Joy in life and sorrow in death
In memory of June 4 of 1989
My name is Hua, Xibei (华喜悲), turning 30 soon. The last name of our family is not Hua. But my grandpa insisted it. I was born at a special moment, 4 o’clock on the morning of June 4 of 1989. Mom said that my first cry came with bursts of gun fires. On that day, she said, all hospitals of Beijing were fully packed with the wounded, blood spilling over everywhere.
My grandpa said that I was born at a bad moment, a moment of killing. He said that he was born at a better time, May 4 of 1919. He was exactly 70 the year I was born. Every Chinese New Year, he would bring me to pray at the Yong He Palace, or the Lama Temple. This ritual continued until he passed away ten years ago. On the day he died, he said, there is nothing to cry about death, just going to a different hell.
When I was eight years old, a short big guy died. The national media ran wild for a few days with his obituary and eulogy, calling him the Chief Architect of Reforms and Opening-up of China. My father said, shit, the Chief Shooter.
When I was sixteen years old, another big guy died, while he has been kept in captivity and oblivion until his death. His obituary in the media was very brief, still calling him a comrade. I watched a short video of him making a speech before my birth, in which he came inside a bus and talked to some college students in his He Nan accent, wearing eyeglasses with a wide frame. He said his days were numbered and he did not care anymore.
Every single one of my birthdays in Beijing was weird. Police in disguise would stalk almost everyone in some chosen locations, such as the Tiananmen Square, Liu Bu Kou, and Mu Xi Di. Rumors had it that they were stationed there to ward off some old women who call themselves ‘the Mother of Tiananmen’, who lost their loved ones during that incident. The police would arrest those mothers in the case that they started praying for their fallen kids. Over the years, those mothers get older and older, numbers smaller and smaller until they have almost disappeared.
I do not know what really happened on my birthday. In all honesty, I do not want to figure it out either. I am just an ordinary fellow, living an ordinary life. There are many things unclear. For example, who knows what happened in Beijing during SARS epidemic what I was eighteen years old? How many died, how many paralyzed due to the treatments, and how did the epidemic stop? I just wish that I was born on a different date. Sometimes I had weird dreams. In one dream, I was standing in front of a tank, its cannon pointed at me. When I moved left, the cannon moved left; when I moved right, it moved right again. It was impossible to get rid of the tank. In another dream, I was running with thousands and thousands of people on the Chang An Street, all naked and with blood stained all over us. A dark and growing abyss was chasing us from behind. I was so stressed and yelled for help and then woke up. I have no idea where those nightmares came from. I just wish I could have forgotten them.
On this June 4, I will be turning 30 years old.