The last few weeks of my second trip to China included a lot of hanging out Guo Jian. I wasn’t taking it very seriously, though. He represented a sort of sugar-high daydream that China had become for me—liberty, foreign culture, exploration, healing—that I knew logically was soon to be doused with the cold Canadian reality of my established life and choices.
“We should go away together,” he said.
We were in his car and he was driving me back to my rented room.
“What? I only have six days,” I said. “Then I have to go back to Canada.”
“So?” he countered.
“So, I can’t. I have to prepare my things. I have to see my friends. Too much stress.”
“Southern China is so beautiful,” he said, “It’s a cheap flight and we could go for 3 nights and 4 days and come back on the day before you leave. I have a friend there we can stay with. It would be so much fun! Come with me!”
“No, I can’t.” I was adamant. He continued to describe the province of Yunnan and what we were going to do there in the town of Dali and why we would have a great time. He ignored my resistance. I was getting irritated. “I can’t go!” I interrupted. Alright, it was bitchy. I have an inner bitch. She snuck out.
He spun his head to stare at me from the driver’s seat and fired back, “You are so not fun. Why can’t you use your heart?” and he hit a nerve. I was silent. I am too planned, I know. My shows had been booked at least a year in advance for a decade and now he was suggesting we go somewhere… in a plane… with less than two days notice? It freaked me out. This was rattling noisily in my head when I heard a voice that sounded like mine say, “Okay, I can go. Let’s go.”
A roller coaster
pulling and grinding as it clinks its way to the top of the steepest hill
both feelings, in balance
“Really? Awesome! No changing your mind!” He threw me a warning glance with a dimpled smile peeking through fake sternness. He was already on the phone arranging flights, eyes dancing. I was going to Southern China on a whim. With him.
A whim with him.
We left within 36 hours.
And the roller coaster crested the top and we were speeding down, heart beat in my throat, and it took my breath away.
We spent those four days in Yunnan in complete bliss, smiling constantly, laughing at our complete joy in being together, high on the realization that we were in love, at the same time, with each other. I had never fallen in love with anyone at the exact same time that they had fallen in love with me before. It was beyond intoxicating. The daydream was at its zenith.
On the last day before heading back to Beijing and then the sharp reality of my departure back to Canada, Guo Jian said to me that he wanted to be with me, full stop. He said he didn’t want to be with anyone else ever again, period. I was speechless. He wanted the fairy tale and he wasn’t the least bit apologetic about it. He wasn’t asking for my answer. He was simply sharing his heart.
I have a theory that we queer people are defensive about the fairy tales because they generally don’t include us. What’s more, it’s not easy being queer in a straight world. Dealing with homophobia and oppression, not to mention the fact that the contrary world outside of our inner sanctuaries at home puts additional pressure on our unions. I would even go so far as to say that it cultivates a type of skepticism about romance—the fairy tale of marriage and lifetime partnership—that, for many of us, results in bitterness, jadedness, even pent up anger. What is left are a lot of fragile hearts afraid to believe in love.
I went back to Canada thoroughly confused. I realized I had nothing to apologize for when it came to (maybe, just maybe) wanting a fairy tale with anyone, male or female, but I still doubted my own fragile heart. In parting, he said: “This doesn’t have to end here. We will see each other again, no matter if it takes years. Don’t shut your heart.”
I was so inspired by his conviction—his strength of heart—that I tried my best to keep it open.
I made it through customs at the airport in Toronto in December feeling the post-sugar-high crash.
The roller coaster clanged noisily into the platform and I was spat out.
Snap out of it.