After getting back to Beijing, I only received one call from Li Chuan. It was only a few minutes long, asking if I had gotten back safe and sound. Afterwards, I never received a call from Li Chuan again. I didn’t call to look for him either.
I still missed him, but had no alternative. I could only go with the flow.
Coming back from Switzerland, I suddenly accepted the entire situation. Li Chuan’s life was very important. My own life was also very important.
In short, I wanted to live a rich life and not be a walking corpse.
I started “small intervals” again.
I resumed going to “vegetarian” activities once a week and learning how to make vegetarian food. I went online everyday and printed out various recipes, bought vegetables according to the recipe and made them. For the ones I thought tasted good, I would bring them to the others and recommend it to them. The best advantage to participating in this kind of society was that you could meet some people. Because these people had the same interest, they were not interested in your personal life and wouldn’t inadvertently contact you during other times. In other words, these people were like online friends. They only exist when you run into them. The time outside of that was zero.
Another month passed away without notice. Eason quietly entered into my life.
When I became aware of this, it was already too late.
For example, I danced Cha Cha three times a week, each time for an hour. Eason was my dancing partner. Under Instructor Ding’s guidance, the two of us matched harmoniously and progressed with lightning speed. We became the model dancers for the students in the class.
Latin dance rhythm was multivariate, coupling strength and gentleness, using subtle movements to create a passionate dance. When dancing, I would forget everything. The music pounded out a blank space in my mind for excitement. Then, I would start to imagine Li Chuan as my competitor with a tantalizing expression on his face. I laughed charmingly and danced in enchantment. After dancing, I would forget everything.
Eason was a cute guy. But he wasn’t my type. He wasn’t like Li Chuan and didn’t have the word “romantic” in his bones.
For example, one evening, I ran into Eason at the entrance of the gym. I had just said, “Today’s sunset is really beautiful” before he corrected me like this, “Mmm…considering it from the physics angle, there actually aren’t sunrises and sunsets….they are just illusions created by the rotation of the earth.”
After hearing this, I could only stare blankly. My good mood from the entire day disappeared.
And then he handed me a slender cardboard tube, “I made this telescope. You can see the moon from it. It’s for you.”
I took the heavy tube and looked over it, “You can make it yourself? Where did you buy the lens?”
“I ground it myself.”
“You…ground it yourself? Where was the glass from?”
“Discarded eyeglass lens, bottom of glass bottles, light bulbs. Grind with thin sandpaper and then polish with toothpaste.”
He was quite patient. But even an idiot knew how long it took to make it.
And then, I became a bit nervous, “Then…you giving me this, doesn’t have a meaning behind it, right?”
“No, I’ve stepped on your feet too many times this week. Consider it a small compensation. It was also an opportunity to work on general science things.” He had his head lowered, looking at the floor.
I grinned, “Then I will not refuse this impolitely and will unashamedly accept it.”
“Don’t mention it.”
The following three weeks, in order to earn extra income, I took on an urgently needed translation booklet. So I didn’t go to Latin dance glass. When she got to the company, Emma came up to me and said, “Hey, my little brother asked me to ask you why you haven’t gone to the gym?”
“I picked up some work, been working on translating everyday at home.”
“This Ph.D in my family has never been so proactive before. He’s cycling three times a week through half the city to come see you.”
“Ming Ming said that she called you to ask something and you didn’t pick up. Your home doesn’t have an answering machine either. There a few men who she wanted to introduce to you. Did you want to see them?”
“Ah…this…mmm not for the time being. I’m too busy recently, we’ll see next time.”
This colleague relationship is really hard to handle. You can’t not praise them for their enthusiasm and you definitely can’t ignore them. Plus, I wasn’t that old. Twenty four isn’t considered a “leftover woman” yet, right? Emma hadn’t even gotten married yet. Why was she persistently pressuring me?
This time, Emma cupped my face in her hands. With her eyelashes nearly brushing my forehead, she said, “Xiao Qiu, listen to your older sister. Hurry and choose one while you’re young. This opportunity won’t always be there (lit. Once you pass this village, this store won’t be there anymore.) Your older sister is teaching you a lesson right now!”
“It’s not that worrisome yet, right Emma Jie?”
“Since you refuse to go to my home, my mom knows that you two aren’t serious. She found a few more for my brother. You should step up! I know you were seeing a very wealthy person before. What’s so good about a wealthy person? They are ignorant of morals and their virtues are minimal. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to make all that money, right? He can give you money, but he can also give others money. He’ll have mistresses all over the place and you’ll be constantly worrying when you are with him. Go with a scholar like my younger brother who is so innocent and with promising prospects. Even though he isn’t very rich, he doesn’t lack in anything. Plus, he’s only got his eyes on you. Agree to get married and live together till a ripe old age. Isn’t that great? How about inviting him to the party this Friday? If you don’t invite him, I’ll invite him anyway as my family member. Ming Ming said that she was bringing two friends who both have good backgrounds, the type who are very picky. It’s either you’ll fall for them or they’ll fall for you. Psh, isn’t Ming Ming clearly mistaken? Our Xie Xiao Qiu isn’t an ordinary person.”
Could agree to get married be used like this? I’ll admit, I was a little dizzy from what Emma was saying.
When I returned to my office, I quickly gave Eason a call, “SOS! This Friday, our company has a huge party. There’s eating and drinking first and then dancing afterwards. Come and save me!”
On the other end, he unexpectedly hesitated, “I can’t. I have a student dissertation on Friday.”
“It’s six at night!”
“The debate is with Xie Shi Yan. Can you say I shouldn’t go?”
I bellowed, “Eason, last time when you wanted me to go, did I make excuses? Didn’t I collaborate with you quite well? Now it’s my turn, and you’re like this!”
He thought about it and said, “Okay, what requirements do you have?”
“You being here is enough! First, eat with me and then dance with me. A little intimately.”
“…How intimate? Kiss in public?”
“Yeah right, a kiss. Just follow my directions when you come.”
On Friday night, I drove to pick Eason up. Eason said that he couldn’t not participate with that Xie Shi Yan there, but he could leave early. When I went to pick him up, the party had already started. Eason had drank a little and his face was a bit red. But, I could tell he was trying hard to collaborate with me. He was dressed very formally with a pure black suit with a classical patterned tie. He appeared very natural and easy going, looking energetic and brave. I especially wore an embroidered shirt with a checkered short skirt, It didn’t actually match with the atmosphere of the evening party, but I was really reminiscent of my younger days. I thought very fondly of this checkered skirt.
The evening party was held in a restaurant. It was western-style food and a specialized chef had been invited from a restaurant to come and roast beef. The company purposely ordered a Ling Bao (buddhist) temple’s vegetarian dish for me. Eason and I appeared at the doorway of the lounge together. Everyone looked at us with a peculiar gaze. Only Emma made a “V” sign towards me from far away. We carried our plates to get food, following the crowd. Eason was like a fish in water, comfortable and at ease. Endless people came to talk to him and he introduced himself very smoothly, saying that he was friends with me. After saying ‘friends’, he would slightly smile mysteriously letting everyone understand what that ‘friends’ meant.
With Eason dealing with everything, I concentrated on eating vegetables, drinking, and chatting with other people. We had originally come late and dinner was soon over. Afterwards, it was dancing time.
Eason and I danced the first song, the slow type. Eason’s dancing was really not bad. He was very skilled at all types of dance. Afterwards, I was continuously invited by other colleagues. We quickly danced through the other fast dances. After the intermission ended, the music sounded once more. It was actually Cha Cha.
Eason said, “This, I must dance with you and let you see how much I’ve improved with the additional practice I’ve had in the past few weeks.”
“Then don’t blame me for stepping on your foot, because I won’t go easy on you this time.”
We went onto the dance floor and started dancing. Eason’s movements were very precise, even a little excessively bold. I was normally very low-key in these half work, half personal occasions. Unlike Emma, I never took the initiative to converse with the company’s executives and worm my way into being friends with them. It wasn’t because I knew that CGP was Li Chuan’s company that I didn’t care about the execs. Rather, I had always considered Li Chuan and I were in completely different industries. As a translator, I complied with my own rules and standards of conduct. I paid attention to maintaining my professional image. With Eason dancing like this, I felt a bit embarrassed and tried to constrain him. After two minutes, the rhythm became faster, Eason suddenly became radiant with enthusiasm and pushed and pulled me, incessantly saying, “(English) Come on!”
In the car, I had already smelled alcohol. When I asked Eason, he said that he had only drank a little. But now he was making a fool of himself. We kept on making mistakes. He said in my ear, “Xiao Qiu, you aren’t trying to fan dance with me are you?” I didn’t pay attention to him and only kept on just following him. The spectators on the side were all applauding.
Heavens, what song is this? Why was it this long!
Eason followed me closely and give it his all, begging and provoking me.
I thought about the elderly women dancing the fan dance in the parks when I went jogging in the mornings. In his eyes, I looked like that.
I went for it. Let’s dance.
I started swaying my hips also and brought out my performance moves from my school days. Seeing me finally becoming energetic, everyone’s applause suddenly became even louder.
We kept on dancing and then there was only the two of us left on the dance floor. Everyone else had stopped and had circled around us, clapping for us. The dj was also very cooperative. After the song finished once, he started it again without even half a second of pause.
I stepped with quick dance steps with everything moving quickly on the side. The multicolored lightly spilled down. In this absent-minded state, my sight crossed over the crowd and stopped in a distant corner.
I wasn’t positive, but there was someone sitting quietly over there.
That person quietly watched me with a concentrate gaze, full of grief. There was a faint smile on his face, beautiful yet desolate.
I immediately stopped breathing.
In that instant, I was run into by Eason, staggered, and nearly fell down.
Eason pulled me up and asked in a panic, “Are you alright?”
“I’m…alright.” I was in a panicked state and could barely follow the music. When I turned around to look, that person was already obstructed by the crowd. After another turn, I looked over once again past other people’s shoulders to the corner. The person had already disappeared.
I dropped Eason and gave chase. The elevator doors were already shut. Only the flashing numbers on the door were visible.
16, 15, 14…
When the elevator reached the ground floor, it will slowly climb back up. If there was someone in there, it would have a longer pause. I didn’t have patience and charged into the emergency stairwell, running down two three steps at a time.
Since I’ve been at CGP, there hadn’t been a fire alarm before and so I had never gone through this grey and marble, turning emergency staircase.
It was clear that someone swept it every day. The wooden handrails were spotless. When I first started, I was merely heading down at lightning speed, as if I was racing with the elevator. Later, I simply held onto the staircase with one hand and jumped down the couple more flights of stairs. This just so happens to prove the persevering exercise that I did in all these years. My agility was exceptionally nimble. I was still a bit careless. I wanted to jump more steps, but I didn’t stand firmly and “bang” hit my head on the wall, making me dizzy and blurry eyed. Stars circled around my head. I didn’t have time to care about this, I pulled open the heavy iron door and rushed out into the lobby, looking for that figure everywhere.
In front were only bright streetlights and cars going back and forth.
I stood on the steps and bent down at my waist in tiredness. I propped my arms on my knees and breathed deeply. Suddenly a sound came from behind me, “Hi, Xiao Qiu.”
That sound was like a bullet to my heart. My body suddenly started shaking.
I straightened my waist and turned around to see Li Chuan standing in the shadows.