STL14715

China

The dawn before the sun rises is the darkest. When tomorrow comes, the bright light will shine so don't worry.

Message to Readers

I ended up missing the deadline for the competition (December 10, 2019) due to exams, but I still wanted to publish this piece anyway. A big thank you to ss4752 for reviewing my work and giving me wonderful feedback! I hope this piece was enjoyable to read :)

The First Snow

December 14, 2019

    I push the heavy curtains blocking the doorway to La Bamba forward, the cold air rushing past me and into the entry way of the restaurant. I hold the curtains for my friends, and they each utter a variant of "Thanks" as they exit La Bamba. We re-group properly once everyone is through, and stand on the pavement together, watching the snow fall from the sky. It doesn't rain often in Beijing, let alone snow. Winter winds are usually biting and dry. One winter, the skin on my face got so dried out, it peeled off in patches.
    The snowflakes melt the second they land on my face, and I stick my tongue out to catch one, but wind up getting a snowflake in my right eye instead, as it had dodged my glasses and went straight in to my eye from above. I blink furiously, and Andrew Shen turns to me with a grin on his face.
    "You might be enjoying it now, but we're gonna struggle seeing through our glasses later."
He's right. It's only been a minute, but the lenses of our glasses are already covered with droplets of water. I roll my eyes at him.
    "Shush you. Just let me enjoy the snow for now."
He laughs, and pulls out his phone to snap some photos. The wind swirls around us, and I pull my grey with white, blue, black, and magenta stitches beanie onto Kate's head, seeing as her ears have already turned red from the cold. Hai calls us for a quick group photo and all nine of us huddle together for the blurriest selfie in history. Ray's face is bathed in shadows, and Everest only just managed to poke his head into the frame, but nobody seems to mind. Being together was enough, the picture was just a bonus.
    We go our separate ways after we cross road at the intersection and walk to the subway station. Andrew Li says he's going to stop by Starbucks before he walks home, and Ray opts to go with him instead of taking the subway home with me, Andrew Shen, Hai, Everest, Kate and Jane. Karen says her mum is waiting for her at the KFC nearby, and we bid her goodbye. We pass the security check at the mouth of the station , scan our cards at the barriers, and turn right to take the escalator up to the platform. I hear Hai groan behind me when we reach the top of the reach, seeing as the platform is teaming with other people. I help Jane weave her suitcase through the crowds.
    "When does your train back to Tianjin leave?" I ask, glancing back at her and the others over my right shoulder.
    "The last one goes at 10:00 pm, so don't worry! It's only 7:40 pm now, anyway," she responds.
    I raise an eyebrow back, "I don't know how you make it from the school dorms back to Tianjin in one piece every week."
    She shrugs in return, and we stop in front of one of the closed gates with fewer people. I pull out my phone and fire a quick WeChat message to my mum, telling her I'm on the way home from WuDaoKou. I get an "OK" within seconds, and the subway pulls into the station, my hair whipping across my face as it does so.
    The doors to the compartments open, and people come flooding out while others push to get in. I stumble forward, and I turn back to face the door. Everyone in our little group made it in. I shuffle closer to the door, since I need to get off to switch to line 10 at the next stop, and Kate takes my place further in the compartment. Jane is next to her, suitcase between them, and Andrew Shen, Hai, and Everest are also near the door. I can barely make out Everest from behind Hai's tall and broad frame, and Andrew Shen is doing a back-bend of sorts to hold the top bar near the door so he won't fall when the subway begins moving, but no one has been abandoned on the platform and that's what matters. The subways begins to move, and I reach out a hand to support Andrew's bulky black backpack in an effort to relieve the strain on his bent back.
    Even though we get weird looks for speaking English in public, and I hear an older man mumble about "weird foreign kids" in Chinese under his breath, I soon forget about the judgemental stares we receive when Hai makes a bad pun and Everest makes a politically incorrect joke. Jane and Kate talk about a recent update from a WEBTOON the three of us all read, and Andrew Shen perks up at the mention of the one WEBTOON we've got him to read: Tower of God.
    Time seems to go much faster after that. Before I know it, the intercom is saying we're approaching the next stop, and I bid each of my friends goodbye, stealing my beanie back from Kate and putting it on my own head. The doors open and I step out, sparing a final smile and wave at my friends before the flow of passengers blocks them from my view. I head down the stairs and go through a tunnel with a two way people flow to reach the platforms for line 10. Finding the correct platform after my three-minute walk through the station, I board a subway on line 10. The compartment is much emptier, and I alight the subway five stops later. Going through the barriers and walking towards exit D2, cold air rushes at me from the escalator, and I rush to zip up my red coat.
    Snow crunches beneath my maroon leather Converse shoes, and my glasses are battered with fresh flakes once again. Pulling on my gloves, I pull out my phone to take pictures along the way as I walk home. Even though it's freezing out, I feel warm and fuzzy inside. This first semester has been hectic, but my friends and I managed to spend a Friday afternoon together eating, laughing, arm wrestling, and chatting. Heck, we even saw the first snow of the year together! As snowflakes land on my eyelashes and assault my glasses, I smile. I've learned a lot in the past month or so, and my perspective on my friend group has changed drastically. I had learned about some "beef" between my friends, which one wouldn't have been able to see if they just saw us interact in person or online. It was a bit sad, knowing some of my friends didn't get along nearly as well as I thought they had, with some even disliking each other immensely, but my friend group hadn't fallen apart after this discovery of mine. Today had allowed me to forget any drama, and just enjoy the present. I don't know what the future holds, but I do know I'm in for a night of relaxing when the scent of hot chocolate wafts out to meet me as I close and lock the front door behind me. The future can wait.

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