:: Buzzwords

3:AM in Lockdown 14: Tom Bradley

China Viruses
By Tom Bradley.

I stumbled around in China in the mid- to late-eighties, right around the time America’s beloved president was joining the Republican Party. This was during the height of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, which the natives called “British Bull Disease”.

AIDS was just beginning to scare the Celestials of the Flowery Middle Kingdom. To them, it was the “African Sickness,” or, more benignly, ai si ping, “Lovers’ Complaint”. Due to my low pigmentation and generous dimensions, they amended the term. With the effortlessness their homophone-rich language lends to punning, I was given ai shi ping, “Food Lovers’ Complaint”.

When they found out that my father’s name was Edwine, they transliterated it to Ai De Wen and hung it on me. It means “He spreads the plague”.

All in good fun. No love lost. I won’t repeat the jolly nicknames I responded with.

Here are a couple of pertinent bits from my novel, Black Class Cur (Spuyten Duyvil, NYC), about hypochondriacal xenophobia running rampant in Deng Xiaoping’s domain:

For the first time in thirty years or more, China was admitting increased numbers of Russian experts, specialists and advisors — all of whom were the beneficiaries of favoritist policies. Other “foreign friends” were forced to undergo AIDS tests, their bodies punctured with rusty spikes, their blood squirted into grimy vials with misplaced corks, their relatively pure samples sloshed all the way to the Beijing laboratories mixing with the scarlet sewage of resident Japanese businessmen who spent every three-day weekend banging their cocks in Bangkok. But the forearms of the several invisible, nameless Russkies in town remained virginal because, “Socialist countries have no such foul diseases”.

[Meanwhile, the most virulent strain of alien virus fear was reserved for their own minority groups—]

China was a whole world, and the world had many lightless folds in its flesh, where diseased organisms shielded themselves from the light of Marxist-Leninist-Mao Zedong Thought. For all their talk of “learning from the peasants,” the urbanites still feared the unknowable, gibberish-speaking, black-skinned tillers of the dirt. They had undergone a Proletarian Cultural Revolution, hadn’t they? The peasant revolution was yet to come — or, wait, hadn’t it already taken place? Nobody could think straight enough to sort it out.

In spite of the inspirational parts of Liberation mythology, the rank and file of the Red Guard brigades were unable to forget the sanguinary losses Chairman Mao had suffered at the hands of warlike Mantzu tribesmen and Xifan nomads in the wastes of Qinghai.

They kept hearing coughs and spitting out there in the inky blackness. Local farmers used the catamenia of virgin urbling girls as the active ingredient in a special mulch that made their lichees and longans and loquats extra sweet. Everybody knew that was how they managed to achieve the status of model commune harvest after harvest…

First posted: Wednesday, April 1st, 2020.

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