I try to write the simple characters, Qing wen, two that I have known from my earliest studies. They are not hard to write, not hard to remember, yet every time I try to put them down on paper I find that they are wrong, that I have scribbled them or that the radical is not correct. Qing wen, may I ask, why these two characters? This man I front of me, I cannot decide why he sits where he is, watching me labor over my words. The dream is tinged with anger and with frustration, as though this man has challenged my ability to speak and write. To ward off his doubts I grab a pencil to write something, but in this moment my characters fail me. Perhaps this man represents my fear, a laugh against the hope that I have built in my studies. My inability to write something so simple confirms his suspicions, and my anger turns to feelings of defeat. In sleep, my dreams are slipping.
I often dream in Chinese and of writing the now familiar characters, but never before have I had a dream in which I was so vividly unable to use the language. This dream has interpreted fears of the day, my feeling of loss over not being able to go back to the Middle Kingdom. I have not given up my plans or my goals, but there is a dark cloud sitting idle in the back of my mind. I will make it back, of this I am certain, but for the time being I must fight to keep these words and characters with me.