My Kind of Town

Don Chapman

Dating up, slightly

» Moiliili

Su Lik was a waitress in a Chinese restaurant. Lu Wi was a houseboy for Chinese bankers. Both thought they were dating slightly up.

It was from such unions that Hawaii's greatness grew -- strong, intelligent men and women, living poor and luckless in their native lands, coming to the islands nearly penniless but willing to work for a better life, glad to take jobs that Americans, grown fat and comfortable through the generations, considered beneath them. And with hard work, sacrifice and saving, thousands of couples had provided a better life, including college educations, for their children.

That story was trying to be retold again with Su Lik and Lu Wi.

They'd met when Lu Wi accompanied several members of Te-Wu to Fook Yuen for the birthday celebration of Fon Du, a great treat for the guy who did all the cooking at the Kahala Estate shared by the Chinese secret police agents posing as bankers.

They were dressed in stylish suits or silk aloha shirts that night, while Lu Wi wore a simple blue shirt and gray trousers. The roles in this group were obvious to Su Li, who in truth would have loved to be noticed by one of the wealthy bankers.

But when she brought a fresh platter to the table, or more tea, it was Lu Wi alone who offered a sincere thank you, treating her as more than just a servant, noticing her as a person.

By the fifth course, they were exchanging glances.

At the end of the nine-course meal, lingering as the others left and Su Lik began to clear plates, he whispered in Mandarin, "Are you working during lunch tomorrow?"

She blushed, nodded, smiled.

He returned it.

The next day Lu Wi returned for noodles.

"I'll get this one," Su Lik said to another waitress, and pointed him toward a table.

She brought him a pot of tea, and after she took his order he asked her name and introduced himself.

"Thank you," he said when she brought his noodles, the only words spoken, but eye contact and smiles spoke volumes.

When she came to take away his empty plate, he said, "How may I contact you away from work?"

When she came back with his bill there was a second piece of paper, on which was written a phone number.

He'd practically floated back to his duties in Kahala, for Su Lik had given him renewed hope of a brighter future.

At the moment, with none of the Te-Wu agents returning his calls, FBI crawling all over the Kahala estate and apparently staked out at the Makiki Heights safe house, she was his only hope at all.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Don Chapman is editor of MidWeek. His serialized novel runs daily in the Star-Bulletin. He can be e-mailed at dchapman@midweek.com



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