to the Open City
In December of 1994 I found myself caught in the middle of
a gang war. I'll never know for sure what started all that bloody
fighting, and there's nothing I can say about it except that
someone shaved off all of my hair before giving me a sharp kick
in the face. Those are some pretty eyes you've got, little girl,
It was a horrible night. My eyes had been injured, and when
I went to pay the nurse, she told me that all of my money was counterfeit. When
I finally made it to the operating table, the anesthetic had no effect on me
because of my tolerance, and I had to suffer through the entire operation
anyway. After leaving the operating room, I wasn't allowed to leave until
someone came with real money. While I was sitting and waiting, a drug dealer
from the Northeast called Blackie came limping in. He'd been stabbed, and I took
him to the operating room. I'd been needing a fix for a while already, but
Blackie had no heroin and no money, since he'd just been mugged. Blackie and I
ended up sitting there together, waiting for someone to bring us some money,
but the people who'd promised to bring the money took forever to show up. I was
wheezing because I needed a fix, and I was fretting about not being able to
leave the hospital until after daybreak. I was going to have to go outside with
my messily shaved head. I was worrying about lots of other things too, and so I
sat there, crossing and uncrossing my legs, not knowing what to do with myself.
That night, I had a sudden realization of this very simple
truth: heroin was a drug that brought nothing but bad luck. It was true for
anybody; all you had to do was cross paths with heroin, and sooner or later you
would find yourself up to your neck in bad luck, with no way out. In this
respect, heroin was no fun at all.
My father came to town. Once again he sent me to a rehab clinic
in Shanghai. It seemed that this gang war had been a stroke
of good luck after all, because otherwise I'm sure I would have
died in the South. It must have been fate.
Before I went back to Shanghai, Sanmao and his old lady gave
me a whole load of hats, hats of all shapes and sizes, and Sanmao told me that
he was going to go back into rehab himself. He said, I have a feeling that
you're going to get better, that we're both going to get better. Y'know, you
look great in hats!
Completely bald, with a gauze patch over one eye, and
lugging seven big suitcases, I arrived at the airport with my father. I had hidden
some heroin in my underwear because I knew the craving could hit me at any time.
This was something my father didn't understand at all.
As we went through airport security, I kept looking at my
father anxiously and thinking, He's such a good person, and I'm so bad.
The moment the plane left the ground, I f---ing burst into tears.
I swore I would never come back to this town in the South ever again. This
weird, plastic, bull---- Special Economic Zone, with all that pain and sadness,
and the face of love, and the whole totally f---ed-up world of heroin, and the
rush mentality, and all that pop music from Taiwan and Hong Kong. This place
had all of the best and all of the worst. It had become my eternal nightmare.
• On the Edge
• Rock and Roll Romance
• Escape to the Open City
• Return to Intro
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Excerpts from CANDY by Mian Mian. Copyright © 2003 by Shen Wang; Translation Copyright © 2003 by Andrea Lingenfelter. By permission of Little, Brown and Company Inc. All rights reserved. To purchase copies of this book, please call 1.800.759.0190.