One evening when I’m having dinner with the grad students, Mia and Claudia are badgering Aaron to think through his buddies for possible boyfriend candidates (they are speaking Chinese, but Claudia often remembers to explain to me their general topics of conversation, if not all the details.)
“Aaron is asking what our requirements are,” she grins.
“And what are you telling him?”
“We are saying we want someone tall, rich, and handsome,” she giggles (I guess “dark” is a moot point in China).
As I listen to them chatter and laugh, I’m reminded of early episodes of the Big Bang Theory, so I start to describe the program to them.
“Oh, yes!” say’s Claudia. “We watch that show. Sheldon is very funny.”
(Turns out some of my students are also Big Bang fans. One of the English language teachers told me that It plays here with Chinese subtitles (can you imagine the complexity of that interpreter’s job?))
Once the grad students have exhausted their quest for love conversation, we finish dinner, and head out of the mall towards the river. There is a fireworks display in Changsha every Saturday during the summer and fall, and tonight is the final show of the season. Changsha is internationally famous for its fireworks, exporting them around the world. The city also received the honor of supplying all the big bangs for the Beijing Olympics.
It’s a short but crowded walk to the fireworks viewing area. The six lanes of vehicle traffic between us and the river is at a standstill, so Aaron scampers across and reaches the other side with no problem.
But before Claudia, Mia and I have the chance to move, the traffic begins to flow again. And just as suddenly, fireworks light up the sky. Claudia says, “Come on! The show is starting!”
She grabs hold of my right elbow, and Mia takes my left hand.
“No, wait,” I say, “I don’t think it’s safe to….”
“It’s OK, Pam,” says Mia. “Don’t be scared!”
Before I can resist any further, they’ve steered me halfway across the road. I stand between them, trying to make myself as small as possible, wondering if we’re about to star in a big bang episode of our own. The traffic is whizzing within inches of us on either side. Finally, a monstrous bus pulls up directly in front of us and stops, blocking our view of the fireworks and our path to the curb.
“This way!” Claudia yells over her shoulder, finding a small gap between the back of the bus and the bumper of the BMW behind it. .
“There!” says Mia as we reach the sidewalk. “Now you are safe.”
I exhale, and we plunge into the crowd. Aaron takes my backpack, and the three of them wiggle me into the best viewing position, closing ranks behind me.
What a show! Fireworks explode in a massive bank of crimson, silver, gold and pink. The sky is a gallery of waterfalls, hairy spiders, spinning wheels, sun sparkles on snow. The colors arch, and zip, and gyrate. And just when I think the spectacle can’t go on much longer, another burst rockets into the darkness.
Twenty minutes later, we cheer the finale. All of us are grinning, wide-eyed, delighted children as we make our way back through the crowd of balloon hawkers, trinket salesmen and couples waltzing to music blaring from a loudspeaker.
Aaron spots an empty taxi, and we pile in. Claudia videoed the entire fireworks display, so she and I relive the show while Mia and Aaron flip through their cell phones and talk across the back seat.
“We are already planning what to do next weekend!” Mia says.
I can hardly wait.