1000 a Day – Day 10

I remember the student riots at Tiananmen Square in 1989. All the schools in the city were ordered closed, including mine, and every student had to be evacuated home for their safety. As I had mentioned before, the only reason I was attending a boarding school was because there was nobody to take care of a five year old child full time at home. If I couldn’t go home normally, there was definitely no way for me to go home due to some external circumstance that happened to close all the schools. My 90 plus year old grandparents, living in government housing, were certainly ordered not to go outside as well. And it wasn’t just the students. All the teachers and staff and administration at the school were to go home as well. By the time afternoon came, I was the only one left in the entire place, except for one teacher, who’s name I’ll refer to as Li, or Ms. Pear. In my mind it’s quite a cinematic scene actually. There’s me, a five year old Chinese boy, sitting on the brick stairs leading up to the main building of the school, in tattered clothes of course. And standing behind me, in the door way, looking down on me with care and worry, a young and beautiful teacher; behind the both of us, the vast courtyard of the school; in front, the long drive way lined with willow trees, covered in afternoon haze, leading up to the school. And far off in the distance, you can see a solitary figure come into focus. Closer and closer until it can be discerned to be a middle aged Chinese man riding a bicycle, his features still blurred by the haze. Still moments, later, and he comes fully into view, and a big smile comes on the boy and teacher’s face as the boy runs to this man, gets on the bicycle with him, and is carried off. He looks back at Ms. Pear, still standing in the doorway as he too disappears into the haze. Cue montage scenes of gun fire, tanks, bullet strewn streets, and the boy and the man riding down those streets.

So maybe not the world’s realistic memory, but that’s how I remember it. I did sit on those stairs, and there was a Ms. Pear still waiting with me. We were the last ones. We were waiting for someone from my family to come and pick me up, though we didn’t know who it was going to be. The person who ended up coming was my uncle, the middle aged man riding the bicycle. Apparently there had been a big argument back at my home over who and how they were to come and pick me up from the school. Nobody drove, the streets weren’t safe, and the public transportation systems were also closed. It was finally decided that my uncle would come on his bicycle, in place of my father, he being my father’s older brother actually, but then his bike wasn’t meant to have anybody else riding on it. You see, in China, most bicycles have that rack attached to the seat that hangs over the back wheels. You know, the racks that say are not meant for carrying people. It’s quite common for that to be exactly what they’re used for and it’s common even today to see three or more people somehow all attached to one bicycle heading down the street. Either way, so they were arguing over how my uncle was supposed to put me on the bike, and it was taking a very long time apparently, so long in fact that my uncle just up and left them all in the middle of their conversation. I’m not entirely sure how I rode on the bike then, since the concern wasn’t resolved, but ride on it I did.

There was gunfire, and tanks, and bullet strewn streets though, and we did ride down them on our way home. I actually knew nothing about what was going on at the time, and I didn’t for the longest time. I’ve always had this memory and it’s always confused me about what’s going on. And running the risk of getting my blog blocked, but I think the Chinese version of events are different from the rest of the worlds, not to say that I believe in or endorse either, so please don’t block my blog. But it was only after internet research, and the advent of doing research on the internet, that I finally found out what had happened that day. I remember once in middle school, on a field trip to Alvera Street in Los Angeles, when the rest of the boys were all very impressed at seeing the spent bullet shells they sell there on necklaces, that I couldn’t understand what they were so fascinated with. It was just bullet shells.

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