24.28 million people live in Shanghai and I watched a small sliver of them flicker by, tiny lights on the city skyline, as the Shanghai night rolled past. On the “Zoomie” bus, it was a straight shot from PVG Airport to the Four Seasons hotel in downtown Shanghai. It was a long bus ride and just shortly after midnight so the cabin lights were dimmed giving us passengers a chance to get some shuteye. Even at the hour, there on the outskirts of the city by the airport, there were still cars and large autonomous semi-trucks everywhere on the sixteen-lane highways. Thanks to the Zoomie’s unique, elevated design though, we were able to simply glide over all of it, unencumbered.
I knew I was arriving in China at a unique time. On one hand, yes– great turmoil and tremendous risk. But on the other: Unfathomable riches and opportunities.
I watched a cacophony of car lights streak by below me, in a blur. This situation I now found myself in, half a world away from home, in a country I didn’t speak the language of, in a land I didn’t know any of the customs to, was less than ideal. But as they say, fortune favors the bold. And as they also say: You can never go home.
The truth is, I had made a hash of things back home. I had lived a beautifully privileged life, possessing every creature comfort. But in a series of bad decisions that’d quickly escalated, it’d all spiraled out of control, crashed, and burned in spectacular fashion. It was the Hindenburg of personal life failures, a catastrophe on a scale and magnitude so sweeping, so epic, so gargantuan, that had it not actually happened to me, personally, I honestly would not have believed it.
But happened, it did. And I had had a front row seat to all of it.
So now I found myself in this present moment: Cecilia and Devana likely thought I was dead in a ditch somewhere, FoxGen, my former employer, believed me guilty of embezzling funds and stealing proprietary company intellectual property, and so I was here, on a Chinese “Zoomie” bus, heading into China’s biggest city, on an invitation of mysterious provenance.
When I was a young schoolboy, I was a big admirer of John le Carré spy craft novels, often reading them late into the night, under the cover of dark, beneath my blanket illuminated only by flashlight. Le Carré often wrote of handsome, dashing young men, who’d led double lives, jetting about all over the world under the guise of secret identities on matters of national importance and urgency. But now, as an adult, I realized that le Carré’s heroes and spy protagonists led the most lonely lives imaginable. Not a single other person on the planet currently knew my whereabouts. If I were to disappear tonight, I’d simply be gone without a trace.
Honestly, though, I wasn’t sure what pained me more: The knowledge that no one would know. Or the knowledge that no one would care.