SHEN LEI: It was last year, I had just finished studying at the university. I think it was in June. Then I left Beijing in July or August.
    I don’t dream much usually, but one night I had a scary dream. I dreamt a lot of friends of mine and I went out for a picnic. Some of them were friends from my childhood and others were my classmates from high school or university, there were also some of my co-workers from Beijing. Somehow we were all together in the dream, a lot of people. They never met in real life, but they were quite familiar with each other in my dream.
    We had fun together. We walked for a while and then we saw a big office building. It looked a bit shabby, as if it had been left unfinished. Some of its windows hadn’t been fitted, some were broken, with one half missing. One of my friends suddenly suggested playing hide-and-seek. Everyone disappeared at once, so I started looking for them. I searched for a long time but couldn’t find anyone. I walked and walked, then I entered the office building and saw an elevator. Its light display was blinking. I got in and pressed “up”. I don’t remember which floor I wanted to go to, but I remember very well that when it reached the 56th floor, it suddenly stopped with a jolt and started to fall down. When I was in Beijing, a friend of mine told me that if I ever found myself in a situation like this, I should press my forearms and my back against the walls of the elevator and stand only on my tip-toes, without my heels touching the ground. He said that this position would reduce the risk of injury to a minimum. Without really thinking about it, I did this in the dream. The elevator was falling incredibly fast, and then it crashed on the ground with a huge noise. That scared me and I woke up. My head was sweating a lot, I wiped off the sweat and realized everything was all right. Then I continued sleeping.
    This happened last year in Beijing. It was my last year at university and I was looking for a job. It was tough, because every day I had to make a really long trip on the bus. One day I had an interview in Wudaokou and a test in the afternoon. They asked me where I lived. When I told them, they said, “That’s really far away”. I said, “Yes”. Then the next day another company asked me to come for an interview at 8 a.m., which meant I would have to take a bus at 6.30, but the earliest one went at 7, so I gave up that chance. But it could have been a good opportunity, after all it was the New Orient. When I went there for the test in the afternoon, I looked at the office building and I thought that if I could work there, then my 4 years of studying at the university would not be wasted. When I got into the building, I felt discouraged because there were a lot of candidates and the company only needed two people. The competition was very though. A lot of the candidates were graduates from famous universities, such as Beijing University or Qinghua University. The one who was sitting beside me had graduated from Beijing University. After the test we talked to each other a little, nothing special, just a chat about studying and university. By the way he was talking, I felt he knew much more than I.
    There is a great deal of pressure at work, and the competition in Beijing is terribly strong. So, all I could think of was how to make it. If I didn’t come up with something smart today, tomorrow I might lose my job. I had taken 10 interviews already and finally got a job after my 11th interview. When I started working at that company, I was just a small technician, which meant I could only work with simple systems, the kind of system that requires no more than a click. The more important work was done by other technicians, beginners like us never got a chance. I worked very hard the first month, though I didn’t get paid. They only paid us something like 200 RMB for accommodation and travelling expenses. That was during the first month. But at that time, to rent a house cost more than 1.300 RMB. It was quite a tough time, and after my first month there, I felt quite disheartened. I had a friend who worked at the same company. We cheered each other up and stayed there for another 2 or 3 months.
    In Beijing I definitely felt lonely. Well, more or less. How shall I say... I was away from my family, my relatives and friends. Except for my classmates, I was all on my own. There was almost no one I could get close to or talk about my feelings. So I had to keep a lot of things to myself. Sometimes at night, when I thought about all this, I couldn’t hold back my tears, and I drank to make myself feel better. Yes, it was quite depressing.
    Maybe the pressures of work were too hard to cope with. In Beijing, this city... As I lived far away from the company’s office, I would spend an hour and a half or even two hours each day just to go from my home to the office and back. And the bus could be really crowded, there were too many people on the bus and even more people wanting to get on it. If I didn’t crowd to get in, it was almost impossible to get on the bus. And waiting for two hours to get on the bus was actually not so long under such circumstances. One thing always impressed me. My friend and I, we worked at the same company and one day we were waiting to take the bus together. After one hour we were still waiting. At the platform we saw a lady, she was wearing glasses and had a laptop in her hands. I think she was a white-collar worker, she looked quite intellectual. When the bus came, she didn’t care about her image at all, she just started to push the people around her like crazy, trying to get on the bus. At that moment my friend and I, we understood that that was the way to do it. So, when the next bus came, we did the same. There were so many people, we tried really hard to get on the bus.