November 11, 2011
Everyone who visits Shanghai ends up in Huangpu District at some point or another. It’s the financial center to end all financial centers. Yes, everything there is twice as expensive as the rest of the city; yes, it’s oppressively crowded, even by the standards of the country. But everyone will tell you that you must go there at night and see the Bund lit up. It’s something you can’t miss.
I have my doubts about that. But then again, coming here wasn’t my choice.
Really, I’m not sure why we’re here. The young woman on my arm merely told me that there was something I should see – nothing more, nothing less. My stomach is still tense, but any discomfort I may feel is irrelevant at this point. When you care about someone this way, you can’t let your petty problems get in the way of her happiness.
It’s a cool night, which is fine by me – anything’s better than the sweltering evenings back home. The streets are packed, even more so than usual. Apparently, it’s Singles Day, a play off the four ones in the date – and what with this also being the 11th year of the century, this one’s supposed to be extra special. I suppose that explains all the couples on the street tonight, but not the diversity of the crowd. It never ceases to amaze me just how cosmopolitan, how worldly this place really is.
The Bund is a perfect example of that. My companion is pointing out each of the buildings along the waterfront. The architecture on each building is distinct, built to represent a tiny piece of another nation – England, Russia, Japan, France. And hanging over it all is the Oriental Pearl, the defining structure of the city’s world-famous skyline.
We’ve arrived early, close to an hour before the scheduled illumination. The wind picks up off the water, putting a chill in the air. Neither of us are dressed for this – no one expects cold weather that early. I pull my companion closer, sheltering her from the wind. It’s strange – the tension in my stomach is gone. I haven’t felt this vital in weeks.
It feels like only a moment has passed before the lights come on. It’s beautiful.
We spent the rest of the night out there, wandering the length of the Bund. I remember losing track of the time, realizing only at the last minute that the subway was soon to shut down for the evening. As tired as I was, part of me didn’t want to leave. She was happy, and that made me happier than I’d been in a long, long time.
It only made it that much worse when the tears came – tears that I couldn’t stop, no matter how hard I tried. It was a bitter feeling, a pain that I’d never really felt.
But no matter what, I’ll always have that moment. We’ll always have that moment.
(Written for the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge)