Musical Movement

It was Saturday night. Guo Jian wanted to go and catch one of his friend’s band playing at a local venue. I have heard their recording and wasn’t thrilled with it, musically, but I realized that I’ve been seriously anti-social at night and decided to go with him. The problem isn’t that I don’t want to socialize; it’s that I’m too tired by eleven o’clock to enjoy being out on the town. What’s more, the fact that China isn’t smoke-free is an issue. Every time I’m anywhere where there is smoke–restaurant or bar or music venue–I feel claustrophobic and guilty to be exposing my Little Spark to secondhand poison.

I went along, though, mostly because I wanted to be with him and I was tired of seeing him go out without me. We would soon be separated for three weeks with my trip to Canada and so every moment seemed precious now. Besides, it was preceded by a nice meal out after I had done a recording job that was more lucrative than I had originally expected. We were both full of yummy food and happy, ready for some more positive vibes.

We got there at about 10:15pm and the first band was just setting up. His friend’s band was the second band, but we had already worked it out that I could take the car back home early if I got tired and he would catch a taxi after the show.

You see, my fatigue is like a tarp that moves over me and suffocates the waking. I start to feel its shadow about twenty minutes before I simply want darkness all around me and to suspend myself in the unconscious beauty of rest. I have wanted to curl up and sleep in alleyways and under vehicles in these frantic moments, figuring the discomfort of stone or asphalt as my pillow and mattress would be quickly erased by the unconscious peace that my body was screaming for. There have been times when it’s been that extreme and I’m not exaggerating. Pregnancy has delivered a type of fatigue that is unique to any I have ever experienced–unique in its own distinct way not unlike jet lag fatigue is unique. You just slip away. You have no choice in the matter. Pregnancy hormones slip in and unplug my fuses without my consent.

So, I had the keys in hand and I knew that if the dark flap of that fatigue tarp started to edge nearer, that I could be home in fifteen minutes and asleep in twenty.

We stood in the fairly packed room and I thanked the rafters for being high up and allowing the cigarette smoke more space to rise. I like the venue (Mao Live House) for its rawnchy, rockiness and I felt nostalgic for the day that I actually met Guo Jian in that space, June of 2007. I mentioned it then and in his characteristically Chinese way of not being verbally nostalgic, he listened and smiled, acknowledged he remembered and then promptly changed the subject. We then socialized briefly with his friends and before long the guitar raged to life on stage and the rest of the band took position.

The first song began and by the end of the first verse I felt a rumble in my stomach that I had never felt before. I thought it was a hunger pain at first, but then I realized that it wasn’t actually pain and it just felt strange like something had shifted or was shaking in there. And then it dawned on me that:


We had passed the first chorus and were into the second verse when this all hit me along with the simultaneous message delivered directly into my conscious mind like a bullet that the baby was hating the music. To be honest, I wasn’t digging it either but I was trying to be open-minded. As I felt more movement, though, and my hand rested in the spot on my belly where it was all happening, I could almost picture this little creature beating its hands and feet at my insides in protest and frustration.

I leaned into Guo Jian’s shoulder and turned my mouth to his ear to tell him that Little Spark didn’t like the music and I had to leave. He looked incredulous and asked, “Really? How do you know?” “I just know. It’s a feeling. I can feel the baby telling me we have to go!” My eyes widened in alarm. He nodded and pushed his hand at the small of my back to lead me out the door as quickly as he could. In moments, we were through the smoky lobby and seated on the front step out front of the venue.

He asked me then exactly what happened and I explained as best as I could. The strange sensation in my belly went away as suddenly as it had started and I felt much more peaceful out there on the outside, the clanging cymbals and driving guitar raging on the inside. We sat out for the rest of the first song and into the second before Guo Jian said he had to go back and support the band and suggested I head home. It was time anyway. I had just started to feel that flicker of fatigue edging closer and I was thinking the same thought. It was 10:40pm.

I was in bed by 11. I fell asleep smiling at the thought that Little Spark already was an opinionated music listener. “Way to go, Little Spark,” I whispered. “Good ears already!”

About an hour and a half later, Guo Jian crawled into bed and whispered almost the same thing to Little Spark as he wrapped his around me and cradled my belly. He said, “The band really wasn’t that great, Little Spark. You were right.” And then he added in English: “Goodnight baby. Goodnight baby’s Mom.” Lately he’s taken to calling me that and he thinks he’s really clever to have realized he could do that possessive grammar construction in English and to have thought it all up on his own. I just grinned a sleepy grin when I heard it. “Goodnight baby’s Dad,” I answered.

I heard him smile.

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