A few years ago, my dad came to visit me while I was living in France. On a night out, we went to the arthouse theater in Montpellier to watch a Chinese movie that had just come out. The movie takes place in Shanxi province, a few hundred kilometers west of Beijing, and when it started, I found I couldn’t understand any of the dialogue. All the words were spoken in the wrong tone, with the wrong stress, and yet they had a maddening similarity to Mandarin that made comprehensibility seem just out of reach. It was as though I’d had a stroke, and a portion of my mind’s speech center had been injured.
And yet I still haven’t visited France. First obtaining a visa was a tedious bureaucratic process with a high chance of refusal. When the visa was no longer necessary, the flights were too expensive, so I decided to wait, traveling to countries that were more accessible. When finally a low-coast airline announced a new flight to Paris, I got the tickets, but the war broke out a month before my travel date. You can guess what is the first thing I dream of doing after the nightmare is over.
I tell my mother it was a random act of violence, not a targeted hate crime. I tell her the story I’d told the police officers while I laid in the hospital bed. We’d all agreed that I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
There was a loud noise, someone dropping a chair or something and I was prepared to leap to action. The stapler in my hand became my weapon and my body jumped, preparing to push these small children behind me. Why is this the world we live in?
Zeus’ father Cronus ruled the Titans until Zeus overthrew him. My great-grandfather’s father ruled his farm in Poland until a bull killed him, leaving my great-grandfather to step in at eight years old.