Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Well, It Was Twenty Years Ago Today

She's been cranky recently. I didn't know why for a couple of days.

I'd been meaning to ask her to tell me about "the Tiananmen Event," as she calls it, for some time. I'd always wanted to know from her what it was like to be there. We've talked about it once or twice; I think that she was bitterly disappointed that from Chicago, we saw them as a bunch of poor, brave sods, quixotically marching off to their doom. In the here and now, she's a heroine - she doesn't understand the vast amount of currency she has with people we know, the immense respect that blossoms as soon as they hear about it. I don't know how to explain it to her, or how she would react. I don't know that she'd like it. I suspect she wouldn't.

Now, with the anniversary of the Event looming, she's been feeling sad and isolated. There are other people from China here. Some that she's known since Junior High School, but none that were with her during Tiananmen. Those people are all somewhere else. Those that survived. She told me of saying good-bye to one of her friends. When she next saw him, 12 hours later, he'd bled to death. Once, when she went back to China to visit her family, her cab was nearly run off the road. Another friend told her that it was the dead man's ghost, trying to kill her. He'd loved her, you see, and wanted her to be with him forever. Ghost stories, I can related to. Having good friends killed, and finding out later they loved me, I can't.

Tomorrow, she'll be miserable. She'll come and talk to me, and I, unable to soothe her misery, will share it, instead. This I will hide from her. She may guess, she may not. She wants to talk to someone who will understand so badly. The fact that I'm the best she can do crushes my soul. She called her parents the other day. The connection was poor. They were cut off a couple of times. It's not usually like that. She suspects that the government is monitoring her parent's phone, so she didn't mention it.

I haven't participated in any of the social movements that have gone on in the United States recently. And all of the really great ones were before my time. So I am forced to read about them in newspaper web archives or watch old news clips. There will be nothing about Tiananmen in the Chinese media. Many of those who were prominent, and on the side of the students, have been un-personed. They now exist only in the memories of those who knew them, and in the press of foreign lands.

When I go to bed this evening, and when I wake up tomorrow morning, I won't be able to tell you what I was doing, exactly twenty years ago. I don't know if that leaves me worse off than her, or better.