Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Returning to Shanghai

December 2002

I returned to Shanghai on 2nd December. I planned to stay until Saturday, when I would take an early flight to Hong Kong. There I would see Maggie again. That was the real reason for my trip.

I met Lucia in the office, she was very pleased to see me, she needs my support, I thought. Later we had dinner with a few colleagues, after which, claiming tiredness I went to my room. I was calling Maggie every day. She said it made her feel secure. After this, I went out for a walk and a beer in the hotel bar.

Each day, Lucia and I worked very closely, going through what she had done, making suggestions, trying to encourage her. We attended a seminar one day, and visited our local accountants another. In the evenings, we were always accompanied by various colleagues, including Nicky. Nicky was a very nice guy, although facial disfigurement made him difficult to look at. I could tell that Nicky and Lucia had a difficult relationship.

By the end of the week, I was finding Lucia a bit of a strain. She was obviously unhappy, often her understanding was poor and conversation was very difficult. Even so, I hoped we would be able to find some time one evening for a private conversation.

I was looking forward to seeing Maggie. She was counting the days.

My chance with Lucia came on my final evening; we had dinner with Nicky who left early for another appointment. So Lucia and I went to buy some tea. I asked how she was coping, about her husband, was she lonely, was she having a difficult time. I showed too much concern.

Around 10.30pm we returned to the hotel. As the lift stopped at her floor, I stepped out with her to say goodbye. It was time to call Maggie. Lucia got very emotional, put her arms around me and said she didn't want me to go. At first I put this down to her wanting my support in the office. But as the minutes passed and I looked into her eyes I could see it was something more.

We were stood in front of the lift. I worried about other colleagues seeing us and about calling Maggie.

Still she didn't let go. She was crying. I said I must go. Then I tried to soften this by offering to meet her in the bar in a few minutes.

I knew at that moment that we could have gone to her room. But I didn't.
I still regret my decision.

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