That’s how long I’ve been here. What the hell am I doing here anyway? Soul Brother and I still have not left. I never expected to be in the same city for a month. And not to mind.
Two nights ago was perhaps the most bizarre night of the year. The 4th of July was weird in countless ways. These “ways” included:
- the guy who kept cozying up to the girl he claimed not to want to f*ck, who claimed — in turn — that he was coming onto her, while both of them acknowledged that they had reasons for not wanting to hook up, and it was all a mess, and yet you couldn’t pull him away from her, or help him to escape because she’d pause and linger for dramatic effect whenever we walked away, then reappear, and aaaaaaaaaahhhhh, just AHHHHH!
….Sorry. Moving on. What else?
- the guy who was socially CLUELESS and supposedly made Soul Brother want to throw himself in front of a bus to save himself from the senseless blabbering
- the taxi driver who pretended to know how to get to the bar we wanted, until he left us somewhere in the middle of the French Concession with the confession that he really had no idea where to take us. Nice.
- the woman I got to loosen up enough to grab on to my ass while we danced. We had fun. And I was glad I was able to bring her out of her shell.
- the drunk woman at No. 88 who lap danced on me, gyrated on her knees with her head at my crotch, then threw herself on the floor on her back and waved her legs, then rose again and started pulling on my shirt (thought the boobies were going to spring free)… then fell backwards into the speaker system and was ushered offstage by the bouncers. Eh. It was fun while it lasted.
- the woman I hung out with for about 6 hours before we realized we’d met each other two weeks ago at our hostel. (Yes, the recognition happened after alcohol was involved.) I had only known her, prior, as the girl who did 10 hours of yoga a day. Beckham and I were fascinated by this when we first encountered her.
Anyway, Soul Brother tells me that the people in my life sometimes seem like charicatures. Well, let’s be fair; let’s expose me as a charicature. This was how Yoga Woman remembered me:
"I remember you!… You talked a lot with the guy from Sweden, or Norway or someplace. He kept wanting to talk to you. And do you remember I gave you fruit one night? [She gave us cherries.] You were there with another girl from America, and you kept saying very bad words."
Soul Brother cracked up; this sounded like me, and he knew it.
But Yoga Woman was a lot of fun to hang out with all evening, and the conversation had become even more lively when we realized we’d met before. She clarified that she had been taking a four-week class of long days of yoga; Beckham and I had misunderstood her and thought she was hanging out in her room at the hostel to do yoga for 10 hours a day. Now that the yoga class is over, she wants to take a language course, perhaps in French. Soul Brother suggested instead a language exchange, wherein I teach her Spanish and she teaches me Chinese. She talked with me a lot about my career prospects in a place like this, and she says I’d stand to make shitloads of money teaching Spanish. Making a living with languages, in a city I enjoy…. Tempting.
Yoga Woman’s Shanghai story is familiar:
"I thought I was only going to spend several days in Shanghai. But then I didn’t want to leave. I’m still here! I’ve been living in Shanghai for two months now, at the hostel. It’s a wonderful place. It feels very much like home."
I realized I’ve been here for about a month, and I had to ask myself, “Am I living here?” If somebody else has been here for several weeks, despite the fact that she has a home somewhere else, yet says that she’s “living here,” then what am I doing? When I was 21, I had an apartment in La Paz, Bolivia for a month, and I tell people that I “lived” in Bolivia for a month. I guess it’s “living” in a city, in the “soft” sense, since I always had somewhere else to go back to, but when you just make your days in one place for weeks on end, what do you call that?
Where the hell do I live??? This is too confusing…
Yoga Woman waxed enthusiastic about Shanghai. “Shanghai is a place that everyone has to experience in their lifetime. You have to experience Shanghai. Just to experience it. You don’t have to stay here forever, but you have to come here. Even if it’s just for a little while. But you must experience here. And you have to experience Shanghai while you’re young.”
She was very emphatic on this point. And the sentiment she voiced was familiar; it was a thought I had a long time ago. It was weird to hear those words again, words I’d heard in my mind way back when, during a faraway life. I just smiled and said, ”I have thought exactly the same thing. Actually, I have had exactly that same thought before I ever even had any idea that I would be coming here.”
Soul Brother spoke up then and said something to Yoga Woman about me:
"She was destined to come here."
It’s odd to hear other people speak of your “destiny.” But I’ve learned that Soul Brother is sometimes better at reading and predicting my life than I am. I thought I was just taking a vacation, a big travel hurrah to celebrate the end of my academic life. Was I destined to come here, specifically?
I listened in awe as Yoga Woman expressed that coming to Shanghai has made her “60 to 70% sure of what I want to do with my life.” It would be so awesome if I could travel somewhere and get that sort of effect from a place. Though Shanghai seems to have been pushing me in that direction, to be honest. I wonder where on this earth the full realization is going to hit me.
I’m really not sure why, but the Fourth of July was full of discussions about life purpose. In one memorable exchange with the impressively dramatic young lady referenced way at the beginning of this post, she asked why I was in Shanghai, and I tried to explain that it was a pretty random decision inspired by economic concerns; I was visiting friends elsewhre in Asia and realized I could save money on the total cost of my flights by going round-trip through Shanghai, rather than through my friends’ cities in Korea or Taiwan. When she realized that this was more or less a leisure decision, she wanted to know what I was doing with my life.
"I really don’t know. I was in a Ph.D. program, and I just quit a couple months ago, and now I’m traveling. I have no idea what I’m going to do for a job when I get back to the U.S. next month."
"I ACTUALLY respect you!" Her eyes widened with… some sort of unpredictable emotion that I can’t identify, and she kind of twisted in a jerking motion towards me, suddenly more engaged and animated. She appeared to be shocked by her own realization that she "actually" respects me. ‘Cause, you know, I guess either I’m simply not someone you look at and decide to respect by default, or because maybe she withholds her respect and only considers it worth extending to very few of her fellow human beings.
I had no idea what to say to her. “Well, I don’t know you at all, and I respect you…”
"No, I mean, I actually really respect you. I actually respect you.” I really had no idea why this was so significant to her, but she (of course) continued. “So you don’t know what the fuck you’re doing, do you?”
"No." I laughed. "I really don’t. I have no idea."
"Wow. I actually respect you!"
Somehow I had won her approval. Lovely.
Then the guy who’d been alternately inseparable and separable from her all evening bounced over to the couch with a grin and said, “Hey, I just met some rich Chinese guys! Do you girls want to meet a couple of rich Chinese guys?”
Maybe this invitation shouldn’t have offended me, but it did; why should the word “rich” make me want to talk to people? If he’d described the guys with an adjective of more substance, like ”friendly” or “interesting,” I might have been more receptive. Instead, sadly, I responded like a complete bitch, bristling at what I perceived had been his assumption about my character:
"I don’t give a fuck about meeting guys who are rich.”
Then I just coolly held his eyes for a few seconds and let that unexpected bombshell of a statement sink in. Hopefully, he begins to realize that not all women are interested in men of money. Meanwhile, my new acquaintance who “actually respected” me shot him a downright sour look. He grew visibly uncomfortable, and that was the end of that interaction.
Enough. Strange things happening here. Strange things. And pardon this poorly written nonsense of a post. I’m just trying to make sense of all the people I’m meeting and the things they’re saying to me and my own insecurities and the question of what I should be doing with myself and my life in the first place.
That’s all. Other than that, not a whole lot going on.