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I just had a brief Google chat with my friend Jean. She’s living in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, with her husband and son. She’s very pregnant and is returning to the hometown in which we both grew up to have her second baby. She is a Wellesley and Georgetown grad and used to play volleyball and basketball when we were in high school. She doesn’t know this but in junior high I went to my first ever school dance and was velcroed to the wall the entire time. Later that night I showed a picture of Jean in the yearbook to my dad and told him that that was the girl I had gone to the dance with. He was proud and I was ashamed.

I haven’t seen her in person since January of 2006, and the last time before that was probably in 2004, when I visited her in New York and we ate pastrami sandwiches and checked out random art galleries together. The last time I was in our hometown was the winter before I left for China. She came over to my house, the one that was about to be sold. It was late at night and we walked to the park behind my house and sat on the swings and ate Oreo cookies and drank beer. It was a terrible combination. The cookies and the beer, that is. Jean and I were always a dynamite combination. We had sat on those swings before, when we were in high school and I was inspired by James Joyce to write bad poems that rhymed. The poems were about comets and candles and stars and loving things so much that our hair would catch on fire. They were also about Jean, even though she pretended she didn’t know what they were about. Her other friends were jealous because no hopeless adolescent boys wrote them bad poems. Years later we would spend a week in Paris drinking wine and eating Cuban food and hot chocolate. Months after that, it was San Francisco and Yosemite and Napa Valley. It was a big world for such small happinesses (that’s not a word).

Tegucigalpa is 8783 miles (14,135 km) away from Shanghai. That’s 7632 nautical miles, bitches. And on this particularly lonely night in Shanghai, for the 2 minutes that we joked about boobs and penises like we did in those little alleyways along the Seine, it was as if she was inches away. For 2 minutes, the comets and the candles and the stars and my hair caught a bit of fire, and Shanghai got a little warmer.