Nonfiction Observations

Information Wants to be Free.

It was hot. No clouds were in the sky and the white concrete tiles underfoot radiated the solar heat. Chairman Mao gazed out his picture frame, his gigantic eyes watching over Tiananmen Square.

The tour guide was a woman in her late twenties. Her English had a moderate Chinese accent. She had difficulties pronouncing the letter “v”.

“Yes, it is wery hot today.”

On her tee shirt were English letters written in a loopy script: “Looking for love”. A small red heart, darker than the color of the flag of China, adorned the lower left corner.

I hastened to her side to ask her a question.

“Would you mind telling me about the government’s official statement about Tiananmen Square? Does anyone ever talk about what happened?”

“Well…” she murmured. She looked down, then pushed her hair out of her face. She had an angular jaw, wore large sunglasses, and walked quickly.

“… the tour company asks us not to discuss politics,” she said. “We’re not supposed to know anything about that[1. Compare an image search for “Tiananmen Square” on China’s main internet search engine, Baidu, and the same search on Google.].”

“Oh, oh, I’m sorry,” I hastily replied. “Forget I asked.” An unpolitic American I was, indeed.

She continued to walk ahead and I slowed down to turn to my husband.

“I can’t believe we’re here. What year was it when the protests happened?”

“I think it was—”

The tour guide turned around and blurted, “1989.”

He and I both looked at her, surprised. She looked at us, then quickly turned around and kept walking.