Li Chuan’s Past (沥川往事) : Chapter 41 8


zurich

CHAPTER 41

30 minutes later, Li Chuan actually did appear in the airport. He sat on a exquisite, lightweight wheelchair and was about to come in through the automatic doors.

There were countless men wearing suits sitting and walking in the airport. But I could recognize Li Chuan the second he appeared. At the same time, a famous saying by poet Ezra Pound flashed through my mind:
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

As far as I’m concerned, Li Chuan was the only ray of light in the midst of the black bough crowd. I was unable to take my eyes off of him. The waves of my heart rose as if it was a tide. I both loved and hated him. How many days had we not seen each other? It must have been 80 days! Every time we separated, it was always for a long time. Long enough for his looks to be forgotten. Long enough for all hate to fade away. All wounds were healed. In a flash, it all became love.

Li Chuan still attracted that sort of attention, so as he went, all the passer-bys glanced at him. He was wearing a casual suit. His hair was lifted up by gel. Against his distinct eyebrows, he was even more enchanting.

Probably due to the doctor prohibiting him, Li Chuan wasn’t wearing his prosthetic leg. As soon as he entered, an airport service lady rapiding headed towards him, asking him, in a low voice, whether he needed assistance. Li Chuan shook his head slightly. His gaze swept in front of him and saw me. HIs face suddenly became grave and stern without a trace of a smile.

“Hi! Li Chuan!” I picked up my suitcase and rushed over to him.

When I got to him, I suddenly stopped and stood an arm’s length away from him.

He had ignored me for four weeks. I didn’t know whether he was still angry or not. I definitely made him upset by coming so unexpectedly. Seeing each other under these circumstances, what type of etiquette is more fitting?

Hug? Or shake hands?

As I was hesitating, Li Chuan stood up and stretched out his arms towards me, “Come here, you rash girl. Welcome to Zurich.”

I threw myself into his embrace. Li Chuan hugged me tightly, the stubble on his lower jaw pricking my face. I cupped his thin face, giggling, “I’ve never seen you grow a beard.”

“I was afraid I couldn’t pick you up. Didn’t have time to shave.” He embraced me again, hugging me tightly. I could barely breathe. At the same time, I couldn’t figure out whether he had to hug me because he couldn’t stand steadily or whether he just wanted to hug me. In any case, nearly one third of his weight pushed down on my body. I had my arms around his waist, motionlessly supporting him.

Li Chuan was too heavy. He had lost a lot of weight. But he looked like he had a lot of energy. It was just that his movements were not as quick as when he was healthy. It was strenuous to even stand up. A hospital band was still on his wrist.

As I looked him over, my heart ached.

“You took the flight that arrived at 6:10 in the morning?” He sat back down into the wheelchair and asked me.

“Uh-huh.”

“Then, you’ve waited here for a whole seven hours?”

“It hasn’t been that long, right…”

“Are you hungry?”

“I ate a sandwich.”

“Not bad, haven’t become a complete idiot.”

He took me out of the airport. The car was parked by the curb. A chauffeur-like foreigner said something in German to me. Li Chuan introduced him, “This is my grandfather’s chauffeur, Fehn. He just greeted you.” I replied in English. The chauffeur evidently understood me and smiled at me quite shyly.

Li Chuan opened the car door, reached out his hand to prevent my head from hitting the top and got me into the car. Right after, he followed and sat in. Fehn folded up the wheelchair and placed it into the trunk. I found the seatbelt and Li Chuan took it from me, saying, “I’ll do it.” With one hand on the car’s armrest, he buckled it for me with his other hand. I watched him being busy while in a daze.

Li Chuan was still such a gentleman despite being so think.

The inside of the car was very spacious. Li Chuan’s sole, long, leg could actually be straightened out.

I was a little embarrassed and was too embarrassed to speak. Inside, I was a bit regretful of giving Li Chuan a call and getting him to come from the hospital. If his family knew, who knows how they will blame me.

Seeing that I wasn’t speaking a word, Li Chuan turned sideways towards me, “Are you tired from waiting in the airport for so long?”

“No.”

“Why didn’t you call me earlier?”

“I…inadvertently troubled you. I was waiting for René the entire time.” Afraid that he wouldn’t believe me, I fished out a multi-colored bus ticket, “See, I even bought a sightseeing bus tour ticket.”

He took the ticket and examined it in this hands, “I’ve been here for so long, yet I never knew the tour bus ticket looked like this.”

“Don’t lose it, I still need to use it tomorrow.” I took the ticket back and placed it into my purse. I then fished out a piece of card and handed it to him, “My friend recommended a few hotels to me that are quite close to the airport. Can you take a look for me to see which one is good?”

He looked at the card and asked me, “What does ‘good’ mean?”

“Provides breakfast. Has a bathroom. Not costing more than 200 Swiss francs is the best. That’s right, what is the voltage here?”

“220 volts.”

“Thank heavens! I can safely turn on my computer.”

He smiled, “You’ve planned it out quite thoroughly. If I didn’t stop you, you would have toured Zurich for a day, right?”

“Emma has even toured Honduras by herself before.”

He suddenly took out a handkerchief, covered his mouth, and lightly coughed.

“Do you need water?” I took out a bottle of water passed out in the plane and stuffed it into his hands.

“No need, thanks.”

After awhile, he said, “Since you are already here, then you should stay longer.”

Anyone could hear that it wasn’t a very warm invitation. It was an indifferent tone, neither cold nor warm.

“I’ve already bought the return ticket returning to Beijing tomorrow afternoon.”

“You can change the ticket.”

“I must go back tomorrow, I have work that can’t be delayed.”

“You can’t change it?”

“Uh-huh.”

I didn’t know whether he exhaled in relaxation or sighed. He changed the topic, “Then don’t be a vegetarian for these two days, okay? The delicious things to eat here are not vegetarian. None of the vegetarian food doesn’t taste good, they’re not as good a Beijing’s vegetarian restaurants.”

“How do you know I love eating? I can’t like to do other things?”

I couldn’t help but admit that happiest time I spent together with Li Chuan was when we were cooking or perhaps when we went to restaurants. I loved eating and he loved eating. The two of us knew how to torment the chefs in the restaurants.

“You have two great loves. This is the easier one to satisfy. I want to satisfy you as much as possible.”

I turned to look at him feeling confused, “I have two great loves? How come I don’t know about this?”

He kept his gaze towards the front and had a smile that was also not a smile, “You are aware of it, but you just aren’t conscious of it.”

I stared at him blankly. I pondered it deeply, looked down, and discovered that my hands had unknowingly stealthily placed itself on his leg. Embarrassing…mad embarrassing. I really had a lustful habit. I promptly pulled my hand back.

“Do you know it now?”

“I thought that was an armrest.” A certain person said calmly without changing expression.

We got to downtown Zurich quickly. Li Chuan said something to the chauffeur who stopped the car. He took me out onto the street. There was a huge hotdog stand on the other side of the street. they were selling all kinds of hotdogs. The smoke from the grill dispersing in all directions, making one drool.

While waiting in the line leaning on crutches, Li Chuan said, “This restaurant is called Sternen Grill. I liked to eat here when I was a high school student. My dad said it wasn’t healthy, so I ate two a day in secret and refused to eat meals.”

There were many customers and there was a long sales counter. Several chefs in white bustled around. It only took two minutes of waiting in line before it was our turn. Li Chuan bought me a hotdog that was grilled to almost black and a bread roll. The chef wrapped it up in paper and handed it to me.

“Do you want mustard?” Li Chuan pointed to a cup of mustard on the stand on the side.

“Yes.”

He also bought me a beer. He took me slowly along the street back to where the car was parked.

The hotdog was fragrant and spicy. Truly not an ordinary delicious taste. Besides, I was hungry. By the time we got to the car and hadn’t even sat down properly yet, I had finished it all and licked my fingers, wanting more.

Receiving confirmation of his recommendation, Li Chuan smiled, quite pleased with himself, “Is that enough? Do you want more?…Looks like you really were hungry.”

“I’m full.” I patted my stomach happily and started drinking the beer. I was very satisfied, but was also very much at a loss trying to see where the car was going as it went south on a large street. There street was filled with shops on both sides such as department stores and cafes. At the end there was a huge lake. There was a dock on the side of the lake with boats. On both shores there were many white houses. The green hills in the lake were also sprinkled with various houses. There was forests and snowy mountains in the distance.

“Li Chuan, where are we going?”

“Going home.”

Going home. I heart lept. Who’s home? Li Chuan’s home?

Of course Li Chuan had his own residence in Zurich. It was just that, despite knowing Li Chuan for so long, he rarely talked about himself and rarely spoke of Zurich. Someone who wasn’t close to him would have thought that he had been abused as a child and had been left traumatized. In actuality, Li Chuan just didn’t make much conversation. Even when speaking with his brother on the phone, he would only speak for at most one minute. Plus, since I lost my parents, he tried to avoid this topic as much as possible so that I wouldn’t feel sad.

“You’ve already been discharged from the hospital?”

“No, I snuck out. Since you are here, it’s a rare opportunity. I can’t let you stay with me at the hospital.”

“I’m willing to stay with you at the hospital.” I looked at him in worry, “You aren’t completely healed yet. I don’t need you to expend energy to spend time with me, it’ll be very tiring.”

“It’s not tiring,” he said, “there’s the chauffeur for everything.”

The car proceeded towards the hills by the lake and stopped in a seRené courtyard surrounded by oak trees, facing a huge lawn. There were spring flowers on both sides, dense and in full bloom. The driveway passed through the lawn and lead to a two story white villa. The length of the first floor was nearly three times as long as the second floor. From afar, it would look like a huge L shape.

As expected, it was Li Chuan’s house. There were handicap platforms on both sides of the main doors. Li Chuan said a couple of things to Fehn and he drove off. I took my luggage and followed Li Chuan into the house.

The inside of the house was very modern with concise hues. There were layers upon layers of cupboards and doors. There were only a few essential furnishings. There were a few niches strewn randomly on the walls with artworks from various places placed in them. There were many from the East such as a Buddha, a blue and white porcelain jar, a bronze wine cup, a wooden carving…Every nook was spotless.

“This clean?” I couldn’t help but think of the black filth on the ceramic tiles of my own kitchen. They were already there when the landlord rented the place to me. I couldn’t scrub it off no matter wat. Li Chuan had mysophobia, but definitely wasn’t someone who would clean every single day. He had been in the hospital recently and the house must have been empty for a few months.

“Someone comes to clean every day.” He said, “I just have to sign a contract with a cleaning company.”

I nodded and said, “Did you design this house?” Li Chuan didn’t show off like this. He wouldn’t make a huge fuss on his own things.

“The inside was mainly designed by my brother, the bathroom and kitchen by my (older male) cousin, the second floor by my (maternal) grandmother, the garden by my (paternal) grandmother, and the swimming pool by my (paternal) grandfather. This L shape is my father’s masterpiece…He said that this makes it easy for others to find me.”


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