[Editor's Note: The following is Part VI of an unfinished short story that the author and BlockRadius have chosen to publish in serial form, until its expected completion in Fall 2019].
PART I - Click here
PART II - Click here
PART III - Click here
PART IV - Click here
PART V - Click here
It was time for another trip, and the choice of where to go was easy: Shenzhen, China. It was a city I had heard so much about in graduate school. My professor had called it “the greatest urban planning success story of the past 25 years.” And when I had heard that, it dawned on me that this meant, logically, that it was representative of the future. That Shenzhen was the perfect rose into which all budding megacities, from Addis Ababa to Zanzibar City, could inevitably bloom. And as much as I feared the apocalypse, I craved the future.
But most importantly, one of my best friends was living there.
On the plane ride over, flying Air China, I was pleased to find several apocalypse-themed western movies: Geostorm, with Gerard Butler; How It Ends, with Forest Whitaker; Mad Max: Fury Road, with Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron; Snowpiercer, my favorite in the genre, at the time, due to its emphasis on the human response to climate change specifically; and Children of Men, with Clive Owen, one of the most influential of its kind since Al Gore’s iconoclastic An Inconvenient Truth in my opinion truly ushered apocalypse entertainment into the mainstream. I had seen them all except for Geostorm, so I began watching that. But after twenty minutes, I had lost my patience, finding that, for my taste, it focused too much on the personal relationships of the characters, rather than on the actual storm, the tangible titular apocalypse.
When the stewardess addressed the passengers in front of me, I woke up. I was hungry. “Pork or beef?” I heard the brochure-caliber Chinese stewardess ask the passengers in English.
“Is there a vegetarian option?” asked the one in front of me.
The Air China stewardess hesitated, like a computer that does not understand a command. “But this is all we have,” she said.
The passenger in front of me sighed. “Pork, then,” she said.
The stewardess continued her routine. A moment later, it was my turn.
“Pork, please,” I said.
On the second flight, which departed from Beijing, there were very few western movies. I tried a Chinese comedy and fell asleep.
I woke up to turbulence. Beeps, voices, overhead lights. I sat up straight and gripped the seat in front of me, looking around. Others were looking around, too. My heart – I became conscious of it. I thought of the last email I had sent, the last person I had talked to, my mother, my brother. My uncle, my aunt. A girl named Carolina Perez, who I had thought of before on another plane experiencing turbulence, another time I had asked myself: are you prepared to die? I thought of the friend I was visiting. I thought of the girl I had met in Bolivia, who had broken my heart, only to patch it up again, once upon a time. But then the turbulence subsided, and I remembered why I was flying to Shenzhen, not Bolivia nor Buenos Aires, not this time. I found Dynasties in the TV section and learned about chimpanzee bands, lion prides, and emperor penguins for the rest of the flight, how complex they are.
Shenzhen did not disappoint. With its electric cars and electric bikes, silent as a herd of wild animals (which we forget can be quite silent, going about their business), and its silent, motorless boulevards. Its wide sidewalks and narrow side-streets full of people, always – but not too full, always with just enough room to walk anywhere as fast as you like. And its cashless capitalism, where even the fruit-cart peddlers have a barcode you can scan with your phone, rather than pay in cash, oh so cumbersome cash, to buy oranges and dragonfruit and sliced pineapple that, here in the delta, are always in season.
A week later I said goodbye to my friend on a narrow sidewalk in Hong Kong. I turned away without looking back, no sentimental shit, and marched ahead defiantly. Within seconds, tears had filled my eyes, as was becoming the norm for me, as I had been getting older, during moments of deep appreciation – of deep gratitude to a God that must exist in some shape or form, in some universe or dimension – for all that is good in life. I was tearing up, grateful, because I did not know when the next time was that I would see my friend.
PART VII - Click here