I was riding, I was riding home

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Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Push The Sky Away

I spent a month in Shanghai living on Sigh’s couch and trying to convince her roommates to play badminton with me. The Dutch one kept putting the accent on the last syllable (badminTON) and using it as a verb (badmintoning), which made me giggle. The American pretended to be interested (he had a racket and birdies), but then would suggest we go to his cycling class or whatever the fuck exercise group he joined. I didn’t seem able to convey that, no, I actually just really like badminton.

I eventually played with a Belgian girl who shaved half her head and worked in fashion, designing stylish baby clothes or something. I remember she was excited because she’d just sold a line to some Russians. She was awful at badmintoning, as she also called it, also to muted giggles. I get annoyed playing people too far below my skill level because I feel like a dick for winning but don’t want to insult them by blatantly not trying. In between sets she sat cross-legged on the blue court and drank from a water bottle.

This girl talked incessantly. In the two times we hung out, I said maybe 50 words, with her more than content to fill the hours with a repeating cycle of stories. Mostly she talked about guys hitting on her, sort of in a complaining tone since she had a fiance back in Belgium. But she led them on pretty severely, so she either was unaware of the signals she gave men, or — more likely — enjoyed the attention and then humble-bragging about it later.

Like I mentioned, we hung out twice. The other time I came over thinking we were going to play badminton, but she wanted to go to dinner first with some friends. She couldn’t find the key to one of her bikes (it ended up being in Sigh’s apartment, in the Dutch guy’s room), so I rode her bike and she sat on the rack behind me. In China, there’s a lane on the far edge of the road for bicycles and motorized scooters. I pedaled under streetlight-illuminated night for about half an hour. The lights in Shanghai are purple-hued and magical and surreal — they feel like watching a movie set in Shanghai, except you’re actually there. Two of her friends were moving back to Europe the next day, so no one had much interest in talking to me, let alone speaking in English. I pedaled back in the eerily beautiful Chinese lights, her voice trailing behind us into the darkness. She begged off badmintoning that night since she’d had too much to drink.

I took two things from this experience: 1. I can’t play badminton now without thinking of the bastard word badmintoning and giggling, and 2. the American roommate’s birdies. I stole them across the Pacific in my luggage.

[Push The Sky Away.]

One Response to “I was riding, I was riding home”

  1. sigh says:

    Hahaha. You thief! This made me smile in class while we were discussing the legality of torture.

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