Wey Lee could speak perfect Mandarin and perfect English; he had Anglicized the spelling of his name but refused to take on a appellation more palatable to flabby Western tongues, as had many of the Josephs and Sallys and such that Zhang Min had met on the campus. Compared to the twinkies that seemed to overrun the campus, the young man was a fresh breath of sharp fall air.

She had made turning pages and scanning them for Dr. Li such an automatic process that when Wey dropped by (as he often did, seemingly living in the library) she was able to engage him in bright and bubbly Mandarin even as she digitized books written by Americans on Tiananmen Square. Most of all, Zhang Min appreciated Wey’s sense of decorum: he was careful to meet her in a crowded place and in such a way (when she had her turn at the scanning terminal) that no one would suspect them of an illicit liaison.

They spoke of many things, of their shared memories of hot South China summers, of the terrible slop that passed for Chinese food in Hopewell, of how full of themselves the local Cantonese speakers seemed to be in comparison to the down-to-earth Mandarin speakers like themselves, and a shared passion for the admittedly cheesy soap operas and patriotic dance displays on mainland television. It made the tedium of scanning more bearable, and the ominous glares of that suspicious librarian less heart-pounding.

But Dr. Lin’s words could not be misinterpreted: “Do not think for a moment that you are here on a pleasure trip. Do not allow yourself to be distracted, as distraction leads to poor quality scans and lack of useful patriotic effort. Remember: if you cannot do as you are asked, there are ten girls in line to replace you.”

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