Remember or Never Forget? (Part 1)
Back in the first wave of being with Guo Jian in late 2007, before anything ever changed in my life in a dramatic and drastic spun-out way, back when I realized that I had fallen in love with someone who had these strange body parts called testicles (and they’re really funny looking things, I have to say!) and I was coasting on the improbable bubble of it all before heading back to my world and established life back in Canada, I remember one morning in particular…
We were at his little apartment on the southwest side of Beijing. It was morning and we had spent the night together. His window was south facing and a perfect triangle of morning sunlight poured in on the bed like melted butter and was warming my naked skin in December. I was rested and peaceful, wondrous perhaps, that I could be there in that space with such a beautiful human being who wanted to be there with me.
He was bustling around in the other room as I wrote in my journal the words:
“Wonder. I wonder.
Always wondering about the possibility of more.
Of more me than I see and more than I have been.
I can do whatever I want.
I can want whatever I do.
The reality of bliss is hard to wash off my skin.
Falling into the light keeps my smile wide, my eyes open, keeps my heart alert
in the midst of too many emotions all the time—太多感觉 (too much feeling).”
He came back into the bedroom with a large tray of goodies. Thinking he had made breakfast, I sat up in bed hungrily. He bounced the tray onto the bed mattress and jumped around it to settle in, sitting cross-legged facing me as the tray surfed the mattress’s waves but remained afloat.
The tray held about five pairs of sunglasses, all different shapes, two pairs of chopsticks and a huge piece of cake perched precariously on a small tea saucer, a small notebook and pen, and a cold can of instant coffee drink laying (and rolling) on its side on the tray like a shipwrecked barrel.
We proceeded to eat cake for breakfast (yum!) while he drank the coffee (which must have been well-mixed, like a cappuccino by then!) and we laughed as the cake fell from our chopsticks and occasionally refused to cooperate on its way to our mouths.
Between mouthfuls, he tried on each pair of sunglasses looking for my feedback and then placed them on me one after another. Later I learned of his fascination for sunglasses and his enormous collection, but he had clearly just scooped a few and brought them over for entertainment purposes. The notebook held the lyrics to a new song he had written and he wanted me to hear it. When the cake was eaten, he opened the notebook and held it open on the bed with the weight of the pen across its pages.
The guitar sitting next to the bed was reached for and dragged up by its headstock, tuned and then strummed as he sang a sweet melody while I understood almost nothing. I listened and smiled. He wasn’t a great singer but he wasn’t bad either. Mostly, though, he had a good head for melody and I could easily hum along a harmony. I knew he wanted me to understand what he was singing about, but I would say only 10% of the lyrics made sense to me. Humour and song lyrics are among the last things to master as a second-language learner and I was very far from that language level at the time.
Later I learned that he had written the song for me or that is was all about me—us—but I admit to not fully appreciating it that day. I just hummed along and smiled and licked icing from my fingers (I had given up on the chopsticks) feeling absolutely perfect in every way. Everything about that morning truly was. It was perfect. Time seemed to stand still and collect itself in the sunny pool of our perfection, on that bed, together.
“My skin is tingling.
Heart is filling with the late morning sun’s grin on this barely winter day here in Beijing.
It’s nearly over this time but it feels somehow like everything has just begun.
I am just beginning a love affair with everything here—everyone—even the taxi drivers who ask me the same questions every time,
but especially with the dimples that smile at me in the morning light.”
After the song and the cake and the sunglasses, I had rehearsed a classic ‘love bubble’ phrase that I couldn’t resist asking in Chinese: “你会记得我吗？ni hui jide wo ma?” (Will you remember me?) I asked and he looked at me incredulously and said nothing. He must have been calculating the seriousness of my question—such a cliché that sounded like it was lifted from sappy dialogue found on Chinese TV. I asked him again, though, and he sighed and looked away before saying to the window and the sunshine, “我不用记得你因为我望不了你 Wo bu yong jide ni yinwei wo wang bu liao ni!” (I don’t need to remember you because I could never forget you!)
I understood that. I felt the meaning of his words wrap around my heart protectively. I replayed them in my head many times after that, marveling at the difference between remembering and never forgetting and the poignancy in that distinction.
In the taxi on the way back to my place that afternoon, I wrote these words:
“There is no forgetting this morning. It is like a tattoo that will regularly remind me of its beauty with every glance in the mirror. I vow to always be able to call this morning’s light into my mind, my memory, my heart when I look into future morning mirrors. I will hold it indefinitely. This is in me without question. In me without doubt. I am this. I am this place. And yes, I am this mis-placed and yet thrilled to be. There is no other place I want to be right now, however messy and unclear my vision, my hair, my thoughts, my feelings. It is here I choose right now in this moment. It is here. I choose me.”
But, in a way, I did forget. I allowed myself to forget its perfection and certainty. It wasn’t until he had proposed to me and I answered without hesitation that I really allowed myself to remember.
Funny how that word “remember” has my name in it.
I had accepted his proposal and it was time for me to remember myself, that I had chosen myself on that magical morning a year and a half earlier, and that it was okay–more than okay, really–to say it out loud now.
It was right.