Happiness is not a station you arrive at, but a manner of traveling.
– Margaret Lee Runbeck
We are what suns and winds and waters make us. ~ Landor
The flight back from China and I am so close to Hui I feel his breath on my neck. Over the engine, over all the cranky people folded into seats too small for their rice-filled bodies I almost don’t hear him tell me his secret:
Always smile, Never worry.
But when his hot breath settles on my left cheek, I understand what he is saying-
A potion for your stomach, for your chi
through that yellow smile of his.
He presses a small bottle of Hui’s Chi Liquid into my palm.
I have a lot of poison in my body he can tell this just by looking at me, he says.
I am seduced by people like him: Clairvoyants.
Hui, what’s going to happen to me?
His shoulder pressed into mine and I don’t mind. I like Hui.
I am safe up here in the sky with my smiling clairvoyant.
He is thin, a slip of a thing, and I wonder if large numbers of people spend their entire lives crammed on boats, earning their living moving goods and people over the lakes does that mean that Hui and I can survive up here in the sky in this airtight cabin? Forever?
Coasting over clouds, viewing everything from such a height that nothing seems so bad anymore.
We would be so far removed from it all. Our perspective would change accordingly.
We had ridden together on the houseboats in Suzhou as old women pushed water out of their way, the geography of their bodies as various as that of their land: dense and vital to the earth.
Those women understood the interaction between a natural environment and human patterns; they have broken the code.
They know who they are, what they must do.
They will not be broken.
What has made me?
Which materials am I built from?
Have I been broken?
Hui and I had sat on the boat shivering, slapped by the January air. A kind of cold you can never prepare for.
The personality of the cold there on the Suzhou River strong willed and ancient.
Upon returning to New York we will have a new understanding of temperaments, of tenacity.
It was that kind of cold.
The kind to teach us lessons, to trigger our memories when we are feeling slack and numb to the world- the kind of cold to wake us from sleep and remind us what it means to be alive and sliding down a river in China on a dark and dreary dinghy.
Trace decay hypothesis is where information in the long term memories decays with time. This will not happen in our minds!
Our fate is sealed! The cold has entered us!
Whether we will remember it isn’t the question.
It’s: how long before we remember it again?
How long before we will feel that alive again?
**This piece was originally written when I was about 21 years old.