Gritting my teeth, I stared across the subway car.
At 7:30 p.m., I'd expected a little more breathing room. I'd even left late from work to guarantee it. "Surely rush hour will be long over," I told myself, walking into the subway.
Two trains later, I made it on the train.
At every stop following, nary a soul exited, yet a heaping ton figured they could push their way on. "Surely there's room for little ol' me," every Beijing commuter seems to think.
After another hard shove to my back, I sighed. Even a cathartic elbow jab or forceful shove didn't make me feel better. There was nothing resting about my bitch face the whole ride.
Honestly, I can be quite the grump these days.
I grouse at commuters standing at the door — you know, the place people get on and off the train — who don't move out of the way. I curse at folks walking so glacially slow on the sidewalk, I can't fathom how they'll ever reach their destination. Every shopkeeper who smirks at my fumbling language gets as mighty a glare as I can muster.
I can't help it.
Why? Because, well, this isn't new anymore.
Like any relationship does eventually, Beijing and I have passed the honeymoon phase. Long gone are any romanticized visions of living abroad. Those little quirks I marveled at the first year are the same things I seethe about now.
This city and I made it past the year mark (and then our second- and third-year marks, too), and sometimes, the roads between have gotten even rockier.
But folks, here's the important part: Just because the relationship's a little tougher now doesn't mean I regret my choice. Not one bit.
Sure, this place can make me want to yank my hair out. But it's also taught me a whole lot about myself. It was living here that gave me the confidence to hack off all that aforementioned hair in the first place.
I don't hate it here; it's just not some big adventure abroad anymore. It's simply life — beautiful and quirky and (sometimes) frustrating as hell.
That evening, as I exited the subway station into a crisp, clear night, I grinned a little. I walked to the same house I've had for more than a year, staring up at the moon. I set my bag down, stretched out on the couch and listened to my neighbor's Chinese soap opera. (The walls are very thin.)
In this creaky old house, I was home at last.
Sure, I grouse and groan, but I figure I get to. At least a little. I took the leap, faced every challenge head on and arrived at the other end a lot stronger.
Beijing and I, we're pretty committed (for now).
And while we'll keep pushing each other — sometimes literally — it will always be out of love.