Dating in China or anywhere else in the world, breakups usually don’t just happen in one swift moment. It’s not like one second you’re in a relationship, and the next second you are officially single and you can use a stopwatch to catch the exact nanosecond. No, it’s a fuzzy math sorta thing. It softly fades, it backtracks and starts again. There is no specific point, it’s not digital it’ is analog. It’s a fractal.
Autumn, 2010. I had come back from America, while concurrently trying to convince a girl from my hometown to come follow me to Shenzhen, ready for a new apartment and a slightly new life. This time I had a smaller more city-ish apartment off Shennan Road (the central artery of the city), near a park and it suited me well. The fancy high-rises aren’t me.
Just one roommate, an American fellow with his own business. He was a bad drunk but a very good roommate. He had his own thing going on, and we’d hang out on occasion and leave each other alone when necessary. No roomie pressure. I worked more, made money. Started writing again, researched for a certain story, that ol’ dream postponed since coming here was starting up again and things were looking good.
Meanwhile, I needed to settle things with Zoey. I simply said we were in a rut. Then, after pressed for more, I was completely honest about the other girl in America. Oh, that vague situation that turned out to have no real meaning. She cried, my own heart was stretched thin, and feeling like shit and hating myself I then concluded that I was a bad person.
With Zoey, it wasn’t even the first time we’d broken up. Yet it was the most serious reason so far. Was it final yet? No. Numbed, we talked about it too much and acted on it too little, just ended up continuing the same things. We kept in touch, fell into bed a few times. I wasn’t sure what I wanted.
She wrote me a letter that tore me apart, and she told me “I’m not ready.” I thought and I thought, and some on-again-off-agains from time time, and I gave in. I decided we belonged together and it was time for me to do the right thing and stay with her. And stay with her I did.
I already had my fun, I had my experiences. I know I know, I over analyze. She always did say I think too much. Now I there was a sign and a beautiful opportunity right in front of me. It was time in my life to be serious for once.
I made my decision, and I was fully devoted to her. For these months of my life, she was my girlfriend 100% and I was no longer conflicted. It was beautiful, comfortable, content. We went to Hong Kong together, we watched movies, went out to dinner, and enjoyed lazing about in my apartment. The holidays came and went and we celebrated New Year’s Eve at a skating rink.
A time passed in which I was undergoing a certain hardship. Bureaucracy issues, don’t worry about it now. The point is, it was rough for a while there and she supported me so much. She became an angel to me. After that, I started saying the word “love.” I don’t take that word lightly.
(The second time I had ever said that word to a girl. Out of four total girls in my lifetime, as of this writing. One day I shall share those stories…)
It was a great time in my life. I was happy and it was uncomplicated. Well, mostly. I still worry I don’t know how to deal with happiness and simplicity. I’m not used to it. For a few special months in late 2010/early 2011, anyway, I was as used to it as I’d ever be.
We came upon our one-year anniversary, though it wasn’t an unbroken year it was a symbolic changing of the seasons. In truth, in stark definitive intimacy, she was the only woman I was with for the entire year. After all that we’d been through together… she began about marriage. Uh-oh.
Fair enough for her. I don’t think it was a particularly conservative Chinese conversation or anything, not like that. After being together a long time it is a fair conversation to have in any culture. I just wasn’t sure I would stay in China with her forever, nor would I whisk her away to America and support her in the proper way she deserves.
I wasn’t even close to talking about settling down. I’m sorry, I wasn’t.
We broke up for the final time. I hoped it wouldn’t be permanent, I hoped we could rekindle yet again, but this time she insisted. I started getting depressed once reality set in; an involuntary feeling of heavy sadness I could not get out of me.
I tried to stay friends. Maybe too much. I called her often, until she started dating other guys and then she called back less often.
I think she married a Middle-Eastern fellow. I met the guy a few times, he seemed to be one of the good ones. And then she stopped keeping in touch altogether.
With Zoey gone, I looked into some opportunities in other cities. It was time for a very new start. I needed a bit more drastic change in scenery. I’d always enjoyed exploring the Guangdong Province and wanted to research further. Some expats move far away from year to year, living out of their suitcase and trotting the globe. But I had so much stuff so I’d rather move someone nearby. I chose Guangzhou.
Next: My Guangzhou Year