake City – Chapter 7.4

They were polishing off the last drops of Baijiu when A-fai suggested they make a move to a party a friend of his was throwing at an apartment in the mid-levels. They hailed a taxi just outside the restaurant and in less than fifteen minutes were standing at the entrance gate of a rich, colonial looking apartment complex. An older man was sitting inside a guard station but only gave them  a cursory look. Luxury cars of every variety were parked along the bottom of the building. A-fai pushed a button on the security console, and after a few seconds a face appeared on a small LCD screen embedded in the console.

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“Wei?” said the face.

“Fuck your mother. Open the door!”

Brig heard a long buzz, Followed by a click, and A-fai was opening the entryway door. Tommy put a friendly hand on Brig’s shoulder and guided him through the entrance. They rode the elevator to the eighth floor. As they exited, they heard the bass of a techno beat coming from an apartment on their left and followed the sound. A red and gold banner with black characters that read  “Exit and enter in peace” adorned the top of the entryway outside. Incense stuck into three oranges burned in front of a small shrine just outside the door. Before they could ring the doorbell, the inside door opened and a bearded Chinese man with wire-framed glasses greeted them.

“Cheut yahp, ping on!” (Exit and enter in peace) he yelled.

Their host unlocked and slid open the outer metal gate wearing a white t-shirt, bright red sweats, and slippers that had the Four Seasons Hotel logo stenciled across the top. It was cold outside, but inside the apartment was hot.

“Put some clothes on and turn down the thermostat! It’s too stuffy in here,” A-fai pleaded.

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They entered a large living room, huge by Hong Kong standards, and Brig was introduced to the man they called Glitch. The living room was over-decorated with antique wood furniture. Though individually each piece was beautiful, to have so many different pieces in one room made it look less like a living room and more like an art gallery.

I apologize for confusion,Glitch said with a strong Chinese accent. We paint walls, he said as he moved his hand up and down in a painting motion and an invisible paintbrush in his hand.

“Hey dumbass. Don’t embarrass yourself. The gwailo speaks Cantonese,” joked A-fai.

“I want practice. Long time. No chance. You American, yes?” Glitch said, looking back at Brig.

“Yes. I’m an American. Your English is very good.”

“No. Not good. Only so-so. But I go to U.S. many times. I love Las Vegas, Baby!”

“Glitch is a fucking gwailo. Who knew?” Johnny smirked.

Glitch went into an adjacent room while the rest of them took a seat on the furniture that was covered in plastic. Every time somebody moved, it sounded like a package being unwrapped. In the corner of the room was another small Buddhist shrine where a small plate of uneaten fruit had been placed. Next to the plate was a cup filled with sand and several sticks of incense protruding outward. A black and white photo of an old unsmiling Chinese couple was stuck to the back of the shrine. Brig guessed that the picture was of Glitch’s parents. Ancestral worship was still popular in Hong Kong.

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“Where is everybody?” yelled A-fai into what Brig thought must be a kitchen.

“Everybody who?” Glitch yelled back.

“You said you were having a party!”

“No. I said come on over after your dinner. But we can still have a party!” Glitch emerged from the kitchen holding a tray that carried a bottle of McCallan 18, five glasses, a bag of marijuana, some rolling papers, a lighter, a ten by ten-inch mirror with a small mound of white powder, and a razor blade to the side. He placed the tray on a plastic-covered coffee table and announced, “I guess this is everybody.”

They all laughed and A-fai grabbed the razor blade and mirror and began skillfully chopping and pushing the white powder into lines. Glitch started to pick up the rolling papers, but then remembered that he wanted ice for his whiskey. Johnny reached for and opened the bottle of whiskey. Glitch re-emerged from the kitchen with a bowl of ice and, using a pair of tongs, put several cubes in each glass. Tommy held his hand over the mouth of his drink, announcing that if this whiskey was real Macallan it was far too good to water it down with ice. Glitch assured him it was real, but that he preferred his whiskey cold. Johnny asked Glitch if he had any Coca-Cola to mix the whiskey with, but Tommy wouldn’t allow it, saying that watering down the whiskey with ice was one thing, but polluting it with a soft drink was a “fucking travesty.” Glitch said he was with Tommy, but mostly because he was too lazy to go back into the kitchen.

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The combination of camaraderie, alcohol, and drugs made Brig feel warm, secure, and oddly peaceful, at least for the moment. This was what life was all about. Good friends, a good buzz, and a goal… even if that goal was suicide. He laughed to himself, at least he thought he did, but A-fai asked, in a not so friendly tone, “What the fuck are you laughing at?”

Brig snapped back to reality, “Sorry, man. I thought of something funny.”

“Were you laughing at me? Am I funny looking?”

“Shit, A-fai. Relax!” Glitch reprimanded. “You get high and you get all angry and paranoid. Calm down.”

“Are you a cop? The only gwailos I know that can speak Cantonese as well you do are cops. Are you working undercover? Tommy, how do you know this guy?”

Tommy, with an amused and sloppy grin on his face, said, “I only met him yesterday. I guess he could be a cop.”

A-fai made an aggressive step towards Brig. Brig stood up to defend himself, but fell right back into his seat. Glitch, John, and Tommy got to their feet to hold A-fai back. Chuckling and smiling they wrestled A-fai to the ground.

“Brig. So Sorry. He do drugs, this dumb mother fucker think everybody police,” Glitch said as he rolled another joint.

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“You better not be a cop! If you are a cop, I will cut your dick off and force it down your throat so you choke and die on your cop cock.”

“I’m not a cop!” Brig yelled, slightly scared, but his buzz rounded the edges off his fear.

“See A-fai? He’s not a cop! Cops can’t tell you they aren’t cops if they are. It’s against the law! They can’t take you to court for anything if a police officer says he isn’t one. It’s called “misrepresentation” or some shit.” Glitch was rambling, but this logic calmed A-fai down. He filled his glass with whiskey and then filled Brig’s. He held his glass out, stared at Brig, and yelled, “Yam Bui.”

Brig stood, raised his full glass, and yelled back at A-fai, “Yam Bui.”

As they drained their glasses, the others clapped. A-fai walked around to Brig’s side of the coffee table wearing a knowing grin. Pointing at Brig with his index finger, his other fingers wrapped around the empty whiskey glass, said, “You fucking American. I love Americans. Now the Brits, they suck dick!”

Brig felt the urge to relieve himself and asked Glitch where the closest bathroom was. From his sitting position, Glitch motioned down the hall, “second door on right.” The others watched as Brig staggered out of the room. Glitch leaned back and watched as Brig felt for the light switch, found it, and closed the door behind him.

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“This is too easy!” Johnny whispered.

Tommy held his finger to his lips and shushed them all. He pulled out a small vile from his left pocket and tapped a small amount of powder into Brig’s whiskey glass. The others watched intently as he tapped out a little more for dramatic effect.

“Young, dumb, and full of cum,” Tommy quoted to himself, but the others heard. He recapped the vial and slid it back into his pocket. Glitch poured more whiskey into everyone’s glass and stirred the powder into Brig’s drink with his finger. Their conversation turned to soccer and which team would win the English Premier League.

After a few minutes, the bathroom door swung open and light flooded the hallway. Brig clicked the light off and closed the door as he wiped his wet hands down the front of his shirt. He was still at the feel-good level of intoxication where nothing bothered him. He moseyed back into the living room where the others were discussing a soccer player Brig had never heard of. Brig rudely inserted himself into the discussion, “It’s not football, it’s soccer, and it is the most boring sport in the world! Oh wait, does cricket count as a sport?”

The room went silent as the group digested Brig’s sacrilege. “Excuse us if we don’t react to your ignorant and uneducated opinion. Americans have no place in a discussion on futbol. You suck at futbol” A-fai defended.

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“Hey! I played soccer when I was seven. But then I grew up and played real sports like American football and basketball. You know, Yao Ming’s game? But soccer?” Brig didn’t realize the effect his words were having on the rest of the party. Especially A-fai. “Soccer players are the biggest pussies in the world. They act as though they’re being stabbed to death if an opposing player gets within a few feet of them. I’m sorry. It’s just embarrassing, as a man, to watch.”

A-fai stood up again, shoulders pulled back. “I’m a soccer player tough guy. Let’s see who the pussy is. The big American football player, or the little Chinese soccer player.”

“I don’t mean you, or any amateur soccer player,”  Brig said, finally realizing how tightly he had wound A-fai up. “It’s the pros. The guys that are making millions of dollars. You really don’t know what I’m talking about?” Brig’s speech was slurring, and he wobbled as he picked up his whiskey glass.

“What am I saying? I love football, soccer, whatever you want to call it. And I love you, man! Yam bui!”

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