Girl of Fortune

The case study assignment for this week is about Box, a cloud sharing application. So I logged in my Box account and accidentally found this, something I wrote years ago. It was March 2011, during spring break, I was in Miami with my friend, lying on the beach and enjoying sun shine. I can’t remember why that brought me back to elementary school, with my best friend of that time, Tina. (this story happened in China)

Here’s the story.

————————————-

1.

The day I met my childhood friend Tina began with heavy snow. I went with my mom for Christmas shopping. We had parked the Buick Lacrosse at a parking lot down the street where we almost lost sight of the shopping mall.

Hours passed with no sign of time. The night came, but inside the mall it was bright and warm, made it harder for us to imagine the cold outside.

While waiting for mom outside the fitting room, I heard someone calling my name.

“Daniel,” a girl’s voice, “there you are.”

I looked up.

It was a girl about my age, though the heavy make-up made her more sophisticated. She was wearing the mall uniform and looking at me with perplexity. I wondered if I knew her.

2.

My dad turned to look at me.

It was a night in January, during those New Year family get-togethers. I was seventeen then. I knew my dad wanted my thoughts when he said how he wished he learned calligraphy back in high school, but never had the chance. Outside the window, the sky was clear, and moon shone brightly high above. Mom called for help in the kitchen. Neither of us moved. I tried to study the moon. The moon was huge for the size of a moon, I thought.

My dad knew he had me.

He always does.

I hate dad’s expectations on me, but I love to be his favorite child even more. I know this fact would either be my salvation or the reason why I am a nerd and can never get a date. I know I must do whatever he says. We both know what will happen next –

I looked directly into his eyes.

“Oh dad, I have always wanted to learn calligraphy.” I admitted.

That is where it all starts, doesn’t it? Those piano lessons, swimming trainings, language camps, after-school classes of math, science, chess and private tutoring – always keep one step ahead, my parents would say. I spent all those years meeting what they have expected.

3.

Since I learned how to read, I always sat in dad’s den, surrounded by bookshelves with books piled from the floor up to the ceiling. I spent most of my spare time sitting there and reading. My dad is not like other men around the neighborhood, at least not inwardly. They spent most of their everyday life complaining about work, murmuring about unfairness or soaking in alcohol. However, my dad, as early as I recall, in every snatched moment he always spent his time sunbathing and reading fat books, as last summer: one on the conflicts of the world civilizations, one a biography of Taiwan’s former president Chiang Ching-kuo, with his portrait on the cover. Whenever dad acquired new books, he would immediately stamp them with his name on the flyleaf. At first, I laughed at dad’s obsession with books secretly. Fewer people really care about books now. But later I too, had my own stamp, and stamped all my books once I had them. It started out as a pure imitation, and later turned into a true habit.

I inherited all dad’s habits; if not all, I don’t wear gloves when reading newspaper. However, sometimes I would wash my hands before reading a book. It made my friends uncomfortable.

I believe that is not what made me a solitary today, but it is what made me the kind of solitary I am. Nothing is more acceptable than what we are born into.

4.

A day later, I ran into the girl who recognized me at the mall.

Tina, that’s her name, and she used to live across the street. “We were friends back in the first grade.” She said.

In fact, we were friends since kindergarten, and we used to do everything together. We were both on sports teams, she played tennis, and I swam. Everything seemed wonderful, until one day her mom fled away from home with her tennis coach. Her dad then started drinking, and later imprisoned because of a bar fight. The absence of caretakers in her life eventually dragged her life to the street. We started out the same though; our parents had diverted our lives into different directions.

She started missing school frequently, and later withdrew officially without completing junior high. In order to make a living, she went out to look for jobs. What kind of job is she qualified for with a fifth-grade in reading, and a sixth-grade in math on her academic assessment? Or should she just find a man — any man — who can provide her the occasional ride to the jail 30 miles away? How, then, can she make a way out of this dead-end life?

She has no way out.

Later that day, I lay on the bed but could not fall asleep; thinking about Tina’s life and wondering what I was up to all those years. I had drifted through, ambitious, attentive and serious, worked hard and turned in good essays, passed all the exams and started the life I have today, the real life.

5.

Where have all the fathers and mothers gone? Once the fathers went to war and returned, if they did return. Yet still other fathers and mothers fled away, or went on business trips. Do they think about their children? What better things do they have to do? Why escaping the life they have is so essential that made them left? Or what else are they hiding?

I should ask my parents why they didn’t leave.

6.

Whenever I bleed, it is their blood I shed.

I felt gratitude for all those things my parents did for me.

When their friends flew all over the world for more fun, bought new cars, moved into million dollar villas uptown — how jealous am I over their material abundance. Dad and mom remained in our narrow apartment, kept on the moderate way of life – make plans, work hard and put money aside for my education – so we could get to where we are now. Mom once said, the more you learned the more money you would end up making. Mom used to get up every day at six, to prepare my breakfast, and wake me up on time.

Dad did say that he wanted me to be a doctor, and I did consider it, but probably only because I like Milan Kundera and Andy Warhol and dad liked Confucius and all those classics. In the end dad told me it was hopeless to take up something that wasn’t going to provide me with pleasure for the rest of my life. He was wise in early education.

Though no one has ever taught me the art of being alone, it has already become indispensable to me, as important as the Beatles, or as the kisses on my neck, or as good human nature. Herein, regardless of reading, writing, meditating or even wasting time, I can follow my thoughts and roam in the world of myself – I’m saying the kind of doing nothing but getting lost with deep pleasure. The pleasure I gained through reading is too private to speak of. It was probably inevitable that I grew up to be a solitary.

In earlier years, my dad too, got a high-paid job in Hong Kong that required him to stay there. He worked there for a while, but eventually returned home, because he did not want me to grow up without a father figure that I could look up to. To my parents, this is still the era that family is something you always choose without a doubt – Tina’s parents are one of those few exceptions, and Tina simply has bad luck.

We moved to a new neighborhood after I finished elementary school. My parents wanted it to come to an end, everything with Tina, and the life before. Did I wave at Tina when I was about to move away or did I fight against my parents will? I must have, of course, yet I couldn’t remember now. It is the same as everything else I’ve left behind.

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In between the birthdays

November 4th, 2011, I turned 21.

From 20 to 21, my life took off in a new direction. I am an adult at 21. I read 15 books, passed Japanese N1 test, learned Java, took Spanish classes, got my first job and rented my first apartment.

Five men came to my life and left. I have to learn this before turning 22, that sex should not be casual, and inviting other people to uncover you can be dangerous. But it is unlikely that I can learn it now; I have to make more mistakes.

One of the most brilliant entrepreneurs passed away – Steve Jobs, and on the same day part of my iPod screen died. From reading his biography excerpt, the one previewed on Times (I will read the whole fat book later), I knew that I am not done with learning. I like his imagination: its delicacy, its brutal creativity, its profundity, its power to transform the material invention into art.

Maybe the reason I insisted on not settling down is: I want to have time for the unexpected.

I know love is like finding your way through the dark; you have to get your hands dirty. If you hold back, nothing interesting happens. At the same time, you have to find the right distance between people. Too close, and they overwhelm you; too far and they abandon you. How to stay in the right distance?

Maybe that’s the problem between Louis and me.

———————————————

I thought about Juan once.

Juan smells of Burberry Weekend. This maybe the reason I still cannot let go of him; the top note of grapefruit fascinates me. I bought a bottle at the duty free store at Haneda, and took it with me – to remember. Since we separated late August, for a long time, how often I am sitting in a classroom or cafe, or at a restaurant with friends, and all I want is for him to walk in the door. I am under the impression that at that moment everything will be all right. No one else is as good as he is. There is so much I want to say. Our love is more important than everything else. Yet I am aware how susceptible to illusion we all are. How disturbing it is that our illusions are often our most important beliefs.

But that was last summer, unfortunately.

真夏の夜

他不知道自己为什么要邀请这个女人。

他:“您什么时候离开北京?”

“明天下午。”她力图用轻松的口气回答。

他建议去一家甜品店,那里有他喜欢的芒果黑糯米加冻椰汁,他说她会喜欢。

17:49

她来到门口,等待侍者过来招呼他们就坐。不过他拉着她直接走进甜品店,在一张空桌子前坐下。看着她有些惊讶的表情,他解释在这里是不必等待侍者,自己找座位的。

18:11

她:“最喜欢的歌?我现在喜欢Radiohead”

他(不大肯定):“有好多呢,让我想想…”

18:24

她:“您去过美国吗?”

他:“从来没有…您知道,我从出生就在西安,从没出过国,最远只到过香港度假。”

她:“您该去一次纽约。”

他:“也许很快就…”

18:35

他喜欢她的与众不同,好像来自另外一个世界。她讲话有时候会用错俗语,她笑起来眯着眼睛。

19:20

离开甜品店,她看着他把拎着的口袋从左手换到右手,又换回左手,就伸手去帮他拿。

“不用,这个不沉。”他彬彬有礼地说。

但他流露出来的表情恰是相反的意思。

“我要是觉得沉再还给您。”她拿过3个口袋中的一个。

另外,我觉得您真是光彩照人。

她讲起正在施工的Waldorf Astoria大酒店,他很感兴趣,请她带他去。他们跟着Google地图寻找路线。

此刻是19:40

太阳终于西沉。

当身边车辆飞驰而过时,她把一只手搭在了他的小臂上,挽着他一起过马路。后来即便走在人行道上,她也没有移开自己的手。

如果我刚才告诉她我有女朋友,她还会来拉我的手吗?他尽量不去想。

他感觉自己被形势左右了。

他抽走手去为她开门,然后又主动拉起她的手。

尽管他们都没有开口,可这像是一场无声的对话。

19:50

他建议他们去后海。“这里没有underage drinking”他说。

19:52

他们在乘地铁。

她:“我只认识您十几天,了解您几十分钟。”

他去亲她的脸,然后她的嘴唇。她小心翼翼地躲开。

其他乘客向他们投来责备的目光。

目前,一切都好。

可时间不会滞留太久。

20:17

幸好今天人不多,他们可以有一个不被别人打扰的座位。在他们右边是一览无余的后海夜景。

他们起初面对面坐下。

然后,他提议她坐到他这边来。

20:30

在烛光下,她注意到他脸颊两侧的酒窝,以及一双大眼睛。她不喜欢大眼睛。尽管如此,他其他地方都不错。他还讲西安的方言给她听。

她深吸了一口气。她心跳得更快了,可她真不希望这样。

20:43

沉默。

她喝了一口鸡尾酒。

他看着远处,琢磨着那个嘈杂的都会,那么远,又那么近。

告诉她。

现在告诉她真相。

告诉她stop,你有女朋友。

20:51

她:“最喜欢的冰淇淋?”

他:“哈根达斯…”

她(耸了耸肩):“呸…”

他:“您说什么更好?”

她:“Ben and Jerry’s”

他:“我认识一个您会喜欢的餐馆。那里有 西安的特色。”

她:“您在向我推销吗?”

他:“完全不是,这还是一家我喜欢的餐馆。”他开始列举自己喜欢的菜。

她:“求您别说了,我都快馋了。”

他:“我会告诉您地址的。”

我会带您去的。

21:12

这可能是个好人,但不是好时候。

21:25

她:“最近给您留下深刻印象的是什么,关于北京?”

他:“那天暴雨在北京见到海。您呢?”

她:“这儿,今夜,此时此刻与您在一起。”

他(高兴但没有被蒙骗):“真的吗…”

21:30

很长一段时间,他们默默地听着驻场歌手抑扬顿挫的演绎。她的嗓音随着音符时而任性,时而嘶哑。歌曲诉说着萌动的爱情和由幻灭,忧伤,死亡留下的痕迹。

21:45

“到此为止吧”,他告诫自己,他还没有天真到相信一见钟情。

这是一个危险的女人。她富有生活的才能,她眼睛里有曾经让他非常难过的一种真挚。

随后他想起他的朋友对他说的话。为什么不“和她上床呢?”这并不犯法,但他把这个念头从头脑里赶走了。

因为他还没有做好准备。当然过去的几个小时让他感觉轻松,惬意,充满活力。这会是一个来去匆匆的幻象。

21:58

此刻,他在尽最大努力掩饰自己的激情。

他喝完了他的Tequila,她咽下了最后一口Margarita

她最后一次看着他和他身后的万家灯火。她感觉在演出一场浪漫喜剧,这些喜剧通常都有幸福的结局。可是她知道这好景不长。

22:00

现在是重新脚踏实地,走出萍水相逢的幻象的时候了。

他看着她:“其实…其实我有女朋友了。”

她惋惜地看着他,松开他的手。“那么再见啦,带我向您那一位问好。”

“等一等…我觉得这样分手不好,如果你愿意遵守不打听关于我女朋友的任何事…”

两个人谁也不相信命运,他们只相信偶然性。偶然性空前绝后地在此刻帮了他们做出体面的选择。

无论如何,幸福不是这个样子的。

可这幸福又如此短暂。

22:12

“我很抱歉,今天这个夜晚以这种糟糕的方式结束。”

但是,没什么关系。因为她储存了这些偷来时刻的影像,并将在想起他的时候放映,就像人们永不厌倦的一部老电影。

因为,有时候几小时的幸福足以让我们忍受生活必然带来的幻灭和丑陋。

Floating Beijing

Outside the room, down on the street was the hustling traffic; and those pneumatic drills started to sound. The grand subway construction has been progressing for months, I wonder when it would come to an end. The leaves of those sycamores that leaned past the window ticked against the glass. The sudden pour of rain was like a halt to this city; and with the spacious ease and generosity, my heart fell asleep. We might have been in anywhere, somewhere else in Venice, Italy.

Inside a subway station
Floating cars
Floating cars
View from a skyscraper
View from a skyscraper
At about 11:06pm
At about 11:06pm
Traffic Jam
Traffic Jam
Rain drop
Rain drop

To My Melancholy Lover

After the goodbye: (Updated on May 7, 2011)

“Han is typing,” Google chat box told me, helpfully.

Somehow it liked a strategy game, a game of intimacy and distance, of ideal life and reality, of things we’ve experienced and the make believes. “Don’t you dare get hurt by this,” I muttered to myself. I knew too well the danger and helplessness of falling for someone more sophisticated and secular. They’d say they loved you, but they were always after something. I knew that from the start.

I just typed “Goodnight” to Han. Goodnight, goodbye and good luck.

Here I go again, making another resolution and trying to regain my confidence one more time.

——————————————————————————————————————-

Everyone who is interesting has a past.

The Glass Castle

You raised your head so I could look into your eyes and kiss you…

Continue reading “To My Melancholy Lover”

2010与2011之间

纯粹,不牵扯爱情,像是特别投机的路人的温暖 — 在这个冷冰冰,时刻有灾难降临,需要不停息地去填满孤独感的世界里,在茫茫人海中,随便两个人,都有可能相聚在同一屋檐下。

他的常常为所欲为让我困惑。

他问我有没有遇到过某个人,然后觉得“和她就这样过一辈子就很美,”我说没有。他没有再说下去,我们都沉默。好像这是全世界最伤心的事。

有的时候,一些人会遇见另一些人,相聚的契机或者并不高尚,大家也是毫无共同点的两种人,却会擦出无比闪亮的火花。这种遇见,往往不会一生一世,但在那一霎那,也绚烂美丽。就像这样,我同一个自己都不能理解的灵魂擦肩而过。

后来,当他说“她们都想见到我,那你呢?你想见到我吗,Daniel?”的时候,也许我明明很想,却不想当他面承认而没有说话。

也许我已经明白他和我是不同方向的,各自有得有失的命运。

Dan, please dream on.

后记:

上个星期六晚上,我的iPod里突然响起了Radiohead的歌,很好听。我从不知道自己有Radiohead的歌,于是我想到他,也许是他推荐给我的,或是他随便说过,我便留心记下来的。听着Radiohead我便想到要把和他的故事记下来,于是有了这一篇。