it happened because she was nice

she thought he was homeless

so she’d given him spare change

 

he’d spoken to her

over her?

in mandarin

before she said

english or japanese, please

i haven’t spoken mandarin since i was a kid

 

he’d asked about her dojo

tearing down the sign

she’d just put up

and asks her

for a job

 

she says no

and walks away

 

he finds her

at her dojo

the next day

and says

why don’t you teach kung fu

even though he knows

what a dojo is, how all the art forms she’s learnt are japanese

 

even though

she’s a samurai

a master swordsman

a warrior

 

he interrupts her classes

hitting a young man across the heels, even though he’d told her the pain of the cane

and how the bamboo made his bones burn

when he was being taught

in a monastery

in the mountains

 

but he apologises

but he’s good

but he’s kind

but he likes donkey stew from the remotest parts of china

and she does too

 

he fights to protect her

when men break into her dojo

looking for him

for his power

for his violence

 

the night nurse

tends to colleen’s wounds

says

he’s dangerous

says

he needs help

says

he’s traumatised

 

colleen nods

agrees

tells her

use your elbow, your shin,

use all your bones

strike your enemy

with something unbreakable

something like you

 

he comes in

smiling, grinning

says he brought dinner

she looks for the pizza box

for the white containers

wrapped in plastic bags

 

but instead

it’s white tablecloths

heavy linen napkins

and cutlery with weight

 

she looks at claire

with a look all women understand

and can read in a breath

 

the look says:

stay

 

and claire grins

and says i’m starving

and

stays

 

her samurai code says

men must grudge money

for riches hinder wisdom

but there’s a leak under her sink

and rent is due

and the men of the old tokogawan period

have never lived in new york city

 

she starts fighting in a cage

for money

taking down men twice her size

and three times her weight

and it feels good

and she’s good at it

 

she’s crouching tiger

daughter of the dragon

 

when she mentions this to danny

he says he must protect her

and buys her building

 

she realises

with a sinking feeling

he’s her landlord now

he can come into her dojo

into her home

whenever he likes

 

but he’s nice

and kind

he just wants to protect her

and he kisses her

and she kisses him

 

he’s never had sex before

he’s so eager

he almost hurts her

 

so she teaches him

and he’s sweet

and he’s gentle

and he has so many ideas

of what he wants to do to her

and with her

and inside her

 

that she giggles

and holds his hair

in her hands

curls winding

around her fingertips

 

but still more people come

after him

after his power

after his violence

 

and his phone calls to her

become more desperate

and more distraught

 

colleen

i need you

 

colleen

please

 

colleen

you can’t leave

 

she retells all this

in the lucky star super coffee cafe

in new york city

to a man with red-tinted glasses

whose business cards are embossed with braille

who dances around legal terms like a crane

 

she leaves the cafe

thumbing his card

kept under her pillow

 

while it’s too hot to sleep

she turns the phrase

emotionally manipulative

over and over on her tongue

 

the one her therapist gave her

after danny left

 

and she wonders

in the apartment

by her damaged dojo

 

if she really could

start over again

 

 

her will replies

yes

i will be enough

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