After our inter-school basketball games, the two rival squads get together in the teacher’s lounge and drink. At times I suspect the tournament may be an excuse for baijiu consumption. Which, frankly is fine with me. Playing basketball and drinking heavily are two things I did often in college, but rarely congruently, which I think is rather a shame. So, we gather in the lounge and take shots and eat sunflower seeds. We talk some strategy and forgive each other for the assured multiple incidences of barbarity that took place over the previous 40 minutes. Last night was Friday. We play our games in the evening, so the turn out was decidedly low. All the students, and many teachers, had gone home. After the game, we hit the lounge.
There were eight of us: Two from the opposing team, four from our team, and the current and former Sanzhuang elementary security guards (if you follow this blog at all, you are aware that they are two all-county level imbibers). Throughout the night, people shuffled in and out. It was a pretty calm evening, save for fifteen minutes.
At around ten, two guys came into the school to say hello. Party hoppers. They’d come from down the road to pop in before continuing on. They were introduced as brothers. Anyways, one of the guys was the superintendent of the entire district: In charge of all 15 schools. As such, the other teachers referred to him as “da xiaozhang” (big principal). He was pretty tall and had a Strahan-esque gap between his incisors. He wore glasses too big for his face, a clean, white button-down shirt, and khakis. His hair was parted awkwardly. He smelled of nerd. He was not drunk at all. Or, if he was he held it well. This guy, you could tell, had his proverbial shit together. Despite his bookish appearance, he was clearly the kind of guy who can drink until 3 and get up at 7 without a hitch. There are 4 types of people in this world: Those that can accomplish exclusively the latter (waking up at 7 without a hitch) or the former (drinking until 3), and those that can accomplish both or neither. I trust you can quickly find examples of all four. Those who can accomplish both are the types that rise to “big principal status.” In any event, I do not think the “big principal” was drunk on this particular evening.
His supposed brother, on the other hand, I am sorry to say, was the type that most likely could neither drink until 3 am nor wake up at 7 am. He was, to be politically correct, rotund. When I say rotund, I mean that in both a physical and demonstrative sense. He was the kind of guy that embodied his body. He had a belly of epic proportions. He stood half a foot shorter than his brother, “the big principal.” He was all of 5’4.” He appeared as though he had just arrived from the front row of a Sea World Orca exhibition. He perspired ebulliently. He wore a blue and black striped polo that accentuated his features. His hair flew off in wild directions. He was shitfaced. Take that word and digest it. Create a mental image. He was shitfaced incarnate. He was probably the single greatest human being I have ever encountered. The juxtaposition of big and little brother was like none I’ve witnessed. If there did not previously exist a polar opposite to identical twins, there does now.
As he entered the room, he hiked up his pants and ran over to me (we’d never met). “Hey, how do you say ‘foreigner’ in English. How?” I told him. He was one of those people that uses 95% Chinese in conversation, but any English word he may know, he insists upon employing and underscoring with great fervor. “Ni shi AMERICA nali de? AMERICA” “Wo hui shuo A LITTLE ENGLISH. LITTLE.” “Na ge ren shi wo de BROTHER. BIG BROTHER.” He yelled at and sweated on me for a minute. We took a shot. He lumbered over to the other couch and sat next to a local teacher, Mr. Yang. As a group, we took another shot. I watched their conversation. The local teacher was patting the little brother’s stomach, which was now partly exposed. For what it’s worth, he had an outtie. I leaned forward.
“You’ve been eating, eh. Look at that belly.”
“You know what this means?” He smirked. He rubbed his thumb, middle, and pointer fingers together. “I’m rich.” He, who had been smiling without pause since he entered the room, said that last bit with the stoniest of faces.
“Well, you must be very, very wealthy.”
“Yes. I cannot disagree.” He raised his hands about his head, shouted wildly and clapped his hands with savage, jubilant, aggression.
The little brother hiked his pants and lumbered back over to me. He plopped himself down. In English: “Foreign friend! Good friend! He jiu (drink).” We took another shot.
“Have you studied any Baizuhua (local dialect)?” He barked at me excitedly.
“Yeah, yeah, I know two words. ‘Fu ji ka’ (I’m hungry) and ‘En zong’ (drink alcohol, essentially ‘cheers.’)” He was beside himself. He jumped out of his chair and did a little spin.
“Fu ji ka. En zong. Wow! What a talent! Can I hug you? I’m going to hug you.” He gave me the sweatiest hug I’ve received, probably ever. He even lifted me off the ground (which I was rather impressed with). I attempted to lift him—which for some reason I believe I thought was the culturally acceptable response—but failed miserably. We fell back onto the couch.
He raised his glass, which was very much empty, and proceeded to take a shot. Upon realizing he had failed to ingest any baijiu, he tilted his head sideways, furrowed his brow, and looked at the shot glass as though inspecting some rare gemstone. Part clarification, part disbelief, part bewilderment. Again, he inexplicably raised his hands over his head, hooted wildly, and clapped. Then, he slapped me in the face. Lovingly (and lightly), to be sure.
Big brother said it was time to go. Little brother reluctantly complied.
And just like that, they were gone. The whole episode lasted no more than 15 minutes.