Chapter 15 - Four years after the key is found

I walked toward the subway station across the ragged brick paths of a Beijing alley. Three men were working on my favorite dumpling shop, cutting in to the plaster of the facade, laying new plywood over the bared concrete. I made a man understand what I wanted from a hot pot cart and ate tofu burning hot in every way from a plate wrapped in a plastic bag. The old man who always stands near the cart offered me one of the tiny folding stools about, but I did not take it.

I boarded the 13 going south to Wudaokou. The flat-screen in the car showed soldiers marching, men drilling in front of those trucks that pull around huge missles. They had an interview with keyman. She might have been chinese. Like all of them she spoke perfectly: no hesitation, no accent.

I listened to an audiobook, I didn't pay attention to the screen. Jack Aubrey staged a midnight raid to retrieve Stephen from the clutches of the French. When they get there, Stephen's alive but his hands are cracked and broken on the rack.

The ticket-gate beeped as I stepped out and saw that it was raining. I bout an umbrella from an old fat woman selling them from a cardboard box, undid the zipper on an impossibly flimsy plastic cover, and walked the three blocks to my school.

I bought a little tube of nescafe from the korean grocery and sweated seven flights of stairs to my floor. I made coffee from the water bubbler in my little enameled mug, and sat down in the classroom. There was a big table in the middle of the room with an inlay made of wicker down the middle. There was no projector, just a TV and a whiteboard.

I spent two hours trying to express how far it was from our vast apartment to the bank.

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