“Inside the ancient city walls…”
“It seems that pleasant rooftop cafes like this one are disappearing from Beijing’s old town, as…”
“Of the three occupied tables, one is speaking Japanese, and one English. Only I am silent…”
A plethora of first sentences loiter idly about my foremind, none seeming particularly motivated to step up and stretch itself out into a narrative – though that metaphor is somewhat ass-first, as writing does not write itself, but is written, by an author (anyone who tells you otherwise is engaging in hero worship or false modesty [which is just hero worship of the self]). The identity of a writer is defined by the sentences chosen and the stories subsequently developed, just as the identity of a non-writer (or a writer who does not happen to be writing at the moment) is defined by the perspectives one takes, the particular details focused on, the angles by which one chooses to engage with our shared reality. So when you ride your bike through a foreign capital city, passing financial towers and run-down shantystreets, ride under golden trees and over glistening gutters, perform an S-curve maneuver to simultaneously dodge an errant Tesla and an apparently impoverished octogenarian, discover the comfortable little alley coffeeshop you were headed for to have been bulldozed and replaced by purposeless but appropriately grey traditional style buildings, then loop back around to find a different cafe introduced to you some one year previously by a South African filmmaker with whom you really should get back in touch, lock up your bike while being pumped for answers by an unfamiliar, halitosed, toothless twentysomething about how many pistols or bazookas my American family owns, and finally get upstairs to use your Chinese to order a Belgian beer of the Indian style, and, while drinking it surrounded by the sounds of at least two languages you don’t understand (one of the tables has switched to French), you find yourself completely at a loss for anything at all to say, you may begin to wonder: for all I’ve seen and done, do I even exist at all?
In my experience, the only change brought about by turning 30 (which I did a month and a half ago) has been an increased feeling that something should have changed when I turned 30. I never consciously assumed anything about being 30, but I now know I assumed I would have somewhat of an idea what life was about by that point, a basic grasp of such popular concepts as love, career, reproduction, direction. But as is usually the case when passing through imagined barriers, there was no resistance was felt, no revelations revealed, only a tacit reinforcement of the “this is it”ness of this being it.
A bee just fell down my shirt, but did not sting me. It’s a sign! A sign that this type of bee does not sting, or that it mistook my shirt for the thing that cares about being stung.
Perhaps I should stick to writing fiction.