When I was landing into the beautiful, clear autumn night of Beijing two days ago, the sparkling amber lights of the mega city extended miles and miles beneath and led my eyes to the far horizon. I took a deep, long breath, as I imagined the sweet, clean and cool air outside. My home town presented its best face, perhaps knowing that, this time, I had come to bid her farewell.
Now the flat is as empty as I first came and saw it a year ago. It's another of those moments one cannot help turning back to the intensely emotional memories from a life chapter that's coming to a closure. After almost two full years of living again in the city where I grew up and where I had returned to reconnect with an open heart and great expectations, I am escaping from it when the reconnection collapsed into a sad and disappointing drama. For the time being, I prefer to hide these two years in a little dark corner where I cannot see until one day, hopefully, I find peace with them.
Yes, Beijing could've been kinder to me, but what do I have to complain about? Did I forget the man at the bike repair stand running around the full day to find replacement for my flat tyres and charging almost nothing for his hard work? Did I forget the young photo enthusiasts I bumped into by the side of Kunming Lake of Summer Palace helping to hold my tripods steady in piercing gust as I was taking photos of the 17-hole bridge? Did I forget the vibrant red orchid flowers brought to me by a dear friend during her short lunch break to cheer me up on a cold winter day? And did I forget my old "military comrade" holding my hand firmly in silence when I broke down into tears of despair? ... There have been so many heart-warming moments blessed into my memories by unswerving friends and kind strangers alike.
It was in Beijing and in agonizing circumstances that I discovered my lack of courage to face up to ugliness and vulnerabilty of human nature, in which I have my own share. A profound fear for being cornered to no choice but to encounter such ugliness and vulnerability face to face is so deeply rooted in me that I become a ready deserter when I sense the danger of this happening. Out of this fear, "I strove with none, for none is worth my strife".
As I write, the city is again being besieged by a heavy smog, so is my mind. Tomorrow morning I'll close another door, leave the key inside, and never enter it again. I cannot see what lies ahead but have no worries. Strangely enough, a melancholic tenderness is quietly taking hold of me and giving me hope that there will be a reconciliation between myself and my hometown together with everything it had witnessed in the past two years, somewhere down the road.
So long, Beijing! So long, my years of innocence! Life goes on, and I'll continue to beautify it. Beautify it, until death takes it to the unknown.