As you can see, I haven’t written anything in quite some time, but I decide to come back because it’s a way to tell myself and the world that I am embarking on the next chapter of my life. Something unexpected, scary, and possibly fun.
The decision to switch the language to English in this blog is mostly for truth. Chinese as a language is just too intimate for me. I feel exposed when I speak of my innermost thoughts in Chinese. On top of that is the censorship issue. I’m not talking about the government situation. I’m talking about the internal censorship within myself. I fear that if I continue to write in Chinese, this inner judge will dictate my life for me, and I do not want that.
The simple news is this: I am moving to Berlin! At the time it felt like such an intuitive thing. I was deliriously happy when I found out I got accepted by the Free University of Berlin. I could finally have the freedom I wanted for so long. In a way, I have to appreciate this year I spent in China after I graduated from NYU. It taught me a lot of things. Freedom is possibly the most important one of them all.
That said, there were times when I was walking down the street in Berlin and felt what a crazy decision this was. I don’t speak German. This is a completely foreign country. Different culture. Different behavior. How incredibly scary!
But I also know this is just something I have to do. I have to do this to save myself. I was almost suffocated back home, living with my parents. They are nice people, but their attention, particularly from my mother, gave me such a hard time. I cannot help but feel like a kid again, doing everything at their mercy, unconsciously do things to win their approval. The independence I gained in New York almost dissipated. I felt trapped, once again, by the unfortunate circumstances of life. And as much as I would like to blame this on life, I know myself is to be blamed here. I was so afraid. I was afraid to be happy. I was afraid to be myself. I was afraid to find love.
Perhaps it’s time to mention him, one of the many reasons I moved to Berlin. I fell in love with a boy. What a cliche! It’s also time to mention that I’m also a boy, so the implication of that was pretty self-confident. And as much as I would like to use the lovely word that start with letter “g,” I choose not to use it here because I don’t feel that to be descriptive of my experience.
Speaking of being descriptive, perhaps “fell in love” isn’t the best word choice here. “Infatuation,” maybe? What about a “crush”? The strange thing is, I had such a difficult time labeling this experience. All these words sound wrong to me.
I met him at a job I did in Berlin. It was a Chinese project filming in Berlin. I was the translator on set, and he was a drone operator. I didn’t exactly like him on the first sight, but I started to like him a lot over the days. The defining moment was when I touched his shoulder in the noisy place we were filming and told him ”You can land the drone now.” An electric shock went through my entire body as I felt how smooth and firm his triceps were. I didn’t know exactly what I experienced, but I suppose everything changed after that.
He was funny, delightful, although quite frustrating at times when we were actually working together. Sometimes I feel he didn’t really understand me when I translated the director’s demands, yet when we were talking during break time, he was very quick and funny, as if there wasn’t any language barrier after all. I thought for a long time whether I should declare my feelings to him, but I wasn’t sure whether he was straight or not. If he was straight, wouldn’t that be awkward? Plus, we were working together. I live in a hotel room provided by the production, living with someone else. What did I expect after I declare my feelings to him? We go back to my room and have sex even though we were still working together in a professional setting? I don’t think so.
As much as I would like to believe he liked me, I was not stupid. I could tell when a conversation became one-sided. I knew what it meant when I was the only one asking the question, and he didn’t ask me back. I wasn’t that narcissistic. I could take a hint.
The real clarity was during the last few days of filming. I decided to stay in Berlin for an extra week just to experience the city for myself. He said I could stay at his place. There was a guest room in his apartment, so it won’t be a trouble. One thing led to another, the sexuality thing came up. I don’t remember how that came up. All I remember was him telling me he is straight, and me telling him I’m gay, and him saying “God, I wish I’m gay just to have fun in Berlin. You will have so much fun here!”
The clarity I prayed for came right there, without me noticing it. Suddenly the whole “declaration of feelings” thing felt obsolete. His calm and carefree attitude sort of settled the entire situation.
When I got to his apartment, which was an incredibly lovely and spacious place, he asked me while we were both sitting on the sofa, next to the big open windows with ample sunlight, “So, what would you like to do?” I said I had no idea. He started to Google things online searching for clubs or something, I didn’t care what he found. All I could remember was feeling grateful about the fact that he was doing something for me.
At the kitchen table, while drinking the cappuccino he made for both of us, he asked me, “What type of guys do you like?” I didn’t know what to say, so I paused for a minute.
“Well, I guess you can’t really live this life with a list in your hand. It’s not like I have a list of all the qualities of the ideal guy for me, and I checked each box off when I met a person. For example, I never thought I would like a guy like you because you weren’t my type.”
“Oh, fuck off!” he interjected. I resisted the urge to laugh and continued with my speech.
“I thought you weren’t my type. I never thought I could have liked a guy with tattoos. Yet you have tattoos. I never thought I would like a guy with chest hair, and you have chest hair. But I did have a crush on you. Obviously, you’re straight, so nothing will ever happen between us, but I did like you. I think you can’t really go out in this world with a list in your mind, because life will very much surprise you instead.“
I don’t remember what he said after this, but he was very cool about it. At the time it felt like such a stupid thing to do. I was living in his apartment, for god’s sake. Is it really the best time and place to tell your host that you had a crush on him? Aren’t you afraid that he might freak out and the whole thing will become incredibly awkward for everyone?
But the calmness of his response shattered all of my preconceptions of what it would have been. We went on talking about things, about life, and he didn’t seem bothered at all. I was surprised at how simple and ordinary that moment was. In all of my previous fantasies, the “declaration of feeling” must be a singular experience, the extraordinary moment of my life in which I expressed how I feel without feeling ashamed. And here it was, sitting by his kitchen table, drinking cappuccino, wondering how I should spend my week in Berlin.
Before the day I need to leave, he offered to send me off to the airport, with the other drone operator. I always thought I would take a cab myself because I fear if he was the one who sends me off, I might cry in the airport and lose my shit like a little bitch. But I graciously agreed. At least as gracious as I could pretend to be.
On the way to the airport, he talked with the other guy in German, listening to a type of rock music that I was not familiar with at all. Hearing them speaking in a foreign language, listening to a foreign song, and seeing him waving his body to the music, I cannot help but feel that we were two worlds away, even though we were sitting in the same car, driving towards the same destination.
When I got to the airport, we hugged goodbye. He held me extra tight and lingered. I was never a good hugger. Even after four years in America, I could never get used to hugging people. Most of the time I would just make the gesture but without the strength, because I was scared that if I hug people too hard, they might feel uncomfortable.
But he did hug me very hard. The tightness of his embrace somehow showed me that I wasn’t a stranger to him. Perhaps even after this short time with him, I left something in him. Some impressions, some laughter, and hopefully some memories that he could remember me by.
They told me they would love to come to Beijing someday. I know that was just polite talk. But that’s okay. We might not see each other again, so what?
I said my goodbye, and we went our separate ways. Surprisingly I didn’t cry. I resented myself for that. Perhaps it showed that deep down I know exactly what this was. He was merely someone who walked into my life, showing me that I’m capable of experiencing feelings much bigger than myself, feelings that I never thought I was capable of having, and then just walked out of my life. But I know I will no longer be the same person again.
After I went home to Beijing, I still had a difficult time to understand what this experience was. Was it love? I hardly know anything about him. Was it infatuation? Someone said that infatuation is simply people intoxicated by their own reflections. But I don’t think that’s true in this case. He was so different from me. He was so comfortable in his skin. That sense of ease is something I will probably never have. So what was that exactly?
I have learned throughout the years that we shouldn’t label things. By labeling thing, it gives us an illusion of understanding, an illusion of control. The truth is, it will probably take me years to understand what this experience meant for me. Without the crucial ingredient of time, one can never see the truth. It’s always hard to see the reality when we are in it. But with the passing of time, with the change of our hearts, clarity will come to us.
One thing I know for sure is that one day I will write about this. I will write about this experience as openly as possible. I don’t imagine doing that in China. Homosexuality has certain connotations back home. I’m not ready to fight that battle yet. Perhaps one day, but not now. Not when I haven’t understood what I’m fighting for. Not when I haven’t understood the truth about myself.
The move to Berlin, in a way, was my attempt to live a truthful life. Somebody once said that once you have seen the truth, you cannot un-see it. Once he awoke something in me that I didn’t know I was capable of feeling, I can’t go back. I can’t go back to the small life I’ve been living, driven by fear, by the desire to make people around me happy, by the twisted martyrdom that I trained myself to enjoy over the years. That part of me is done. I’m done being a martyr. I’m done feeling sorry for myself. I’m done being a shadow of myself, a phantom of the person I could’ve been had I got the courage to change. Something must be done.
So here I am, back in Berlin, sitting in a café, once again drinking cappuccino, not knowing where my life is heading to. But I have a feeling that this time I won’t be afraid. Fear will always be a part of me. I will be scared along the way. But when that happens, I can learn not to get controlled by it. I can learn to step forward into the light, knowing that happiness is possible, just like the short time I spent with him, so simple, so easy and so free. Life shouldn’t be this hard. It’s only hard when we want it to be hard, when we want to indulge in our fear, and when we want to hide behind ourselves.
I hope, dear reader, that you will find your way as well. And forgive me for changing a direction in my life. Studying film seems like such a distant memory by now. Perhaps I will be in the show business, maybe I won’t. I just don’t know. Right now, I need to finish what I started. I need to embark on this new chapter of my life and give everything I’ve got. I need to surrender. I need to give up all the preconceived notions of who I am, who I was, and who I want to become. Through emptiness, new thoughts will come in, and wisdom will pour in. All you need to do is listen.