Brig rose late the next morning. His headache lingered, but the pain had lessened considerably. The rest of him also ached. It would take at least a week before he would feel somewhat normal again. His body begged for opioids, and Brig may have succumbed to the temptation, but his supply was gone, and he had no idea where to score in Lhasa. He was hungry and ordered room service. A good ole’ American breakfast; scrambled eggs, toast, bacon, and hash browns.
As he waited for his breakfast, Brig checked his phone for messages. Sure enough, he had received a message from Happy. “Tommy is recovering but is concerned about you. I need to return to Hong Kong. Please return to Xining, or at least let Tommy know you are okay. You can reach him 0086-0971-95105105.”
“… at least let Tommy know you are okay.” Brig’s heart sank. Happy hadn’t written, “… please let me know…”, or even “… let us know…” Happy deliberately wrote, “… let Tommy know you are okay.” Despite Brig’s determination to get over Happy, he was finding it difficult. His emotional wounds, like his physical wounds, would take time to heal. Brig straightened his back and took a deep breath, telling himself that he was the master of his pain. “Mind over matter,” he repeated.
Fuck her! Brig thought as he squeezed into his short-legged, ball-crushing pants and ill-fitting, female-repelling dress shirt. His first order of business would be to buy some new clothes as soon as possible. He opened the curtains to his room, letting in the day’s natural light. It was partly cloudy, but the view was stunning. A massive structure built into a nearby hillside, immediately captured his attention. Brig’s room overlooked the Potala Palace, the former residence of the Dalai Lama. A light dusting of snow covered the landscape. Although clouds obscured Brig’s view of the mountains surrounding Lhasa, in his mind’s eye he imagined Everest rising majestically in the background.
After devouring his breakfast, Brig explored the hotel, eventually making his way to the “Oxygen Lounge” that Steven had told him about yesterday. Walking through the doors, Brig immediately knew he would spend a good deal of the rest of his life in this room. A multi-tiered water sculpture stood in the center of the room, its sound adding a gentle ambiance to the tastefully decorated chamber. The effect of the oxygen was immediate, and his body welcomed the injection of the life-sustaining, colorless, odorless chemical element of atomic number 8. Chinese vases of varying colors, shapes, and sizes adorned the room. “The Chinese love their vases,” Brig thought to himself.
A bearded man that looked to be around Brig’s age sat on a couch near the room’s floor-to-ceiling window, reading a book. They were the only two guests enjoying the lounge. It was still morning, and most guests were already out and about taking in the sites. Brig casually wandered, appreciating the beautiful wood and pieces of art that adorned the room, eventually taking a seat opposite the only other person in the room.
Brig looked out the window, taking in the gray, rugged landscape that spread out before him. The clouds were breaking, and Brig thought he could see a mountain peak in the distance. Could that be Everest?
“You look like shit, mate. What happened to you?” Hearing the man’s accent, Brig guessed he was Australian. In his head, Brig nicknamed him Jesus Dundee.
“It’s a long story,” Brig replied.
“Well, don’t bring your bad juju in here,” Jesus Dundee requested.
“I left the bad juju in Xining.”
“Good. You’ve come to the right place to heal up. This oxygen is definitely the cure for what ails you. Where ya’ from.”
“The U.S. Utah.” Brig felt awkward, revealing personal details to this man. He turned the conversation back to Jesus. “You?”
“I’m a Kiwi. Auckland,” the New Zealander explained. “But that was a long time ago. This is my home now.”
“You live here, in this hotel?”
“No. I mean Lhasa. Been here almost a decade. I know some of the lads that work here, and they let me squat here occasionally,” Jesus revealed, holding out his hand. “Name’s James Wilson by the way.”
“Bond. James Bond,” Brig replied as he shook the big Kiwi’s hand.
“Yeah. I am. I’ve just always wanted to say that. I’m Brigham. Brigham Young.”
“You’re a cheeky bastard,” Jesus laughed.
“I’ve always wanted to be called a ‘cheeky bastard’ as well. That’s two things off my bucket list,” Brig joked. “What do you do in Lhasa, James?”
“A little of this, a little of that. Mostly I’m a guide for well-heeled tourists. You look like you’re in the market. I’d recommend your first stop be to a tailor. You look ridiculous.”
“Thanks,” Brig said sarcastically. “But I’m not looking for evening wear. I need your basic jeans and some warm clothes that fit.”
“I know just the place. I’ll have you looking like me in no time.”
“How expensive are you?” Brig wasn’t really too concerned about the price, but neither did he want to be taken advantage of. “Don’t worry about it. It’s the low season. You can buy me a beer.”