"That's it," I said, utterly out of breath. "I'll just stay here."
"Come on now, babe. It's just up ahead ... ish."
Oh sure, Manfriend. Sure.
This Coloradan knows all about the lies folks tell about summiting a trail. And to think, this wasn't even a proper hill.
In hindsight, it was only a couple hundred steps. But as I bemoaned this novice incline, the sun was on its way down.
"Dammit, let's get up there. Take in the sights," I said.
And finally, there it was.
On that cool and clear evening, Beijing's Forbidden City sprawled out in front of us. From where we stood, we could see the entire historic complex laid out below.
It was the same history that had quite literally formed our little perch at Jingshan Park.
Centuries ago, while digging up the moats that would surround the city's then-imperial palace, workers piled up the dirt nearby. It became a great hill, on which they built a set of beautifully carved and painted pavilions. It was a park literally built for royalty, and by the mid-20th century, it was open for all.
Then and now, Jingshan Park offers visitors a hell of a view. Honestly, the palace wasn't even our favorite part.
We, along with dozens of other tourists, circled the pinnacle pavilion. To the north, the road to the Gulou area set a straight and stunning course to the drum tower I'd lived near a few years before. To the east, the towering skyscrapers of the Guomao area began to light up — the same towers I gazed at while I walked to my weekly Chinese classes. And to the west, the White Pagoda stood quietly in front of the same distant mountain peaks the sun was sliding behind.
With a few tears in my eyes, I stared out in awe.
And then ... there it was. Our first "waiguoren" of the day. This word, meaning "foreign person," followed me everywhere. That evening, it was from a toddler who was baffled by the sheer number of foreigners he saw around him. "Dad, there are so many. Even right next to us!" he said.
Having understood everything (and being unable to help himself), Manfriend leaned over. "Yes, and I see Chinese people all around me!"
I swear, the kid literally did a face palm as his parents chuckled.
Yes, the park was open to everyone, even all us foreign people. And while it may not have been our people's history stretched out at all sides, it was incredible to see. My own four years here were tucked here and there, mapping out some great memories.
As a stunning sky draped over an equally stunning view, sentimentality got the best of this ol' gal. Smiling, I couldn't help but think: Just a short walk from our home, up on this peak, here was another memory. Another moment in my and Manfriend's history.