When I walked Li Chuan to the door, light rain was falling. There were a few scratches on Li Chuan’s neck, traces I had left behind when I was angry. Li Chuan was anemic and his wounds were not easily healed. I felt a bit of regret and was conflicted inside. This might be the last time I could bully him, might as well be fierce.
Like in the past, I faced the mirror and helped him fix his tie and insincerely warned, “Remember to wear sweaters with high collars when you go to work. Otherwise, people will laugh at you.”
“…” He refused to reply.
I pretended to examine his wounds and seized the chance to change the subject, “Is your anemia very severe? Why does your brother get so nervous each time you bleed?”
“It’s not severe. He’s afraid it will get infected.”
“Do you get infected easily?”
“Not easily.” His lips were sealed tightly, ending the conversation. Li Chuan’s reply about his health and sickness was forever simple and not wanting to expand on it, seemingly to be the truth but there was something being hidden.
Walking out the door, he stood on the steps and said, “In the future, stop sending money to that lawyer each month. You know that I don’t need that money.”
It was that sensitive topic again.
“I don’t need that money either.”
“It’s expensive to live in Beijing and your salary isn’t considered high.”
It’s not considered high, but I don’t see you giving me a raise.
“Mine is considered high among those in my profession. I am very satisfied.”
“Xiao Qiu,” He grasped my hands, looked into my eyes and said seriously, “If I could make you happy, I would try my best. I wouldn’t let any opportunities pass by. But I can’t, therefore…I withdrew. I didn’t expect that I would waste so much of your time…I’m really sorry.”
I was driven mad inside. Li Chuan hadn’t been back for a month yet, but, unexpectedly, he had already cautiously broken up with me time and time again. Even the most emotional dramas only did this once or twice. It was unbearable. Really unbearable.
“In what way can’t you? Weren’t you quite normal just now?” I looked at him with wide eyes, “Plus, even if you can’t, I wouldn’t mind. If worse comes to worse, I’ll turn over a new leaf and become a decent woman.”
A certain person became frightened and his face looked dumbfounded.
I seized this opportunity to ask, “Li Chuan, what really happened?”
His eyes fogged over. It was misty and moist like distant mountains in the rain. He took his eyesight away from my face and looked at his watch, “It’s nothing, I need to leave now.”
Every time I saw this expression from Li Chuan, my heart would completely soften. Colleagues of his all treated Li Chuan like an ordinary person. Only I know how hard it was for him. Not even accounting for the triple effort he has to put in to walk, in order to increase the strength of his bones, Li Chuan had to eat a kind of white pill every morning he woke up.In order to prevent the pill from damaging his esophagus, he had to drink a large cup of water at the same time. After taking the medicine, he would have to stand for thirty minutes without reclining. Otherwise, there would be serious side effects. Besides staying up all night to draw designs, for the most part, Li Chuan got up earlier than me. So I didn’t really see much of how he took the medication. There was only one time that he had a headache and nausea after he took the medicine. He was already on the verge of collapsing, yet he refused to recline at all. I could only support him and stand against the wall with him for thirty minutes. After standing, Li Chuan still apologized to me saying that he shouldn’t have troubled me with this.
Google told me that in the first three years Li Chuan had left me, he hadn’t attended any public events. Even when his designs received awards, he didn’t attend the award ceremonies. Afterwards, any news of him online, such as designs for a few European projects, were all concentrated in Switzerland. The volume of work was incomparable to what he used to have. Li Chuan had only resumed working in the past year. And when I saw him, there was no noticeable difference in him besides him looking somewhat thin. It didn’t look like he had a great illness.
The weather was cold, I sniffed my nose and sucked back the grievances that were rushing forth in my eyes.
After so much difficulty, I could finally be together with Li Chuan. Besides arguing, there was only arguing. Li Chuan wouldn’t tell me the truth no matter what.
Perhaps, our fate together had really been used up.
Li Chuan drove the car to K cafe. In the car, I told him that I had really moved on. I had three dates at this place.
Li Chuan didn’t comment on it the entire way. When we were almost there, he couldn’t help but say, “You would date both men and women?”
“I’m giving it a try. Maybe I have a problem with my inclination. Emma suspects that I am a lesbian.”
“How could you be?” He was finally distressed.
“Perhaps bisexual?” I added.
“Stop joking around. You have no problem with you inclination.”
“Then it’s your inclination that has a problem. You are gay. Your brother is, and so are you.”
For a long time, the only reason I could accept for Li Chuan’s departure was that Li Chuan was gay. It was because Ji Huan was the only friend who Li Chuan had a little personal association with in Beijing. Ji Huan was gay. Ji Chuan was also gay. Li Chuan had many gay characteristics. For example, mysophobia. For example, being meticulously attired. For example, before he met me, he was frequent visitor of “Lang Huan” (Happy Wolf). Li Chuan never evaded talking about Lang Huan with me. He said that the coffee there was top-notch, the drinks were good, and there were many people in the art circle. There were many who got along with him. Even though he wasn’t gay, he sympathized a lot with the gay community because Ji Chuan was gay and René was gay. René was even his good friend in college. He even felt very close to them.
“I have no problems with my inclination.” He stated again, “You know I don’t have a problem.”
“Since neither of us have a problem, then why can’t we be together?” Here we go again. That’s right, I’m unoriginal. It’s not an illness. It’s not being gay. It’s not that he was incapable. He didn’t have another women. When every possibility is removed one by one, what is left? Parents don’t approve? (It seemed like everyone in his family was afraid of him.) He was a spy from the security bureau (With that level of Chinese of his…)? Kidnapped by aliens before (Couldn’t they pick a healthier breed)? Perhaps we couldn’t get married before we were siblings (But our blood types were completely different)? None of them seemed like it! I thought until I couldn’t think anymore and still couldn’t understand.
The corner of Li Chuan’s mouth twitched. He was just about to flare up when the car stopped with a screech. He nearly ran a red light. Afterwards, for the remaining ride, no matter how much I pestered him, he only concentrated on driving and did not say a word.
At the cafe, he got off and opened the car door for me with a cold expression.
I put on my overcoat, took out the scarf that René had given me from the pocket, and put it on my neck. My curiosity was too great. I wanted to know why René didn’t want me to wear the scarf in front of Li Chuan.
Sure enough, Li Chuan’s eyes shifted and asked, “Where did you get this scarf?”
“Shuang An shopping center, third floor, specialty store.”
He swiftly took the scarf off my neck, “You can’t wear it. I’m confiscating it.”
“You won’t let me wear a scarf in such cold weather. Do you want me to freeze to death?”
“You aren’t allowed to wear this one!”
“Why not? What is it to you?”
“This is…” He was just about to say it when he promptly stopped and looked at me with an odd expression.
I suddenly came to a realization, “This…couldn’t be what is used at pride (parade)?” I took the scarf and looked it over, searching for the rainbow symbol.
“Puah…” He couldn’t help but laugh at my flustered expression. “It’s not. If you want to wear it, then wear it. I’ll go settle this with René.”
After saying, he drove away, disappearing in an instant.
There was a familiar smell in the cafe. A young barista stood at the door holding a tray of coffee samples for passer-bys to try.
I pushed open the door and entered. I got a medium cup of coffee and found a seat next to the window. The radio was playing a Tian Zhen song: “Many questions flashed in front of my eyes. There is happiness and disappointments. The state of my mood always depended on you. I’ve never considered myself…” She had just gotten to the chorus when someone walked towards me. At first, I thought I was looking at Zhu Shi Mao. That person was like a bright star with eyebrows like swords, tall statue, and with a grave expression that was the same as Zhu Shi Mao on CCTV’s Chinese New Year’s Gala. I thought that his grave expression was a little hilarious.
I continued to drink coffee. Zhu Shi Mao came up to the table and smiled, “Excuse me, are you Miss Xie?”
“Yes, are you Zhu…Mr Chen?”
The song over the radio seemed as if it was hinting at something: The staggering flowers, also need your comfort. Don’t like them wait and wilt away.
“Chen Jiu Zhou.”
He said down and then stood up again, asking if I wanted a dessert. I said no and he went to buy a latte for himself.
“Meng Meng said that Miss Xie’s English was quite good.”
Hearing him address Emma in such an affectionate tone, I suspected that he was another lover that Emma had dumped. Emma had dated many men and when they stopped dating, she successfully turned all those men into friends. Emma said that men were natural resources that couldn’t be wasted. They would always come into use sometime. As a result, Emma’s spare time in life was very enriched. She had to socialize with all these boy friends.
“It’s not bad.”
“Are you from Beijing, Miss Xie?”
His Mandarin was quite pleasant to listen to. It was just very articulate and had a nasally sound, as he was part of a stage play.
Our conversation was heading towards a traditional marriage partner seeking date. We would each introduce our educational background and economic situation. And then change to marital status, complete with discussion of house and car. Wages had to be a certain amount and seeking someone younger than X year old with normal features and had to be compassionate….
“Then Miss Xie, where are you from?”
“Is that important?”
Chen Jiu Zhou finally said something funny, “It’s not important. But, the conversation must go on. Right?”
Even though the blind date was fixed to be within thirty minutes, Chen Jiu Zhou and I spoke for nearly an hour. During this time, I didn’t say more than ten words. Half of it was “Uh-huh, Ha, Really” and so on. Mr. Chen majestically introduced his work, his company’s operation plan, what he learned from playing the stock market, his vacation villa in B city, a luxurious club in the city and even said that he could take me on vacation abroad. I said that I wasn’t interested and he sighed and shook his head, “You study English, yet you haven’t even gone to an English speaking country and seen their culture. It’s really a bit of a pity!”
While listening to him speak, I also looked at the scenery outside the door and played with my fingernails as if there were jewels stuck on them. After a while, he courteously took his leave. He didn’t ask for my number. And then I looked around, waiting for the second contestant.
There was a tall male student at the table next door. He lazily put up his hand and said, “It’s me.”
I was someone who was easily struck by a good looking person. The tall male student looked similar to Takeshi Kaneshiro. He was very handsome and also pure. Of course he couldn’t be considered a student, but he had a student air to him.
Takeshi Kaneshiro had a huge pile of papers in his hands that had calculations written all over it. The type of complicated formulas with various symbols.
He really was a good student. He didn’t even forget to bring his school work to a date.
But I still voiced my surprise, “You’re doing it by hand? You don’t need a calculator?”
“Calculator?” He shook his head, “It’s too slow.”
“You can calculate it faster than a calculator?” No way? The physics phd candidates of this country aren’t at the stage to do arithmetic by hand, right?
“First of all, I’m deriving formulas, not doing arithmetic.” He said, “Second, yes, if I was to put this formula in a calculator and then give it some data, it would take quite a few days for it to come up with an answer.”
“Then ‘The Terminator’ robot taking over the earth is false?”
“Of course. How can computers compete with the human brain?”
“What are you studying?”
“Particle physics. You?”
Then, this person didn’t come over to sit down. Instead, he actually lowered his head and proceeded to work on his formula.
It was my turn to be dumbfounded. Was he not the right person? This handsome person didn’t look a bit like Emma.
“Excuse me, are you Eason (Ai Song)?” [Emma’s Chinese name is Ai Ma. Same surname]
I, then, cautiously asked, “Excuse me, did you come here for…”
“Yes.” He looked at his watch, “The time given to me was from 2:30 to 3. It’s now 3:10. So we’ve ended before we’ve started, right? My older sister said that you still had another one. I’ll leave it for him.”
“The next one is a woman.”
“Men and women are all made up of particles.”
My cell phone rang. It was Emma notifying me that Su Xin was busy and couldn’t come anymore. She’ll set it up for another day.
I hung up and said to him, “Your sister said that the next person has canceled. You have thirty minute now. If you want to talk, then hurry up. If you don’t want to talk, then both of us can leave. When you return, don’t forget to report to your sister that you didn’t take a fancy to me.”
“Please don’t misunderstand. It’s not that I didn’t take a fancy to you. I am just a resolute celibate.”
I was relieved. This person at least had manners and didn’t completely crush my self-esteem.
“Then why did you come today?”
“My sister forced me. My mom forced me. Let us take the marriage of unmarried youngsters in their late twenties as the main topic of this year.”
“Don’t say that. They are just concerned about you.”
“That’s what I am most bothered by. There’s always that group of people in this world who are afraid that the way you live your life is different from theirs. Didn’t Bertrand Russell say that being open minded was the source of happiness?”
I was a bit moved. A physics doctorate could also be concerned about the source of happiness. Student Li Chuan, where is your mind!
“Hey, how about this? someone is also forcing me. How about we pretend to date and help each other out? What do you say?”
He laughed. His laugh was innocent, like the little brother next door, “Alright! Do you have a cell number?”
We exchanged numbers and even finished our coffees together. It was pouring outside. I asked Eason how he got there. He said that he rode his bicycle and planned to sit there and wait until the rain stopped. I took my leave first. I went out to take a taxi.
The cafe was by the main street, but the rain was pouring hard and I stood there waving my hand for a long time. No taxi stopped.
After approximately ten minutes, a car suddenly stopped in front of me, blocking me. I walked past the car, walking forward and continued to wave my hand for a taxi. And then I heard someone call my name. I turned to see Li Chuan braving the rain to beckon at me.