LUCKY HAPPY ENDINGS
I am Ken Wu. You have read about me. I am chief scientist at ImmunoGen. We develop targeted anticancer therapeutics. I helped to develop our proprietary Targeted Antibody Payload (TAB) technology. We have several products awaiting approval.
I have learned that I have an incurable brain tumor. Should I laugh or should I cry?
I am twenty-three years old. I never stopped working hard. I have no wife. I have no girlfriend. My mother frets. But I have so many plans, so many plans.
When men speak of the future, the gods laugh.
I fainted in the laboratory this afternoon. That is how I come to know that I have a brain tumor. I am not allowed to work in my own laboratory until I am cured.
It is incurable I am told.
Shed no tears until seeing the coffin
The sensations of my body have begun to secede from my unity. My feet will go numb. My fingers will burn. I will taste strange things.
It is getting worse. They want to hospitalize me now.
I wanted to return to China one last time. I defied them all. So here I am now that I have flown China Eastern from Boston to Pudong International Airport, Shanghai. Twenty-two hours and eleven minutes of my life.
An inch of time cannot be bought with an inch of gold.
The sensations in my body were a circus but none were unbearable, most were amusing, as I was within the pressurized cabin bobbing thirty thousand feet in heaven.
Heaven lent you a soul Earth will lend a grave.
The Taxi Card, a bi-lingual address information card sent to me by the Grand Hyatt Shanghai, I present to the taxi driver at the airport. The Taxi Card states
Jin Mao Tower, 88 Century Avenue, Pudong
Shanghai, China, 200121
The Grand Hyatt Shanghai is the heart of the Jin Mao Tower. The Grand Hyatt Shanghai occupies the 53rd to 87th floors of the Jin Mao Tower. The Jin Mao Tower is a stupendous erection in the manner of a grand pagoda, rivaled by the nearby Shanghai World Financial Center. I am made to think of my numb penis.
The Jin Mao Tower grand lobby is within a golden throat that ascends to heaven eighty-eight stories above. The lobby at 10:30 pm this night is a lonely palace. I feel that I must sit down under the weight of all these towering lights. A young man, in black shoes, black slacks, and black jacket, with a white shirt, approaches me alertly and recognizes that I am Chinese-American, or should I say American-Chinese? I smile.
The young man says, “I am Zan. How may I help you?”
I say, “Hello, Zan. I am Ken Wu. I have a reservation, here, for a River View King, Room 555, I believe. And could you please bring me a glass of grapefruit juice?”
Zan bows quickly and said, “I take care of all right away.”
A woman approaches me. She is beautiful and she is elegantly attired. Her movements are a delicate calligraphy, a Chinese brush painting where each brush stroke is a defining move producing a portion of the painting that is neither improved upon nor corrected.
She is poised before me. I am feeling like fire.
She says to me, “Pardon me, sir. I am Miss Jyna Chou. Do you mind if I sit here?” and she gestures to the chair directly across from me.
I say, “No, no, of course not,” and then, “I am Ken Wu,” who is thinking that such a woman would never speak to me as I wonder if she works here.
Jyna smiles and nods demurely, “I am pleased to be acquainted with you, Ken Wu.”
I am wondering now what can she be selling?
Zan brings me my grapefruit juice, “Here you are sir, Mr. Ken Wu. Here is your card for Room 555,” then he glances at Jyna who is looking down demurely under long eyelashes and then Zan turns to me again and asks of me, “Would Miss care for anything?”
Ah, so Miss Jyna Chou is known here to be thirsty. I smile and I ask her politely, “Miss Chou, would you care for…anything?”
Miss Jyna Chou smiles and raises her eyes to meet mine and she says, “Please call me Jyna. Yes, I would like a Club Soda. May I call you Ken, Mr. Wu?” and there is something playful about the way she says ‘Mr. Wu’. Playful like a tigress.
I am thinking ‘You may call me Ping Pong’ and I bow in acquiescence.
Jyna asks me, “Are you first time here?”
I nod, “Yes. I have wanted to come here for years. I was always too busy.”
Jyna smiles and asks, “And so you are not too busy now?”
I answer, “I have very little time but I am not too busy.”
Jyna is amused and she says, “That sounds like Zen philosophy.”
I shrug and answer, “No. It is Ken philosophy.”
Jyna laughs and it is as if a porcelain jar has come to life. She relaxes from her mission I think.
I am now thinking of my Great Grandfather as he told me of his exploits with the Tanka boat people, the “sea gypsies” of Hong Kong. He had winked and he had called his women “salt water girls”. Prostitutes.
Zan brings the Club Soda to Jyna and she nods graciously and Zan bows away graciously.
Jyna looks into my eyes and she must have watched the dawn of my comprehension. While she is no “salt water girl”, in a place like this she is probably a “contract wife” hired to accompany business partners or other influential guests during their business trips or other activities.
Jyna relaxing and with a smile is asking me, “Ken, if you are not too busy, why did you say you have ‘little time’? Not too little, I hope.”
I say, “I have somewhere between now and then.”
Jyna thinks that I am being playful.
Worry makes time longer, Work makes time shorter, Happiness makes time invisible.
Then I see Zan striding from across the lobby and he comes up beside Jyna. He leans toward her and speaks rapidly to her in a Chinese slang that I cannot understand at all. Jyna replies in the same jargon but her voice is raised and she gestures furtively to me. Zan ends with a tone of exasperation.
Zan turns to me, transformed again into the gracious host and he takes a business card from inside his black jacket and he offers it to me. The business card has an eggshell blue background with a picture of an alluring girl and a bi-lingual message that says in Chinese and in English “Lucky Happy Endings” and a phone number below it.
No Chinese riddle there I think.
Zan leans toward me and for the first time I notice tattoos creeping out of his white shirt collar. He speaks through a graceful veneer to me, “Mr. Wu, sir, Miss Jyna very busy business woman,” and he turns to look and Jyna who is looking at her knees and then Zan turns back to me and continues, saying, “Maybe you very busy. Maybe you like talk. Or maybe you looking for date?”
I am saying, “No,” and I see Jyna flinch, so I say, “How much for one week?” and Jyna looks up surprised.
Zan suddenly bears a smile too big for his face, leaning even closer to me and suggesting a price into my ear, “One thousand and one US dollars. Very good price. Very good date.”
I am suddenly most curious about the “one US dollar” and I ask Zan, “What is the purpose of the extra one US dollar? Why 1,001 dollars?”
Zan replies, “Extra dollar for good luck.”
I cannot resist then asking, “So, what are the thousand dollars for?”
Zan replies, “Many hours happiness and peace.”
I am looking into Jyna’s eyes.
Happy people never count hours as they pass.
Zan takes out a mobile phone with a credit card reader and I pay for my companionship. I try to be casual as if I am paying for our drinks. I am glad when Zan departs from us and we can no longer see him.
Jyna and I sip our drinks silently. Then Jyna says pleasantly, “You must want to enjoy your room. Shall we continue our conversation there?”
I am young though I don’t have much time. I still won’t think that it is all just money.
We ride the smoothly sliding elevator upward. We are joined by other couples.
A beautiful woman is seldom happy; an intelligent man is seldom beautiful.
We walk the circular corridor to what I hope is my room. It can be very confusing with spiral upon spiral.
Room 555 is a “River View King” and I joke to Jyna, “Please enter, my ‘River View Queen’,” and she smiles as she enters before me.
The room bears an elegant Art Deco design with a work area, high-speed wireless Internet, marble bath with robes, a high-pressure shower tower, a separate deep-soaking bathtub and a king bed with a feather-down duvet.
The windows are floor-to-ceiling with a view of the Shanghai waterfront, the smoke and fog now kindling with the city lights. I stand before the window and the foggy images blur my perception and I am seeing my reflection and behind me Jyna approaches.
Suddenly I am feeling like water. My legs vanish and I am collapsing to my knees and hands. Jyna cries out. I push myself to a sitting position in front of the window, still looking out. Jyna is beside me on her knees with her hands on my shoulders and I feel her breath as she asks, “Are you OK? What happened, Ken?”
I lean back against her and turn my head to her face and I say, “I have a brain tumor. I am slowly dying, Jyna. I can see that I came here to die.”
Jyna cries out, “I will call help!”
I raise my hand and shake my head and I say, “This will pass. A brain tumor is affecting many things that I take for granted. I can already feel my legs again.”
Jyna sits back sideways still holding me and she is saying, “Ken, stay still. Be certain that this passes,” and she feels my cheek and forehead.
I say, “Jyna, you are a good doctor.”
Jyna says, “I was going to be a doctor.”
I was going to say joke about doctor of love, or love specialist, but there was a deep echo of sorrow in her voice. I ask her instead, “What happened, Jyna?”
And Jyna begins her story.
“My family lives in Nanxiang Town, ancient town. We are very proud of my older brother, Cheng, who studies medicine to become doctor at Shanghai University. I dreamed to be a doctor as well. My beloved Cheng made promise to me when he is doctor he will help pay for me to study medicine to become a doctor at Shanghai University.
But my poor Cheng he is a gambler. He loses so much money to gamble. One night four years ago the Fuk Yee Tong gang show up at my family’s house. They break things. They push my mother and my father around. They hold Cheng. They say they will kill Cheng if we do not find the money to pay for his gambling.
I am hiding in the hallway. I am afraid for my brother and I just yell ‘Kill me instead’. The Fuk Yee Tong stop and talk and then they take me and say to my family that I will work for them to pay my brother’s gambling and they will kill me if they tell anyone.
The Fuk Yee Tong then tell me I am to be…a prostitute. They smile at me. I am just a girl. They say I will work in nice hotels. But if I run away they will kill my family. If I kill myself they will kill my family.
Four years I am in shame but I must be nice to customers. The Fuk Yee Tong want me to change my name to Pearl Bang but I keep my name. They do not take my name.”
I am not moving and I forget if I am breathing as I listen to Jyna. Then Jyna says with twisted face, “But American men think my name is some kind of joke.”
I feel myself exhale. I feel like dirt.
Jyna looks into my eyes and she asks, “Now you will want your money back, yes?”
I say quickly, “No. Of course not.”
Jyna says, “You are dying and I want to die.”
I say, “Jyna, what if you were in an accident, what if a car ran over you and killed you.”
Jyna looks aghast at me. I continue, “No, listen. If you died in an accident the… the gang would not kill your family, would they?”
Jyna smiles wryly and softly says, “I suppose not. They would not punish my family for the will of the gods.”
And so I sit there on the floor before the window, leaning in her arms with our faces close together and we talk. I tell her of my life, my plans, so many plans, even now, as the morning dawns in both of our faces.
I call for room service to bring croissants and coffee. When we have quietly dined I call for room service to bring up two bottles of Grey Goose vodka. I call then for a rental car, a convertible Lamborghini Gallardo.
I say to Jyna, “We will enjoy this day.”
Everything in the past died yesterday; everything in the future was born today.
I feel OK again. Jyna and I leave the room in the same clothes we entered, just a little fuss in the mirrors. We descend from heaven to the lobby and walk out arm-in-arm. We see Zan watching us.
I carry the Grey Goose vodka in my men’s day-bag. The swan-white convertible two-seat Lamborghini Gallardo is parked at the curb for us. I sign the digital receipt and I open the door for Jyna. I walk around to the driver’s side. Many faces are magnetized by this sports car. I notice that taxis and trucks and common vehicles keep their distance. We roar like a lion off into the jungles of Shanghais.
Jyna wants to show to me her hometown, Nanxiang, the ancient town surrounded by the hyper modern Shanghai. We first stop at a shop and I buy for Jyna a scarf and dark glasses.
In Nanxiang we park beside a canal lined with little cottages. I see in the backyard of one cottage an old man fishing from the canal.
Jyna says, “That is my home. That is my father.”
An old woman emerges from the cottage and walks to the old man.
Jyna says, “That is my mother.”
Jyna’s parents talk for a few minutes and then her mother notices the swan-white convertible two-seat Lamborghini Gallardo perched on the canal. She touches her husband’s shoulder and they both stare toward us.
Jyna says, “We must leave. Fuk Yee Tong will be watching.”
I back up quickly and then we throttle away to Shanghai University. We park at the University near the Medical Laboratories. Jyna and I walk the hallways quietly until we come to a particular laboratory and Jyna halts and whispers, “My dear brother Cheng.”
I see a young man intent upon a microscope.
Jyna says, “We must go now.”
We then drive to the Yangtze River. There we find a lonely place and park. We share a bottle of Grey Goose vodka, passing it back and forth as we watch ten thousand things.
The name, once introduced, becomes the Mother of the Ten Thousand Things. Unnameable is the Source of the Heaven and the Earth.
We talk until evening. I begin to feel acutely my lack of sleep for the last twenty-four hours. Jyna reaches into her purse and hands me a small glassine envelope full of powder.
Jyna says to me, “I offer this to my… clients when they… want more energy.”
I don’t ask. I trust her. I empty the envelope onto my tongue and I quickly gulp Grey Goose.
After several minutes I begin to feel light-headed. Then I begin to feel like iron. I realize that I can now feel sensations in my penis. I blossom like a lotus flower in the mud.
Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.
Jyna leans to my lap and opens my pants and she frees me. She places her fingers upon me. She places her lips around me and her lips caress me. She tugs my essence.
Love has its tides; before ebb tide you must take advantage of the flood.
Jyna withdraws my essence completely at last, and I am breathless, and my head is a circus, and Jyna sits up and drinks long from the Grey Goose.
Jyna says simply, “I am ready if you are ready.”
We drive onto the Chongming-Qidong Bridge, a six-mile long bridge, three lanes in each direction, that snakes in the shape of an elegant “S” from Shanghai across the Yangtze River to the island of Chonming, the last crossing of the Yangtze before the river empties into the East China Sea.
The speed limit is 100 kilometers per hour, about 60 miles per hour. I quickly reach 160 kilometers per hour. Jyna stares directly ahead. She drinks long from the Grey Goose. She passes it to me. I turn my head and watch my path ahead with one eye as I drink long from the Grey Goose.
I deliberately cut off other cars; I swerve across the three lanes, back and forth. It is impossible to lose control of this car. I throw the bottle of Grey Goose out of the car. I swerve to the far inside lane and then I turn as hard as I can toward the outer lane.
We hit the protective barrier with such momentum that the car is propelled up the barrier and spirals over the side of the bridge and we descend to the salt water below.
February 10, 2014
ImmunoGen, Inc. Announces the passing of chief scientist Ken Wu
WALTHAM, Mass.–(BUSINESS WIRE)– ImmunoGen, Inc. (Nasdaq: IMGN), a biotechnology company that develops novel anticancer therapeutics using its antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) technology, today announced the passing of chief scientist Dr. Ken Wu.
Dr. Wu had been in a coma since August 12, 2013 when he collapsed in his laboratory. In a terrible irony Dr. Wu was suffering from a particularly ferocious brain tumor. He never regained consciousness.
Hospital spokesperson Dr. Jyna Chou said “We had done everything I could to make Dr. Wu happy – comfortable, comfortable. We can all take comfort in knowing that he passed away with a smile.”
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