© americanifesto / 場黑麥
We approach the site where Our Benevolent and Wise Leader Chairman Mao lies sleeping, but it is closed, even though the sign says it should be open. By making the detour we also miss our chance to enter the Forbidden City; it has been sealed early to accommodate a Canadian delegation in town for the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). Tired from having walked the compound's entire circumference we squeeze ourselves into a city bus for the trip back to her car, paying the cashier sitting in the one twentieth of a U.S. dollar. My companion warns me not to wander around the area at night due to trigger-happy soldiers who roam the streets keeping safe the Chinese equivalent of America's White House, which lies nearby. The next morning, she makes sure I dress warmly although my system is already accustomed to the cold and I tend to run hot, but I follow her instructions and put on a long-sleeved shirt before donning her wool-lined, leather men's jacket. The day before, she had informed me that on the night prior to my arrival Something Had Happened with her ex-ex-boyfriend, and that she is hence reluctant to continue the physical tryst we had started in Bali one month before. I wonder, briefly, if the jacket is his. Such is life. Due to traffic control regulations we cannot drive her car as its license plate number ends in one that is odd and this is an even day. Therefore, we walk then bus our way over to a Metro line that will take us to Tienanmen Square, direct. At least a hundred people are queued up to enter the system, some pushing but most dutifully putting their bags through the x-ray scanners and enduring the pat-downs and wandings. At the Square, we go through another security checkpoint, and again another to enter the mausoleum grounds, where my companion is escorted briskly out for having an actual camera in her bag. (My Chinese-made ASUS cellphone, with its built-in camera, passes muster.) Alone, I walk a serpentine path made by a high-tech, movable pedestrian corral that leads up to the building's front door, pausing only to buy a single white flower, which seems appropriate and only costs sixty cents. Plain-clothed security men wearing aviator sunglasses prowl the antechamber, which is overflowing with flowers, and I pause for a moment to admire the room's tasteful adornments and wood paneling, to my eye built during the late Seventies. Then it is into the inner chamber itself, where Our Benevolent and Wise Leader Chairman Mao (or, as some would later say, a wax likeness thereof) lies in state. A security man gestures to a pair of cushions to pad the knees when kneeling but I do not immediately understand and before I know it am being hurried along by other security men (and women) past Our Benevolent and Wise Leader Chairman Mao (or, as some would later say, a wax likeness thereof) and back out in sunshine and a clear blue sky, my duty completed and my heart at rest. Requiescat in pacem, pater.
© americanifesto / 場黑麥
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I bicycle, write, surf, and strive.