Chasing The Sun
Today marks the end of my first month working at my new job. The last time I wrote here, I was still jobless and depressed. Now that the spring is here, along with the new prospect of being able to stay in Germany in the considerable future, a sense of relief would come over me alongside a new form of melancholy. They say that our existence has a baseline of happiness. Even if you win the lottery, after the insane amount of joy dissipates, you will again return to a level of happiness that you are used to before. The same can be said about my present situation. The initial bliss of finding a job after months of being rejected is already somewhere far, far away, and I have already returned to the baseline of my existence, which is this quiet, pensive melancholy that centers on scanning for dangers that lie ahead. As if my life is dependent on obsessing about the possible misfortunes in the future.
Case in point, the prospect of marriage. Just the other week, my mother asked me what kind of woman would I find compatible as a partner. In the past, she would use a gender-neutral word to appease me due to my lack of job and, therefore, a fragile state of mind. With the security of being employed, she has become increasingly bolder, this time asking me if I would get married to a woman. My displeasure was repressed due to my gratitude for their financial support in the past few years. As the old Chinese saying goes, when you have already taken advantage of other people’s favors, you would undoubtedly need to accommodate their occasional distasteful requests（吃人家的嘴软 拿人家的手短）. The truth of the matter is, I conveniently left out the part of how I came to Berlin to pursue my sexuality, as the city has one of the best queer night scenes in the world. The official reason is, of course, to further my education, to have a better life somewhere else. I also left out the part where I intend to never return to China. I have found that truth expressed with actions across time is better than a statement of intention, which is why the prospect of me never returning to the motherland is never being discussed.
All reservations aside, it does not change the fact that I am living in a dual reality. One in which I am comfortable with who I am and in the other where I could make them happy the way they want. I am posing an impossible reconciliation by listing things that seem irreconcilable at first glance. But I am confident that with time, they can live with my truth, but I must be brave enough to break their hearts. At the moment, I have not reached that level of courage. Perhaps that’s why I have an obsession with show business, as if fame and fortune can give me enough backbone to stand up for myself. I could then, in that ideal scenario, speak to them with utter confidence: the whole world is on my side. Why can’t you?
So I did the only thing I am good at under the circumstances: making the story about other people. I turned the questions against my parents. “Why did dad choose you? What kind of women was he looking for as a partner back then?” The silent pause that followed offered me the solace I needed: even my father didn’t know why he ended up with her. How could they ask me such a stupid question when they couldn’t answer it themselves?
Father told me that things were different back then. If you are not married by the age of 30, you will be the talk of the town. People would shun you and treat you as a disgrace. What a great way to declare your love for my mother, I thought, for she would save you from being shunned by your villagers. What a great reason to propose to someone.
“Why did you choose dad then? What kind of men were you looking for in a partner?” Of course she would have an answer. She always does.
“Your father is persistent but not annoying.” She said. And I thought, yet another great reason to devote the rest of your life to some random stranger. He is not annoying. I cannot wait to bare his children. Such joy and jubilation.
Father then shared a different angle on their love story, which I had previously only heard from my mother’s side. What he described could easily be seen as creepy stalker behaviors in the modern age but strangely endearing for 20-year-olds living in Beijing in the late 80s.
Back in the day, phones were not available. All my father knew was my mother’s name and where she worked. So naturally, he just showed up at her hospital, asking if she was there that day. Some guy told him that she had gone back to the dorm. It was common to have group housing for employees back then. So my father went to her dorm and once again asked for this girl whom he had met once before with long hair and an allegedly beautiful dress. My mother would say no to his request to hang out, and he would just sit in the yard waiting for her to say yes. By the time right before the last train would leave, he would then say goodbye. The subway ride to see my mother would take 40 minutes. That’s 80 minutes of your life wasted on someone who was clearly not interested in you. Rinse and repeat. Eighty minutes per day times three months. I don’t think I could have my father’s courage. But from my mother’s point of view, sure, this weird guy that kept showing up at her dorm asking her out was kind of depressing, but he was never pushy. After a while, she just treated this kind of regular visit as a minor annoyance, like how a stray cat would come up to your door punctually at 8 o’clock in the evening and leave right before 11. Somehow this image stuck with me: Father sitting alone in the moonlight in silence, hoping that the girl he liked could eventually say yes to him. The funny thing is, my mother appreciates silence in a man. She thinks that men who talk too much cannot be trusted. A tall and handsome doctor was also pursuing her at the time. But he was rejected because he was too flamboyant with his declarations of affection, unlike the silent and stoic stranger that was my father. And that’s how destiny played its hand.
It’s hard to imagine my parents as young people. For one thing, they actively avoid talking about their past unless I ask them directly, which is only understandable, for who would like to relive their cringe days unless forced to? For another thing, I think they want to bury down their sorrows and struggles, so these emotions don’t affect me. They felt that by keeping their sufferings private, I could focus on my studies and have a better future, but emotions rarely work that way. I wish they could tell me earlier how stressful it was to raise a kid without any disposable income in the beginning. Then their emotional outbursts and mood swings wouldn’t be so hard for me to process. We can then deal with the misfortunes as a family. By shielding me from their sorrows, it made me feel ashamed of my own, and thus a wall is built between us where we want to protect each other by digging the hole deeper. We only share joy but not sorrows. I suppose that is at the core of my melancholy, a private sadness unable to be expressed, a mist in the forest, a baseline of existence. For the mist to be cleared, the sun has to come in, and that is why I am here, on the other side of the planet, looking for the sun.