So What Do You Cry About Today

Today is the one-year anniversary of Dr. Wenliang Li's death. Commemorating the one-year anniversary of death is a somewhat absurd, funny, and selfish thing to do for those who are still alive. When I cried for Dr. Li, my tears are like those of a crocodile. It is how I memorize the suffering of my own and it only serves to satisfy my own needs for emotional venting. When I was crying, it was not Dr. Li that I cried about, but myself. Dr. Li is like a clockwork, which activates my long-neglected memory of what happened one year ago: how I cried myself to sleep every day while sitting in the home of prison and the only thing that connected me to the thousands of death happening around me was a wired computer and a phone. Life seemed so cruel and divided that it felt unreal. Now I am walking on the streets of Wuhan and it looks like nothing has changed. The city is as vibrant as it used to be. Humans are amazing creatures. Our brains are so prone to the oblivion of bad memories, and we never seem to learn. I think of Dr. Li's wife and his parents. I wonder if they are crying too and whether their tears come with hatred. They have every reason to hate this cruel world, the system, the government, and the virus. The world treats them unfairly, and we owe it to them. I dare not commemorate Dr. Li. I have no reason to commemorate Dr. Li, just like ants have no reason to commemorate the fall of an elephant. A cathartic cry is an excellent emotional outlet. Pain and anger are like a dose of adrenaline to me, making me feel alive and that I am more than a walking corpse. In the afternoon, I went to pick up my mother who is a dentist at Wuhan Central Hospital (where it all started). Surprisingly, I saw some flowers put at the front of the hospital gate. Since it is not “politically correct” to commemorate the death of Dr. Li (who was punished for speaking out the truth by the police during the early spread of the pandemic), the act of commemorating is only sporadically done by citizens who still “care”. There was a bunch of thin and lonely carnations sitting quietly at the corner. I imagine it comes from an old man who is not well-off. After struggling for a while in front of an expensive flower shop, he chose a beautifully packaged bunch of dying carnations. This was the best he could afford. The weather in Wuhan is particularly good today. There are signs of early spring. Clouds are dense and glowing in the sunset. “I saw some flowers at the gate of your hospital.” I told my mom. “Someone's making trouble?” She asked. "No! Today is the one-year anniversary of Dr. Li's death." To my surprise, my mother didn't seem to know. As Dr. Li's former colleague, my mom is among the luckier kind who didn't get infected. It seems nothing was done in her hospital to memorize Dr. Li. It is not surprising, since selective forgetting is always less painful than constant recalling, especially in Wuhan Central Hospital. “You make me want to cry, it seems just yesterday I saw him walking down the aisle with a patient...” My mother didn't continue talking, and of course, I didn't want to continue this topic. I didn't want to be a sorrow maker, nor did I have the ability to deal with other people's pains. “It's okay. I already cried this morning.” I said. My mother didn't cry. We were walking in silence for a while before I started the topic of what's for dinner today. In many people's lives, there are probably more realistic things to consider, and it is not a good choice to indulge in pain. Sometimes I feel very close to my mother, other times I feel very far away from her. As a doctor in Wuhan Central Hospital, she must have more reasons to be sad than me, but the sadness she perceives seems to contain less anger and hatred. Mine has a more unspeakably rebellious spirit in it. The funny thing is that I don't even know what I am fighting against. The government? The country? The system? What's my place to criticize anyone? I have laughed with many people and had fun with many people, but I have never cried with anyone. I cried once in front of my boyfriend and made a total fool of myself. Whenever I cry, it feels like life is taking off its candy wrap and presenting to me in its most naked self. I cherish those moments. My mom still feels very far away from me, just like I never know how much sadness she still has, how she feels about getting old, how much money she makes, how sore her waist is, how painful her legs are, or even how is her day. That's the day I know I will never be able to fully comprehend other people's pain. Not Dr. Li's pain, not his wife's pain, not my mom's pain. The COVID-19 pandemic created a common traumatic memory among all of us, the memory and pain we share are so similar yet so different. That's the day I caught a glimpse at the distant resemblance among human beings, the stranger around the corner, and the division of life.

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