If there’s a low-hanging light fixture in your home, Guo Jian is sure to bump his head on it. If there’s an uneven step on your stairway, Guo Jian is sure to trip up it ….or down it… or both. If you’re carrying something that’s obviously precarious and you don’t verbally warn him, he is sure to not notice that you have anything in your hands, collide with you playfully and then look bewildered when you scream as everything crashes to the floor.
The thing is, he is bewildered. He is so unable to see the details in a room that I sometimes wonder if he has vision problems. He claims that he just gets too focused on whatever he’s thinking to see anything else. I have even wondered if he might not have some incurable form of low level brain damage.
At least, that’s what I think when I’m irritated. It’s funny, for the most part.
Once, I was working on a grant application and I had laid out all the pages in order of their sections so that I could properly collate it. The pages were positioned on the couch. The desk was beside the couch in the same room. Guo Jian came barreling into the room with delight sparkling from his limbs and said, “I have news!” (one of his stock English expressions).
In one solid movement, he flopped onto the couch with a leap and I bounced up in the chair in a horrified simultaneous counter reaction crying, “No, wait, stop!” Some of my pages went flying up as he descended and several crumbled up beneath him. Unbelievably, he simply continued talking like there was nothing to worry about, deaf to my cries. He honestly didn’t even notice the pages until I angrily pointed to his thigh where one was wedged and twisted.
On that day, I didn’t want to hear his news and he was so hurt that I “didn’t care.” My frustration took the better of me. I mean, what is he, a toddler? I said that I was hurt that he “didn’t care” about what I was doing before bursting into it and making such a mess.
But how can you be angry with someone who really doesn’t mean to do anything wrong?
When Guo Jian carries instruments, I fear for people’s safety. Like those old Three Stooges episodes where one would pick up a long item like a piece of wood or thick piping, hoist it over his head and then swing around, not worrying about where its other end swung to, inadvertently knocking the other guy to the ground, Guo Jian and a long instrument case is a slapstick accident waiting to happen. Especially at an airport.
I pity any suitcase on wheels being dragged behind Guo Jian along a crowded sidewalk, its wheels screaming, its handle wrenched and twisted beyond compassionate luggage laws. I pity the feet of the passersby that he runs its wheels over without noticing. On rainy days, I pity those people carrying umbrellas when his shoulders bump their umbrellas’ pointy edges and their heads are met with rude, moist resistance.
I once followed behind him as he rushed haphazardly through the streets of Guangzhou when we were together in that city, both bands booked at the same festival. I was following closely until I started to see the collateral damage of his passage. Then I dropped back by about ten paces, which gave me enough distance to both be amused by the scene and to avoid implication by the less-than-patient bystanders.
I caught the startled expression on one woman’s face and then her eyes locked in on mine immediately, seeming to know I was with the crazy-haired hurricane-like Mr.Bean in front. I softened my gaze and twisted my eyebrows in an attempt to convey a sort of helpless apology and she smiled. I smiled back. Then I passed her by as well, as consciously and gently as I could.
All of this happened without his knowledge. He was too busy (stressed?) looking for the hotel.
It was around this time that I started calling him Mr.Bean. The childlike nature of this goofy star makes his foibles forgivable. That is so Guo Jian. He may be poised and cool on stage, but he’s the first to trip over the guitar cables if they’re in his path. I’ve seen him do it during a performance.
The thing is, it works for him. He laughs at himself. His dimples are contagious. People forget the infringement of his limbs and laugh with him.
Now, when he trips into a room, gasping to tell me some news (which, incidentally sounds like “noose” when he says it—hhmm?), he’ll often prefaces his words with “Mees-tah-Bean” as an acknowledgement of his clumsiness. This always makes me laugh.
Fitting for someone like me who once took life and myself far too seriously. Guo Jian reminds me to laugh just by being himself. He’s silly. He’s like a big kid much of the time, goofing around just because. And, of course, it’s a huge part of what I fell in love with.
In 2009 when we came back to Canada for our Canadian “post wedding” celebration, it was late fall. My parents were raking leaves and prepping their lawn for winter. We were helping. Guo Jian was using one of those short-toothed, metal rakes and I was bagging leaves and grass clippings.
Now, I swear on my family name that this actually happened:
Not once, but twice, Guo Jian forgot where he had dropped the rake, stepped backwards onto its teeth, his weight counter-levered its wooden pole upwards and it knocked him in the head. I so wish I had gotten that on film! And I had two chances, even!
There was a stick involved–the ultimate definition of slapstick, don’t you think!?
We all roared with laughter, especially the second time. He just rubbed his head and looked pitiful and then turned and said to me in Chinese, “At least I have dreadlocks. It’s like a safety pillow for my head!”