Li Chuan’s grandpa! My heart stopped beating for five seconds.
“I’m Annie, Li Chuan’s colleague from China.”
“Oh!” the old man was delighted and spoke in Chinese instead, “You came from China?!”
“Yeah, it’s my first time in Switzerland,” I answered politely.
“When did you arrive?”
“Not long ago.”
“Mm,” the old man said, “Li Chuan is too ill-mannered. How can he be sleeping when there’s a guest here? I’ll take care of you in his place. Annie, what would you like to drink? Li Chuan should have some great tea and coffee here.” The old man probably didn’t want to leave Eleanor out since she didn’t understand Chinese, so he spoke in English again.
“Mr. Wang, it’s okay. I’ve already had a drink.”
“Eleanor, why don’t you give him intravenous drip now while he’s sleeping?” the old man said to the pretty woman, “Is it possible to make it faster so he has some time with his guest?”
It turned out that she was Li Chuan’s nurse; surely enough, she was wearing a nurse uniform when she took off her coat.
“No, Mr. Wang,” the nurse replied in English inarticulately, “Alex’s heart and lungs aren’t well. Not only can we not speed up the intravenous process, we must take it slow and be very cautious. He can only lie on his bed for the rest of the night.”
The old man frowned, “How long will it take?”
“There are a total of two bottles. It’ll take about ten hours.”
“Alright. Please be gentle so that you don’t wake him up. If he wakes up, he’ll come after me.” The old man winked and smiled apologetically at me.
The nurse carried her medical case and walked quietly upstairs.
The old man turned towards me and said in Chinese, “Young lady, which branch office in China are you from?”
“I’m from Beijing.”
“Which is your job? Interior design? Garden design? Exterior design?”
“Mr. Wang, I am Li Chuan’s translator.”
“Oh, Li Chuan’s translator. Your surname is Zhu, right?”
“You’re referring to Miss Zhu Bi Xuan? She went to America and got married. I am Li Chuan’s new translator.”
“Sigh,” he sighed, “this child…He said he would not work while he was sick, yet he asked his translator to come?”
“Please don’t misunderstand him. I’m only here to tour around on my vacation. I will be leaving tomorrow,” I quickly explained. I regretted dressing too casually: a t-shirt, a pair of denim shorts, and bare feet. I was also too relaxed staying at my “boss’s’” home, which clearly seemed suspicious.
“Li Chuan picked you up at the airport?” he asked.
He indeed became suspicious of me; there was obviously another meaning behind his words. Just as I was thinking of how to reply to him, Eleanor came walking down the stairs looking depressed.
The old man immediately asked, “What’s wrong? What happened?”
“I had just finished hanging the bottle, disinfected the area, and was about to put the needle in when Mr. Li Chuan….woke up,” she said with her voice shaking, “He was very mad and wouldn’t let me put the needle in. He said he had already signed the acknowledgement papers. And also said that if I insisted in doing so, he would sue my hospital.”
The old man stood up, banged his cane against the floor, and shouted towards the stairs, “Wang Li Chuan, you come down here right now!”
I couldn’t believe that an elegant old man like him would have such a loud voice when he was angry.
A minute later, Li Chuan appeared at the top of the staircase.
“Grandpa,” he slowly walked down with his cane and stopped in front of the old man, “I have a guest today. Can’t you give me one day?”
“You must receive your intravenous drip today,” the old man wouldn’t back down, “Whatever the guest wants to do, I’ll make the arrangement. I guarantee that she’ll be satisfied.”
“We’re going out tonight. She hasn’t had dinner yet.”
“I’m—I’m not hungry at all,” I said quickly.
Li Chuan glared at me.
“What would you like to eat? Western food? Chinese food? I’ll call our chef and tell him to come cook it for you.”
“Grandpa, I already told dad that I would go back to the hospital tomorrow night. Why do you have to force me?”
“I’m not trying to be difficult. Dr. Herman called me and said you have to take your intravenous drip today.”
“(English) No.” Li Chuan grabbed my hand and walked to the front door to get his car keys.
“Li Chuan! You stop right there!”
“Grandpa,” Li Chuan turned around and said slowly, “I have to go out today. Don’t stop me.”
The air felt so stuffed as if liquid would drip from it.
The old man didn’t move and stared at Li Chuan angrily, “You’re not allowed to go anywhere today. You’d better be good and stay home for me!”
Li Chuan opened his mouth, but couldn’t say a word. After a moment of silence, he suddenly said to me quietly, “Xiao Qiu, please wait for me upstairs. I need to have a chat with my grandpa.”
I looked at him nervously and then walked softly upstairs. I sat down in Li Chuan’s bedroom. Ten minutes later, Li Chuan came up and called me, “Xiao Qiu, change into your flowery dress, we’re going out for a big dinner.”
“What about your grandpa?” I asked while feeling shocked, “Wouldn’t that make your grandpa mad?”
“He left already.”
“How…How about your nurse then?”
“She also left already.”
“What did you say to your grandpa? How come he agreed to let you go out?”
“You don’t need to worry about that,” Li Chuan said, “I have many tricks to deal with him.”
“If you want to go out, go out yourself. I’m not going anywhere,” I silently sat on his bed.
“Come on, Xiao Qiu.”
Li Chuan dragged me to the dressing room. Seeing how I wouldn’t move, he helped me change my clothes. He snipped off the tags using scissors, and put the flowery dress that he bought this afternoon on me. He even picked out a strapless bra for me. Since I refused to cooperate, he sat down and helped me change into a pair of high heels. He then used a large comb to comb my hair, applied some mousse, and tied a high ponytail on my head. I was amused by him treating me so solemnly.
“Do I look pretty?” I posed and asked him.
“As long as the person is pretty, she’ll look pretty in anything,” he smiled.
I looked at him and realized that he was still wearing his t-shirt from the afternoon, so I asked, “What about you?”
“Wait outside for me, I’ll be done changing immediately.”
Not long after, Li Chuan appeared in front of me again in his changed clothes. He was wearing a pure white linen shirt, dark grey casual pants that were ironed neatly, and his prosthetic leg. A light scent spread from his body. He was very casual and very aristocratic at the same time.
I sighed in my heart. Li Chuan must have been bored out of his mind after lying in his bed for several months. I caressed his waist and asked, “Will it make you tired walking with it? When you don’t want to continue anymore, we can come back early.” Li Chuan would only wear his prosthetic leg when he was in his best state. He usually used a cane at home, and used a wheelchair when his health was bad.
“It’s not tiring. I had a beautiful sleep in the afternoon accompanied with someone’s massaging service.” He patted my face, “Therefore, I’m fully rested.”
“Do you know that there are forty-three voice messages on the phone you left by the bedside?”
“I shut off the ringer. It was too noisy.”
“Maybe it’s something urgent. Do you want to check them first before leaving?”
“No. It’s rare to have some free time. Moreover, I’ve already submitted all my sketches.”
“Okay, I’ll go out with you, but, we must come back early so that you can take your intravenous drip.”
“Don’t ruin the mood. I will not take any intravenous drips tonight.”
He pulled me up from the sofa and pointed outside the window, “Do you see? It’s a full moon today. The flowers have bloomed under the beautiful full moon. Everything is wonderful and luck will be with us. Do you remember the story you told me about the monk?”
“Master Wenyan,” he tapped my nose, “One day, Master Wenyan asked the assembly, ‘I am not asking you about the days before the fifteenth of the month. But what about after the fifteenth? Come and give me a word about those days.’ The assembly said they did not know, so Master Wenyan answered for them, ‘Every day is a good day.’” [famous koan from Yunmen Wenyan]
“Every day is a good day…” I murmured — it was a story that I told Li Chuan six years ago. I had long forgotten it already.
“Therefore, we must go have fun and not waste time.”
Every day is a good day. I repeated the words in my heart. I looked at Li Chuan in silence.
From spring flowers to the autumn moon, from summer wind to winter snow, I missed out on many festivities during my hardest times.
I felt enlightened all of a sudden. I fetched for my lipstick and eye shadow from my bag and smiled at him, “Okay, let me put on some makeup first.” Li Chuan nodded and sat in front of the window to wait for me.
The lights shined and reflected on the water surface with the stars. It was as if both the lights and starlights congregated in his eyes.
I thought to myself that if Li Chuan really left while he was with me, he would be happy, and I would be satisfied; perhaps that would be the best outcome.
Li Chuan drove us to the restaurant, Kunststuben, which was known to have the best tasting dishes in Zurich. But to me, the best tasting dishes in the world was my very own stir-fry Spicy Fillet because even Li Chuan loved eating it despite him not being able to eat spicy. He even asked me to cook it for him to pack it for lunch two times.
We started with the appetizers at Kunststuben, then had soup, the entree, dessert, and fruits. They came one by one until we had our after-dinner coffees. It was a pity that I was the one who stuffed everything into my mouth from start to finish; Li Chuan ate only a bit of salad and went to the washroom midway as it probably caused him to have a stomachache. He didn’t touch his food afterwards and only chatted with me from across the table..
We went to a bar after dinner. I was getting drunk while Li Chuan accompanied me by having apple juice soda. After we finished watching a local singer perform, Li Chuan insisted on bringing me to the nightclub next door. He said he had never seen me dance before and wanted to see it. I took out my many years of experience in dancing at nightclubs and did a disco dance for him. I was elated and energetic. Li Chuan sat on the side and clapped. Half an hour later, slow music suddenly came on. I pulled Li Chuan to the dance floor and slow danced with him. Li Chuan’s leg couldn’t move well and he couldn’t hold his cane while dancing; so we disregarded the tempo, embraced each other, took tiny steps, and moved slowly with the music.
Under the scattered lighting, Li Chuan was actually blushing, which was rare. I often stepped on him as we were moving slow and it was hard to avoid it. I was worried that he would feel tired, so I kept asking to go home. But Li Chuan held onto me and we danced a couple more songs until disco music came on again. We were a little reluctant to leave at that point.
It was already 3am when we got home. We took a shower and changed into our pajamas. Li Chuan was still reminiscing on the slow dance.
“Stop dancing. Why don’t I sing you a song then?” I pressed him down onto the sofa.
“What song? I have a guitar, I can play as an accompaniment.” He fetched a Spanish Guitar from the room beside us.
“The one that I often sing, that classic hit song.”
“Oh……no,” he groaned, “please sing another one, I beg you.”
“No, it’s my best, so I have to sing it!”
“Wait, let me think about what melody it is.”
“I’m going to sing then. If you’re willing to play the guitar, then play it. If you don’t want to, I’ll just sing it without any music.”
I cleared my throat, grabbed a tube of toothpaste from the bathroom, and stretched my vocal cords:
“My passion is like fire,
burning the desert.
Even the sun would hide when it sees me,
afraid of my flames of love.
The desert will never be lonely as long as I’m here.
The spring flowers will blossom everywhere!
I sing aloud, while you sing softly in harmony.
We engulf ourselves in the atmosphere of love in the desert!” [Song]
Li Chuan was frowning throughout the whole song as he endured his impatience and finished playing. He forbade me from singing the second verse, saying that he would go deaf from it. Instead, he played his favorite part of “Hotel California.” He explained that it was his repertoire and that the way he played the intro was comparable to Eagles. Li Chuan’s voice was very pleasant to listen to; it was soft yet firm; it could go high and low in pitch. I was getting a little worked up, so I sang along deliberately. Every phrase he sang, I would do adlib at the chorus: “[English] This could be heaven or this could be hell!” When we got to the end of the song, I forced him to play the bridge again and start over from the second verse so that I could sing a solo in an opera voice:
“[English] Her mind is tiffany-twisted, she got the mercedes bends
She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys, that she calls friends
How they dance in the courtyard, sweet summer sweat
Some dance to remember, some dance to forget”
Because the word “dance” appeared in the last phrase, Li Chuan pulled me to stand up and wanted to dance again. In my mind, Li Chuan was rarely this enthusiastic. I couldn’t turn him down, so I went downstairs to find a CD, turned on the stereo, and played the dance music.
I held onto Li Chuan’s waist and let him wrap his arms around me. We moved with the music; his one and only long and slender leg moved following my footsteps.
“Like this, one back, one forward. One step, two steps, three steps, and lean over. One more time…”
“That easy?” he said, “Teach me something harder. Aren’t there twirls?”
I was going crazy, “What if we fall?”
“We’ll just get back up and continue.”
“No, we must go slowly. Let’s get the basics down first.”
I thought Li Chuan, who was hanging over my body, would be very heavy. But he was very light, weightless like a blob of fog.
“Li Chuan, you’re too light. You need to eat more,” I said in sadness.
“I’m sorry to hang onto you like you’re my cane. Are you tired?”
“No, it’s good that you enjoy it,” I said softly.
He lowered his head. We were both in barefeet, but our legs were tangled together. This time round, he was the one who kept stepping on me.
“Ow! Li Chuan, you keep stepping on me! You’re doing it on purpose, aren’t you?”
“Your feet is soft and boneless-like. It’s quite comfortable stepping on it……” he smirked.
“Let me step on you then! I’ll step on you!”
“Ow, ow, you’re using two feet to step on one. Even if you take turns, that’s too much.”
“I’ll kick you too.”
“I’ll dodge. Give me a piggyback ride.” He put all his weight on me.
We fell to the floor. Just as I was about to get up, he pressed me down:
“Xiao Qiu, let’s have some more peak experiences……You said this afternoon that you wanted to go at it again tonight, didn’t you?”
I slept until 10am. When I woke up, Li Chuan was still sleeping.
My flight was at 1:30pm, which I needed to go to the airport three hours early to check in and be ready to board the plane. I took a shower, changed my clothes, and found the leftover sweets in the fridge from last night and ate it for breakfast. The bedroom floor was a mess; grapes, honey, candles, wine, and pillows spread across everywhere…..which were all evidence of our frolicking last night. I quietly cleaned up everything and then went downstairs to pack my luggage.
The doorbell rang.
It was Li Chuan’s grandpa and a middle-aged nurse.
“Good morning!” the old man said politely.
“Is Li Chuan there?”
“He hasn’t woken up yet,” I said softly, “and he’s still deep asleep. It will definitely not be a problem to give him his intravenous drip now.”
He became suspicious of what I had just said, “You two are not going out today?”
“My flight is at 1pm. I’m heading to the airport right now.”
“Mm…” he examined me while deep in his thoughts. He suddenly asked, “Young lady, have you been here before?”
“How come it feels like I’ve seen you somewhere before?”
I smiled lightly, “That can’t be.”
“It’s unfortunate that Li Chuan is sick, otherwise, he would have definitely entertained you well.”
The old man clearly knew that our relationship was more than just friends. He said apologetically, “We’ll give him a tranquilizer first while he’s still asleep, therefore, I’m afraid you won’t have a chance to say goodbye to him.”
“It’s okay. Treating his illness is more important. I also hope that he’ll get well soon.”
“Has Li Chuan arranged a car for you then?”
“It’s okay, I can just take a cab.”
“How can I let you do that?” he said, “I will ask my driver to take you.”
Under Li Chuan’s grandpa persistence, his driver Fehn drove me to the airport.
After I checked-in, there was only an hour left until it was time to board the plane. I sat in the waiting area with my earphones on, watching the enormous plane crafts outside the window.
There was no sadness, and no happiness. My mind was completely blank. I could only remember the one thing that Li Chuan said to me:
Every day is a good day.