Night falls over Perpetual Opulence Mansions, and I have unplugged the telephone to avoid the barrage of complaints from Administrative Officer Winky Ip. That ‘stupid website’, as she terms it, doubted the sexual desirability of female civil servants with extreme bluntness. This, she goes on, was a cheap shot, written purely for effect and with no regard for the facts, which are that these women have a combination of beauty and brains unique to HK University liberal arts graduates who have dedicated their lives to serving the community. With the phone cut off, she resorts to emails: lengthy diatribes demanding to know where else in the world a man can find ladies of such elegant and refined style, dressed in graceful silk plum-blossom cheongsams, fluent in three languages, politically impartial, and with intricate knowledge of inter-departmental policy-formulation procedures?
And then the doorbell rings. Could it be a real estate agent or pizza delivery man too dimwitted to notice or comprehend the numbers and letters on apartment doors? In which case, I will spy on them through the little peephole for a few seconds to enjoy the way they look up and down and left and right, before silently retreating to my living room and leaving them to wallow in their puzzlement. Or could it be Jehovah’s Witnesses? That calls for a weapon – a noiseless knuckle duster is probably best for this quiet time of day – and some help from the Nepalese security guard downstairs in dragging the deranged fiends out of the building and nailing them by the ears to the tree by the entrance. Or has an irate civil servant sent someone round to sort me out?
Peering out into the corridor, I get a fish-eye view of a female face shrouded by an explosion of black hair. This is obviously not a bureaucrat, nor some triad carrying a meat cleaver. I open the door to find an unnaturally pale late-teenage girl in an elaborate dark-crimson ball gown with lace. Although obviously Chinese, she looks at me through weirdly round eyes – presumably an effect of her make-up. Something from a Japanese comic book has turned up at my door.
She grins and holds up a name card. “I am from TE Entertainments,” she announces. “We are looking for flats to make film in.” She smiles at me expectantly. “Would you like to rent your beautiful flat so we can make film?”
I glance back to my disheveled living room with its yards of overcrowded bookshelves and piles of stuff to be sorted by the end of the decade. I doubt they would want it. And, anyway, what am I thinking – no, of course I’m not going to rent my flat to some camera crew. “I don’t think so,” I tell her politely, and off she trots to the next apartment.
As I close the door to compose a piercing, merciless response to the last whining email, I wonder what sort of film or films the girl’s company produces. I don’t think they’re doing an adaptation of Proust.