Friday, April 26, 2013

"I can go home now."

On the highway. In the middle of the night.

In Beijing.

"I was right."

The exit signs on the highway, covered in Chinese characters. Oh, I was right, I was right.

Driving home from the airport. My friend's parents had picked us up. They were asking me questions in Chinese. Which places in China had I visited? Had I seen the Great Wall?

Finally everything felt right. For weeks and weeks, my mind had felt like it was tearing itself apart, because of a belief in a culture so completely different that no hint of its existence could be found in my American life.

A place where the exit signs on the highway had Chinese characters.

And there in that car, I kept saying to myself, "I was right, I was right." It does exist. And I knew I had to be there.

Driving home from the airport, reading the Chinese highway signs. This is what I came to China for.

And then, I thought, "I can go home now."

Because that was all I needed, to see the street signs with Chinese characters. It felt so good, so natural, that I'd forgotten my "home" wasn't like that. My own country, where I had been just 14 hours before this... maybe it was the jet lag that made me forget how much I had struggled to remember China in my own country...

Struggled? How? Here I was, in reality, with Chinese characters telling me the names of the streets. Of course this is normal, and this is all I need, I can go home now.

All those worries about whether my memories of China were accurate. All the doubt and wondering if I was crazy to want to go there again. All the excitement, the feeling like it was too good to be true, when my friend invited me to visit her home in Beijing. All the money for the plane tickets, the phone calls to get a visa, the passport photos at CVS. All that effort- and it all was forgotten in my jet-lagged state in that car. Of course I'm here. How could it have been hard to get here? This is where I'm supposed to be.

And the exit signs with the Chinese characters...

"I can go home now." Forgetting that at home I couldn't rest, for fear of forgetting China. Forgetting that at home, there were no highway signs with Chinese characters.

"I was right." I was right to go to China. I was right to believe in it even when I couldn't see it.

"I was right, I was so right."

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