I met my wife in September 2008, at Wuhan University of Science and Engineering, now Wuhan Textile University, not to be confused with Wuhan University or anything close to prestige.
Our relationship took time to develop. She had never dated anyone before; she’d never even kissed a boy.
That may seem odd to see in a twenty-seven year old woman. It certainly struck me as odd, and the first time I kissed her, she didn’t know how to react. The product of a sexually sheltered upbringing. As another teacher put it, people in their twenties going on twelve.
So our relationship progressed slowly, and after a city-wide foreign teachers’ banquet, we were official: she put the check in the box labeled Yes and had a friend pass the note back to me in class. We’ve been going steady ever since.
We had different ideas about showing one’s love, and early on actions did not strike me the way they strike me now, six years on, when I’ve moved from an easygoing lifestyle in an “exotic” place to the classic American model: job, car, house. Debt. Everything that makes the American Dream the most numbing sleep.
She showed her love for me in her own way; she checked under my fingernails for nicotine stains to make sure I wasn’t smoking. Any ailment called for a solid dose of warm water, and if that failed, then you graduated to the emergency treatment: IV. I needed the IV treatment the morning after a long night, in which I’d tested out a brilliant idea: mixing baijiu with Sprite to mute the nasty taste. Unfortunately, my idea worked.
But it’s socks that stand out to me now, typing this at a broken table, years removed from who I was and what I knew, the memories no less fresh.
I came to China with the same socks I’d been wearing for at least a year, and during one of our South Lake walks I mentioned that I had a hole in my socks; my big toe could fit right through.
She’d didn’t acknowledge this, far as I can remember, but the next day when we met up for dinner, she had something for me.
A package of socks.
She told me she hoped it was the right size.