Sunrise over Tiananmen Square (2012)

June 29th, 2015, 7am

It was 25°C with nil significant cloud.

Post-prom was a shitshow, but somehow we all dragged our drunk asses to Tiananmen Square for the flag raising at 4:45 am (coolest prom tradition anywhere). I’d always imagined that the square would be relatively empty, but it was swarming with tourists and tour groups by the time we arrived. We scanned our bags through a machine (Maryanne had actually changed clothes right in the middle of the street before all this) and found some of our other friends and classmates. I remember fighting back tears and feeling a lump in my throat as the flag raising began and the Chinese national anthem started to play.

The sunrise was gorgeous. I had my best friends around me. We were closing one chapter of our lives and had the rest of our lives ahead of us. But a part of me knew that the moment the music ended, so would all of this. I didn’t want that moment to end because I knew once it did, reality would hit. That this would likely be the last time we would ever all be in the same place together. That from here on out, we would try and stay in touch, but we would never have this same dynamic.

We wouldn’t ride drunk pedicabs through the streets of Beijing or mix tequila and Fanta in Maura’s basement. We wouldn’t sit around a bonfire fed by our SAT books as we drank 40 RMB white wine from South Africa. We wouldn’t watch pirated DVDs on a Friday night or take long walks together in the orchard behind our housing compound. Everything that was once routine would become a memory of a time and place that we could never recreate.

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Nicole Zhu

Youth in Asia (and other places).

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