I fled. I fled my horrid roommates that I pray are not somehow my karmic lesson. I packed my backpack like an adolescent running away from home. I hopped in a cab having no real ideas. I was at least going to the center… to a hostel… to escape… to get some space. When I glance up at a building my eyes water just from having witnessed the quantity of smog that is clinging to the side of the it. Everything feels grey and communist and tastes like the green loogies that I’ve been coughing up for weeks.
The farther away I get, the happier I feel. Fuck. That’s like being married… only with none of the benefit. There is no way in hell that I’m going to leave my hot ass husband that I have a great sex life with to come be married to these two maniacal blondes. They are twice as demanding, totally in my shit, and not putting out. It’s all the shit of living in a communist country with none of the hottie Chinese husband around. At least if things get awkward in my real marriage my husband goes to work. These two go with me everywhere! We negotiate the shower, they want to go to the store with me, we walk to work together, we sit side by side at work, they feed us at work so we have lunch together, they don’t want to cross the street alone for fear of getting lost, etc. etc.
I get on the subway. I start to relax. I realize that this is the first time I’ve been alone if I’m not taking a piss in weeks. It feels *really* good… which is odd, because lately, I’ve felt really lonely, and arguably, I am far from alone right now. In fact, the closer I get to the center of Beijing the seriously less alone I become. I’m standing by the subway door. It’s getting thick in here. I marvel at how many people can fit in such a small place in China. For the first time I wish I had my journal that Kye gave me and I don’t. More people pour in. I’m crammed in a corner. Two women are so close that their faces are literally inches away from mine. The woman in yellow leans her head on the pole that we are both sharing for support. I think about this closeness. I welcome it. I contemplate “alone.” I’ve had my space invaded without having enough physical contact for weeks. Now several dozen strangers pressed close starts to feel warming. Ah… I relish in it. The woman in yellow leans large parts of her body into me. It feels like a 16 person hug. The subway speeds along. Each person is in silence. The subway stops. The doors open. Not one person comes on or off. We resume our high speed group hug. I wonder if it feels like comfort to everyone else. Large repeating panels of LED advertisements cleverly flash so that you can read them at underground transit speed. The warmth, the over crowdedness, the woman in yellow, the LED’s, the fact that I can’t read them drop me gently into a comfort. I’m swimming in it. The subway stops. The doors open. Miraculously, 15 more people pour in seamlessly. Behind my pink face mask, which is now there to protect me from the sun blocking, lung destroying pollution, I smile in sheer fascination. It almost feels like glee. Men reach for the ceiling, or a distant pole, to place what they can, usually just a finger or two on it for support. The women reach for nothing. They just curl in… seeming to feel safe in the massiveness. The doors open. Seven more people come in. No one gets off. Our hug is definitely disturbed. I still marvel at the mild awkwardness growing. Next stop is mine. Words can not describe the awkward departure that me and my back pack (which is almost the same size of some of my Chinese subway companions) make. Imagine an antelope wrapped in fly paper imitating Baryshnikov. Then you start to get the picture.
I’m out. I’m above ground. I go the wrong way. I’m on a boulevard. A mammoth one. A mammoth one filled with blue, glowing, dripping, LED icicles as far as the eye can see. How odd. I walk on. (the wrong way) Take me to the past and the future at the same time. Make the present seem almost incomprehensible. I cough. I wonder. I realize I’m lost. I smile. I turn to point myself the right direction. (hopefully) I’m on track. I turn down a very small, narrow alley. The kind your mother would never want you to go down. Through the darkness, I realize that I’m passing a temple. Odd spot for a temple. There are neon lights here and there scattered throughout. It’s dark. It’s scary. It smells good. And suddenly…. I slip into an underground network of mystery and no-whereness and I breathe stronger… like I’ve finally got oxygen! At last! My wandering soul feels at home!