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After the click of the camera, they go on their way. Maybe then I could take a friend to a movie and just blend into the crowd. Questions about my height dominate almost every public interaction.
As we both stood up, her eyes widened as I kept rising over her. Embarrassed, we both laughed and picked up the books a second time. People unfamiliar to me have always wanted to engage me in lengthy conversations, so I have had to become comfortable interacting with all kinds of people.
Looking back, I realize that through years of such encounters, I have become a confident, articulate person.
With moments to spare, I catch a glimpse of the boarding platform for my train. Like a compass with a broken magnetic strip, I can’t decide my true North.
Like a captain frantically seeking port in a storm, I haul myself through the turbulent ocean of people, trying to avoid being stranded – or trampled – in the dustiest city in the world: Beijing, capital of both China and smog. It is the summer of 2012, and Shanghai isn’t to be home for much longer. Unsettled, I turn to my ever-present book for comfort.
As I read, it is as if the tempest of my thoughts is spelled out on paper.
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The overflowing sense of hyper-reality in Tim O’Brien’s words of warfare spills into my world.
However, when I reflect on my life, I realize that my height has shaped my character in many ways and has helped to define the person I am.
If I had the introverted personality my older brother had in high school, I’d probably be overwhelmed by the constant public attention.
His words somehow become my words, his memories become my memories.
Despite the high speed of the bullet train, my mind is perfectly still – trapped between the narrative of the book and the narrative of my own life. I read the last page and close the book, staring out the window at the shining fish ponds and peaceful rice paddies.