Li Chuan’s Past (沥川往事) : Chapter 29 11


cheongsam

CHAPTER 29

It was December 28, 29, and 30th, which was exactly the end of the year.  Other than CGP, the whole city had begun its holiday celebration.  All the streets were announcing “clearances” and “super sales.”  The store windows were brightly lit with colorful decorations.  The people walked leisurely on the streets while wearing pretty clothes.

I suddenly realized that it was Christmas night when we were at the airport’s arrival terminal.  No one reminded me, so everyone forgot about it.  Yes, all the CGP employees who were on the business trip were middle-aged, which meant that Christmas was not yet a celebrated holiday in China when they were still young.  Their only wish was to finish this fierce bidding battle before Chinese New Year so that they could get their fat bonuses and return to the embraces of their kids and wives.  As a result, everyone was crouched over their work in this lonely high-class hotel.

I, of course, was no different.  I had been translating sketches in my room three days straight and slept no more than four hours each day on average.  Up to this point, eighty-percent of the descriptions for the designs and sketches had been done.  They were all rolled and piled on top of my bed.  Li Chuan had the most important part of designing, yet he was the quickest.  But obviously, the last few were drawn by Ji Chuan based on the drafts.  They were brothers after all, so their work was flawless.  Even their writing looked like it was written by the same person.

The main building that C City was renovating was the theater at the foot of the mountains of Xi Cheng district.  It was one of the landmarks of Qing Lian Villa, therefore, it also had the largest investment amount.  Jiang Hao Tian’s original design had an open-design with tall glass.  From afar, it looked like the crown from the Statue of Liberty or like a blossomed sunflower.  Even an amateur like me felt that it was very eye-catching.  Li Chuan’s design on the other hand, was a closed-design built with steel.  It was simple and had no obvious shape.  It kind of looked like a giant pebble with natural watermarks.  The top was made of especially smooth glass shaded in light grey that looked like a mirror reflecting the clouds in the sky.  The other smaller buildings surrounding the theater also had a “small pebble” like design.  In the aerial view sketch, they looked like pebbles scattered on the beach, as well as planets in the galaxy.  They were natural yet mysterious; elegant yet vast.  They blended with the mountain and river in its surroundings, reflecting each other.  It demonstrated his view of living things and the environment.  I liked it very much.  Although it was not as attractive as Director Jiang’s design, it was intriguing in its own way due to its return to simplicity.

However, some did not have high praises for the “pebble” design.  They nicknamed the theater, “stone.”  I overheard some of the designers talking during dinner, commenting that Li Chuan was never a POMO, so why did he come up with such a post-modern design this time?  They also said that the investor and C City’s mayor Xie He Yang were stubborn and old fashioned, and were not easy to approach.  Therefore, they were skeptical about the design being accepted.  Furthermore, CGP’s biggest competitor was Jia Yuan’s chief architect designer Tian Xiao Gang, who was a well-known expert in classic garden designs.  He was actually Jiang Hao Tian’s senior (in the field).  He debuted early, popular, and knew Jiang Hao Tian’s style well.  On the bidding for Xiamen last time, he lost to CGP by one vote.  Therefore, he was determined to win this time, even if it meant spending a large amount of money to buy confidential information.

The tender letter required all documents to be in both Chinese and English.  I did not finish all of my translation work until the morning of the 31st.  I then spent the whole morning checking, editing, and re-wording before handing it to Director Jiang for review, who then handed it off for photocopying.

I could finally rest after completing my work.  I went to the restaurant and drank a bowl of fried fish soup.  The thin slices of fish, mushroom, and ham went down my stomach in one gulp. My face immediately started to sweat.  It reminded me of Li Chuan.  Li Chuan liked having fish and liked drinking soup.  He liked the Cantonese style congee with fish a lot too.  I wondered if he had tried fried fish soup before.  I went to the kitchen and asked the chef how to make it, but it turned out that it was very difficult to make it well, so he recommended making a lot of it at once.  Whatever, I jotted down the recipe and planned to try it out when I got back to Beijing and would make it my best dish.

Li Chuan was unfortunately still in the hospital.  I heard that he was in a “VIP ward” because Ji Chuan was afraid that his wound would not stop bleeding and was afraid that he would get infected, so he forced Li Chuan to stay in the hospital for better “observation.”  The chamber had no cell phone reception, but wifi was available.  I knew that Li Chuan was very busy like me and was sleeping only a few hours a day, so I only sent him a simple email to ask if he was feeling better.  But he never answered the question.  Instead, he replied back with three attachments, which were three sketches.  This was how we communicated ever since we came to Wenzhou, everything was all business and nothing private.  Regardless, my heart was warm inside.  He jumped into the garbage dump for me; I couldn’t help but feel blissful, what more could I complain about?

I took a wonderful afternoon nap.  Zhang Qing Hui suddenly called me at 5pm, “Annie, the investors are holding a cocktail party tonight, you need to attend.  Can you drink a little?”
“Yes.”  Besides being a smoking addict, I was also addicted to drinking.  I had even tried Marijuana before, but I was afraid of going to jail so I didn’t try other drugs.  I could be considered as having tried all five poisons nonetheless.  Li Chuan had found out only one of them. [A common definition of five poisons: eating, drinking, whoring, gambling, smoking]

Moreover, Zhu Bi Xuan had great alcohol tolerance.  Therefore, as her replacement, how could I be worse than her?
“You must stay beside Mr. Wang.  He cannot have any drinks, not even a single drop.  When it cannot be refused, can you drink it on his behalf?”
“No problem.”
“Mayor Xie will be there, he’s a very important man.  But he has a heavy Wenzhou accent, so I can’t understand him well.  Mr. Wang will definitely not be able to understand him, so you need to be careful when you translate for him.”

My face immediately became pale.  I couldn’t understand the Wenzhou dialect either. It wasn’t just me who didn’t understand the dialect, I heard that people from other cities who moved here still couldn’t understand it after three years.
“How heavy is his Wenzhou accent?”
“He graduated from the National Tsing Hua University, how heavy do you think it is?”  Zhang Qing Hui said, “Plus, he is in the same field.  He majored in architecture, so he has already heard of Mr. Wang.”
“Oh!  When does the cocktail party start?”
“6 o’clock.  The investors didn’t notify us until this morning.  Go get ready.  The four of us will go: Director Jiang, Chief Wang, you and me.  You can ride with Director Jiang and I will pick up Mr. Wang from the hospital.  We’ll meet up at the entrance.”

For the occasion, I tied my hair into a bun and secured it with a purple wooden hairpin.  I wore a white Cheongsam decorated with blue flowers; the shape of my body was okay besides my chest, but it was an easy fix.  All I had to do was wear a bra with padding.  The Cheongsam fitted me tightly, which emphasized my small build.  I wanted to dress myself like classic beauty Lin Dai Yu, so that those who would force me to drink wouldn’t bear to.

I continued practicing with “Wenzhou dialect encyclopedia” while I was in Director Jiang’s car; “Liao Liao Zhi Zhi (了了滯滯)” was “clean and tidy”; “Yun Dan Feng Qing (light clouds and wind)” meant “frivolous”; “Wu Yan San Si (雲淡風輕 not this nor that)” was “not upright”…etcetera, etcetera.  When we arrived at the hotel entrance, I saw that CGP’s “Tou Li Zhu Er (head of pearl, Wenzhou dialect: Boss)” classmate Li Chuan and Zhang Qing Hui were already waiting for us there.

Li Chuan had a habit of wearing an all black suit and holding a red cane at formal events.  His black shirt, tie with black and white stripes, along with his slim face, high forehead, straight nose and strong chin made him extremely stylish.  Actually, Li Chuan’s eyes were the most attractive to me.  Regardless of how cold or tough he looked, his gaze was always pure and focused. His deep eyes showed sincerity and affection as if devoted to a religion.

Among the designers participating in the bid this time round, 31 year-old Li Chuan was the youngest and most well-known.  To the public, he was known for being the handsome but expressionless, non-talkative and reserved bachelor.  Therefore, when I met up with Li Chuan at the entrance, he was already in his “public mode.”  His eyebrows twitched when he saw me, but they quickly returned to its original state.
“You two didn’t wait long, did you?”  Jiang Hao Tian asked.
“No.”
“Mr. Wang, are you feeling better now?” Jiang Hao Tian shook hands with Li Chuan.
“Much better.”

At the reception, Li Chuan helped me take off my coat in front of everybody.  He handed my and his overcoat to the attendant.  It made me a little uncomfortable as I felt that people had mistaken me for Li Chuan’s wife.  As a result, every time Li Chuan shook hands with someone, I would proactively introduce myself, “I am Annie, Mr. Wang’s translator.”  After all, people who attended the party were mostly from the same industry, so everyone knew each other.  Hence, many would question, “Mr. Wang’s Chinese is so fluent, does he still need a translator?”

Of course, some had also mistaken me for Zhu Bi Xuan and called me Miss Zhu while shaking my hand.  Li Chuan would immediately clarify, “This is Miss Xie, my new translator.”

We greeted others until we reached the wine table.  There was a square-faced man in his sixties who was surrounded by a group of designers fawning over him.  Jiang Hao Tian suddenly appeared out of nowhere and whispered into Li Chuan’s ear, “That is C City’s Mayor Xie He Yang.”

Xie He Yang’s nickname was “shoebox” because his face was squared and his complexion was dark.  Obviously no one would dare to call him that in front of him.  Li Chuan grabbed a glass of water and drank it slowly.  Once some of the people around Xie He Yang left and gave an opening, Li Chuan finally took me over and introduced ourselves.
“Hello, Mayor Xie.  I am CGP’s designer, Wang Li Chuan.”
“Oh!  Mr. Wang!”  Xie He Yang greeted warmly and shook his hand, “I’ve long heard about you and now I’ve finally met you.”  He spoke in Mandarin, but his speech did indeed contain a thick accent.  Li Chuan smiled hesitantly and I immediately translated Mayor Xie’s words into English for him.

“You’re too kind,” Li Chuan answered, “I am a foreign architect who doesn’t know much.  I admire the intricacies of the Chinese culture very much.”

I looked at Li Chuan silently feeling a little surprised.  I couldn’t believe that such refined words came from Li Chuan who knew only 950 Chinese characters.

Xie He Yang smiled, “Mr. Li Chuan is too modest.  When I was young, the king of architecture, Doctor Wang Yu Hang, was invited to speak at National Tsing Hua University.  I was part of his entourage despite being poorly qualified.  I heard that he was also a Chinese from Switzerland, do you happen to know him?”
“He is my grandpa.”
“I remember Mr. Wang’s oldest son, Wang Chu Ning, also came.  We were around the same age so we got along quite well.  Chu Ning was very fluent in Chinese.  He was very quaint and was also a well-known designer.”
Li Chuan nodded slightly, “He is my dad.”
“When did your family immigrated to overseas?”
“I believe it was around the end of Qing Dynasty.”
“Your family couldn’t happen to be elderly Qing loyalists, could they?”  A middle-aged man who stood beside Xie He Yang suddenly interrupted. [Elderly Qing Loyalists: elderly during the Republic of China who were loyal to the Qing dynasty and wanted to preserve the old system]

Li Chuan spoke without any emotions, “No.  According to our family history, we are from the Wang Clan, whom are pure blooded descendants of the central plains.”
Xie He Yang said, “Oh right, let me make introductions.  This is Jia Yuan’s chief architect designer, Mr. Tian Xiao Gang.”
“Mr. Tian, long time no see.”
“Hello, Li Chuan.  I haven’t seen you for six years, it’s as if you’ve disappeared from China.”
“How could that be?  My company is still here.  During key times, I always come to take care of things.”  Li Chuan paused and then said, “Mayor Xie, Mr. Tian is an experienced designer from the local area.  He has everything to his advantage.  Although CGP is from abroad, it is made up of Chinese people.  During the judging, Mayor Xie won’t show any favoritism, right?”
Xie He Yang laughed and waved his hand, “Not at all, not at all.  CGP is a company with great strengths.  C City’s redevelopment plan in Wenzhou will become the standard for others.  We very much welcome companies from abroad to participate in the bidding.  Rest assured, the bidding is absolutely fair.”

The three of them chatted for ten minutes and another group of people started to gather around Xie He Yang again.  My throat was dry from all the translating, so I grabbed a drink from the wine table.  Li Chuan followed me.
“Pure blooded descendants of the central plain?” I teased, “After the Wu Hu Uprising, how could you still be pure blooded descendants?”
“I was only bluffing.  Of course I can’t be considered pure blooded,” Li Chuan raised his eyebrows, “For example, my grandma is French.”  I stared at Li Chuan while feeling relieved.  No wonder Li Chuan looked Chinese, yet his facial features were very distinct at the same time.

He then added, “That Tian Xiao Gang does definitely not have good intentions.  I’m afraid that he and Xie He Yang have made an agreement under the table.  I’ve heard others say that the government here is quite corrupted.”
“Don’t worry, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection is fighting corruption strongly right now.  A lot of people are watching over this big development plan.  If they find any corruption, they will all go down together and execute them completely.”
He looked at me doubtfully, “What is ‘Ji Wei’ (Discipline Inspection)?  What is ‘Da Ji Li Du’ (fight strongly), what is ‘Man Men Cao Zhan’ (execute the whole family) and…What is  ‘Tian Zai Ren Huo’ (natural and man-made disasters)?”
“Tian Zai Ren Huo?”
“Didn’t that Mayor Xie say that among the entourage, there was ‘Tian Zai Ren Huo’?  I didn’t understand that.”
“Didn’t I translate it for you?”
“I didn’t understand your translation either.”
I was going mad.  It almost drove me through the roof, “Why didn’t you understand my translation?  Was my translation wrong?  Are my translations bad?”
“No, no…it’s because you’re wearing such a beautiful Cheongsam, so I lost my concentration while listening to you.”
“It wasn’t ‘Tian Zai Ren Huo,’ it was ‘Tian Zai Qi Mo.’  It’s used as a display of modesty.  He was saying that even though he didn’t have the qualification, he was still part of the entourage,” I explained in a harsh voice.
“Okay.  Please write down these four words for me when we go back.”
I sighed.  No wonder Li Chuan needed a translator.  I thought it was unnecessary, but it looked like he really couldn’t be without one.

We grabbed a glass of red wine each and stood beside the wine table.
The architecture industry was indeed a world of men.  At a quick glance, not one female designer could be spotted in the entire hall.  Just when I wanted to comment about my thoughts, Li Chuan asked me another question.
“Xiao Qiu, what was your thesis?  Was it on D.H Lawrence?”
“Not entirely.  You’re interested to know?”
“I’ve always been interested in the British literature.”
“I wrote my thesis on Cixous.  Cixous and Joyce.”
“I know James Joyce, but who is ‘Xi Su’?”
“Helene Cixous.”
It was a French name.  It must have been my pronunciation because he had clearly heard of Cixous, “Cixous is French.  Aren’t you from the English program?”
“Cixous studied English literature just like me.  She was also an expert in James Joyce’s works.”
He nodded and said, “So you wrote your thesis on French feminism?”
“Mm.  Is that surprising?  Isn’t that cool?”
“I’m not surprised.  Look, you’re a woman, and I’m disabled.  We are both people on the margin.  We are comrades fighting the same battle.”

I giggled as I found what he said was amusing.  Li Chuan had high interest in literature.  He said he liked reading novels from high-modern.  I couldn’t help but asked, “Have you read Cixous’s works before?”
“I’ve only read Le rire de le meduse, which is The Laugh of the Medusa.”
“My thesis was precisely based on that article.”
He looked at me in disbelief, “No way.  Six years have passed already, how come your views haven’t been liberated one bit?”  He shook his head, “I think you haven’t truly understood the essence of feminism.  You’ve done your thesis for nothing.”
“How am I not liberated?  I’m liberated!”  I raised my voice as I got provoked.
He stopped talking and sighed with his head down.
“Tell me then, what do I need to do to be liberated?”
“If I say it, are you going to pour the wine in my face?”
“No.”
“Six years ago, I already said goodbye to you, so why did you still have to send me emails?”
“I…I didn’t write a lot of them,” I murmured without confidence.
“Three hundred and forty two emails.  That’s not considered a lot?  The shortest one had thirty characters, and the longest one had twelve thousand characters.  If you combine them all, it equals to a long romantic novel series.  I can’t believe that you were studying feminism while writing these emails.  If I were Cixous I would be embarrassed to hear what you did.”  He said each and every word seriously while looking into my eyes.

I took a deep breath and felt that something was odd.  Li Chuan had always been gentle towards me and paid attention to what he said and where he said it.  I didn’t understand why he chose to humiliate me today — on New Year’s Eve.
“Li Chuan, tell me,” I hid my emotions, “did you enjoy reading my emails?”
“They were alright…I used a dictionary.”
“Isn’t that good then?”  I took a sip of wine, “My love for you has surpassed any ideology, including feminism.  In actual fact, there’s a name for people like me in China.”
“What is it?”
“A love saint.”

I rendered him speechless.  As a result, he smiled and changed the subject, “Let’s end our discussion for now.  I think that that old lady (老太太 respectful way of saying old lady) needs my help.”  He turned and walked away as he spoke.  He helped the old lady who was trying to grab a glass of coke, “Hi Madam (老太太), the glass is very heavy.  Please put it down and I’ll pour the pop for you.”

The old lady was about eighty years old.  She had thin hair and was wearing a handmade traditional Chinese Tang suit.  She looked very tidy and wealthy.  Li Chuan poured her a glass of coke and asked if she needed anything else.  The old lady said, “Young man, could you please also help me get that piece of cake?”

On the nearby tall table, there was a two-layer cake.  No one ate it because most people thought it was for dessert.  Li Chuan reached out his arm, held the knife in his hand, and cut the cake without hesitation.  He placed the piece on a plate and handed it to the old lady.  He grinned and asked her, “Do you want any fruits?  There are watermelon and grapes.”
“Give me a few slices of watermelon and a few grapes.”  The old lady looked at him affectionately.

Li Chuan held a full plate of food and found a spot to sit for her.
“Young man, why is your leg not well?  How did you get injured?”  The old lady smiled while asking.  Li Chuan was perfect in many people’s eyes, except for his leg.  Therefore, I felt that the old lady was clearly taking advantage of her age to ask Li Chuan the details.  Her gaze was not pure.
“It was…from a car accident.”  Li Chuan looked a little embarrassed.  He then shook hands firmly with the old lady, “My name is Wang Li Chuan.  I’m a designer from CGP.”

The old lady laughed happily.  Her denture looked neat and white.  I was scared that they would fall out while she was laughing.  As I was just thinking about it, I heard a “clump” sound and her denture really fell out!

#$%^&….!

Li Chuan and I reached out our hands at the same time; Li Chuan’s arms were longer so he quickly picked up her denture from the ground and said softly, “Madam, please wait here, I’ll be right back.”  He grabbed a paper cup and headed to the washroom.

The old lady didn’t mind much. With her lips pressed in, she said to me, “Young lady, is that Mr. Wang your boyfriend?”
“No, grandma, I am his translator.”
Air was leaking out of her mouth as she spoke without her denture.
“What, is he a foreigner?
“He is Chinese-Swiss”
“Oh, he’s very cute!”
“Yeah.”
“Could you not tell that he likes you very much?  He can’t even stand straight without a cane, yet he carried food for me even when you were right beside him.”
I sensed that the old lady was taking the opportunity to criticize me, so I quickly explained, “Li Chuan is a very confident and capable person.  If he needed help, he would have asked me.”
“Old grandma here has met many people and know the good from the bad.  Trust me, he is definitely a good man.”
I was elated and smiled brightly.

Li Chuan walked over and gave the old lady back her clean denture in the paper cup.  He handed her a napkin while he was at it.  The old lady used the napkin to cover her face and put the denture back into her mouth.  She smiled at us with her teeth showing; they were gleaming white.

She reached out and shook Li Chuan’s hand, “My surname is Hua.  My name is Hua Xiao.  I’m a painter.”  Every word started with a “H” pronunciation, so I looked at her nervously, worried that her denture would fall out again.  As a result, I didn’t hear what she said and thought that her name was Hua Jiao (as in Sichuan Pepper), which made me want to laugh but didn’t dare to.

Li Chuan was intrigued and asked further, “Madam, do you paint traditional Chinese paintings or oil paintings?”
“I’m so old-fashioned, obviously I paint traditional Chinese paintings.”
“There is a painter among the judges.  He is Mr. Long Xi, who also paints traditional Chinese paintings, do you also know him?”
“Yes, he is my student.”

My heart skipped a beat.  Mr. Long Xi, the famous painter, was indeed part of the judging panel.  He was a disciple who graduated from China Academy of Art.  He was very popular in the painting industry.  With that said, this old lady must be very well-known.

Li Chuan suddenly coughed.  He quickly said, “Excuse me.”
While he was chatting with the old lady, he took a bite of food.  He must have choked on it slightly.  He coughed again but couldn’t turn away in time.
(English) I am so sorry.  It happened before I could stop it.
His gentlemanly manners surfaced again.  It took me a minute to realize that he was apologizing again for coughing.

I giggled in my heart.  Li Chuan and the old lady went along so well; one was too careless, who didn’t mind when her denture fell out and even continued talking; one was too careful, who apologized all day for coughing.

“Madam, please seat yourself.  I will accompany Mr. Wang to the resting room.”  I pulled Li Chuan and dashed away.

We went into an empty room outside the hall.  Li Chuan covered his mouth with a handkerchief as he continued coughing.  I looked at him and sighed, “There was mustard in that plate of food and you can’t eat it.  How could you forget?”
“How would I know there was mustard?”
“Are you feeling better now?”  I was a little worried, “Why don’t we head back?”
“The party hasn’t even started.”
“Honestly, the tender requires talent and design.  It won’t matter how well you present yourself at the party.”
“That’s only true if we’re abroad.  I can’t be sure about that here.  Furthermore, it was Jiang Hao Tian who asked me for help.  If I leave now, regardless of what the reason is, it’ll be letting him down.”

Li Chuan came to lend a hand at this critical time after one phone call from Jiang Hao Tian.  However, Tian Xiao Gang and Xie He Yang must be close friends since they kept standing together, which was discouraging for us.  During the last ten days, Li Chuan observed the area, measured the ground and studied the culture.  He gave his full efforts and was determined to win the bid.  Therefore, he felt tremendous pressure.

“I think when you return to Switzerland, you should write an essay on ‘the challenges in China of a designer from abroad’.”
He lifted his head and suddenly laughed as he looked at me.  I stared at him and felt a little dizzy.  This was the smile that I had been longing for for six years.  It was showcased right in front of me right now, I was so happy that I could go to heaven.

He stood up and the gauze that was still wrapped around his wrist caught my eyes.  Was the wound that deep?  It had been three days and it was still not heal?
“Li Chuan, your hand…”
He interrupted me, “Xiao Qiu, tomorrow is New Year’s Day.  Can you show a new change for the new year?”
“What do you mean?”
“Can you carry out the views of feminism to the fullest?”
“No.”  I refused immediately even though I knew my happiness was slipping away.
(English) Just let it go, please.”  He looked into my face, “I beg you.”
(English) No.
I felt that his expression turned cold.  It was exactly like the day we broke up six years ago.

At this moment, I suddenly understood why he came back to China.

Even if CGP won the bid and gave Li Chuan all the money they gained from the revenue, it would not be an amount that he would care about.  He wouldn’t give up his current work, give up recuperating his health at the hospital, and come here from afar just for money.

He was here only because I had sent him an email twenty days ago while I was drunk.  The email had four words followed by a string of exclamation marks:
“Li Chuan, come back!!!”

That was the first email I sent him after we stopped contact for three years.  I regretted it after sending the email.  But the email was actually returned as undeliverable three seconds later.  The system letter said that the recipient rejected the email and that it would try to deliver it again.

Therefore, he came back because I actually hadn’t forgotten about him and because it was his responsibility to sever all ties with me on this New Year’s Eve night.

I lost my smile and my face immediately became pale.

“I’ve already bought a ticket back to Zurich.  I will leave right after the presentation.”
I laughed coldly and placed out my hand, “Where’s the ticket?  Let me see it.”

He really did reach into his wallet and showed me the ticket.  I ripped it apart within seconds, “There’s no longer a ticket.”
I admit.  I was going crazy.  I felt helpless so I acted out of fiery.  I couldn’t let Li Chuan leave me this time!

“It’s an online ticket,” he said.
“So is this farewell again?”  I closed my eyes and said with my voice shaking.
(English) You need a closure.
“Tell me the reason you left last time.”
“…” He wouldn’t say anything.
“Li Chuan, do you have a very severe illness?”  I looked at him with watery eyes, “You know that no matter what illness you have, I don’t care.  I don’t care that you have only one leg, and I won’t care about what illness you have.”
“I don’t have any illness.  You don’t need to worry about me.”
“I want you to look into my eyes then,” I stared at his face, “look into my eyes and tell me that you, Wang Li Chuan, don’t love me.”

He lowered his head in silence.  A moment later, he lifted his head and looked into my eyes.  He spoke slowly word by word, “Yes, Xiao Qiu.  I don’t love you any more.  I hope that everything between us can come to an end before the New Year.  I hope that you can forget about me completely, not have anymore hopes for me, and never send me emails again.  Can you…do that?”

My heart shrunk bit by bit.  In an instant, it became an hardened core.

I said, “I can do it.  But I have one condition.”
“What is it?”
“I can end everything, but you have to stay in Beijing, stay at CGP.”
He examined my expression and said, “For how long?”
“Until I say that you can leave.”
“During this time, can you promise that we will be no more than friends?”
“I promise.”
“Okay, I accept your request,” he said, “(English) But you must move on.

I didn’t answer.  I stood up and said, “Excuse me, I need to go to the washroom.”
I dashed into a stall, locked the door, and sat on top of the toilet.  My tears shed non-stop.

Why did I have to study feminism?  I asked myself.  Other than crying, there was nothing else that I could do for Li Chuan.  I cried while sitting on the toilet. It was as if my mind had completely snapped, completely dejected.  I thought I could stop after an hour.  Five hours had passed when I could finally stop and stand up from the toilet while shaking.  I had used up all the toilet paper beside me.  When I saw myself in the mirror in front of the washbasins, tears were all over my face, my hair was messy and my eyes were swollen like walnuts.  My tears had not stopped.  They continued shedding.  I grabbed a big roll of toilet paper and cried for another twenty minutes beside the door.  When I could finally stop, I covered my face with a scarf and lowered my head as I walked out the entrance doors.

Someone walked over and helped me put on an overcoat.  We walked quietly to the car.  He opened the door for me and I quickly sat in.

My heart gradually calmed down in the cold dark night.

He sighed softly and leaned over to help me put on my seatbelt.  At that moment, I said, “Li Chuan, I want to caress the back of your head.”
Regardless of whether he agreed or not, I used my hands and felt his head carefully like an archaeologist.  He closed the door and sat beside me.
“Why did you want to touch the back of my head?”
“I wanted to know what your head was made of.”


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11 thoughts on “Li Chuan’s Past (沥川往事) : Chapter 29

  • sutekii1

    “I was scared that they would fall out while she was laughing. As I was just thinking about it, I heard a “clump” sound and her denture really fell out!” – lol a little laughter before the storm.

    I almost cried with Xiao Qiu during her break down… 🙁

  • cathdeary

    Ah, in the back of my mind I was thinking: girl, how could you be so insanely stupid? Can you just move on? And: Duh? How could you have sent that letter?! It is so effing pathetic.

    But well, I was not in her position and guess I have not loved the way she loved and was loved, guess Li Chuan is just so effing perfect in her eyes. It’s been five years though. Sigh. It makes me want to hate Li Chuan, honestly, it’s his fault for being concerned about her. Or she would have stayed indifferent and mad at him leaving her.

  • Milly

    “No, no…it’s because you’re wearing such a beautiful Cheongsam, so I lost my concentration while listening to you.”
    If I were she, I couldn’t translate anything when looking at him ^^
    Thanks Ms(?) Lil so much. Very smooth translation!

    • tofudessert Post author

      I think she wanted to feel his head to find out what his mind was filled with because he was so stubborn. He clearly loved her but he kept pushing her away.

      • Jollibee

        Thanks…she’s just so patient with him. She’s waiting for him to be ready to tell her what’s going on. If it were me I would probably stalk him no matter what just to find out what’s really going on…I have little to none when it comes to patience…hahahahaah…