Chapter 3: Shenzhen, China

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    I finally left for China after changing my mind at least four hundred times.  My mom helped me pack my bags, because I was incapable.  My dad drove me to the airport to say goodbye.  He was afraid it would be the last time.  So was the rest of my family.  Peter Hitchens was with me.  If not for him, I would have missed my flight, as I was distracted by a magazine.  He would chastise me later for being so engrossed in the sight of a caterpillar in Yangshuo that I was late once again.  For seven months, I was in this pupal stage.  I was dead to the world.  My mind was a blank slate being written on with crumbled chalk in the cyclonic wind that was my life.  I spent three weeks in Beijing, and Pete thought each morning that he would find me in a bloody mess on the ground.  I tried to fight.  I would do memory exercises with Pete while I did push-ups to reinvigorate my mind and body.  I had put on thirty pounds in the thirty days bouncing from Wellbutrin to Risperdal to Zyprexa.  I broke down crying by a statue of Cervantes next to a lotus pond.  I was Don Quixote doomed to chase windmills for eternity.  I was a lost soul.  I had no direction.  I was utterly alone.  I was in hell.

    For the next seven months I was in Shenzhen, China:  The beautiful international seaside garden city of Shenzhen.  I thought I had landed in Sodom and Gomorrah.  Pregnant prostitutes sold pirated pornography on the streets next to lepers, who were wheel-barrowed by their owners to collect money for the Chinese mafia.  Endless lines of kiosks:  “you want dvd, vcd, cd, svcd?  You want massagie, happy ending, drugs, good time?”  “Bu yong, bu yong,” I said watching a man with one arm and one leg lapping up water from a puddle on the street.  I grew a callous over my heart.

    I fell to pieces.  I lost my keys.  I got lost on the way back from the grocery store down the street or from my daily walk to McDonald’s for ice cream.  I cried for no apparent reason.  I broke down my door several times a week until my neighbors made copies of my key to let me in.  I didn’t clean my room.  I didn’t wash myself or brush my teeth.  I watched cockroaches crawl over my toothbrush.  I masturbated and did not clean up the mess I left on the floor even when guests would enter my one-room apartment and point at the mess on the ground in wonder, as they looked for leaks in the ceiling.  My toilet filled past capacity with my shit for over ten days.  I slept with women I had just met whose names I would not remember.  One was likely a prostitute who gave me a free ride.  Another was a Thai woman who didn’t speak much English.  It didn’t matter.  That’s not what She was there for.  I was proud of a Cambodian model I brought back to my hotel.  I had to buy the last room for the night to have privacy.  I felt used and I liked it.  I dated small Chinese girls who made me feel more masculine.  One in particular cooked and cleaned for me and serviced my needs as they would come.  I was beginning to find some happiness.

    I had traveled to Taiwan, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.  I returned and took on some extra jobs.  I co-hosted a TV show teaching English to children.  I bartended and modeled for commercial shoots.  I did voiceovers for academic literature and audio CDs to teach public servants English for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.  I was told I could quickly become the King of Shenzhen.  One day everything changed.

    The night before my last day in Shenzhen, a book popped out at me from my friend Jeremy’s shelf.  The book was an edition of the works of Kierkegaard.  It pulled me into its pages, and I was heeding Kierkegaard’s advice not to go past Christianity.  This is the Kierkegaard who gave up the love of his life for his philosophical wanderlust only to kill himself in the end.   Through those pages, I rediscovered Jesus Christ.  I danced in my room in jubilee about having been found by Jesus.  I longed to tell someone, and I whispered the news to my mom over the telephone.  She asked me if I was psychotic.  I still wonder at the similarities between a psychotic episode and finding Christ, or being born-again.

    During my last day in Shenzhen, I dressed for class in mesh shorts, a long-sleeve collarless blue shirt and Tazmanian devil slippers.  I taught my communist classrooms about the psychology and philosophy of God without ever using the G-word.  Philosophizing about language, we built Gricean ladders in the spirit of Jacob.  A few children had ‘aha’ experiences but the rest were oblivious.  I was teaching my students about independent thought and creativity, the two things most lacking in the Chinese classroom.  After class, my friends listened to the gibberish I had been teaching my students.  They didn’t get it either.