Remember or Never Forget? (Part 2)
That night after the perfect morning in Beijing in early December of 2007, I dreamed of us on that same bed waking up in the morning light, and then a small child of about three years old running from the other room and bounding into bed with us as though we were the child’s parents. I remember the dream clearly because I woke up panicking.
A small trickle of fear.
A week later, he was driving me to the airport. This was just after our blissful trip to Southern China and then returning to Beijing the day before my flight and staying up all night to savour every last minute together before my return to Canada.
Everything felt like a fantastic dream and I knew I was scheduled to wake up.
In our conversations that night, he told me he trusted his love for me, his own feelings, and our love together. He trusted that I had fallen in love with him too, but the only thing he didn’t trust was whether or not I trusted myself.
Even in Chinese, that sentence stung because of its truth. I was just so unsure of everything then. I lacked clarity in the face of great clarity: intense love. In those final hours, I had started to allow fear to grip its fist around my heart. After all, I was about to leave. Would I ever feel this way again? Would I ever see him again? How would these emotions influence my feelings about being back in Canada with my partner? Could all of this be reconciled?
This is the river that fear-based thinking steers us down, faster and faster until they’re rapids.
Even in that state, I hesitantly told him about the dream on the way to the airport. He gently asked me why I hadn’t told him sooner and I had no answer. He said, “Well, I think that will happen. We will have a child.”
I was silent. His matter of fact response seemed to vacuum the air from my wind pipe. I froze in the passenger seat and we drove the rest of the way like that, my fears and anxieties like cumulonimbus clouds gathering, threateningly. Once again, there were too many feelings (太多感觉 tai duo ganjue).
It was the prelude of calm, pre-storm.
The departure lounge was even worse. We said a stiff goodbye after having exchanged our contact information like work colleagues would. We agreed that if we ever were in the same country again, we would agree to having a coffee together and seeing if the feelings were still there. We agreed to this with a handshake that concealed the pain in our eyes. He even said, “Even if it takes ten years.” There was no expectation and no demands. There were no promises made. We had already acknowledged our amazing love. What more was there?
I left and passed through the departure gates only to find myself deep in line-ups of pre-Christmas travellers. The lines weren’t moving. I was a geyser of emotion ready to explode. I parked my trolley in the line for the Toronto flight and it didn’t move for twenty minutes. The airport was a circus of people and no one I asked seemed to know anything about the status of any flights.
We had agreed that if the flight was delayed or rescheduled that I would re-emerge to find him and it would be a gift to have a bit more time together. So, Guo Jian was still in the departure lounge awaiting word from me one way or the other. I knew he was just beyond the barrier. He was so close in proximity and yet already I had cut him off from me like a limb severed and left to bleed. Dramatic as that sounds, I was filled with an impossible grief that simply was not supposed to accompany such a beautiful thing as the love we had discovered.
I was sinking. Crumbling internally. Losing ground. Winds howling.
I couldn’t take it anymore. I suddenly turned to the person behind me in line and I said, “Please, please watch my luggage and push it along if we move! I must return to say goodbye. I have to go back!” and I realized I was crying then not just with my eyes but with my jawbone and shoulders too. The stranger agreed warmly and assured me that everything would be okay but I barely heard him finish his sentence because I had already turned to run back, leaving everything behind in that line-up including my computer and guitar. They were just not important at that moment.
Before I knew it, I had pushed my way backwards through the security lines repeating I’d forgotten something, and then I was out in the crowded departure lounge spinning around frantically, looking for him like a lost child.
He emerged from behind a group of people and came rushing towards me. We embraced as though we hadn’t seen each other in years and I sobbed into his leather jacket shoulder and he cried into my hair while stroking the back of my head and mumbling words of comfort.
The storm broke.
I hugged him like he had miraculously come back from the dead for one last goodbye. The stiffness of our first departure was like a bad dream because this was the truth: he had changed my life forever and I was hesitating to admit it. I was breaking down inside to be faced with what could mean the end of what we’d found. I was braced for that end, it seemed, and the grief overtook me.
Because, after all, I wasn’t sure. I wasn’t sure about anything. Even at that last moment, I didn’t trust myself. Even though I knew the love I had for him would never leave me because it was mine, I didn’t trust that it could remain between us, or that he would retain his love for me. I simply wasn’t ready to trust in the love itself. Not yet anyway. And looking back, it was just crazy to feel the strength of that love so acutely in one breath and then to doubt its strength in the next. A complete contradiction.
The tricky grip of fear.
He just said, “没问题 mei wenti” (no problem). Everything would be fine, he insisted. How did he know that?
Later, I read these words: Love is like water. If you want to hold it, you can gently cup it in your hands, but if you try to squeeze it tight, it will slip through your fingers.*
Guo Jian was naturally and matter-of-factly not allowing fear endanger our love.
When I left for real and recovered my luggage (no problems!), I sat in the plane on the tarmac for an extra hour and a half due to airport delays. It was a cruel and bitter joke to have to wait around to leave Beijing when the leaving was already so painful.
He had told me what he wanted. He had no doubts about those wants. I, on the other hand, had a whole established life and partnership to return to. I loved my life in so many ways, even the hard parts like the open relationship. Letting myself love him was as much an exercise in finding acceptance for my partner’s other lover as it was an exercise in stretching the reigns of my heart.
I focused on the small steps and felt gratified to be going back to tell her that I finally understood her. I could finally accept her other love because I had experienced the joy of another love too; I could relate!
Of course, I missed the obvious: relating to her other love by having my own also meant inflicting the same pain on her as I had felt two years earlier. My own myopia about this simply baffles me to this day.
And, after all, he had made his desires very clear. He wanted a life with me. That included a child bounding into bed with us. He had said so. He was waiting for me. He was sure. He told me to go away and figure out what I wanted. He said he would wait for my answer. But, he already had his.
Did he manifest all of this? Did we?
So, going back to Canada with an engagement ring on my finger a year and a half later, dreading the looks on my friends’ faces or the reaction from my community or fans was, well, partly about knowing long before it happened that it would.
I just never said it out loud, even to myself. I put his certainty into a deep recess of my heart and tucked it away for much later when it would all make sense in retrospect.
I guess I was choosing the path of remembering.
He had already chosen to never forget.
*This idea re-worded but borrowed from the book “Beyond The Road” by S.Sean Tretheway