I enjoy wearing five pointed stars in China. Something about the connection to the flag. A red star would connote too much, condone too much I think. I don’t want anything to do with all those masses of troops heading into Tibet these days. Twenty thousand was the number The Guardian podcast mentioned. And the foreign journalists are being kicked out “but nothing bad is going to happen.” No one knows what will though.
The reports coming out from tourists are untrained, blind. “I think they’re beating up a Han Chinese. I don’t know. Maybe there were knives.” Are people dying? Survey says yes but when it’s coming from the Free Tibet agendamakers who knows?
You can’t trust anyone who sounds like the TV though. The TV is obviously lying with every breath it doesn’t take. The Dalai Lama is being blamed, though he hasn’t been demanding independence for years. The papers say the government would gladly speak with him but he keeps on using the people to disrupt the peace and what could possibly be done?
So we play ping pong.
Zheng Lei (James), the frustrated demagogue, showed up after some noodling around by the three of us roommates. Noodling in which Holly won almost every game. James was very considerate when he realized how much better he was than us. He slowed right down and corrected my horribly nonstandard chiselling grip which I’d picked up playing against Jeremy back in Wanzhou, back with his All Power game while I chipped in around the edges with wonky spins that kept things close to the net, using all his power and absorbing muffling it into uselessness.
Against a real competitor that wasn’t working. I couldn’t get away with letting the competition simply overextend make a mistake and win through nonaction. Zheng Lei showed me how to hold my paddle so I could get on top of the ball, get some front spin on it. It hurt at first shot pain right up my shoulder so off I passed to Holly while I watched him and learned what was wrong with my hands which are large and should easily be able to handle a paddle like this.
The ring finger was my downfall so I stopped using it cut it off threw it away. Since I stopped playing violin it never really had a use anyway. And then it started to work. My thumb was the important part for getting on top, keeping the paddle level to stop the slice. The power comes from the arm, you have to feel it there, not the wrist. The wrist can be for spins but not for the simple act of contact.
And I needed more space. I was right up on the table. I have long arms and I can use them to my advantage if I give myself the space. A body width. A body. And then we get the rhythm, the back and forth pushing of a rally, using my arm and my legs not my wrist and I’m getting close to feeling it so we move on to the forehand.
As always my elbows prefer the akimbo position to the properly in and tucked. Then I’m getting too low in my body and he tells me to relax and the elbows fly up and I make three good shots (far from consecutively) and my fingers are hurting but my shoulder is fine.
My footwork hasn’t worn out my runners yet, with their five-pointed stars. There’s a rumour about explosives in Chengdu that the MPCers were told not to worry about. “We can’t let fear control us but we also shouldn’t be foolish.” Who’s afraid? Maybe people who believe the TV. Not me. I’ve got my protective stars on. On my feet in brown, on my head in blue. We aren’t in Lhasa and we don’t look like monks. There’s nothing to worry about. Except for those who are.
Holly sometimes finds it hard to study the language of a country whose politics she hates. I should tell her the secret of my stars: All you have to do is steal their symbols. Wear them on your body, denuded of meaning. You play the game and say the words and when they want you to agree with them and join up and fight for the cause or ignore the whole thing while the rebellion is put down. You tell them you’re doing things your way. You aren’t one with them. You’re a user, just like they were scared you’d be when you came for the tea. And sure you’ll get kicked out or locked out but how many places were they letting you into anyway?
Probably a lot. More than me. I’m sorry. I forget. I forget this is important; this isn’t just games of symbols we’re batting back and forth. There’s blood and faith and power involved and I’m not part of any of it. Not even with my yellowing scrape from a meaningless tumble I took trying to save a point in a game we didn’t keep score in. That’s why I’m out here, not in there. Again. So far and so frivolous.holly ping pong stars symbols the hangman tibet zheng lei