Dark Sleep in Waking Light

By Cody Erickson

Every morning Zhang wakes up, but he is never really awake. Put to an eternal sleep by the confines of his “Great Wall” of a society, Zhang will never know what its truly like to be awake. Being awake is never something that Zhang found appealing in the first place, so he is fine with never awakening. Awakening would mean facing the chains that bind him to his humble abode of hiding and secretiveness, whose bounds stretch far beyond the borders of his mind and body: a body that has only ever known the gentle touch of another like himself biologically. Like a jail cell, his own home gives Zhang no consolation to help him deal with his dire situation.

“For what purpose, my humble abode?” Zhang demands, “do you not assist me in awaking to see the light of day?”. The house responds with a joyous plea, but Zhang hears only the criticisms of those who wish to pull the chains that bind him until he suffocates tighter. Awakening was never an option. Realizing his dire situation, Zhang finally manages to break out from the confines of his home, still asleep. Wrought of a consciousness that would now rather thrust him into imperforated darkness, Zhang moves towards the garish light: light never fails…does it…?

Light. The light seems to be a promising way to go, but was there ever really a “way” to go? Free will lives in the deepest depths of Zhang’s mind, depths that not even the devil himself would dare travel, not even for a split second. Lee yearns for the light that he knows he will never be able to grasp: a light that smolders all remorse and misery with the heat of a thousand suns, all mocking him-making him a laughing stock of shame and suffering. Even so, none of this matters; Zhang has only ever known shame. It’s his last name in a world whose only aim is to mock every second of his very subsistence. Zhang is still sleeping. He is coming to the somber conclusion that light in all of its greatness only exists to demoralize and terrorize the very being: his being. As light etiolates to darkness, Zhang begins clambering down the only other path available to him…

Darkness. Once a foe, never a friend. Zhang can’t see anything but that doesn’t matter; he has always been blind to those around him, the world, himself. But what of being blind to such monstrosities? Blindness for Zhang means those abominations around him can’t see him for what he really is…But what is he? Zhang now turns to the darkness that now envelops his soul looking for justification of himself. Him. He. The darkness’ answer is a soft, consolidating whimper of comfort and contentment. Zhang is still asleep. More dangerous than the light around him the darkness now threatens to pull Zhang, tearing his consciousness every which way through poison thorns drenched in mockery and bigotry. Seeing no way out, Zhang has made an unbreakable vow to retreat to the place from which he once came; a place of light sleep in a dark world. Slowly drifting back to the confines from which he came: Zhang finally starts to feel a tenacious sense of consciousness-Slowly, slowly maneuvering the confines of his mind, he finally reaches a place of peace and tranquility. He, for the first time in his dark existence, is awake.

* * *

Homosexuality in Asian countries has been an interest of mine ever since I came to college and have met so many international students. I always wondered how homosexuals are seen in Asian culture, as I was under the impression that many Asian cultures shun homosexuals from society. My suspicions were finally realized when I watched an online video entitled “Love and Sex in China”. This documentary gave its audience a look into the love and sex lives of Chinese people. Although there were many heterosexual couples interviewed, there was one homosexual actor who talked about his life as a homosexual man in Chinese society. Not surprisingly, the actor (whose name I will not make public) told the interviewer of a love life lived entirely in shadows, away from society in fear of being ostracized. The actor recounted the fact that his public image is very important, and that coming out as a homosexual man would ultimately shatter his reputation. Having to keep his love life hidden from the world consumes him on the inside, leaving him feeling powerless and somewhat ashamed in a strictly heterosexual society.

The Chinese term “TongZhi” might also come to mind while reading this post. For centuries, China has shunned homosexuals from society. The term “TongZhi” is essentially slang for a gay Chinese man. The irony of this term is that, in more colloquial terms it means “same will” or “comrade”, and was used in imperial China to refer to someone who has the same ideals or ethics as oneself. Many of the TongZhi in modern Chinese society find ways to hide their sexuality in fear of being shunned by family and society as a whole. Some even go to the extent of finding a homosexual couple of the opposite sex and legally marrying a partner from that other partnership just to fool their friends and family into thinking that they are heterosexual. These types of marriages are called “sham marriages”, and outlets to find these types of relationship can now be found all over the internet via gay Chinese dating sites and even “meet and greet” conventions. In this way, there are more outlets for gay peoples to meet one another, but the social stigmas that being gay carries remain unchanged.

In the past, the Chinese government has gone so far as to implement laws outlawing gay practice. One of these was called the “Hooligan Law”, which was part of the Official Penal Code in 1957. Although abolished in 2001, the aftermath of negative thoughts and feelings towards homosexuals in modern China persists. Although in the story Zhang never quite gets to the point of finding a homosexual partner, the struggles he deals with going out into the real world are testimony to the hardships gay people in China face.

Seeing this Chinese man reflect on his life’s struggles with regards to sexuality and society gave me the inspiration to write the story you see above. After doing a little bit of research on the history of gay culture in China, it made more sense why the man in the video feels the way he does about coming out. Still, I found it very sad that he has to live in a shadow of fear just because of his sexuality. This being said, I wanted to try and bring out elements that would invoke feelings of frustration, sadness and pity all at the same time. Another goal of mine in writing this piece was to make the reader feel just as lost as the character himself, searching for an answer that wasn’t there yet was always right at hand. Hopefully the story makes you think a little bit and was as fun to read as it was for me to write.