“Everything is so great here in the US!” said this young woman from Jiangsu. She gushed like a girl talking about her first crush, right down to the blush on her cheeks and the glimmer in her eyes. And in a way, maybe it was a crush to her — a “business-trip-to-the-US” crush.
We met her while waiting for a changing room to open up at an Adidas outlet. Even though the conditions in the store seemed like hell — only three changing rooms and endless customers streaming in through the doors — the conditions outside bordered on heavenly. An azure sky, sunshine, the trees dressed in their finest autumn scarlet and gold and orange, and throngs of happy shoppers. In the beauty of that day, I even began to forget the sadness of the past 24 hours.
But when I heard her praise the US, a part of me shuddered. After all of the hardship that John and I experienced in this country, I just could never endorse the idea that everything was just fabulous here. And given the recent government shutdown — which has locked up the local national park where I once found solace and comfort in daily hikes — I wasn’t alone in my feelings.
Yet, before I brought John to the US, wasn’t I — in a sense — as starstruck as this young Chinese woman? Once upon a time, I spun my own personal fairytale version of a happily ever after with John in the US. The fact that John was once denied a tourist visa to come over to the US only strengthened my conviction that, somehow, if I could just bring him over here, everything would be better. But things unravelled as the years in this country passed and the disappointments piled up — until I had not a single thread of that fairytale left.
What I had left was a lot of guilt. I remembered how John’s father told me, “When you’re far away from us in the US, you’ll have to take care of him.” Even though it was completely and utterly irrational, I felt responsible for every terrible thing that happened to John.
Sometimes life lets you down. But it doesn’t mean that I’m down or John is down. And it also doesn’t mean that I have to bring someone else down because of it.
So when she gushed about the US, I just smiled and nodded. “I’m glad you’re having a good time.”
Who knows if she’ll feel the same way days or even years later? And who knows if I’ll feel the same? But I do know this — her happiness somehow touched me, and reminded me that perhaps my happiness will eventually come in time.