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ROLEX / Diane Johnson J» HAD GONE TO a meeting in Washington; I had begged off for once and was revelling in the quiet mornings at home, and the chance to work undisturbed on a novel I was writing. Then he telephoned to say he had forgotten to tell me that I would be getting a visit from someone named Yan Zhang, or Zhang Yan, who was coming to San Francisco, and could we put up this Yan Zhang for a couple of days? Yan was a young woman doctor we had met in Beijing—I would remember when I saw her. J. had had a letter from Dr. Li-Xing Wang in China about her, and then Yan Zhang herself had called him. She had been in the United States for several months, studying in Houston, and was planning a visit to San Francisco. She said she had something for me and wanted to deliver this item personally. J.'s voice expressed curiosity, but I could not guess what the item might be. And naturally J. had proposed that she stay with us. I said of course. The reflex of traveling in foreign lands is that eventually people are likely to turn up in San Francisco. I, more than J., bore the brunt of entertaining them, for no one imagined that a doctor would interrupt his work; I would try to make them as comfortable as possible, and drive them to see the Golden Gate Bridge, Muir Woods, and the Palace of the Legion of Honour. While receiving kindnesses in foreign lands, I always vowed to make myself endlessly hospitable in return. At home, however, our visitors never failed to come at a bad moment, testing this resolution. I tried to behave as graciously as possible, but was never without a sense of shame, knowing myself to feel inconvenienced. Of course I understood that J. and I were just as inconvenient for them. On the appointed Saturday, the doorbell rang at seven-thirty in the morning. The children were eating their cereal and I was idly reading the paper, and for a moment couldn't imagine who it could be. A young Chinese woman—small, newly permanented, wearing a maroon gabardine pant-suit that had certainly come from China, styleless, vaguely military, reminding me of schoolteachers or certain orders of South American nuns. Her face was familiar— we had certainly met her in China. I thought maybe she had been the assistant of our host, Dr. Wang, the chief of the Department 28 - The Missouri Review of Infectious Diseases in the hospital that J. was visiting. She had come to the many banquets, and had once, if I remembered, taken me to some of the stores along the Wangfujing Street. Now I smiled and welcomed her, but, though J. had told me, I could not remember the name until the woman said it. "I'm Yan Zhang. Do you remember? Did you hear from Dr. Wang?" She held out a little manila envelope. "In it you will find your lost watch." She smiled, watching for my delighted reaction. Instead, I felt a moment of complete blankness. I did not believe I had lost a watch, could not remember one. "Thank you so much," I said anyway. "It's so wonderful of you. Please come in." I laid the envelope on the table and helped Dr. Zhang with her small suitcase. "J. says you will be able to stay a day or two?" "I can stay until Wednesday," said Dr. Zhang. "I am most eager to see your city, for I have heard it is very lovely. I am studying in Houston." "How nice," I said. I made her some tea and toast, and asked her for news of Dr. Wang, and of Dr. Lo-wan Liu, the doctor from Canton, and Dr. Tong-jing Ng, the one who had taken us to the acrobats and the Chinese opera. This was the extent of the names I could remember. I felt, as we talked, a wave of nostalgia for Beijing, where I had spent a happy month living in the old Beijing Hotel, a rambling assemblage of several hotels near Tiananmen...


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