I will take you to an audition at the ‘secret place,’ and you will become China’s new superstar,” the White Fox said. She phoned a man called Big Wu and it was done – I got the audition that would change my life, or at least that’s what she told me.
A few days earlier, on my daily stroll between the canteen and my dorm, this young woman had floated up to me. She hadn’t revealed her real name, and just said“I’m a White Fox, you’re dreaming” because apparently that was her spirit animal. She was 25, had been married, divorced and was now CEO of a huge company, according to her at least. She wore a disturbingly thick layer of white makeup and had big dark circles under her eyes, which made me think that if ghosts could get addicted to heavy drugs, this is what they would look like. Initially, she had hired me as a teacher at her English school, but when she heard that I liked singing–even though it was just a modest hobby–she immediately organized an audition. All the teaching plans for the day were canceled, because now we were going to write history.
Of course, a fair handful of red flags popped up. Nevertheless, I feared neither the living nor the dead, and had nothing to lose, so I went along to the audition.
Night fell, and we arrived at the “secret place.” I was puzzled. It was just a public park, there were even other people meandering around under the lamp-lit trees. Out of curiosity I pulled out my phone to check our location. “No, it’s SECRET!” the White Fox hissed and almost hit the phone out of my hand. I secretly checked it anyways, when I“had to” use the public toilet.
It turned out the actual secret place was a cabin situated right next to the main path, with flashy Christmas lights attached to every square centimeter. This was the place where all the heads of Zhejiang Province came every Saturday to sing karaoke, she said. Today was a Saturday, however, strangely enough no one was here except for an old man in the bar and a young guy singing. The latter was bending and stretching his vocal cords to the utmost limit to make an impressive performance out of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On.” He evidently failed at winning the White Fox’s heart, who seized the microphone and proceeded to sing with such force and interesting artistic touches that I expected all the glasses in the bar would soon end up in the hospital for broken things, together with the Celine Dion-guy’s vocal cords.
At this very moment Big Wu entered. He was tall, with just three long hairs stretching over his bald head and a belly that had tried out every hole in his belt. Tonight, this man was going to be China’s answer to Simon Cowell.
I looked through the song list, 99 percent of the tunes were Chinese folk songs I had never heard of. I was left with “Hero” by Enrique Iglesias, a song I had not listened to in years. I pressed “play” and grabbed the microphone. It was four minutes of heart-breaking lyrics and penetrating stares from my referee in a vocal performance I would rate 3/10.
Big Wu and the White Fox left the building. They discussed my ability to not break any bar glasses with my voice, before the White Fox came in again. “You passed, you will become China’s new superstar!” We celebrated with a drink before getting to the serious business, the road forward; first and foremost, my singing training. I was worried. It was the White Fox who was going to be my instructor, but I didn’t complain. As we drank to our future duets on Chinese national TV, Big Wu came in with a bucket of fish he had caught in the canal.
We left the secret place to go to a restaurant that apparently had a habit of preparing freshly fished canal creatures for its customers; Big Wu going ahead on his e-bike, the White Fox and me by foot. She told me in all confidence that Big Wu wasn’t too fond of me. His late wife had apparently looked a lot like the White Fox, which made him have rather intimate feelings for my soon-to-be singing instructor – despite the 40-year age gap. Me hanging out with her made him jealous beyond imagination.
Safely back home again that evening, stomach filled with Chinese canal delicacies, I really did feel like I had been dreaming. The image of me as a big superstar was of course quite tempting, however, I was quite content with a life free of spirit animals, jealous Chinese Simon Cowells, broken glass and canal fish. I looked up the White Fox on WeChat and pressed “delete.”