shu and joe

northern boys

Published on March 8, 2006

Northern boys have porcelain faces suffused with pink. Their eyes, black and mercurial, take in the world all at once, with pupils that absorb light and dark, colors and movement. They dart across ten lanes of zig-zagging traffic toting oversized duffle bags, laughing at bicyclists and daring cabs to run them over. Clothed in too-small sweaters and second-hand suits, they bend over to buff leather shoes, which have miraculously survived the journey from village to bus to train to the pavement of the big city. They grasp each other’s arms tightly, for fear of collapsing from the excitement of it all.

“Chao Yang Men.” They take turns reading the street sign, curling their lips around each character, tucking the precious words inside their homemade coats. “This is Beijing!” the ruddiest of them all shouts as he runs ahead, rioting dust into the air, bags billowing around him. Indigenous Beijingers lazily glance up from their meat pies regarding these newcomers with exasperation and suspicion. They harshly size them up, not realizing that these boys will soon be the men building their high rises and repairing their washing machines. Northern boys get hit by cars, fall from bamboo scaffolding, get pushed and shoved and disappear into the crowd. Missed by no one except their mothers.

Filed under: Beijing, China

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