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Monday, April 19, 2021

A Chinese man goes to bed. Do you want to meet him?

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For those desperate to persuade themselves that New England is still among the world’s most attractive cities, I would challenge you to challenge yourself to meet up with 30 typical Chinese men in Boston on Feb. 21. At some point, and probably around 9 p.m., one of them might crash you in the local Marriot.

Boston boasts more than 150,000 Chinese immigrants, and I’ve lived here for a while. I know this for sure because I think of it constantly.

These men come to the States with substantial educational backgrounds and earn top salaries (I get paid several thousand dollars more than I would on the island, if I was Chinese). And they’re impossible to meet here, so when I told one of my new friends that she might like to go for a drink with James Rodríguez, the Brazilian phenom on Manchester United’s books, she immediately said, “That’s not a really a good idea. He comes in and goes straight to bed.”

James Rodríguez would come in, go straight to bed, and probably not dance in a hot tub. Photo: Christopher Lee Photography/Getty Images

Is he someone you’d like to meet? My friend is not alone in that view. While traveling in Southeast Asia, I was constantly reminded to “stalk James.” He’s often described as “archetypal” — sort of like Salman Rushdie but more “attractive.”

On Facebook, there are countless images of him shirtless in bed — but, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, he is always the same: shirtless, still youthful and, as it happens, talented. From the moment he stepped out of the cold airwaves of Telefe to the moment he made his United debut, he’s been an enthusiastic party animal who appears to have aged only a few years.

James Rodríguez seemed like the first player ever who talked about the banana whilst on the field. Perhaps he was just joking. But anyone who was there to witness the game of his junior and senior years in Spain watched with awe as he progressed to “señor niño” to “la mana del punto.”

Photo: Paul Jones-Jones/Getty Images

Other players have showed off their glitzy frontiers. (Luke Shaw, anyone?) But Rodríguez is different: He pays no attention to his appearance. He looks as “normal” as any other athlete and is not an especially handsome man. As an aside, he’s also somewhat impervious to disappointment. When United scored a few weeks ago in a 2-1 win over Southampton in the League Cup, Rodríguez ran all the way from the center circle to the goals, jumping and chasing back all the way. He was breaking all sorts of records. There was no falling down or celebrating. He looked as delighted as if he’d won the Cup.

But he couldn’t get through the crowd of supporters. He was off to the side where he opened his heart to us. He said nothing, but we could hear his heart beating. I think our hearts were beating too.

Rory Smith is the author of The Madrassas of Los Angeles and is a frequent Guardian contributor.

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