Jyanni Steffensen Her feet covered many cocoons...
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Sometime in October

That day was one of those Northern Hemisphere autumn days. A light rain persisted all day, not heavy enough to soak one's shoes or gusty enough to blow under one's umbrella. The westerly wind that brings sand dust from the Kubuqi Desert to Jinzhou in the summer was stilled, but the air was not yet cold. It was cool and damp, the kind of day when you might notice that the tree outside the kitchen window was turning yellow. It was noon when Orlando Jones stood by the window of her third floor office (fourth floor in China). It was not cold enough for the window to be closed and as she looked down, hundreds of students were emerging from the Fine Arts building in search of hot food from the dining hall. What Orlando Jones saw, from her elevated perspective were hundreds of umbrellas - all colours - on legs gliding along the shiny wet pathway. As they passed beneath the window of the Foreign Languages Department where Orlando Jones taught English Literature, Film and Writing, the legs disappeared and she found herself looking down at a sea of densely packed, independently undulating umbrellas. She though for a wild moment that she had landed on the set of Singing in the Rain or The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. It was incredibly beautiful in spite of the fact that the President of the United States had just declared war on Afghanistan. J (an American from Kansas City) came to the window also (Orlando Jones hadn't spoken) and saw the umbrellas. They stood without speaking, fascinated. Orlando Jones wished that she had brought her camera to the office. That day felt like autumn and she was happy. In early spring the scene was repeated.

Lily Wong remained out of sight, waiting. Orlando Jones was in love with Lily Wong (or so she thought). Lily Wong was a freelance photojournalist from Sydney. Her father was a fourth generation Chinese Australian, her mother was second generation Greek. Lily Wong made films and wrote strange letters - which were never posted- to friends. She followed people she didn't know and filmed them. She also filmed hotel rooms while the occupants were absent. She reminded Orlando Jones of Sophie Calle. Orlando Jones had never been to mainland China before, neither had Lily Wong. Lily Wong was svelte, sharp. Her native habitat was hotel lobbies. She was an habitue of lobby lounge bar with black lacquered grand pianos. Her glossy black hair was side parted - one half falling over one eye. She never pushed it back or flicked it away. She was still, quiet, watchful, alert. Her lips were red, red, red as cherries (ripe cherries). On the other hand, Orlando Jones was dour. She was an accidental academic, a vagabond teacher, a fugitive. She suffered from irresistible desires to include mad footnotes in her research.[2] Sometimes she was a writer. She longed for snow and train travel. In Jinzhou, people (almost) always asked, "From where do you come?" Occasionally, they inquired, "Are you an American?" Almost the first Chinese words that Orlando Jones learned were "Wo bu shi Meigou ren." ("I am not an American"). In Beijing, strangers most commonly asked, "Are you Swedish?" Orlando Jones could never decide wether this was just a lucky guess - but its accuracy (her lineage was Danish) unnerved her. "Do I look Scandinavian?" she thought. She had never before thought this. Unlike her brother, who was blond with those weirdly light blue eyes, Orlando Jones had dark(ish) hair and green eyes like her father. Her skin (unlike her father's) though was as white as marble. Chinese people often said, "Your skin is so white." "Yes," replied Orlando Jones. In photographs, her white face stood out like a ghostly beacon. She was embarrassed. She wished that her face was less like alabaster, but she was afraid of the sun. Just above her right knee she bore a scar (jagged as lightening and whiter even than her face) where she had had a malignant melanoma removed. She bought a blue silk umbrella (a parasol) - the blue the colour of her brother's eyes. The umbrella was large and shady and she walked upright, bearing it aloft in the way of Chinese women. Lily Wong wore a hat, pulled down with the brim rolled up in front. She wore it nonchalantly as it was from last season. On Lily Wong the "seasons' of fashion were wasted. She looked stunning in anything. No one knew at the time that Lily Wong would randomly shoot (on film) a body in a small hotel in Beijing and change the direction of both their lives.

I am in a condition of perpetual departure, of journeying; I am, by vocation, migrant, fugitive. The other is motionless, nailed to the spot, motionless, at hand, in expectation - like a package in some forgotten corner of a railway station. [3]

vagabond n wanderer or vagrant, esp. an idle or dishonest one [4]