One evening when I was having dinner with the grad students, Mia and Claudia were badgering Aaron to think through his buddies for possible boyfriend candidates (they were speaking Chinese, but Claudia explained their general topic of conversation, if not all the details.)
“Aaron is asking what our requirements are,” she grinned.
“And what are you telling him?”
“We are saying we want someone tall, rich, and handsome,” she giggled (I guess “dark” is a moot point in China).
As I listened to them chatter and laugh, I was reminded of early episodes of the Big Bang Theory, so I started to describe the program to them.
“Oh, yes!” Claudia said. “We watch that show. Sheldon is very funny.”
(Some of my professor students were also Big Bang fans. One of the English language teachers told me that the program plays there with Chinese subtitles – can you imagine the complexity of that interpreter’s job?)
Once the grad students had exhausted their love quest conversation, we finished dinner, and headed out of the mall towards the Xiang River. Every Saturday evening in the summer and fall, Changsha holds a fireworks display, and I was lucky enough to be in town for 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 was a short but crowded walk to the fireworks viewing area. The six lanes of vehicle traffic between us and the river was at a standstill, so Aaron scampered between the car bumpers and reached the other side of the street with no problem.
But before Claudia, Mia and I had the chance to follow, the traffic began to flow again. And just as suddenly, fireworks lit up the sky. “Come on!” Claudia said, “The show is starting!”
She grabbed my right elbow, and Mia took my left hand.
“No, wait,” I said, “I don’t think it’s safe to….”
“It’s OK, Pam,” said Mia. “Don’t be scared!”
Before I could resist any further, they’d steered me halfway across the road. I stood between them, trying to make myself as small as possible, wondering if we were about to star in a big bang episode of our own. The traffic whizzed within inches of us on either side. Finally, a monstrous bus pulled up directly in front of us and stopped, blocking our view of the fireworks and our path to the curb.
“This way!” Claudia yelled over her shoulder, finding a small gap between the back of the bus and the bumper of the BMW behind it. .
“There!” said Mia as we reached the sidewalk. “Now you are safe.”
I exhaled, and we plunged into the crowd. Aaron shouldered my backpack, and the three of them manoeuvred me into the best viewing position, closing ranks behind me.
What a show! Fireworks exploded in a massive bank of crimson, silver, gold and pink. The sky became a gallery of waterfalls, hairy spiders, spinning wheels, sun sparkles on snow. The colors arched, zipped, gyrated. And just when I thought the spectacle couldn’t go on much longer, another burst rocketed into the darkness.
Twenty minutes later, we cheered the finale – grinning, wide-eyed, delighted – and made our way back through the crowd of balloon hawkers, trinket salesmen, and couples waltzing to music blaring from a loudspeaker.
Aaron spotted an empty taxi, and we piled in. Claudia shared her videos of the show with me, while Mia and Aaron flipped through their cell phones and talked across the back seat.
“We are already planning what to do next weekend!” Mia said.
Could anything possibly top that night’s big bang? I could hardly wait to find out.