"Everybody comes here with a story," Zhi Yuan tells me as he's putting on his motorcycle helmet. It's thirty degrees below fuck all here in December. The streets are flooded with drunk natives and Ex-pats energized by a New Years' eve countdown high. I take a hit off of my joint and ask Zhi Yuan to repeat himself. Hard to believe that despite the good vibes floating in the Shanghai air, Zhi Yuan's the only one acting like a grumpy old coot. "I said, da ge," he shakes his head and starts the engine of his Baotian, "You treat this girl like she some kind of princess. You say she had hard life - so what? You know how many of us come to this city looking for opportunity? She not special, da ge. She's da ma fan." I step in front of him before he pedals away. Zhi Yuans sighs. "Trouble? What do you mean trouble?" Zhi Yuan's not afraid of me. I stand at 6'2 and he at 5'8. Most of the Chinese here respect the laowai (or pretend to), but Zhi Yuan's hosted too many tourists like me - the type that can't tell a mei nu's polite transactional smile from real love. I'm $10,000 down and for Zhi Yuan, he's got no more use for me. "Laowai...You in way over your head. No more gambling. I think it's time you go home. Trust me, you better off." With that Zhi Yuan leaves with the Baotian roaring down the neon drenched streets of Qibao.
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