Dragons are powerful creatures of legend, whose origins are shrouded in mystery. And it was so with the aunts. Though, I've only heard of their history though whispers and rumors. But every myth has a grain of truth, and if you listen closely enough to the murmurs and sort through the riddles, you can catch a fleeting glimpse of reality. Not enough to paint the whole picture; but just enough to know the scene.
The entrance of the aunts had shifted the energies in the party. A keen observer of human behavior would've picked up on the change. It was a subtle shift, but for every Asian guest (and a select few non Asians in the know), the dynamics of the party had changed significantly. To the non Asian guests--some White, some Latino, and some Black--nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary. But for the rest of us, there was a heightened awareness of a new force that was permeating our surroundings.
I put the bottled water on an end table. Then beaming my most welcoming smile, I walked up to the aunts. I greeted them with as much sincere enthusiasm I could conjure up on the spot. I gave them a small bow, then I greeted the closest one to me, and hugged her briefly. Her head barely reached my chest, but it was a quick yet firm hug. It was just enough to express my gratitude for her presence.
"Aunty Phine," I said,"Hello." Her first name was Josephine, but everyone I know calls her Aunty Phine. I know her as the Jade Dragon. A quick scan of her head and I noticed she was wearing her jade earrings. "You're earrings look lovely! They're a perfect complement to your beautiful green eyes!"
The Jade Dragon let out a small laugh and gave me a light pat on the shoulder. She said,"Why, thank you!"
I called her the Jade Dragon, not because of her green eyes or her jewelry. Rather, it was because of what little I suspected were her true origins. Though her hair was gray for the most part, there're glimpses of gold that glittered in her coiffed bun, secured with a pair of jade butterfly combs. In the days of her youth, the Jade Dragon had golden blonde hair.
Her golden hair and green eyes may seem unusual, given the fact that the Jade Dragon is Vietnamese. But perhaps it is not so strange, as I've heard her ancestors were a blending of the French colonials who occupied Vietnam and married the local Vietnamese women back in the late 1800s. During the Vietnam War, the Jade Dragon's village was destroyed. She lost her husband and her entire family. It took her three long days to escape the jungle, avoiding the sounds of battles and hiding from armed patrols. She was not sure if she was safer with the Communists or the Americans. Both had annihilated her small village in their violent clash.
She ended up in Da Nang. A small Catholic Church offered her very little aid. They had nothing to give. There was no gov't assistance; corruption ruled the gov't, and the gov't was absolutely corrupted. With no education or relatives she could rely upon, Jade Dragon did what was necessary to survive.
She was beautiful, with her long blonde hair and green eyes; her petite figure and light skin made her a favorite of young American GIs. Young, teenage boys, homesick, looking for an escape, some virgins; others, a little older, but scarred from the experience of war; the dead walking, desperate to find some proof of life's worth. She offered them the illusion of living, fleeting moments of passion, mistaken for luv, the facade of a normal life with a pretty girlfriend, perhaps of a much missed wife. And within a few years, she had gone from the streets and using her small run down apt to owning a small but viable house of adult recreation.
She recruited a number of homeless teenagers; mostly orphans. Some sought her out when word spread of how generous she was to her workers compared to the other houses. And she was popular with the Americans. At some point, she became pregnant with her first child by an American--his identity she never revealed. Whether it's because she didn't know the father or his memory a source of sorrow, no one knows. But by the time the baby boy was born, it was evident that the Americans were losing the war. In a desperate gambit to give her child a chance at a better life, she gave him up to the Americans for adoption.
It must've been a painful decision to give up one's child, even if it was in hopes of giving the child a better life. How much more devastating it must've been for Jade Dragon, to learn that her baby never made it to America. He was among the dead when the plane carrying them crashed.
What happened after Jade Dragon learned of her baby's death is not known to me. But I was told that a few months later, she fled Vietnam when the Americans pulled out of the losing war. By the time Saigon fell and became renamed Ho Chi Minh City, she had landed in America, accompanied by a few of her girls who made the desperate choice to flee their homeland for an alien country.
Within a year of arriving in America, Jade Dragon made a living as a housekeeper, with some of her girls. San Diego, California was their new home. With her hard work (and no doubt her looks), Jade Dragon's clients included a number of military officials who lived in homes off military bases. One of these clients was a Lieutenant (LT) in the Navy.
LT was from a wealthy, pedigreed family from the East Coast. He was considered the black sheep of the family, having joined the military against his family's wishes. He was a Navy pilot, and he was just engaged to a social climber, a transplanted, bottled blond Kentuckian (KY) who moved to California to become famous in the movies. Upon announcing their engagement, KY moved into LT's home, and proceeded to declare herself queen of his kingdom. While LT was at work, KY would invite her sycophantic, spineless brother, Jelly, to come on over for a visit, and both proceeded to get drunk.
Showing off her new diggs and under the delusions of power, KY started to treat some of LT's workers like they were beneath her. She would order the gardener to plant new trees, only to ask him to rip them out to plant something else the following week. She was rude to the pool cleaners, making disparaging remarks about them as she and her brother drank by the pool. I am not sure if KY was aware that the workers knew English and didn't like her. But I don't think she would've cared. What I do know, is that she made the mistake of insulting Jade Dragon. During a drinking spree with her brother, KY demanded that Jade Dragon make KY and Jelly some lunch. Jade Dragon politely refused, reminding KY that she was only here to clean the house, not cook any food. In a drunken rage, KY called Jade Dragon a stupid lazy whore, and it was a mistake that would cost KY dearly.
True, Jade Dragon had a colorful history. But what she did was based on survival instincts in a terrible time of war. The next day, Jade Dragon put dissolved sleeping pills in the liqor. When KY and Jelly passed out in the living room after another drunken binge, Jade Dragon went to work. She undressed KY and Jelly, and putting them in compromising positions, she took some pictures--several rolls worth of film. This was on a Wednesday. The next day, Jade Dragon and her girls slipped these pictures in manila envelopes, and put them into LT's mail as well as a few of their influential and military clients' inboxes. By Friday afternoon, the Naval Base was abuzz with news of the seemingly incestuous pictures. That evening, LT kicked KY out of his house, despite her pleas of innocence. But the damage went much further. KY's agent dropped her when the fotos were anonymously mailed to his office. Without a friend or ally in her corner, KY was forced to leave California with Jelly, spurring more nasty rumors, presumably to return to the Kentucky mountains from whence they came.
But the Jade Dragon was not done yet. She lent a sympathetic ear to a torn, angry LT. Six months later, they started dating. Another six months and they were married. And within a few years, Jade Dragon surreptitiously arranged for each of her girls to marry American military officers. Jade Dragon bore LT 4 children, all of whom grew up to be quite successful individuals. Following her husband's relocation to several military bases around the world, Jade Dragon found opportunities to increase her power. Quite a number of young Asian women escaped poverty by marrying military men, all through Jade Dragon's intervention. I understand that a few of the marriages ended in divorce, but the majority lasted. In the end, these women see Jade Dragon as their mother, to whom they owned their loyalty, willing to do whatever she asked. Jade Dragon had amassed an Amazonian force ready to engage in warfare on her command.
I've met LT one time a few years ago. He seemed happy enough, and told us how lucky he was to have met his wife. He regaled us with stories of adventures around the world; and made us laugh with tales of raising his children and cultural misunderstandings. LT passed away shortly after that. But Jade Dragon still lives. Looking at this small, weathered woman, one might never have guessed the incredible tragedies Jade Dragon endured in life. But Jade Dragon persevered and overcame. Out of the searing flames of suffering and under the hammer of sorrow, Jade Dragon was forged into a formidable woman. Her power lies in her ability to do what needs to be done to remain alive against all odds. She is a survivor, after all. And she is a true Dragon of the West. And tonight, the fates conspired that I must deal with Jade Dragon. While I hoped she came in peace, in my heart, I knew that quite possibly, she may have come to hunt. And would I be an ally this night, or her next meal?