Clenched Teeth & Baby Faces

6 Dec

English: Beijing subway system Dawanglu statio...

China. Beijing. The land of many many people. They’ve got pulses. Hearts that feel.

So do I.

There’s a soft and steady tap as I walk under the bridge near Guomao (国贸); Dawanglu specifically. My only thought is getting home. “Gotta get home. Gotta get home.”

Guomao

I can’t lie, I’m excited about the 50 kuai bottle of wine I’m carrying in my right hand. It’s from Chile, Cabernet Sauvignon, specifically La Cara. Not my favourite, it’s not the best, but it’s a red and I always enjoy hongjiu (紅酒) . Let’s be honest here, it’s a $8 CAD bottle of wine. Ha!  Definitely not the best. But I like drinking wine…what can I say?

I’m content. Happy. And things are seeming to go my way. Maybe work is not as great, maybe now there are problems and my boss isn’t the best. Maybe the fellow I like isn’t answering my texts, or whatever. Let’s be clear:

I don’t care. Meh…

I come walking at my jet speed; I learned it from my mother, and then I see them. I’m crossing the Dawanglu bridge and I see them. A tall Chinese man, very thin, chasing a shorter man around a small three-wheeled tuk-tuk so to speak.  Another man comes, he’s holding something. Staring is something I’m good at. So I do. I grit my teeth and I stare.

The third man holds a hammer and he starts hitting the shorter man with it. The tuk-tuk belongs to the shorter man. How do I know? He’s wearing knee-pads and his coat barely fits. He’s barely living. He’s surviving.

Soon there are ten short Chinese men running at him and then the short tuk-tuk driver is on the ground and they’re hitting him.  Crow-bars appear from no where, lead pipes seem to pop into their hands. They’re punching him. Kicking him. I’m still staring and they see me.

They say ” Foreigner, she doesn’t understand.” (她不明白.)

I do. I understand. But what can I do? What can I say?

Now these thoughts are floating in my head. After-all I am foreign. I am a woman. I speak Chinese but only on a basic level. Are these excuses?  What should I do? Dear Lord what should I do? I stare. I stare and I stare.

I stare as they carry this man to a van. I turn away and I hear screams. That’s all and there are a few others who are staring with me. They are native speakers. A man and I exchange a long look. But he looks down and continues to walk. There are people who can do something, but it’s not their job. “Why do something that you’re not paid for?” Why stick out your neck for someone who potentially did something wrong? Justice. It’s lacking.

So what’s worse? A land full of people who won’t take a chance? Or a person who could have stuck out her neck and didn’t? I continue to walk. Damn. DAMN. I am so angry.

Subway: Line 1 to Xidan. Subway transfer: Line 4. Renmin University (人民大學). At the Wangfujing stop a baby runs on. His smile is as big as his pudgy face. Soon he’s crying to his mom, stretching his arms up, he wants to be held. Carried.

His eyes meet mine and we begin to make faces, well I do at least. I puff out my cheeks, make a fish face.  Yeah that’s right. I went from witnessing a gang beating, to making a little child laugh.

The cuteness of the situation dissipates and that adorable baby becomes the annoying baby. Spoiled, loud, crying. I transfer to line 4 and then I see a mother and daughter. They are cold to each other. Uncommunicative. They don’t even talk. I think of my family.  I consider my father, my mother, my older sisters and my younger one. How on earth could I not talk to them?

I’m plagued with what I saw. I care. I care a ton. But it’s not enough that I simply care. It’s not enough that I’m crying on the subway home. It’s not enough. My compassion without understanding, doesn’t help at all.

I’m overwhelmed with a feeling. Shame. Shame is all I feel now. Shame then, shame now. Shame at being obsessed with my damn romantic life, with damn money and damn materialism, with my damn happiness. Happiness. I am desperate for it and that short tuk tuk man most likely…won’t know it for a while. That baby’s got boat loads of it, and that mother and daughter will have it but won’t know what to do with it.

Shocked at my nativity, astounded at how ruthless and heartless humanity can be, I won’t pass judgement. I don’t know.  My uncertainty about life is heightened and my humility has deepened. I can decide to be better, but I can’t hide the simple truth; I am humbled.

Die ahead?

Die ahead? (Photo credit: cobblucas)

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2 Responses to “Clenched Teeth & Baby Faces”

  1. mox December 7, 2012 at 11:08 pm #

    My heart was pounding as I read your description of that poor man….and what a contrasted experience with the baby. Thank-you for sharing this episode which encourages me to examine what I would do if I am ever in a similar situation….

  2. Susan December 11, 2012 at 9:18 am #

    Yes, I remember the Tuk Tuks! You may enjoy my post on If You Take Your Mother to Thailand! You can find it by using the title in the search box. Those vehicles are somethings else!

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