Wei Chen. That was her name. I had almost forgotten her, and how she was the reason my youthful conservative theology began to crack open in uncomfortable and unseemly ways. It started with Wei Chen, my college friend from Hong Kong. This was back in the Seventies at a time before social media and cell phones, when friends-in-person were everything—like rare and delicate flowers. To lose one tore at the heart in fragile and significant ways. But that is what happened between me and Wei Chen: a tearing, a loss, a betrayal.
Living in the dorm, far from home, Wei Chen and I met at our first dorm meeting, two green freshmen in need of mutual support. My fascination with international students and her need for an American cohort seemed enough to get our friendship going. Wei’s sweet, shy radiance and profound intelligence attracted me. And her sheer bravery. I mean, really brave—coming all the way from Hong Kong, and all alone! She was tiny in stature, with a shiny mop of chin-length black hair, wire-framed glasses and a heavy leg brace. Her severe limp was something that we never spoke of, but it was obvious that she had out-maneuvered the demon of self-consciousness, yet another thing I admired about Wei Chen.
So we chummed around on campus, sharing all the trials and woes that wide-eyed terrified freshman experience on a strange campus—and in Wei’s case, a strange country. She had her mother send me beautiful gifts that featured reds—a delicately painted fan and a bamboo plate with a mountain landscape in colors of bright red and quiet browns. All was going swimmingly until that day the devil rode on my shoulder. . . .