Six weeks of every year, I take a trip to Beijing and invent a new “me.” I usually pick
international hotels because everyone there wears a costume too. Mine is “Esau Zhou”
and I sell vitamins to cows.
The hotel is in the Wudaokou area near one of the main universities, Tsing-Hua.
There’s lots of exchange students here, a thriving cultural mishmash in Beijing.
Partly drugged by jet lag and nocturnal remissions, I chat with Jean, a Korean art
student who paints noses over fingers as a motif on misguided sense. Abraham, a
disillusioned meteorologist, likes to ask, “If rain were as heavy as bullets, would people
have found a way to change weather, or would they have invented bullet-proof
umbrellas?” The German brunette across from me refuses to give her name, only dates
rich Chinese guys, and has a row with them every night before loud, raucous sex.
I talk about vitamins with the other guests. Cells normally subdivide until they die, I
explain, a vestige of reincarnation sucking away at the original. A healthy dose of
vitamin E can prolong age and life by increasing the durability of cell regeneration after
The first time I see Sarah Chao, she’s holding a violin with broken strings, sipping on a
cocktail in the lobby. She’s Chinese but has placid blue eyes that appear to drift.
Riveting is a word I shouldn’t use carelessly, as I’ve had bad experience with rivets. But
her eyes are riveting. Read more…