I sat in the seemingly endless meetings. My head pounding as the details were worked out. Finally the contract was agreed. And it gave me exactly what I wanted. This was the next step up, time for a small celebration. They were all drinking when I walked in. With that headache I didn’t dare. “A lime and soda” I ordered, taking my drink to look out of the window at the city below. It looked quite interesting, darkness lit up by the lights in skyscrapers, the harbour marked by the occasional moving lights of the ferries taking people across or out on a pleasure cruise.
Two years here in Hong Kong. Alone. I spoke sternly to myself. David felt I was not right for his growing career, so it would be easier to go away and come back home a success. Then I needn’t care what he felt. I was done with relationships that just didn’t work, now I needed to make my mark in my profession.
A presence next to me. I turned slightly, to look. Mr Chang, the legal representative for PBT, my customer for the next two years. He smiled and I realised his eyes crinkled rather nicely when he did that. I hadn’t seen him smile at all in the last day and a half. “You bargained well and fairly” he said. “The others we talked with did not seem to understand that this deal has to benefit us both. I think you will do very well with us.”
I thanked him, wondering if this was being watched by everyone. Was he maybe the senior executive lothario? I turned, no one was watching us, they were all deep in conversation and a few on their phones, obviously organising the rest of the evening. Suddenly I felt very tired; my hotel bed seemed the only possible place to be. His interest was obvious to me and I dreaded fending off some man after drinks and dinner, when I needed to report back to head office before their weekend started and then get some sleep to deal with the jetlag that had really caught up with me.
I finished my drink, and he said “You need some herbal tea for that headache, I have one too. All that concentration can do it. Will you come to my favourite tea shop for some?’ That was unexpected; how did he know I had a headache?
I collected my briefcase and we left, taking the metro further towards Central. We got off and walked a block. There was one of those impossibly tiny shops that abound in Hong Kong. Three elderly men sipping tea at a tiny table on the pavement, and one managing urns and pots and cups, in the shop that was smaller than the cupboard in my bedroom at home. Mr Wang spoke briefly. The man smiled and replied. We stood at the counter and a pot with two large mugs were brought. Mr Chang lifted the lid and smelt, stirred the pot, and then poured for us both.
I sipped, it was hot and tasted a bit strange, but I felt it, going down and affecting my whole body. The headache slowly lifted. I felt somewhat more energised and realised I’d need to find some supper before I went back to my hotel, to get online with head office back home and confirm I’d succeeded with the first major step.
He looked at me, he looked younger, more relaxed. Then he said “My name for my friends is Brian, what is yours?” I told him and he said “Well Margaret, it’s late and I’m sure you need to report back on the deal before the end of day back home, but how would you like a little sightseeing tomorrow? We’ll take the ferry out to an island for some quiet time after the week’s pressure”.
Three years later, my project a great success, my marriage stable and happy, our baby growing inside me, I thought how it all started with that unexpected invitation to tea in the cupboard sized shop.