Hitotoki: The junction of Wulumuqi Lu/Yuyuan Lu

by S. C. Gordon

Time of story: Midnight

It’s raining. Wulumuqi Lu stretches behind me and beyond – a wet black ribbon. The rain is a blizzard; the trees are full of it. At the junction of Yuyuan Lu I stop at the traffic lights and remove my shoes, tucking them into the basket on the front of my bike, under the bright yellow spread of my cyclist’s raincoat. (It is more of a costume than a raincoat. Or a plastic niqab. It covers me completely, apart from my feet. I have tightened the toggle above my nose, so my field of view is a narrow slit under the inbuilt peaked cap.)

I touch my bare feet to the glossy tarmac as I wait for the lights to change. A man on a scooter pulls up beside me and stares. For once, the stare is unaccompanied by a muttering of laowai. He has no idea I’m not Chinese. My eyes are hidden beneath the peak of my canary-yellow disguise. My only strangeness is my bare feet.

It’s a rare anonymity. It’s liberation. Maybe it’s only the masked ones, the ones who are disguised, who are free.

The lights change to green beyond the fuzz of the rain. I claw my toes around the pedals and push on.