It’s a cold night of a wet Chinese winter. In the middle of a city I remember well, with smooth bark trees. The air smells of bunt oil from the street food vendors combined with the sour flavor emanating from the unwashed sidewalk. Vestiges of previous nights passed in cold drizzles.
In the cab, sitting in the back on a yellowed leather bench filled with cracks and stale cigarette smoke, the lights on the buildings dance around in a spectacle while I wonder how much is this costing in electricity. The tall buildings run past with the lights being the only indicator of their actual height and looking up I feel small trying to imagine how many people would it take ti fill up one of those buildings. I mean fill up from wall to wall, from floor to ceiling, from ground floor to the roof. That’s a lot of people, but that doesn’t even come close to the number of people in this city, in this country, on this planet. I really do feel small. Safe as well, in my anonymity because in this particular evening there’s nothing to do but let this car drive me to my dorm where I can lay down ans sleep a deep sleep of an irresponsible student.
I sit and watch the buildings running by, the trees that have become familiar by now as we are getting closer to the campus. The experience is as familiar as the feeling of knowing this city. And I find myself imagining living here for a few years. Having a job and going out to dinner, knowing places and discussing streets by their names. I love getting to know cities like this as I never have the issue of missing home because I carry home with me wherever I go. I meet friend and coworkers for coffee and meals in the city. I rent an apartment that becomes comfortable after a week of cleaning. I get to know the local shops and I have my favorite coffee place, my favorite fruit store, my favorite bench in the park and as time goes by, I forget the time when I wasn’t living in this place.
Then the cab arrives to the dorm and the cold air feels five times colder than it really is and the first thing I do when I get to my room is turn on the AC. My roommate and I start chatting about nothing while we get ready for bed and silence falls as it’s someone else’s turn to be carried around in a cab through the sleeping city.