I know that Joe is well and truly fucked. There won’t be any leniency. There was resignation in the way he lived his life. He knew his time would be up soon. I feel sorry for him, although he seemed the kind of person that wouldn’t be too welcoming of others pity. I could have been joining him had I not decided to go back to Lily, so she really has saved my life. I’m sure Cherry will be delighted at the outcome, although she won’t have Joe’s money anymore, or the free drugs.
The fact that I was framed by someone for murder hasn’t really sunk in yet. I should be relieved, I am relieved but probably not as much as should be. It took being framed for murder for me to get away from a situation that I hated, one that I said I would leave so often yet never had the courage to do so. Lily doesn’t seem to keen on the idea of running away to Nepal. It’s probably a stupid idea. I’ve gone from one extreme to another. Not having to the courage to leave to wanting to cross borders illegally even though I can now do it legally.
“Tomorrow we go to see the Big Buddha. Then we go to Nanning. You can go to Vietnam, I will go to Guangzhou or Shenzhen and think about what I want to do.”
“I thought you wanted to travel some more?”
“I do, but first I want to think about it. Maybe I am starting to think I have made the wrong decision. I did not like living there in the village, but it was safe and I had security.”
“You’d take security over enjoying your life? You think he cares about you? You’re just some kind of trophy to him Lily. Go, leave, go where ever you like but please don’t go back there.”
“Why do you care so much now? I go back it is easy for me. I want to leave, I want to go travel. But on my own? Where will I go? I have nobody, only myself. When I am old there is nobody to look after me. If I go back then I will have more money.”
“I thought you were different. I honestly thought materialism didn’t bother you. As usual I am wrong when trying to judge a person’s character.”
“You think? I just said I want to leave. But to want to have some safety and be able to look after myself is materialistic? When I grew up I had nothing…”
“So you should know that you can be happy with nothing…”
“I never said I was happy. You don’t know what it is like to have nothing, you will never know. You will always have someone there you can fall back on. I don’t have that. I wish I had the chance like you, but I don’t have that chance. You can go where you want.”
“So can you, you just need to take a risk.”
“And you? You live in Beijing for five years, get fat, drink beer, sleep with women. You can do that at home. Where is the risk in that? You are comfortable too, I don’t think you will even go to Vietnam. I think maybe we have wasted both our time.”
“We’ve only known each other for one week. How is that a waste of time? You are right though, I was comfortable in Beijing. You know what? I used to enjoy it. In Beijing I could be someone I wasn’t at home. I had attention, it was easy. I wasn’t happy though, that’s why I am saying you shouldn’t go back there. You need to be happy in life. You’ll live there unhappy and then look back at this time and regret it all.”
“Maybe you are right, but I can only make this decision. I am confused. You have shown me a new world where I am free. I thank you for that, but maybe this week is enough. Maybe now it is time to live in reality. Now I go to sleep, I don’t want to speak about this anymore.”
I am glad she wants to sleep because I don’t have the energy to argue. I feel as though the relief is finally hitting as I fall into a deep sleep.
Lily wakes me. My head feels clear. Clearer than it has been for a long time. We go downstairs and eat breakfast. She still looks thoughtful. I avoid asking her questions, I understand that what she is trying to decide is not easy. I am still trying to work out what I should do myself. I have money, I could just go back to Beijing and get my passport and then go. Travel freely until my money runs out, directionless but without any worries. At least I would feel more fulfilled than I was.
We get on a bus that takes us to the Buddha. People stare at the me, children tapping their parents and giggling at the foreigner. I wonder if they think I am a little bit fat. It’s different to Beijing. The city is relatively modern but like much here what you see on the outside doesn’t reflect the inside. The tall, modern buildings, shiny new cars and new money hides that some people still have a mindset that is stuck thirty years ago. Perhaps Lily is right. You can’t understand something that you haven’t experienced. The modernity hides the lack of security that people here feel.
We get off the bus and walk into the park. The size of the Buddha shocks me. I had seen it in pictures but wasn’t prepared for how large it really is. We walk around the park and down the side of it and then back up the other side. Masses of people everywhere reminding me of why I want to leave. At the bottom Lily lit some incense and placed it at the Buddha’s feet. She appears to pray. Whatever it is that she’s asking for I hope she gets it.
We leave the park and head back to the hotel. Lily is still quiet. I think there is an inevitability about her going back to the village. My heart tells me I should persuade her not to, while my head tells that it is a decision that she is making in her own best interests. I want to empathise but I can’t.
“Tomorrow I think I will go back to Chengdu. I like it there. I will stay there for some time and think about what I want to do. You can catch a plane or train to Nanning. I am sorry but I will not go with you to Nanning.”
“I understand. I don’t have a passport though, I can’t get on the plane. I will take you to a police station. You tell them you lost it and then they will give you something, maybe you have to get the train though. It’s a long journey.”
“Is there anything I can do for you?”
“No, I just hope you can give me your email. At least we can stay in touch. Oh, maybe you can answer a question. I don’t believe your story. Why you really left Beijing?”
“It’s a really long and ridiculous story. You probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you. I think I will go back there though. There are some things that I need to collect. My passport is in Beijing, it’s not lost.”
“For these few days. Maybe open my mind a little. I think you know I will probably go back. If I go back I will always remember these days. I have not known you for very long but I think you have a big influence on me.”
“It’s okay. You have on me too. One day you can come and visit me somewhere in the world.”
“I will come and visit you in Beijing.”
“I am only going to collect some things, I am not going back to live there.”
“I don’t believe. I think you will stay there.”
Sitting back in the hotel I have a feeling of wanting to be away from her. I had grown fond of her but now I feel myself detaching. Retreating into my normal behaviour when someone I care for is leaving. As she sleeps I take her phone and open my emails. Only one email. It seems that no one is too bothered about my whereabouts or wanted to tell me there was no reason to run anymore. The email is from Happy Giraffe. Apple wants me to come back to work as soon as possible. No sign of her wanting to sack me, she says she’ll give me more pay if I come back.
I watch Lily sleeping. Everything about the whole week has been surreal, even now it is still surreal. It’s like she isn’t a real person, she has just been part of a dream. I want to be emotional but I can’t. I want to be that person in the movies who falls in love with the stranger he met on a great adventure, but the more I think about it the more I want to run. I look at my watch and see it is still only 7.30. There is a bus station close by, I noticed it on our drive here. They must have buses back to Chengdu.
I pick up what little I have. I take a piece of paper from the side table and write a small goodbye note to Lily. I don’t leave my email address. I place the goodbye note on the bedside table as she sleeps. I walk out the door and head downstairs. Back out in the still humid air I walk towards the bus station. A pay rise is starting to sound good. It’ll be different this time. I’ll make more of my life in Beijing, maybe I’ll even start to learn more Chinese. Lose some weight too.