It was a bad idea.
I was supposed to hike China’s Leaping Tiger Gorge, but due to sideways sleet, I changed my plans. I didn’t want this hiking trail to be renamed Slipping American Idiot.
But that wasn’t the bad idea.
My back up plant was to hike Blue Moon Valley, which was temporarily renamed White Marshmallow Fluff due to a wallop of snow in Lijiang. Changing those plans wasn’t the bad idea, either.
The bad idea was opening my computer that morning to check my Facebook feed. I was on holiday in Shuhe, a remote village on the fringes of Lijiang, approaching the border of China and Tibet. Shuhe is right of the pages of National Geographic, complete with old ladies carrying the weight of the world on their backs and free WIFI.
But as picturesque as it is, Shuhe was ghost or guǐ 鬼 town. Streets were empty as everyone in China has Covid.
But back to the bad idea….
I hadn’t checked Facebook in a few days and decided to see if anyone posted a photo of a recent medical procedure or visits by the Grim Reaper.
But no bunions on my FB feed this morning, nor no requests to light a memorial candle. Instead, just a few friend suggestions of people I have never seen before, including one from a childhood neighbor who died two years back. But then, after a photo of Jesus saving a parking space, a picture caught my eye. It was posted by someone who I forgot was in my feed– the niece of my ex-husband. She posted a few photos of the family holiday get together. Everyone was there. Instead of scrolling onto the post, I did what I shouldn’t have done. I couldn’t resist. I looked at the photos, knowing I would regret it more than fiddling with a hangnail, ripping that little piece of skin halfway down to one’s knuckle. As I examined the jovial faces that used to be part of my life, a few holding young additions to the clan, I did a double take at what appeared to be an old farmer at the end of row one. Flannel, baggy jeans, baseball cap, and what appeared to be bad case of beard mange. But it wasn’t an old farmer. It was a gui 鬼 from my past.
I put on my glasses and looked again.
Oh my, how my X aged, my last memories were of him in a suit and a scowl at the divorce hearing in 2018, nine thousand miles from where I was, thousands more miles away from where my life had traveled. But he didn’t age like a fine wine or cheese. More like potato salad that was left in the sun.
I admit, I am not French Bordeaux or Parmigiano-Reggiano when it comes to tricking Father Time. I’ve aged like uh….a banana. Mushy in the middle, skin that’s gone to hell. I glanced in the mirror and wondered; would I look as old to my X as he does to me?
And did that matter?
I hope not and hell yes it did.
I shut my laptop and tried to erase his picture from my mind, but it was like dog shit stuck to the inside of my eyelids. I couldn’t scrape it away as hard as I tried. So, with Leaping Tiger canceled, I wandered around Lijiang, a maze of alleys and shops a lot like Amsterdam without the cannabis coffee shops and naked ladies in the windows.
The streets were empty, not moving sardine cans.
Then just like that, the Guǐ possessed me. I became obsessed with taking a selfie, as photo shoots are the thing to do on Chinese vacations.
But in my case, instead of wearing traditional Chinese clothing and a silver colander on my head, I would want one where Father Time believed in Daylight Saving Time–make that Daylight Saving Year–Ok, Decade– turning back the clock to when a muffin top was my breakfast choice, not my middle.
I took a thousand photos that sucked, all of which I deleted, mad that I was haunted with a mountain of yesteryear instead of enjoying the mountains in front of me.
I didn’t even enjoy the dinosaur sized dog or cat with Taylor Swift eyeliner.
Wherever I went that day, that ghost followed me .
I never got a selfie that I liked enough to post.
This is the photo I sent the hotel owner so he could find me.
The snow melted, the tigers leaped in the Leaping Gorge once again and Blue Moon Valley was once again blue, and folks jockeyed for few rays of warmth at Lijiang’s bullet train station.
And one more thing.
I deleted my ex’s niece from my Facebook feed.
Faith moves mountains, but you have to keep pushing while you are praying. Mason Cooley