On Tuesday, we were dressed and ready to go to the Silk Market for some serious shopping. We were just waiting for my ayi to show up. But then the phone rang (geez, I’m only three sentences in and this already sounds like a cheesy mystery novel). It was Xiao Tong, calling to tell me that she’d been hit by a car while riding her bike to my house. She didn’t know where she was, or at least couldn’t describe it to me, and she was bleeding profusely. A friend was there, and they’d called the ambulance, but she didn’t know when they’d get there. What she didn’t say, but I knew, was that even if the ambulance did arrive in time, the hospital wouldn’t touch her until she produced some cold, hard cash.
So I grabbed my keys and wallet, left the kids with my mom and set out to find Xiao Tong. I drove up and down the nearby streets, searching for a crowd of people and a downed bike.
After driving up every street I could think of, I called her, but she couldn’t explain where she was. I kept asking about landmarks I knew. “Are you near McDonald’s? Jingkelong? The flower market? The taxi stand?” No to everything, and what really worried me is that she was having trouble talking. She kept repeating the name of a street I’d never heard of and then fading off into the distance. Finally, she said she would send her friend, a woman in a red coat, to find me. So I resumed driving up and down, searching for a red-coated woman in the crowds of people biking to and from work.
At last I saw a red-coated woman walking a motorscooter down the four-lane highway. I stopped in the middle of the road and shouted at her in Chinese: are you Xiao Tong’s friend? She nodded, so I pulled off the road. She said she would lead me to the scene, but it was across the highway. So I backed up down the highway, with all sorts of people honking at me (really, people? Honking at me? You drive this way every day…), and I pulled some crazy maneuver to get to the other side of the highway.
Red-coat gestured down a steep dirt gully. She wanted me to drive down there, but there was no way my car would make it. So I left the car by the side of the road and scrambled down the dirt path on foot. Just off the highway there were some Chinese folks hanging out in a tent, and they were astonished to see me traipsing through their backyard with my new friend. She pointed past them, through the trees, and promised that there was a road up ahead.
Now, I know Xiao Tong, so I knew this wasn’t some elaborate ruse to get me into the forest and steal my wallet. But still, it seemed a little odd that I was following some mysterious stranger into the woods on the side of a highway. With a slight bit of apprehension and one backward glance at my car, I followed her in.
She was right, though: we cleared the trees and came out onto a deserted road. She gestured for me to climb on the back of her motorcycle, so I hopped up and we drove off down the road. It was a road I’d been on once before, behind some housing complexes and a hotel. We drove for a couple of minutes before arriving at the scene: a big blue truck stopped across the intersection, and next to it, my sweet little ayi’s bike. A puddle of blood. A crowd of old Chinese men. But no Xiao Tong.
To be continued…. seriously? I hate when people do a to-be-continued thing on their blogs and expect me to come back the next day. Who do they think they are, Charles Dickens? But sorry, folks: you might have guessed from the way this story started that I am currently without an ayi, so I’m going to have to finish this after I finish all of the household chores that I usually just ignore. I’ll try to come back and finish the story tomorrow… if I’m not buried alive under a pile of laundry.