Apologies for not writing last night but I fell asleep!
I wake up with Crazy Joe shaking me gently. He walks back into his room. I see Cherry sitting at a table looking more with it than she was yesterday. Joe comes back out of his room with a backpack and gestures that it is time to leave. We leave with neither of us saying a word to each other or Cherry. As we’re standing outside waiting for a car that Joe says will be here in a minute I am starting to wonder if I am doing the right thing or not. Why do I feel such an emotional attachment to a woman that I don’t even know?
A car pulls up and two Chinese men are sat in the front.
“You sure about these people, Joe?”
“Of course, I told you, it’d be fine.”
“You know what, Joe, fuck this, I’ll get over a border myself. Just looking at these people I know that I don’t trust them.”
“Suit yourself, mate. Makes no difference to me. It’s not going to be easy on your own though, them people down at the borders don’t trust many people. Just be careful.”
“I’ll take my chances. Thanks for the offer Joe. Get rid of Cherry when you get back, she doesn’t give a fuck about you. Try and find some other way to get your buzzes, too. There’s got to be a better way than this.”
“Take care, mate, hope what ever it is that you’re running away from doesn’t catch you.”
I walk away from the car and Joe. The two men in the front of the car didn’t look threatening, Joe seems to have been doing it for a long time. I expect they would have been no trouble. They were just a convenient excuse. I had my exit from the country right in front of me. I would have been out in a day or so. I just didn’t want to leave Lily on her own. She’d had enough people walk away from her in her life. My conscience, something I’ve only recently discovered I have.
I make sure I still have the hotel’s card in my pocket. I wave down a taxi and show him the card. The driver tries to make conversation with me but I can’t understand anything he says. I just sit there smiling. The driver looking like me I’m an idiot. Eventually he gives up. Muttering to himself, probably about the stupidity of white people. We pull up outside the hotel and I pay him. The air is very heavy for a morning. A few stragglers are coming out of the KTV. Drunk and happy. Numb to the problems of the world.
I walk up the stairs instead of taking the lift to our room. I swipe the card on the door. A little red light flashes and bleeps twice. I try again and it does the same. I knock on the door. No answer. I go back downstairs to the reception where the disinterested receptionist is sitting playing with his phone. He looks up from his phone as I point to the card.
“Ta bu zai, yijing zou le.” She’s gone already he tells me.
“Ta qu na’r le?” I ask where she’s gone in.
“Wo zenme zhidao?” How am I supposed to know was his reply as he snatches the card out of my hand. He says a mocking “bye bye” as I walk out the door. I see a coffee shop across the road and walk over to it and order a coffee. Sitting down, I want to scream. I’ve sacrificed my way out for someone who has left me anyway. This is why I am selfish. This is why I’d rather be on my own. Every time I make a decision to help someone they fuck me over.
After an hour of smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee I’ve calm down. Lily owed me nothing. She’d helped me getting this far, if she had decided to leave me and go her own way then it was understandable. I was going to do the same. My anger was not at her but at myself. I knew I should have gone with Joe. I’ll just have to get to the border by myself. It’s not that far away now.
As I get up to walk out and find my way to a bus station she walks in. She hasn’t seen me, I could just walk out and she wouldn’t notice. I walk up to her as she is ordering her coffee. I tap her on the shoulder, she turns around without looking very surprised.
“Where have you been? I told the man at the hotel to tell you to wait for me.”
“He told me you’d left. I stayed at some guy’s house last night, I didn’t want to disturb you because it was late.”
“Are you gay?”
“You stayed at a man you don’t know’s house.”
“No, his girlfriend was there.”
“Okay. Today we leave Chengdu?”
“If you like, but where can we go?”
“Maybe go south, there is a small city. It has a big Buddha, it will maybe bring you some luck.”
“Okay, we can go where you think is best.”
She seemed very calm. Almost as though she had expected that I would have left her.
“I forgot to tell you, last night I saw you on television.”
My heart dropped.
“What do you mean you saw me on tele?”
“Ha ha, I’m joking. It wasn’t you, but he looked like you. A man on a dating show, he was not so handsome and little bit fat.”
We walk to the car in silence. I am still partly regretting my decision to not leave. Lily doesn’t seem overly pleased to see me. She seems even colder than she had been before. We get into the car and head to where ever it is she is taking me now.
“What adventure means to you?”
“That’s a bit philosophical. I’m not sure what it means to me. Why are you asking?”
“Last night I read a book about a girl who travelled around the world on her own. Maybe in your country it is normal but for a Chinese person it is very brave. I think maybe I want to do it too.”
“Go for it. You need to get yourself a passport first though.”
“I want to see what the world is like. I am tired of this place. If I leave, I don’t think I will come back. I want to go somewhere where nobody knows me. Where I can be myself. Here even if I am in a city where nobody knows me I still have to pretend to be someone I am not. I have to try and be brave, I am not allowed to show my true emotions because people will say you are crazy or you are weak. I just want to be me.”
“It’s not easy going to another country you know. Different cultures, it might not be what you expect.”
“But you did it. That girl she did it. I am not expecting it all to be amazing. I don’t want it all to be amazing. I want somethings to be difficult. If somethings are difficult life becomes more interesting. Why do you always try to persuade me not to do something?”
“I am not trying to dissuade you, Lily. I am just telling you that it might not be what you think. If I am honest I regret coming here. It wasn’t what I thought. I had big ideas about culture and undiscovered places. All I have found is pollution, borderline alcoholism and too many people with agendas.”
“That’s because you are cynical…”
“Have you been reading a dictionary?”
“Fuck you! My English is better than you think. Also I am not stupid. Shall we speak in Chinese? Oh I forgot, you can’t speak Chinese. You are like all those other foreigners who can say two or three sentences and then they think they are so clever because they speak Chinese.”
“Sorry. I know.”
“What do you think I want from you?”
“Yes, I want a companion but I want a friend too. I think you are a nice person but there is a barrier between me and you. You will not let me in because you are cynical. You think that I want something from you. Maybe you even look down on me. I am not as stupid as you think I am. I think maybe it would have been better if you did not come back to the hotel. You don’t have to take this stupid girl on a journey with you.”
“Hold on. I don’t think that. I enjoy your company, if I didn’t I wouldn’t have come back for you. You’re right I did nearly go away on my own this morning. I changed my mind though and now hear I am. Why are you so angry this morning?”
“I’m not angry. I am just trying to find out who you really are.”
We remain in silence for the rest of the journey. We’re both as confused as each other. I am not even sure what I am supposed to do to be a friend. Maybe I am too cynical, not open enough to the idea that people just want friendship and nothing else. When we arrive she does her usual trick with the receptionist. I follow her up after twenty minutes.
Not really sure what to do as Lily is giving me the silent treatment I turn on the television. I find something that looks like the news. It’s the first time that I have checked it since leaving Beijing. It seems like so long ago yet has still been less than a week. I am expecting to see my picture on the television. I don’t see my picture on the television, but I do see that of the guy I went out with on the night the girl was murdered.
“What are they saying?”
“They are saying that man killed a girl in Beijing.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes I am sure, I saw it on the news last night. He killed her after they had an argument.”
So I’ve been on the run, well I haven’t been on the run because nobody has been looking for me. I want to feel relief but I don’t. I feel disappointed. Like my adventure is over. If I wanted to I could go back to Beijing. I’m sure I could just explain to Happy Giraffe that I’ve been sick for the last week. I don’t want to though. I want to keep going. The freedom of the last week is unlike anything I’ve experienced before.
“Do you still want to go on an adventure Lily?”
“What kind of adventure?”
“We’ll make it up as we go along.”
“I told you I don’t have a passport.”
“Neither do I. We are near Tibet aren’t we?”
“Yes we are. You can not go to Tibet though, it’s illegal. I thought you go to Vietnam anyway.”
“I’ve changed my mind, I want to go to Nepal.”
“You’re crazy. You can not cross the border and there is nowhere to get a passport in Tibet.”
“We can try.”
“Tomorrow we talk about this.”
I look back to the television and now there is another foreigner on there. His head has been covered but I recognise the shirt. It’s Joe. The pictures are from Chengdu, he and the two Chinese guys are being escorted to a police car.
“What’s this about?”
“They say he is a drug smuggler. They have been watching him for many months. Today they arrested him. Why you people come here and cause trouble?”
Final part tomorrow