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Part II: Jamie
I met Benny for dinner in South San Francisco where we went out for some burgers. After burgers we went out to a small dive bar to kick it. He was very excited to see me and bought me a Versace wallet as a present. I was happy to be showing him around the city since I know he’s never seen the city at night. He told me he recently watched one of my favorite movies Suzhou River and really liked it. Even though he’s not too into movies, he would ask me to recommend him a few movies every month so he can learn what’s good out there. Suzhou River was a movie I thought he would really like since it’s about love and intimacy, something I thought he lacked in his life. He said he felt like he really connected with the film and thanked me for recommending it.
After some chitchatting, Benny started to get tipsy and opening up about his life. He said his business was doing well but he was ready to move on to something new since he’s done all he wanted with that business. He was planning to open up a few nightclubs and bars all over Shanghai with a certain theme and planning on branding it. The surprise of the night came when Benny said he wanted to tell me about this girl. He began to describe to me about this girl. I was obviously shocked since knowing his history and philosophy; I never thought this dude would ever get so whipped about one chick. This is the same dude that told me he would never settle down and get married because he never had any room for intimacy in his heart. He never trusted other people and depended only on himself. I don’t know if age had an effect on Benny or not; maybe that’s what changed his mind. Benny is now 33, and looking over at his life, he maybe was beginning to see that even though he owned everything and anything anyone could possibly want, he also had nothing. No one would miss him if he died and he knew it. When he started talking about Jamie, his expression and demeanor totally changed. It was easy to tell this guy was really into this girl.I took out my voice recorder and started recording everything he was saying so that I may write about it later.
Jamie Zhao is a girl Benny met through his own company. She worked as a host for Benny’s company on weekends while going to school at the Shanghai Theatre Academy in her senior year. She was majoring in directing while aspiring to be both an actress and musical director. She was quite talented and was very intuitive when it came to people. She has a very different distinct charisma about her that made her stand out. She is full of substance and a calm confidence about her that nothing can touch. She never tried to please people and give them what they expected out of her. Her style in hosting was very direct with a very commanding presence that drew people into what she was saying; she didn’t have to be loud to be heard. Most of the actresses are all about kissing ass and sometimes giving ass to get where they wanted to be, but Jamie wasn’t like that. In her heart, she wanted to be a theatre director, but she knew acting would help get her in the door. She had good taste in the arts; the type to drag her boyfriend to visit museums on weekends. Jamie was cute, but not the type that Benny usually goes for. She had a commanding presence most Chinese guys would find intimidating due to her take-charge attitude. She stood for her beliefs and was never one to back down from talking about them. She got into trouble a lot with the girls at the academy because of those personality traits. The other girls would talk behind her back and be condescending to her since she was from Dong Bei area(an area in China where people are extremely open and blunt). She didn’t have many girlfriends and got along more with boys due to her honest “Dong-bei” nature. She came from the city of Shenyang to study at the Shanghai Theatre Academy with money her mom saved up from a restaurant business. Before she turned 10, Jamie’s father went away to work in Shanghai and never came back. Rumors spread that he got married in Shanghai to a factory owner’s daughter and didn’t want to leave his new comfy life. He would send back money every three months but no one ever seen or heard from him again. One of Jamie’s biggest fears in life was to run into him one day in Shanghai even though she probably wouldn’t recognize him and vice versa.
She grew up without a father. Her relationships with men included dating men a lot older who made her somehow feel safe. She thought they could fill an empty void in her heart left by her past. Her strong pride and independence eventually manifested into a hard shell portraying an independent girl who feared showing her true vulnerability. I guess you could say Jamie always looked for a father figure in her relationships with men. Jamie’s ex-boyfriends sometimes took advantage of her faith in them and exploited her trust by cheating with other women. When mistreated by bad men, she often lied to herself just to believe the men she was with truly loved her. She took on relationships to escape loneliness. Being alone reminded her of her childhood playing by herself in the corner with toys and making up stories. She dreamt of marriage and family like any girl would. In her mind, having a family would fill that void in her heart left by her childhood and give her security.
Growing up in China with a single mom is a lot more difficult than the U.S. since most Chinese families at the time didn’t believe in divorce (even though that has changed now). She always yearned for intimacy in her life and was optimistic in finding love. No matter how many times she was burned by men, she believed in life and one day she would find what she was looking for. She saw the movie Suzhou River and connected with Zhou Xun’s character Mei-Mei instantly. She would watch the way Ma Da chased after his girlfriend and dreamed a man would do that for her. Secretly, she would want to ask her boyfriends the same question Mei Mei asked her bf in the movie “If I disappeared, would you come looking all over the world for me?” Deep inside, she just wanted to be loved, hugged, cuddled, and protected by a man who would treat her like the world. As she got older, she questioned herself whether what she’s been dreaming of her whole life was too much to ask for in life. She then questioned whether love existed at all or was it just in movies and books. But no matter how jaded she became by the horrible men who used her, she still held on to that hope; dreaming one day Prince Charming would come her way.
Jamie’s mother ran a small breakfast joint that sold Chinese donuts and all sorts of other Chinese buns along with fresh soy milk. Running the small joint by herself, she would get up every morning at 4am and start getting the place ready and getting the steamers ready to steam the buns she made the previous night. The work life of Jamie’s mother prevented her from spending any time with Jamie. In her mind, Jamie’s mom focused on making money to bring security to both her and Jamie. She feared if she did not work, she would be dependent on her husband’s parents for money; her pride wouldn’t allow that to happen. No matter how tough times got, she never gave in, whether she was sick or didn’t get enough sleep, Jamie’s mom got up every day at 4am and worked until 10pm with a 3 hour break from 2pm-5pm. Seeing how hard her mom worked, Jamie grew up respecting her mom’s hard work ethic and never did much to cause any trouble. She was always grateful for how her mom went from being a housewife to running a business so the two of them could survive. When Jamie became a teenager, her protective mother would get on her case about boys and kept her sheltered at home studying.
Being sheltered at home all the way until the end of high school, Jamie went to Shanghai without much exposure to the outside world. She got drunk for the first time in the first week of college at the Shanghai Theatre Academy during a class dinner help by the class leader. It wasn’t long before fellow students courted her. Receiving so much attention from men for the first time in her life, Jamie indulged in their courtships but never gave in to any pressure when men began to press for physical contact. She lost her virginity her 2
nd year in college to a classmate who had been a good friend who took care of her since she came to Shanghai. His actions touched her deeply. Although she did not love him the way he loved her, she felt as if she owed him for everything he’s done for her. He would also be the last kind person she would date. In her heart, she wanted a man who was: artistic, caring, committed, faithful, and most importantly an idealist who wanted to change society as much as she did. She saw the world cold and wanted to somehow bring warmth to give sunshine into people’s hearts. She wrote scrīpts and wrote about characters that are kind who believed in the good of other people. She fantasized about the world being a Utopia filled with happiness and loneliness nonexistent. She yearned for a happiness she’s never felt in her own life. One night she dreamt she met a man who finally made her feel complete. This feeling of someone who shared her world gave her hope that love existed in this world. She woke up in tears in the middle of the night due to this new sensation. She wanted that connection she felt in her dream and desperately looked for it. Any men she felt a slight connection to, she would invest in them and see if there was potential for them to reach that higher level of intimacy. When her efforts deemed useless after all the failures, she did her best to hold onto her hope. For the next few years, she wandered in life hanging onto a thin thread of hope that it would one day be kind to her.