I used to sit on a stool in the kitchen of our tiny one bedroom in Brooklyn and I'd think about Beijing. I'd stare out the window and see our neighbors' drawn shades. He'd be asleep and I'd be up early staring, crying, and feeling the urge to go back to China like a fist was climbing from my stomach to my mouth, ready to punch. Most of the time I thought about Mao Mao and Rong Rong and our life in 2007 which I sufficiently dubbed as "the greatest romance of my life without me being involved romantically." That's kind of a romantic notion in itself, no? That two people in love somehow like you enough that they'd include you in their story. We'd gone to the Great Wall and Mongolia like lonely soldiers in the dust, and they, they were the most beautiful kids I'd ever known. It was hard that when I finally clawed my way back to Beijing to see that love gone, and in its place, wounds that could never quite heal. I find that I can no longer love cities for the people. I find myself thinking instead of intersections and structures that don't shift or morph. There's beauty in the fragility of human emotions and relationships. The fabric of relationships we build can so easily be ripped apart, but Mongolia will always live within me. So too, will friends in New York who move on, so that when I return, I will only have a shell of New York made of memories. The moment when Sasha and I stood at the promenade and declared we were going to live in New York City. Sitting at the steps of Five Pointz with Rob talking about poets. Having lunch at Herald Square by the Empire State Building and feeling like you have the world in your hands. Walking from Bronx to Battery Park with Ari and Chris. Walking the High Line with Louisa catching up on 10 years of life and seeing in her eyes how much we'd both grown. Meeting gorgeous strangers in subways who mouth their name as you exit, "Romeo Alexander." Romeo fucking Alexander because that was the type of name that didn't need a phone number attached. Meeting Aniko for Coffee. Meeting Stephanie for dinner. Meeting Yunlin for art exhibits. Clubbing with Jia and the crew. Going to Xibei's parties in Roosevelt Island. Walking the length of Sunset Park with Bryan.
When I go back one day, half of my friends will out of New York. So I focus on intersections instead. I ask, "How's Houston doing?" and "What your favorite street?" I have a drifter's instinct and alleyways move me because they are cement, immutable as the earth.
We learn to love a place when we leave it. Love it deeply until its image is a scar in our heart, and that's the way it should be, New York. You will always be the greatest love of my life. And Beijing, I'll let you know what you are when I leave you, but for now, I'm in love with your every flaw.