A Chinese New Year


I ran up the down escalator as she ran down the up, taking swipes at each other’s head’s as we passed. We did this for twenty minutes, frustrating commuters, foreigners and manual labourers alike; a thoroughly communal anti-socialism. Exhausted, we were catching our breath when she lifted a five yuan note from the ground. We yelped in delight! Debating how to spend it, she mooted the idea of actually riding on the subway!

We found the ticket machine and not knowing where to go or where we were, we pressed buttons until cards emerged. Restraining ourselves as we went down more elevators, train’s arrived on both sides of the platform. She chose the right one because, unspoken, I knew she liked the look of the advertisement painted onto the side of the carriages. I followed her as I always do.

Being accomplished elevator riders and not fully comprehending the concept of subways, we decided to walk down the carriages. Under the intense lights I could see just how grubby her face was. I told her this and she told me she doubted it was as dirty as mine. We both whooped with laughter and picked up the pace. We eventually tired of walking and got off to ride the escalators up into the fading twilight.

We gasped as we looked around. The buildings were higher than the mountains of our home! In between these megaliths the sun was setting into the smoggy haze. All nearby consciousness was focused on the sky, on the twirling rosettes waltzing their way across the penthouses of the rich and dancing through the ghost trails of fireworks long since fallen to earth. We stood and stared at the top of the escalator, those still emerging pushing past us angrily.

Cordite stung my eyes and as I wiped them I followed the smoke trails down to the ground, to where a man stood holding a burnt-out match. I recognised those clothes, that stance, that haircut. Father? No! It couldn’t be, Uncle? I shouted ‘Uncle!’ but he couldn’t hear me above the cacophonous explosions. Then suddenly his face was caught in the flash of a rocket. Neither of them. I looked at her and she looked back knowingly.

Not really having much of a bedtime plan we held hands as we stared at the sky, smiles fixed to our faces, tears at the corner of our eyes.



© 2012 Thomas Halvë

N.B.  improved immeasurably by being read to the sound of a Four Tet song (most things are improved in this way). I’d suggest ‘Circling’ from the album There is Love in You.


5 comments on “A Chinese New Year

  1. I like the picture shown at the start of this post…my favorite part of that photo are the pastel lanterns. Excellent story as well, it had a vivid description to it, that give me a feeling of suspense or childish excitement.

    • thomaswrites says:

      Thanks Frances! I took the photo at Chinese New Year 2012 and the story is based on two little Tibetan migrant-children I kept seeing hanging around a subway station. Don’t know if you have ever been but rural-to-urban migration is a big theme in urban China.

      • Unfortunately my experience in China is still limited to Shanghai..and I guess HK and Taiwan to be technical about it…but I have read about the rural-to-urban migration in China….same is happening I think in Indonesia, according to another article I read. (Probably from “The Atlantic”.)

  2. thomaswrites says:

    Plenty of it in Shanghai as well – its happening all across Asia but most noticeable in China – which has 200+ million rural migrants!!! If they formed a country they would have almost the same population size as Indonesia. Also – next time you go to China – remember West = Best.:)

  3. thomaswrites says:

    Oh yeah – and that ‘West’ is ‘western China’ haha. Not The West 🙂

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