This is a day like any other, you had smog, I had sun. The problem with life is that the day goes on.
You were someone I didn’t want to work with. Sharp minded and sharp tongued. Before I met you I already heard some publishers called you gu nainai, the type of aunt most of us prefer not to have. Your chest was even bigger than most Chinese women. Perhaps that, too, contributed to your reputation of being one of the toughest negotiators.
I didn’t make friends with you but the you inside.
Your life’s goal was to visit all UNESCO world heritage sites in China, including the reserves. On outings you quizzed us relentlessly about history, geography, and anecdotes related to them. We were tired and embarrassed. But no one dared to say, “Shut up. Who cares!”
You had your legend. One time, you made a big fuss about a car parked right on the pedestrian crossings. Only someone with enough connection would feel entitled to claim a spot like that. It was said that you circled the car, checking the plate, citing this and that civilized spirit that was promoted by the Party then. The driver looked at you and drove off. He must have suspected that you had higher connections. You didn’t. Little people like such stories and their heroines.
For days, people prepared for the good-bye. I could not. In my voice recording that was played to your ear, I said I’d show you snow here. People said you answered. It was a promise.
As if someone heard my mind’s voice, a stranger said in the Saturday radio, “Everyone will die. No one really knows what will happen to us. Isn’t that comforting?”
Today, I am ready. Let me look at you and say, “There are UNESCO sites everywhere and snow, too. There will be others like us who will do miserably with your quizzes. The difference between here and there is only one aspect of a raining day. We travelers must be content. I am, because I have you. Go. Explore more places and people.”