(Some works in the works, 2013)
Just when the days were getting longer they're turned upside down. They were just as long but they started earlier and ended when things were just getting started. And it being twelve hour of time difference I never knew what time it was as the actual time competed with my mental notion of time, and so for three weeks in China I looked at my watch with an abstract understanding and forgot what day it was completely. I still don't know what day it is.
I remember seeing open doors for the first time, walking through the crowded streets in Beijing, there, open, families interacting, and I being able to see what they were doing, who they were, and them not giving me any mind as what they were seeing, me on the street, this staring and lost outsider fades into their everyday. Often single lights would hang from the center of small rooms lighting everyone in as much golden light as shadow. Where the room ended was only suggested by the lack of what could be seen, and the scene itself would soon pass as I carried on down the street. Apartment after apartment mixed with smells that would vary each few feet and the moving crowd's configuration that would shift making my walking motions move me to the left, to the right, stop, and hurry up.
In all the rambling around me in a language I did not understand the only interruptions would be in English and would not be informative or delightful to hear as it was always someone trying to sell me something, these refreshments, these souvenirs, this mode of transport, or this place to eat. Some were more aggressive than others while some could see a cheapskate right away. I wondered if this is what you meant by "madness", that word that introduced me to this place, and something I had been looking for since I arrived (maybe even earlier than that).
We met a long-haired man that reminded me of my father, perhaps because he looked very Chinese, young, and always had a smile on his face. It is those traits I saw in the long-haired man that owned the Quiet Bar by the river that my image of my father no longer possessed, whose hair was shorter and no longer looked foreign, different, but just a familiar stranger that hardly ever smiled. We drank Tsing Tao's while watching tourists and locals interact below: tuk-tuks carrying white visitors in their tourist uniforms and an ancient bell tower just beyond, what change that lonely tower must have seen over the years. Later we were walking down an alleyway full of shops and American Rock & Roll, every time I saw a white person look at me I wondered if they knew they could hold a conversation with me, that I came from somewhere similar to where they came from. I don't know why I thought this each and every time a white person looked at me and perhaps I just wondered what they saw, if I blended in or if they knew I was half them, and all of them (being a visitor and an outsider to understanding all of this (points to any busy street in China)).
Walking alone a British girl looked at me reading on the curb with locals and smiled. I wondered if I should have followed her, asking her where she was from, wanting to learn anything about this stranger just to have a conversation. In my head I couldn't get past the first few motions in a preemptive conversation to declare I wasn't selling her something, that I just wanted to speak in my native tongue with someone who I wasn't travelling with. She passed by and soon disappeared into the crowd and I never saw her again in my life.
We rented bikes on our last night in Beijing and got drunk. Riding drunk through Beijing was just like riding drunk back home, and even though it has been a few days into this trip home felt like a long way away right then and there. Perhaps it was me seeing the future for the past, that I knew this trip was long and it had just started, with many more places, people, moments, and emotions to go through before I can start thinking of home again. So each passing day made the previous two seem like weeks ago as we carried on via train, bus, tuk-tuk, small van, bike, ferry, and airplane. Where and what was this madness you were talking about, I was beginning to think that I could only understand that if I were to replace my eyeballs with your eyeballs and spent some time in your shoes doing what you do and seeing what you see. Eventually I would come to realized the madness, but by then I'd be consumed by it...