This hostel I’ve been staying at in Beijing has been perfect for me. It’s decently cheap, surrounded by good food, and the staff and I get along great. I didn’t really talk to anyone, but then one of the receptionists asked me if I played guitar and I played “Sweet Hereafter” by The White Buffalo for them. That changed some things. Now I get offered breakfast with the workers instead of having to order off the menu at the bar, and I eat it behind the desk with Joy, a short haired 20 year old girl who works there part time.
I’ve been able to save around 55 yuan per day. It only equals out to $9 saved each day but that’s pretty huge for me. I want to go to Shenyang, where I lived eight years ago, for my birthday on monday, so I needed to save for the train ticket.
I was on the hunt for free things to do in Beijing and one that they recommended was the 798 warehouse art space. It was five stops on a subway and then thirteen stops on a bus to get there, but staying in the immediate area around the hostel for a few days was making me restless.
798 is a series of abandoned building all turned into art galleries. I wandered from place to place for a few hours, looking at all the different works. Northeast China is beautiful, intimidating at times, and cold. There is a greyness here that permeates through all the old buildings, and reminds you of it’s current political landscape. I haven’t seen works of art since months before I left on this trip. One gallery seemed interesting enough and I walked in. There was one work on the right wall standing on it’s own; it had bright neon green words with white outlines in a concentric circle pattern against a blueish background. There was a whitish figure walking through, it’s back toward us, dressed in a gown and cape, with it’s arms outstretched. I looked at the words, which I thought were random and saw one circle formed the phrase, “in your sweet thoughts would be forgot.” I know that line. I know that line. That’s Shakespeare. I memorized that line before. Is it Romeo and Juliet? No, it’s not one of Lord Capulet’s lines. What does the circle outside it say? “If thinking on me then should make”. . . . .If thinking on me then should make you woe. Oh my god. That’s Shakespeare’s 71st sonnet. I randomly came across this sonnet about two years back, just looking through the app I had downloaded and the opening lines caught my eye. “No longer mourn for me when I am dead”. The author then goes on to tell his loved one that he would rather they forget the memory of him completely, rather then his memory give them any pain after he is gone.
Two years ago I was on my way to work the Valentines Day brunch at the winery – the most dreaded shift of the year. I walked to the subway station and realized my monthly card had expired, so I tried to buy a new one but then remembered that I had left my card at the bar the night before, along with spending all my cash. It was a tough moment of self loathing. I could walk back to my apartment and bring out the bike, but I hate the idea of going back for anything, and really hate having the cold February air rip across my face as I ride. So I decided to walk to work, about an hour away, since I had left early to grab a bite to eat beforehand. I started listening to music and 15 minutes in I checked my email. There was a message from the offices at Juilliard. I had gotten called back a few weeks before to their acting program, where I had originally auditioned with well over 1,000 other applicants. The callback was a grueling, amazing experience with interviews, games, and lots of my Shakespeare monologue from King John. Getting in would be a complete game changer, and now there was an email. I didn’t get in. My heart sank to my feet. That walk to the winery was brutal. I had nothing to do but walk and think; I couldn’t even listen to music I was so devastated. I needed something to take my mind off of it, so I pulled up my phone and looked for something to memorize, and there was the Shakespeare app. The last page I had looked at was Shakespeare’s 71st sonnet and I walked and memorized it completely.
SO! Arriving in this gallery, already emotionally off balance by my previous stop in a room full of nude photos, and seeing this absolutely beautiful painting stretching over my head with those perfect lines about loving someone so much that he would rather vanish into eternity rather than cause his loved one pain, put me over the edge.
No longer mourn for me when I am dead
Then you shall hear the surly sullen bell
Give warning to the world that I am fled
From this vile world, with vilest worms to dwell:
Nay, if you read this line, remember not
The hand that writ it; for I love you so
That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot
If thinking on me then should make you woe.
O, if, I say, you look upon this verse
When I perhaps compounded am with clay,
Do not so much as my poor name rehearse.
But let your love even with my life decay,
Lest the wise world should look into your moan
And mock you with me after I am gone.