When I emailed my uncle the address for Delta Hotel, a small budget hotel in the Chungking Mansions, he immediately called me to express his concerns about the safety and cleanliness of the area. “You should cancel the booking and stay with us,” he urged. “A Chinese girl was raped there before. It was all over the news–you can Google it.
I reassured him that I’d done my research, and the place seemed fine. If I really felt unsafe, I would just leave after the first night and stay with them.
Truth be told, I was aware of the Chungking Mansions’ unsavory reputation. It was the site of a 1988 fire that killed a Danish tourist. About a decade later, it was in the headlines again for the murder of an Indian tourist by her partner. That same year, there was a police swoop that led to the arrest of ~50 people from Asia and Africa for failing to provide IDs, overstaying their visas, using false documents, etc. All of this led to its image as a refuge for criminals and undocumented immigrants.
I finally finished reading Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. I also finished putting together the audio for a Bone Lab episode featuring our interview with a bioarchaeologist. Together, these things are giving me a less despairing lens with which to view this strange and tragic era. And can’t we all use a little less despair right now.
How can this read as anything other than a work of dystopian fiction or an absurdist play? How can we, on a global scale, be doomed to constantly repeat the same kinds of mistakes, enact the same ridiculous tragedies?
I know a guy who lost his mother in high school, and he is so even-keeled and unflappable and successful, I don’t understand it. Every day, I see him in lab, and I want to ask him, “How are you so normal and functional? Do you ever dream about her? How can you live without acknowledging that she was alive and without forcing everyone else to acknowledge it too? Why have you been able to carry on as if life were normal?” It’s been about a decade for him, but I’m over four years out, and I don’t think another six will change my constant urgent need to make sure she is remembered or my sense that nothing will ever be okay again, not really. Maybe it’s just that men and women grieve differently. Maybe it’s just us, because he has always been even-keeled and unflappable, and I’ve always been the opposite.
But then I think of Derek Thompson’s article in the Atlantic after he lost his mother, when he wrote about how surprisingly easy it was to move on and be normal, with scientific studies to back up that trend of resilience, and I want to scream because why are all these people able to be normal and functional? What is wrong with me that I still have such intense spasms of grief, four years out, and I have to struggle so hard just to put one foot in front of the other?Continue reading “grief spasms”