Shanghai, January 2020
Excerpted from travel memoir Rain in Shanghai, with photographs.
You grab your twelve-kuai umbrella from the stand by the door, duck out onto rainy dark Wuding Road, and turn towards the corner, walking across dark rainy Jiaozhou Road and admiring the reflections of the tail lights of the empty bus that passes you and recedes beautifully down the shiny wet black street, painting auroras on the asphalt.
The only person on the street, you head north along empty Changde Road and cross Beijing Road when the light is red. Then you see something amazing: a car coming down that fabled thoroughfare in the dark rainy night of Chinese New Year’s Day – one car! It looks like the last car on earth.
Hearing a commotion, you turn a corner and find a crowd of people lining up to get into a soon-to-open pharmacy to buy masks and hand sanitizer. Four policemen inside the entrance are laughing and getting ready to control the eager crowd, which is lugubrious – with nerves, perhaps – and forms a serpentine line so long one woman is photographing it.
While you wait for the train at West Nanjing Road Station, you see what you seldom see on the Shanghai Metro and hear what you seldom hear – a vast geometrically receding plane of empty platform and an eerie cavernous silence.
Mark Crimmins has been publishing short stories and flash fictions since 2010. As a lecturer and assistant professor, Mark taught Contemporary Transatlantic Fiction, Twentieth Century Literature, Modernism and Postmodernism, and Literary Theory at the University of Toronto from 1999 to 2016. Mark grew up in Manchester, England, and he has lived in the UK, the USA, Japan, Canada and China. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize (2015 and 2019), the Best of the Net (2015) and the Silver Pen Authors Association Write Well Award (2015). Mark moved to Hong Kong on 1 August 2013 and has been living in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, People’s Republic of China, since 2016. He is currently a Senior Lecturer in English at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen. His first book, Sydneyside Reflections, a travel memoir, was published in June 2020 by Adelaide’s Everytime Press. More about Mark Crimmins on his website.