I’m coming down an escalator in a shopping mall in Beijing when I see a girl crying on the black sofa in the waiting area of a Cantonese restaurant. She is blotting her eyes with a tissue. Her makeup isn’t running at all. Not a single tear, only sobs. She’s wearing a blue dress with white dots and holding a blue phone to her ear. I wonder if she planned this ensemble. I can’t understand what she is saying into the phone, partly because I don’t speak Chinese and partly because she is whispering through stunted tears.
Earlier that day I’d seen the crying girl with the blue dress with white dots and a blue phone, but, earlier that day she hadn’t been crying and neither of us had been in a mall. I saw here after following a dog down a road I didn’t know. The dog and I had both been waiting for a cross walk sign to change. He was standing in a cluster of Chinese business men who were also waiting for the sign to change. When it changed, he walked across. If he’d had a briefcase I would have mistaken him for a business man.
I followed him for six blocks. He stopped at a bus stop and if he’d had any money I would have mistaken him for a passenger waiting for the bus. For a moment I was genuinely scared that I was going to end up to following this business man dog onto a bus. The bus came and he didn’t get on. Instead he started putting the moves on another dog that was standing near by. When I realized that he was just a dog looking to go home with other dogs I turned around and walked six blocks back to my apartment. That’s when I saw the girl who- wasn’t crying at that time, but was crying now- in her blue dress with white dots and a blue phone. She was walking towards the bus stop where I had left the dog, she looked happy.
I think about this dog and this girl as the escalator glides me gently past the Cantonese restaurant. I don’t stop to wonder why she is crying and I don’t think about where she is going. I just stand there and let myself slip away.
A graduate of The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Adriene Lilly now lives and works as a teacher in Guizhou, China. She spends her time studying, writing and the occasional holiday seeking out the most remote parts of the internet.