“Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in.” Michael Corleone, Godfather III
As soon as I laid down on my bed in Guilin and let out a long breath, I realized I had left my glasses at the hotel in Yangshuo.
The bus ride back to Yangshuo was the hairiest yet. The overaggressive driver passed any car in sight, playing chicken with all two, three, or four-wheeled vehicles that happened our way. We must have spent more time in the oncoming lane than our own. The movie on the bus was The Fast and the Furious. Fast Five to be specific, the Rio Heist. I was surprised the movie wasn’t dubbed into Chinese, but then I figured how essential is the dialogue in a Vin Diesel movie anyway?
As I watched Vin Diesel blaze through the streets of Rio in pure Hollywood adrenaline-pumping, car-chasing, leaving-a-path-of-busted-police-cars-in-his-wake style, just behind the TV on a much larger screen (which I’ll call The Bus’s Windshield) I watched our driver perform death-defying stunt-driving maneuvers that made The Fast and the Furious look like The Lax and the Lugubrious [Jim Jarmusch to produce].
As if it couldn’t get any more surreal, the image on the television screen shifted dramatically, as if someone has just jerked the camera. And I realized that’s exactly what happened. Because in China even the bus lines play bootleg copies, essentially some guy in a theater recording the movie screen. Which would explain why the dialogue wasn’t professionally dubbed, not that the lack of Chinese dialogue seemed to diminish the other passengers’ cinematic experience.
I returned to the Rock ‘N’ Grill.
I made the universal gesture for ‘glasses’.
The girl happily jumped up and retrieved my monofocals.
I lingered in the cafe a while, taking shelter from the rain just long enough to enjoy a piece of cheesecake—the Westerner’s kryptonite—before begin the long, yet now familiar ride back to Guilin.
The ride back was more sedate. The driver played karaoke videos.