We stand in the balcony of our ninth floor apartment in Shanghai, the room the size of a closet in Iowa. On the lopsided sidewalk below, a fifty-year-old man shoots fireworks at the skyscraper across from us. Throughout the city, fireworks explode in every direction of the skyline, so much smoke that Jerry pulls out a mask from his desk drawer, puts it on. There is no law in China, not for the rich. It’s like America, but magnified. Shanghai is the prostitution capital of the world. It is filled with syphilis and rice and spitting and runaway capitalism and car accidents and spoiled children and homeless people who are not homeless but they are. The fireworks hit the mirror—like windows of the skyscraper, bouncing off, the beauty of war, of chaos, of stupidity. Tonight, in Shanghai, someone will die. It happens every night, the cowardice and boredom of death. In my bed, I will listen to the sirens and explosions and just before I fall asleep, I will notice my breath in the cold.
Ron Riekki wrote the novel U.P. and edited The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works.