Reality. Reality is not something that often crosses my mind these days. In reality, maybe reality has never been something of which I have given much thought. Or maybe my reality is just a different reality. I don’t know, maybe I never will.
Most of the time, I do not stop to think about where I am. In the morning when I wake up, I don’t say to myself: “Hey, I’m living in Shanghai.” I do not often stop to think that to get back to the States would take two days and anywhere from $700 for a cheap off-season ticket to $1400 for a high season ticket.
On the bus, I think about this. On the bus I think about CJ. On the bus a few weeks ago with CJ, he told me that he is going to get married soon. He seems unsure about this. The marriage may take place within the next year. He asked me what age people marry in America. I tell him in their mid to late 20s. He tells me it is the same in China.
I tell him I think that could be young. He tells me he thinks he is too young to marry. I do not tell him my age. He does not ask. We have been friends for a few months now. He tells me he is 24.
As I take my last bus ride back to Songjiang, I think about this. CJ lives in a different world than I do. His world involves being engaged, living with his girlfriend and working as a software developer to realize what in America is called the American Dream. In China, I am not sure what they call it. It seems to be basically the same. He commutes over an hour on the bus and metro each day both ways to go to work.
Then, the realization hits me that soon I will be moving to this really great apartment in Shanghai proper. Soon, I will be able to just walk to the metro and hop on and go where I want. The metro will take me anywhere in Shanghai.
This is very exciting. Tomorrow CJ and his friends are coming to help me move out of my apartment. Everything seems to be falling into place nicely.
The signing of the lease presented no hitches. This is good. This is very good. Soon, very soon now, I will start the new chapter, this chapter will take place at the International Foreign Language Middle School. I am Tyson; I live in Shanghai.
But now, back to matters at hand, I think of all of the things that I still have to pack. It would be so nice to watch the movies that I picked up at the bootleg movie store. I would love to have one more day to pack and tie up loose ends at the apartment.
At the last minute, I am always like this. Oh, if I had a little more time. I tell myself this as I am walking to the apartment. I make a stop at Christine to buy some treats for tomorrows troops. CJ may have two people with him. I buy some jelly filled cookie like pastries that are quite tasty. At the same time, I buy a Christine sandwich.
Back at my apartment, I check my email. CJ writes to tell me he has business tomorrow in Suzhou. Can we postpone the move to Sunday? This is like kismet or some other dumb overused word. This is perfect.
The aspect that is not perfect is that there will be no truck available this weekend. All of his company’s trucks will be needed in Suzhou except for one which is not to be taken out of Songjiang. CJ writes he will call some ‘room moving companies’ for me.
By the time I read the email, CJ has left work. I call his cell phone and tell him that Sunday would be fine to move, and to proceed looking for a company to move me. He tells me this may cost 200 yuan (about 25 bucks). I tell him that is fine. He tells me he will call me tomorrow. I tell him that is fine.
CJ is a fantastic person. He goes out of his way to do these things for me that he is by no means obligated to do. Sometimes, the thanks he gets is my frustration. I really try to keep my frustration in check. He is so kind; I try to remember this.
Nevertheless, often, when he explains a situation to me, I almost feel as if he is speaking in code and it is my job to decipher what he is saying. This can be very frustrating when it is something that should not take much thought. Then, as I have said before, I get mad at myself for getting frustrated because he by no means has to put up with my whining or my frustration.
By this time, the night has come. Since I have an extra day to put everything in order, I decide to finish packing tomorrow. Today has been a full day. I am ready to rest. I am ready to watch the movies I got.
I watch this dark teen movie – Brick. Chances are it is showing at the USA art houses at the moment. That is how random the DVD selection is here. Nestled next to the new X-men movie or the latest Mission Impossible travesty is a movie like Brick, or maybe a random art fag movie in this case like the one by Bruce Labruce. This is too intriguing, a movie about a hairdresser that becomes involved with a skinhead and makes the skinhead his sex slave; a definite must see. Production values, I do not expect much in that area.
Saturday: I should be whirling in and finish all of these loose ends at the apartment. I have things in the freezer and refrigerator. I need to figure out what to do with them. Around the apartment are random piles of papers that I need a looking through to decide whether I want to keep them or not.
What I need are some big Hefty trash bags. I decide to take a walk to Bai Ren Fa for these. Last night, I looked at the small grocery across the street from Christine Bakery. The only trash bags there were for small office size waste bins. The Bai Ren Fa trek should be sooner than later because it seems to get really packed on Saturday evenings like the midway at the Oklahoma State Fair without the promise of funnel cakes and Indian tacos.
At Bai Ren Fa, the aisles are still manageable. While I am looking for trash bags, I think about what else I might need for the move. Randomly, I grab a pack of sponges. I find the trash bags. I buy two packs because I am not sure if the one that is not in a roll is actually trash bags. I would be pissed if I accidentally grabbed the wrong thing. It actually looks like it could be disposable tablecloths.
Next to the Bai Ren Fa is a KFC. I decide to go there. I tell myself once I am in this new apartment I will not eat as much junk food. I will somehow try to become better acquainted with the eateries around me. KFC will no longer be my default lunch or dinner.
There are two KFCs in Songjiang. The other one is downtown. Even though the time is 2 pm, the KFC is packed. With my tray, I walk around looking for a seat. There is a two top with a tray still there. Looking to make sure the diner has left, I start to sit down. A KFC worker comes over and grabs the tray before I sit down. He looks at me like I have done him a grave injustice. The workers here are very serious and determined about their jobs. Maybe working at KFC holds some promise of one day going to America.
Everyone in the place is staring at me, at least it seems like everyone is. Anyway, I am getting a lot of stares. Stares seem to be my main business here. Sometimes, when I smile at the older people they just look at me as if I am an animal.
Once I sit down, I realize I have no straw. The young couple that are sitting across from me, I motion to them like “Will you watch my tray?” I do not wait for an answer; I walk around a corner back to the counter to grab a straw. When I come back and sit down, I thank them. They smile; they have no idea why I am thanking them.
When the taxi drops me off in front of the school gates, my favorite guard and a younger guard are on duty. When I walk by the gate house, my favorite guard always acts as if I am the exact person that he wants to see at that moment more than anyone else in the world. He smiles really big and waves. He reminds me of someone but I cannot place whom, maybe an actor, someone Italian or Hispanic probably.
In a moment of weakness – I love to see the guards smile – I take treats to the guards. Occasionally, I leave snacks for the guards but it seems like it is one of the older men (that do not dress in uniform) that are there when I do. Narrowly, I always seem to miss my favorite guard. This time, my favorite guard is there.
From my apartment, I grab two snacks out of the Christine bag and hurry back to the gate house. This seems to be too good to be true that my favorite guard will actually be there so that I can drop a snack off specifically for him and he knows that I am dropping it off specifically for him. Why I am making such a fuss over something that costs less than fifty cents would stump some I am sure but I know in my heart that these guards really love getting these little treats. Maybe this is the grandfather in me. Maybe they just smiled because they know it makes me so happy.
Upon arriving back at the gate house with the two precious snacks, I encounter a snag. Within less than five minutes, my favorite guard has vamoosed. In his place, one of the older guards - who does not wear - a uniform sits. This is perplexing and disappointing. Is my favorite guard actually Houdini?
The non-uniformed guard who is sitting in his place is, as I said previously, one of the guards who always seem to be there when I come extolling treats. I hand the two treats to the younger guard and the older gruff guard. The older gruff guard reminds me of an animated bear, maybe one of the elders in The Jungle Book. He gruffly says some phrase I do not understand as he nods his head when I give him the treat.
As I am giving the younger guard the other treat, I try to ask with body language what happened to the other guard. He understands. He points to the backroom. I nod my head in understanding.
With that, I hold one finger up as if to say ‘hold on’ ‘wait a minute’ ‘I’ll be right back.’ I then make haste back to my apartment and grab another treat pronto. Believe it or not, I run back to the guard house with the treat in my hand and an extra treat in my pocket in case another guard had wandered up. When I get there, there is my favorite guard. I hand him the treat. Maybe he saw me running back with the treat, maybe he is grateful that I did come back with the treat, maybe he thought he had missed out since he was momentarily out of the room; whatever the case may be, he now looks at me with one of the kindest looks I have ever seen.
Back at my apartment which I will soon vacate, I cannot seem to get motivated to finish packing. I throw some clothes in the trash bag. I throw some more books and kitchen ware into my luggage. At this point, in my life, I have made so many moves it seems like it would be easy to just gather everything up and take off. Since I have been here less than 6 months, it should be super easy. Moving is a drag no matter what.