War in Beijing

I’m pushing hard on the pedals of my 40-year-old, China-famous-brand Flying Pigeon trying to get the 50-pound frame to move along Beijing’s fourth ring road.

I can’t keep the grin from my wind-kissed face. My left hand holds the handlebar with the working brake lever; my right arm clutches a package to my ribs. Under my bike tires, scraps of red paper dance across the pavement like dead autumn leaves, only rather than heralding the coming of winter, these shreds of ghosts announce the coming of spring.

The skies are beginning to cloud with sulfurous smog, the full moon shifting from white to yellow behind the haze. The sporadic flares of light which burst in the gaps between high rises flash brighter and nearer in the waxing atmospheric claustrophobia. Frenetic machine gun rattling rips out as I make my way through the neighborhoods, and the moments of peace between night-shattering explosions shrink.

As I swoop past street corners and courtyards, the filial armies of children and parents and grandparents gather, and the red glow of lanterns lights the path for their marches. Flames leap to life under black-streaked fingers, and into the air blast bombs that whistle and sparkle and crackle and bang. Across all of Beijing the sky erupts with the warfare of celebration.

Fireworks.

Lunar New Year is at an end.

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