I am beginning to realize that this blog is becoming less and less about lanlan in
and more and more about lanlan trips over the big questions of life. And so it goes, allow me to continue in this vein. Beijing
I just finished reading The Time Traveler’s Wife for the third time. I was standing in Wangfujing,
’s notorious shopping district, despondent at my inability to find a special type of alarm clock to send children I am working on a project with. I had been trekking around Beijing for the past week, peeking in Walmart’s, tourist shops, pharmacies and the like. One was finally shown to me and I was told it was not for sale, I could receive it only as a gift….if I spent over 1000 kuai in the store. Beijing
Sadly, I escalator-ed to the fourth floor of Xinhua bookstore, paved with five shelves of “imported books”, none of which are categorized in any meaningful sense. I had no idea what I was looking for, perhaps The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, recommended by a professor. My hands slid past old favorites, The Red Tent, Memories of My Melancholy Whores, Harry Potter boxed sets. My eyes stopped at the vision of two girls stocking feet next to a thermos and carefully folded clothes which had traveled through my mind when an old warmth mentioned reading it as well. The Time Traveler’s Wife it is. Again.
I’ve tried to make the book last over these past few days, interspersing it with Babbit, a 20th century find. I cleverly didn’t let myself read it before 11pm, instead I’ve just been up until 2. Tonight, after returning from a UN themegroup meeting, I curled up and dived back into the glorious life of the Detambles.
Through the tears the last 100 or so pages inspire, wrought with their beauty and despair, I could not, of course, think of anything but love. Why do we cry at love stories? I wonder. Is it because they come to an end? Are we afraid to lose the love we know we will find? For some it is so. For me, I think I am more afraid that that love does not exist, or that it does and I won’t recognize it, or it won’t recognize me. Or that I had it in my dizzying delicious reckless swirl of life-threatening love I experienced at the age of 14. And that was my love.
I think that, ever since my parents got divorced, I am afraid of falling out of love. I am afraid that what was once my picture of what love was meant to be, my source of reality outside of the fiction of Disney and picture books, ended up just being another story I was told. When that adolescent love and I both met many years later, at 19 or 20, I remember the two of us hugging each other, holding onto that feeling which had once existed. He looked at me, sadly, in despair, knowing that our love was gone and where did it go and if it was gone was it real? (2010 update, he's one of my best friends today! and single in NYC!)
I am afraid of people falling out of love with me. That I will somehow provoke it and cause it, that it will be my fault. I put men through hell when they are first with me to see if they can take it, if they will be able to stand me at my worst, demanding, full of expectations, pushing hard. I’ve decided to have a new approach to this, in love, with friends, in work. Clearly my mind will never shut off and continue to imagine new scenarios and possibilities. I’ve taken to writing them down, to allow my imagination to exist and grow in a fictional world so I can more fully live in the present.
And what is my present?
Like everyone, I am afraid of being hurt in love. And yet, then I am afraid not to be. I relish in heartache and hold onto the tears discarded from a love story like stuffed animals in my childhood. An ex-boyfriend once asked me if I would become jaded in
. Surprisingly, that has not yet happened, instead, I feel more aware of New York and of life than I ever have before. The co-existing forces of rich and poor, the perfume of women walking in New York SOHO juxtaposed with garbage cans long past their pickup date. Music opening from a broadway stage intermingling with the loud honks of 7th avenue horns. I wonder if love works the same way, if the love I feel and have felt has allowed me to store it up inside of me, making each encounter that much more intense, each glimpse of love burning that much more bright. But I am unsure. Could pain work similarly? Do we feel it more acutely as we grow older or does it begin to wash over us and we become used to its flow, as the sand surely comes to expect the cool rush of wind over a wet receding tide. I fear the pain yet I fear it’s absence. For once I no longer feel hurt, that is the time I will no longer feel love. If we prepare ourselves for the worst it seems impossible that we could see the best. If we no longer feel the pain, I don’t see how we can experience the love.
So do I seek out pain to ensure myself that the nerve endings are still functional? Do I seek out love to find if it is real? Sometimes I feel as if I am looking everywhere, searching unlit coffee shops, friends of friends, the blank wooden tables of my lawschool and dusty offices of NGO’s. Peeking around corners, wondering if this is it, if this could be it, and wondering what it could be. Some say I am boy crazy, I keep lost loves, old stories, emails, exchanges, tucked into my soul as they are in my laptop. I think perhaps I am love crazy, waiting in excited, dizzying, breathtaking anticipation, for what could be.