China is a big place. Losing anything in China means you can pretty much kiss it goodbye. Of course, I didn’t know I was going to lose her so I didn’t have that opportunity.
I left the apartment at 9:30 PM and when I came back, she was gone. I called out for her. Even though our place is not really that big it’s much easier to just call out rather than hunt myself. “Ruth?” No answer. Then I searched each room myself. There was a strong odor in the apartment. She was working on a re-finishing project when I left. Maybe she passed out from the fumes. Maybe she’s behind some large cabinet or in some large cabinet. “Ruth?” I opened the cabinet door and looked inside. Nope. No one there.
My next assumption was that she went out to the store. There are small shops downstairs that stay open late. You can buy soda, beer, chips, and such. Maybe she just stepped out for a moment. I’ll wait. So I did. Thirty minutes later she had not returned. I phone her. Why didn’t I think of that before? But I could hear her phone ringing in the apartment. She didn’t bring her phone? How strange. And her keys are still here. Wait, her shoes are still here, right by the door. No one leaves the house without shoes. I’m getting worried. Where is she? Now I don’t know why this occurred to me but I thought: “Maybe she fell out a window?” Weird I know but it could happen. I went to each window and looked down. It was dark but I didn’t see a body down below. Forty-five minutes has passed and she’s still missing.
So I try my best to think this through: Shoes at the door, keys and phone on the night stand, no evidence that she knew she was going out. I got it! She was forced to leave.
She was kidnapped? It was the only logical conclusion I could reach at the time. But why and by whom?
I started to dial a friend.
But wait, before I do, let me go downstairs and look around the apartment complex. Even though I was down there all the time, maybe we just missed each other. There are gazebos and and exercise areas all around the buildings. Maybe she got locked out and decided to go to one of them to wait for me downstairs? But no. She’s not there. All areas are empty. It’s now 10:30 PM. I decide to widen my scope. I walk toward the guard’s house on my way to the exterior buildings. I always wave to him when I pass but this time when I look over I see . . . Ruth! There she is, in the flesh, in his glass booth, calmly swinging her legs from the chair’s edge. She has no shoes on, she is wearing only her socks on her feet.
So I asked the only question that came to mind: “What are you doing here?”
“Got locked out. When I came here they wouldn’t let me leave. I’ve been a prisoner for the last 45 minutes.”
When she tried to get up and tell them that she’d wait by our door, the guard pushed her down in his own seat and insisted that she wait for me to come find her. The guard felt personally responsible for her and insisted that she stay in his warm glass guard house while he sat outside in his heavy long coat, braced against the wind .
But at least we were reunited, sock foot lady and myself. We celebrated with Amaretto brandy.
If you’ve heard this story before, don’t stop me, because I’d like to hear it again. —Groucho Marx