It’s been 6 years since they’ve seen each other. Xiao Qiu has clearly been hiding her hurt inside. Now that she meets Li Chuan again, the memories are going to rush right back. But Xiao Qiu is no longer that bright and happy 17 year old girl that Li Chuan left behind. Their reconciliation with each other doesn’t go off too smoothly.
I’ve heard the name Su Qun from somewhere before. However, I couldn’t remember it.
There was only an hour left before boarding the plane. Li Chuan walked relatively slowly and everyone slowly walked together with him. Only Su Qun was in a rush, pushing a tall luggage cart, to go check in.
After passing through security, we waited a short while at the departure gate before hearing the announcement to prepare to board. Through the airport’s huge glass windows, I saw a Boeing 737-900 stopped by the departure gate. On the way, the two executives, one on the left, one on the right, whispered to Li Chuan the entire time. Everyone else tactfully maintained a certain distance from them. Our tickets were all the same, 1st class cabin. Everyone knew that the main goal of this trip was an action taken that was better late than never. As long as the company won the bid, it was willing to pay anything. The passengers were already starting to board, yet CGP’s people were still biding our time. It was because Director Jiang had his head lowered and was speaking to Li Chuan. Foreign companies and domestic companies all had the same stringent ranking system. Ordinary employees were not to pass over the executives to board the plane. When he became aware of this, Director Jiang waved his hand at us to indicate that we could go first. Thereupon, everyone got into the line. I rolled my luggage and headed towards the ticket check with my head lowered. When I passed by Li Chuan, my suitcase suddenly shook as if it rolled over some person’s foot.
I raised my head to look, that “some person” seemed to be Li Chuan. Then I lowered my head to figure out which foot my suitcase actually rolled over. If it was the left leg, then I needed to apologize. If it was the right leg, then I didn’t think there was a need to. A prosthetic leg couldn’t feel anything anyway. In any case, I didn’t even want to say a word of apology.
I couldn’t see anything clearly. My hesitation caused every passerby to look. Is it right for someone to not be willing to say sorry after bumping into someone, especially a disabled one? Would the two syllabled word suffocate me to death? I hesitated and was just about to start speaking when he actually spoke two words first, “It’s not.”
I relaxed and then, with my head held high like a peacock, I left rolling the suitcase.
When I got to the door of the plane, I was stopped again, “Miss, the overhead bins are too full. Please leave your luggage here. We will check it in for you.”
The air in the plane was warm and somewhat stuffy.
I sat in the back row by the aisle. Next to me was Xiao Huang from the design department. Even though I have been at CGP for more than three months, I have only had contact with a few translators. I’ve basically ignored everyone else. I’ve only spoken three sentences to Xiao Huang and only knew that his surname was Huang. I didn’t even know what his given name was and couldn’t even call him by it. So I smiled at him and then took out my MP3 player and stuffed my ears.
Starting from when the plane took off, my stomach was getting bursts of pain. I actually never get airsick. Perhaps I drank too much alcohol, or perhaps I ate indigestible beef while chatting with Emma yesterday. In short, I first sat in my seat vomiting into the bag and then followed that with hiding in the bathroom to vomit. It was a spectacular mess and after I could only produce saliva, I didn’t feel like going out, so I sat panting on the cover of the toilet, like a dead fish. On a two hour plane ride, I barfed for no less than an hour. Only when I got back to my seat did I realize why I was vomiting.
My period had unexpectedly come.
My periods were normal when I was seventeen. Every month it was four days, no more, no less. It was more light and pleasant than anyone I knew of the same age. After seventeen, my period became a mess, especially for the first two days. I became dizzy and nauseated. I vomited and my underbelly convulsed. I had every bad symptom written in textbooks. It would inevitably be seven to eight days out of a month and wasn’t normal.
Of course, this wasn’t the worst thing.
The worst thing was that I didn’t bring pads. And by coincidence, I was wearing a light colored skirt. The type that tightly wrapped around you. I had only been concentrating on vomiting earlier and didn’t realize that it was already red down below. Now that I was sitting, I could feel the blood flowing outward. I was so scared, I couldn’t move, and, even more, didn’t dare to get up. But my skirt was soaked in blood. I could definitely feel it.
Inside I repeated to myself, O, K, O, K, O, K. This was my fleeing chant. Every time I ran into something embarrassing, I would repeat OK to myself ten times. It was as if after repeating it, everything would become OK.
The plane finally descended, but nothing was ok. The entire cabin was filled with men that I didn’t really know. I wanted to beg Xiao Huang to lend his suit to me, but seeing his height, even if I wore the clothes, it wouldn’t be able to cover everything up. While I was holding back and being embarrassed to speak, all the passengers of the 1st class cabin had left. Only I was still sitting there not moving. The flight attendants standing in a row at the door saying goodbye to the passengers were looking at me in a peculiar way.
I then saw a blurry Li Chuan with another person. It was probably Su Qun. They were last and were about to leave the cabin.
Li Chuan suddenly stopped walking and turned around to look at me.
He then headed directly towards me and stood in front of me.
He was just about say something when I rushed to say, “Li Chuan.”
“Take off your clothes.”
He took off his jacket and handed it to me. I didn’t see it clearly at first and thought it was a topcoat, but it was actually a black wind jacket of medium length and light material. I stood up, put on the jacket, kept my head down in silence and followed him out of the cabin. He didn’t ask and I also didn’t explain.
The scent of his body surrounded me once again. First, it was the lavender on the collar and then it was the smell of nature on the sleeve cuffs. It was the scent of the pencils he liked to use for drawing. The tentacles of the memories crawled up my entire body in a flash. So he was still using that type of pencil. Fortunately, I couldn’t see his face clearly and couldn’t see it’s greatness. I wouldn’t be lured by him anymore in this lifetime.
After getting into the hotel from a night flight, we all went to bed. First, I immediately took a shower and scrubbed my tragic skirt for a long time before rubbing off the stains. Li Chuan’s jacket could only be dry cleaned. I called the service desk downstairs and gave them his room number.
I then laid on bed feeling like my whole body was going to break apart from weariness. I turned off the light and tossed about under the moonlight in silence. After tossing about for a few hours, I still could not sleep. So I got up and took a sleeping pill. This time, when I went to bed, I feel steadily asleep. When I woke up, it was already noon. I still had black bags under both eyes, like a panda.
I had missed breakfast and lunch, and the most important thing, I had missed the morning meeting.
I ran into Xiao Huang in the hallway and he asked, “Annie, is your cold better”
“When you didn’t come for the morning meeting, Director Zhang asked what had happened. Mr. Wang said that you got a cold on the plane. That’s why he lent his jacket to you.”
“It wasn’t a cold, it was…chills. Director Zhang isn’t mad is he?”
“Of course not. Everyone saw that you were airsick and knew you weren’t feeling well.”
“What was said at the meeting?”
“Hmm…because of the proposal leak, a large part of the design has to be completely redone. Mr. Wang will be taking over the most important landscape part. The building and interior design will also need to be changed a lot. But Mr. Wang’s older brother has already completed a rough sketch of the key parts.”
“Mr. Wang’s older brother.”
“That would be Mr. Wang Ji Chuan. Famous international interior designer. The two brothers are all very busy people and if things weren’t this bad, we wouldn’t have been able to get their help.”
I thought about it and asked, “Then what about me? What will I do?”
I kept thinking it was strange. Li Chuan’s Chinese was so good, why is there a need for a translator. But then I thought of the Zhu Bi Xuan who used to do this. It seemed to be the usual practice.
“When they compete for the bid, there will be some talks with local owners. Mr. Wang doesn’t have a good grasp of the Wenzhou accent. He will only speak in English and have you interpret everything. Also, Mr. Wang needs some material regarding the history, culture and ecology of Wenzhou. You need to go and research these and translate it for him.”
After missing the meeting, I was already feeling guilty so I went to see Director Zhang at one. The assignment he gave me was indeed what Xiao Huang said.
“Then do I need to see Mr. Wang immediately?” I asked.
“He went to the construction site to take pictures. It will probably take the entire day. Time is tight right now. After you eat dinner, bring resources on Wenzhou to find him, okay?”
“Okay, I’ll go to the library to find resources right now.”
“Mr. Wang currently only needs this two books.” Zhang Qing Hui gave me a slip of paper.
In his writing were the traditional characters, “Wenzhou Records” and “Yongjia Records.”
I suddenly realized that even though I knew that Li Chuan was in architecture, I knew very little of what he did in his field. I knew every inch about the man Li Chuan. But what about the architect Li Chuan? Does he have a different temperament? A different character?
As I was anxious to make up for earlier, I went and got a new pair of glasses as fast as possible. I deliberately chose a red-purple frame so that it would give my face a more serious look, more intellectual and older. Xinhua Bookstore had “Wenzhou Records.” It was made up of three books that I recklessly bought. At the city library, I borrowed “Yongjia Records” and made a photocopy of the entire book from start to finish.
No wonder Li Chuan only wanted these two books. Together, there were already more than 3000 pages.
I spent the entire afternoon flipping through the dictionary. There were already many unfamiliar words in “Wenzhou Records,” but “Yongjia Records” was classical Chinese written during the reign of the Qing emperor. I was overwrought in flipping through the dictionary.
By evening, my brain was pretty much no longer working, so I went downstairs to smoke in the garden. After one smoke, I was still craving another, so I smoked another. The sky gradually darkened.
I saw a car pull up at the door of the hotel. Li Chuan and Su Qun got out from the car.
He saw me, lowered his head to say something Su Qun, and he headed towards me.
I pretended I didn’t see him and continued to smoke with my head lowered. Seeing him stand motionless in front of me, I could only raise my head.
It had been six years.
Li Chuan hadn’t changed much besides become somewhat skinnier. Even his hairstyle hadn’t changed. The problem was that Li Chuan’s CK model face was thinner and more cool. From what I could see, he was even better looking than six years ago. Never mind that though, my gaze couldn’t help but change.
I quickly changed my state of mind back, “Chief Wang.”
“Didn’t Zhang Qing Hui tell you that I needed to see you tonight?” He said. His tone of voice was somewhat displeased, even a little harsh.
“Isn’t it after dinner?”
“I’ve already eaten dinner.”
“I haven’t eaten.”
“When did you learn to smoke?”
“Why does it matter do you?”
He looked at me, his thoughts hidden in the depth of his eyes. I looked at him expressionless.
“I’ll give you an hour to eat. At eight, bring your materials to see me in my room!”
This last part was very fierce.
I lightly laughed, crossed my arms and tapped the cigarette in the air, “Okay, Chief Wang.”
I pulled my hair up and put it in a bun behind my head with a flowered pin. Holding the three books of “Wenzhou Records” and the pile of photocopied materials, I knocked on Li Chuan’s door.
Li Chuan’s brows were creased ever since he opened the door and saw me because I called him “Chief Wang” again.
“Chief Wang, I found all the materials you need. What specific aspect of the information did you need to understand?” My tone with a complete service attitude.
He invited me into his living room. There was a circle of couches. He pointed to one of them and had me sit down.
“You can place the book on the coffee table.” His voice had finally become gentler, but was once again immediately enraged by my next sentence.
“Yes! Chief Wang.”
He restrained his anger and said in a composed voice, “I bought coke. Do you want to drink?”
Before, coke was my favorite drink. But I shook my head and said, “No thanks, I don’t want any.”
“Then what do you want to drink? I have coffee, milk, and tea here.”
“If it’s not too inconvenient, I want to drink coffee milk tea.”
He stared blankly, “Coffee milk tea?”
“It’s made of all those together with sugar. Two piece.”
He went to make coffee. He went to brew tea. He went to find milk…
— Classmate Wang Li Chuan, I want you to get to know me, Xie Xiao Qiu, properly this time.
At last, he brought over a cup of black stuff.
“I’m sorry, I finished drinking all the milk. I don’t have sugar. Please put up with it.”
There were two yellow slices of something in the blackness.
I pointed to the things and said, “What is this?”
“Lemon,” he sat down across from me and placed his cane on the coffee table, “it’s for losing weight.”
— This definitely wasn’t a cutting remark because my body was even lighter than six years ago. Besides my skin becoming rougher, my complexion duller, chest becoming flatter, and the extra dark circles underneath my eyes, my body had stopped where it was six years ago. This clearly indicated that dating was a dangerous thing for me. In addition I had gotten addicted to eating Tongren Wuji Baifeng Wan because my menstrual cycle wasn’t normal. I ate bottle after bottle, and now whenever I see small black beads, I immediately want to stuff it in.
“Thank you.” I took a mouthful and nearly spit it out. It was bitter, tart and sour. It was even more unpleasant to drink than traditional Chinese medicine.
He took out a leather wrapped notebook next to the table and a pencil, and asked, “Can we start working now?”
“Can you please read the table of contents of ‘Wenzhou Records’ for me?”
I opened the book and read, “Table of contents for the first book. Preface. Reader guide. Summary. Record of major events.”
He stopped me, “I’m sorry, I haven’t come to China in many years and I’ve forgotten most of my Chinese. Please translate it into English.”
His Chinese was a little stiffer than six years ago. He could string sentences together, but where the subject and predicates went were as if he was figuring it out as he went. Each word came out abruptly. But it wasn’t as bad as he was saying.
I changed to speak English, “The contents of the first book is geography, society, persons, city architecture, transportation and communication. The second book is on the region’s economy, industry, agriculture, commerce, finances. The last book is an index of politics, government, military, and education. Each book also has a more detailed listing.”
He wrote a couple lines in the notebook and said, “The first book is most important. Look to see if there are details about the natural surroundings.”
I flipped through the book, “Yes. geology, landform, climate, hydrology, soil, natural resource, natural disaster.”
“Tell me each part one by one.”
I looked at him in anger. He really knew how to find my sore spot. I had spent the entire afternoon looking up words from this section! I had smoked two cigarettes, shortening my life by two years. But it was also because I was looking up words from this section.
“Wenzhou’s base is made up of metamorphic rock formed by volcanoes in the Jurassic times…”
[The description is actually longer and more complicated.]
“Wenzhou is located on the southeast coast of Eurasia, with a monsoon climate, long summers, and short winters. On average is the 1500-1800 millimeters of rain a year.”
I translated for nearly an hour until I was seeing stars. My blood flow had not stopped and my abdomen was hurting so much I couldn’t bear it anymore.
Yet, he sat there, leisurely taking notes in his notebook.
So I asked, “Do you understand my translations?”
“It’s okay. The parts I don’t understand, I can guess.”
“How…do you guss?”
“You know this subject very well, you can just give me a few keywords and it will be enough.” He raised his head and looked at me with bright eyes.
I swallowed a couple times, “I need to use the bathroom.”
“On the left, outside this door.”
“I mean the bathroom in my own room.”
“There’s a bathroom here.” He said.
“I don’t know how to use a disabled person’s bathroom.” I couldn’t throw away a woman’s things in his bathroom. Also, Wang Li Chuan, you dare argue with me!
“A disabled person’s bathroom is the most convenient in the world.” His face was gloomy, but he remained calm and collected.
I jumped up from the couch in a fit of rage, but saw his gaze fall onto where I was just sitting. In the middle of the pure white couch was a bloodstain.
“Wang Li Chuan, tell me. Why did you have me sit on a white couch? Do you have a problem? Such nerve!” I rushed back to my room with a redden face, took out a huge Yuan Dong Chinese-English dictionary, stomped back into his room, and threw it in front of him, “I’m not translating anymore today! You look it up yourself!”
I returned to my mom and filled a hot-water bag for myself. Hugging it, I took a sleeping pill and went to sleep.