Friday, 14 March 2014

Life Cycles excerpt - Car horns in China

The car horns, ever the car horns wore me down, screaming at me all day long. They screamed that I move, screamed that they were coming. There was nothing too complicated, no situation too nuanced for explanation by car horn. Each time, for a whole month, it felt as though my ear drum was being spliced open with a blunt dagger. It hurt. I grunted, grimaced, shouted, grew ever more furious, but it was futile, the car horn is invaluable to Chinese culture, it props-up the nation itself. That horn expressed all standard scenarios of the road plus infinite more besides. It was fired once to say ‘I’m behind you’, twice for ‘300metres’, again for ‘200metres’… parallel’. And yet they kept going down the road with still more to come. I’ve overtaken you. This is fun. Fast. I like driving in my car. I’m a taxi, you’re a pedestrian, let’s work something out. Tunnels make echoes. Hello. Hellooow! It’s me! I second the horn of the car in front. I’m about to overtake dangerously close to you. Bored. Scooter overtakes bicycle on empty road. Turning. This is going to be close. I’m driving like an idiot, be careful. I’ve hired this van for just a day, I want my horn’s worth. This is how my father and brother drive! 

I’m sorry to produce such a tedious list, but that was how it felt. I imagined the hidden rage that horn must have buried in the population, grew convinced that Chinese society retained its order by use of that horn and the frustrations it nullified. I’m 5’2” and identical to half a billion others, listen to this horn! My culture, history and ethnicity is repressed… listen to this horn! They think they’ve made an emancipated woman out of me, all they did was give me a truck to drive through a desert… listen to this horn! I’m a homosexual but don’t even know it because of this crushing, sexual conservatism… listen to this horn! 10% economic growth? Maybe on the East coast… listen to this horn! China? A great nation? Then where are our basic freedoms?... listen to this horn! The sky is thick with smog, rivers run black, and my child coughs blood… listen to this horn! Listen to this horn! It was no use gesticulating, for if I waved a fist at them in rage, they simply took it for greeting or support and let off another volley of horn my way. There was no concern that could not be both raised and answered by a Chinese person blasting off a round on a car or truck horn. It was like a psychiatrist’s settee, it saved them from themselves. It was their dissent, their protest, their therapy.

1 comment:

  1. Well, I'm mightily relieved to hear that the honking won't stop when we leave the Middle East.

    Lovely piece Julian. Looking forward to the full paperback.


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