Don't Blame Ling Ling
Flash fiction by Eric Allen
My new girlfriend Ling Ling works at the largest condom factory in the world.
Naturally, she was a bit embarrassed to tell me at first. But after a few weeks of saying she worked at some packaging factory she sort of laid it on me. I was shocked. My girlfriend makes condoms. I couldn’t believe it. I never thought I would have a girlfriend that made condoms for a living.
This all might have sounded strange once, but six months ago I moved to one of those boom cities on the shores of Southern China where everything rushes along in the haze of progress. I guess I went to China to find myself. Well, I found Ling Ling instead. She’s beautiful. Skin that seems to be gently graced with the tanned thumb of God.
She knows a lot about sex, almost more than my gynecologist mother. I can’t escape these sorts of women. I swear every woman in my life knows more about sex than me. I presume that some men would be uncomfortable with this fact but I'm not.
After recovering from the initial shock I asked Ling Ling to tell me about her condom making. And to be honest it’s not that glorious. She wears an unsightly hair bonnet with periwinkle blue gloves. She’s in charge of packaging. She makes sure that those things are sealed up nice and tight, plastic wrapped and tucked away in dazzling boxes for your purchasing pleasure. I’m not complaining too much because after all she does bring home free samples.
Her factory makes over 300,000 of those little pink and green things every week and they get shipped out to all sorts of exotic lands: Croatia, Tijuana, Oklahoma, Leeds. It’s funny if you think of where some of those condoms end up. Into a young boy’s trembling hands for the first time. Into a cracked JC Penney wallet for ten years. Into a rusted out vending machine in a dive bar named Big R’s.
There’s no telling where they end up but I know where they come from. They come from Ling Ling, my girlfriend. I know that a lot of people in the world depend on her for comfort and safety. I try to tell her this, that she’s special, but sometimes she doesn’t understand.
The other night we met for a humble bowl of beef noodels with a side of steamed dumplings. I noticed that her almond eyes weren’t shining with the same intensity I’d grown accustomed to. There was even a tear working its way in my direction. Ling Ling said something about how she deserved to be fired. I asked her what she meant by that and she told me that she was, well, pregnant.
I put down the chopsticks and told her that she wasn’t very funny and she choked up a bit and told me that it was the happiest and saddest day of her 26 year-old life. She said something about how there was now more life in her than had ever been in her before. I assumed that she was talking about how now there were two lives inside of her.
I looked at the thin edge of the cheap table and thought to myself, 98 percent? 98-fucking percent? Ms. Gibbs told us in the 6th grade that condoms were 98 percent effective.
What do you do when a girl named Ling Ling tells you that she’s pregnant?
I smiled at her and told her that she was beautiful and I reassured her that my gynecologist mother would answer all of our young questions.
She looked back at me wild-eyed and crazed and said, “Fools April!”
“You mean, April Fools?”
“Mmm yeah, yes, my meaning is April Fools!”
I told her that it was January and that you couldn’t just go around “Fools Apriling” someone in damn January. She leaned over and gave me a kiss and said something harsh sounding in Chinese. I have no idea what she said.
Eric Allen is a two-handed American ant living in Xiamen since 2009