And the Nights Are Not Full Enough

Monday night, I pulled down the zipper and stepped out of my dress. I smelled, as always, like cigarettes and sweaty men. Ashes in my hair and a bittersweet song about love glued to my brain, I stepped into the shower. I always equated the sound of running water with silence; for me, this was as quiet as it got; for me, silence was relative. Loudness was life—singing and drinking with self-important suits in private karaoke rooms wasn’t my dream job, not what I as a pigtailed girl imagined myself doing, but you’ve got to do something to keep yourself afloat in this world that seems set up to sink its brightest, this world that seems set up to smother its fires under skyscrapers and sidewalk and earth. I lathered shampoo in my hair, roughly massaged my own scalp, shut my eyes and longed to see past my own lids, longed, to see beyond, longed to see him...

...For one day a week, there was only darkness, and for me that day was Tuesday; every Tuesday. I hadn’t the faintest idea what went on on Tuesdays, what Tuesdays felt like. For my entire family, too, it had been Tuesday. This was our mandate.

In school they taught us, rows and rows of impressionable students sitting before curse-word-carved desks, that there were simply too many people in this world and not enough of anything to sustain them. They taught us that we should be grateful to the government for giving us all a rest, each of us a day (not necessarily the same) off from school, off from everything.

At birth, we were injected and given our day. At birth, we were ordered to sleep, ordered to sacrifice just twenty-four hours so that everyone else could live for years and years. Blacked out, passed out, I never questioned...

...It’s always bedtime, so it seems. Monday night, and I, freshly scrubbed, opened the blinds, hoping to see a miracle, or a sign that didn’t just read “Haier” or “McDonalds.”

No such luck.

I, hoping to see a sign from him, this man, this man about whom I couldn’t stop dreaming.

But I didn’t see a man, a person, I saw people, down below on the sidewalk; people shopping and people drinking and people laughing and people, people, people; people like sparks. Sometimes I think, everyone is beautiful in this world, everyone but me.

I shut the blinds, and lay down atop the sheets in my bed. I lay down to wake up on Wednesday, to do my part to save this world. Please don’t tell me, I thought as I felt my body fall limp, please don’t tell me that it’s already time to leave (fight it)...

...I cannot stop thinking about Tuesdays, about what is, or could be, possible. I, thinking that what the heavens have destined for me all weighs on the importance of things that only happen on Tuesday—that on a Tuesday, some Tuesday, I will manage to stay awake and I will go to work, like any other day, and I will leave the building at 11 p.m. and stroll down to Dongmen to buy a bowl of rice noodles, and then in line at the restaurant, a man (the man from my dreams) with broad shoulders and a kind face will drop his wallet on the floor, and I will bend down to pick it up for him, and he will look me up and down (plain, plain me) and he will see beyond the painted face and the silk dress, the distractions that glow with the illusion of beauty, and he will see my plainness and he will fall in love with me for it, and he will ask me to move in with him, across the border to Hong Kong, and we will live together in a land the British once ruled and we will learn to speak English and maybe we will grow weary eventually and take other lovers because it’s so boring to stay in one place, dreadful, a prison, really, to remain forever in a sleep-like state...

...Awake, still awake, and I’m not supposed to resist; resistance can lead to health problems, legal problems, and there’s no point in putting up a fight, they say, because science always wins. I roll over in bed, stand up. My hair is still wet. I drag my feet across the floor and open the blinds again. Maybe the officials will be coming for me soon; maybe there is no light.

But what if my entire fate depends on the next twenty-four hours? What if the seeds that are to sprout my future are buried in those minutes? What if today is the day I’m destined to soar above the neon and the factories? What if today is the day I am to die? I long to watch the sun rise, some Tuesday morning, to see the city rise like a phoenix from the sea, from the ashes of authority.

But, no, we must save the children, save the earth, we must submit to darkness, we must do what we can, we must—

But now, I open my eyes, hold them open with my fingers, and this is what I see: again, that man, imaginary now, but real if I go running toward him, and this is what I see: yes, resources are scarce, but so is time...


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