Chinese Stories in English
1. Me and Officials by Han Han (Essay, ♥♥♥)
2. Their Son Sleeps Between Them by Zhang Weiming (Sentimental, ♥♥♥♥)
3. You Did the Right Thing by Zhao Xin (Humor, ♥♥♥)
4. A Questionnaire for Hubby by Peng Pei (Humor, ♥♥♥)
5. Wanting Love by Wang Shuo (Romance, ♥♥)
1. Me and Officials (我和官员的故事)
Han Han (韩寒)
[The author is a rally race car driver, novelist, singer, and reputedly China's most popular blogger. Fannyi is tempted to add "tightrope walker" to his list of talents. Paragraph No. 11, below, was in the author's blog but was not reprinted in the book.]
Following on the previous period when public officials considered microblogging to be a QQ [instant message service], a suspected civil servant yesterday used his blog as a notepad. He wrote a lot of things about myriad facets of officialdom and about commonplace occurrences that the people take great delight in hearing about. I certainly wouldn't jump to conclusions as to whether this was a literary effort or a diary made public by happenstance.
I enter competitions in various places around the country, so it's inevitable that I come into contact with some local officials. My impression is that some of them are OK and some are not.
Today I'm going to debunk some of the fantastic anecdotes from recent years about dealings with officials. I have disguised the crucial times and places. It would do no harm if everyone were to see these accounts as fictional.
1: In 2008, a leader of a certain district in Shanghai found me through a roundabout trail of personal relationships. He asked if I could help him with a series of lectures for literary celebrities to be held in his district. The budget was in five figures. I said it wouldn't be appropriate for me. He said, "Oh, you're mistaken. We'd like you to use your pull to contact [best-selling author] Professor Yu Qiuyu. You're both writers, so you must know him."
2: In 200X, I attended an auto rally in a prefecture-level city somewhere in the southern part of the country. The government had organized a banquet to welcome the competitors and the organizing committee strongly suggested that I attend. Since I've made a bit of a name for myself, I was seated at the main table. I chose a place, feeling that the table was no smaller than center circle of a soccer field. I was concerned that if they put a dish in the center I'd have to crawl up onto the table to get my chopsticks in it, and wondered if I should let the leaders climb up first when the time came.
Perplexed, I looked around and noticed that all the officials at the table were looking at me with strange expressions on their faces, like they wanted to say something but couldn't bring themselves to do it. We sat there staring at each other until a guy who looked like a secretary, obviously embarrassed, came over and whispered in my ear, "Comrade Racer Han, I'm really sorry, but you're sitting in the mayor's place."
3: The mayor and I exchanged pleasantries after he came in and took his seat. Suddenly he raised his voice and said, "I hear you're a writer. I hope you can help us here in S__ promote our city. We've made rapid progress in the assumption of a spirit of civility and in the reconstruction of the city in the last few years."
The others at the table picked up the tune right away. "Right, right, right," they said, "especially since the mayor took office."
"Your office building is the most impressive," I said, "along with this hotel. Otherwise I might write an article singing your praises." I felt I was being a bit rude as soon as I finished saying it. Unexpectedly everyone at the table exclaimed, "Good."
4: During a competition in a certain place, a local civil servant took me to the conference center for a pre-race press conference. "You've got some beautiful trees here in your government compound," I said.
"Of course," he answered proudly. "This one cost...."
5: I gave a lecture in 2010. The official who invited me is relatively enlightened. He likes art, and is a nice person, too. He also invited several other friends, outspoken people whom I really appreciate.
When I took the podium I said, "What I'm going to talk about today is, 'Cities, They Mess up Our Lives'...." When I finished I phoned my friend, who was watching the live video broadcast. "How'd I do?" I asked.
"They cut to commercials right after your first sentence," he said, and you never came back on. But to be fair, except for all the stress in our lives, and the cultural restrictions, as far as public safety and the environment and other things go, Shanghai isn't bad city for China."
6: At a competition in a certain county in north China, the Fleet arranged for me to have dinner with some officials. I overheard a toast being given at the next table. The fellow being toasted, a friend of mine in the Fleet, made the excuse that he would be driving shortly, and it wouldn't be good for him if he were caught drunk driving.
An official said, "Don't worry, it absolutely won't be a problem. The man toasting you is with the Traffic Police Division. After you've eaten we'll arrange a session in the sauna, get you relaxed for the competition, eh? Don't be so polite, come on, we'll have the chief of our Public Security Committee arrange everything for you. He knows where the good places are."
7: The secretary of a certain leader in G__ County contacted me through the email address posted on my blog. He claimed that the county leader was simultaneously an entrepreneur. He'd be willing to pay a princely sum to have me help him write his biography, relating his glorious political accomplishments.
8: A leader of a prefecture-level city in a certain area of the southwest found me through a sports reporter covering auto racing circles. Similarly, he wanted me to write a book complaining about his experiences in, and relating his perceptions of, [the Communist Party's campaign] Building a Spirit of Civility. His proposal was that we'd split the royalties fifty-fifty.
9: My friend Z has a business dealing in cultural items. Once he applied for a Cultural Support Grant and asked me for an autographed book to send to the person responsible for examining and approving the applications. As it turned out, he wasn't selected.
I'd read his proposal and it was quite well written. Try as we might, we couldn't think of what went wrong. Later another friend said to me, "You two dumb cunts, did you really only give him a book? Without sticking anything between the pages?"
10: A friend's father is the mayor of a certain town. The default home page on the computer in his office is their official government website. On the bottom of the page are a bunch of links to the websites of departments with various functions, such as the Economic Commission, the Technology Commission, the Civil Administration, etc.
He spent several months surfing through these pages that hadn't been updated in an eternity, and concluded with some satisfaction that the influence of the internet on officials is not as frightening as those in the outside world had been saying. Until one day somebody gave him some pointers and he ended up finding a portal.... So I think it's not surprising when officials treat microblogging like QQ messaging.
11: I once saw a news report about the mayor of a certain city being bitten by a dog, and his subordinates thereafter ordering that all dogs in the city be killed. As a dog lover, I felt this was grievously absurd, so without further ado I republished the report on my blog. Two years later, out of the blue I got a phone call from some unknown Public Security organ, informing me that I was required to delete the essay for a certain day, month and year. I asked what essay that was and they said, in righteous words carefully enunciated, just that essay "Comrade XXX Bitten by Dog."
"Is it because the mayor bitten by the dog has been promoted?" I asked.
Complete silence on their end. I said, "Deleting it isn't a big deal, but you guys sent out the cops way too late."
I thought about these things for a while, but while I was writing I worried whether I wasn't being a bit unkind. Then I thought again, officialdom is cast in iron, but officials are an ever-flowing stream. These things happened years ago and I don't know where those officials have gotten to now. Promoted, demoted, or transplanted somewhere like a North Korean rocket, who knows? It's their game, and they have their own rules for survival, sometimes soul-stirring, surging forward with great momentum; or sometimes driven to distraction, making the same mistakes again and again.
As for the rest of us, if we see a good one we'll hold on with both hands for the duration, and if we meet a bad one we'll freeze him out, or if we run into a silly one we'll have some laughs until he ruins himself. That's the way it's got to be.
2012 Annual Humorous Writings of China, from Comedy World Magazine, Ding Si, Ed., p. 223
Translated version from http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_4701280b0102e4c3.html
2. Their Son Sleeps Between Them (儿子睡中间)
by Zhang Weiming (张卫明)
Little Yu stubbornly shook his head and stared at his mother with all the discernment of a child half way through kindergarten.
Still, she spoke nicely to persuade him: "Yu, my child, be a good boy, your Daddy's only home half the night. If you sleep in the middle, what'll happen when you keep kicking him?"
"I'll keep my feet still." Little Yu didn't move from the middle of the bed. "Daddy's always gone," he said with tears in his eyes. "I want to sleep next to him, so I'm going to! I am!"
He turned off his electric shaver and tweaked his son's little ears: "OK, Yu can sleep next to Daddy, Yu can sleep next to Daddy. Daddy will sleep in the middle, next to you. You sleep on the inside, the best place, OK? "
"Then I won't be next to Mommy." Little Yu held onto the pillow defiantly and wouldn't budge from what he increasingly thought was the best place.
"Yu, child, Mommy's getting mad! If you're naughty, your Daddy will never come back."
"He will come back! He will come back! All the kids in our class sleep next to their moms and dads! I'm the only one who's always without a daddy," Little Yu whimpered. He felt wronged and his heart was being pierced.
His stern face softened as he hurried to hug his son. He patted the boy's little behind softly with his hand, the one missing half of its middle finger. "There, there, you can sleep in the middle, Yu. Is someone bullying us? Daddy'll swat the bully for you."
"Don't spoil him, Shucheng," his wife rebuked him crisply. He smiled and winked at her.
Little Yu overcame his tears and started to laugh. He danced around and his legs, as fat as new lotus roots, made a plunk-plunk sound smacking the bed, his little wee-wee bouncing up and down in his underwear. He chanted:
"Water, water, I love you,
"Washee, washee, every day,
"Auntie tells me I'm so clean,
"Mom and Pop are happy, hey."
"All right, now, not so rambunctious. Daddy's been on the road all day and he's tired." She turned off the fluorescent light as soon as she finished speaking. The wall light was still on, a dreamlike, reddish glow.
"Daddy." His son's breath was soft and warm, and smelled like sweet milk. "Take me with you tomorrow."
"No, I've got to go away tomorrow."
"Then take me to kindergarten, together, for once."
"Are you going to sleep or not?" she said harshly. "I told you, your Daddy will be leaving at two o'clock tomorrow morning."
Little Yu smiled to himself. He put his hand to her ear and whispered, "Daddy isn't going."
"Did Daddy say that?" The grown-up's heart skipped a beat.
"No. I hid his army cap under my children's books, so he can't go."
She laughed. He laughed. Little Yu laughed. The reddish light magically turned to orchid. Bamboo shadows twisted in the moonlight on the curtains, with a soft, brushing sound.
"Daddy, last time you said you wouldn't go, but you went. You have to tell me a story."
"A short one."
"A long one."
He compromised: "Neither long nor short. When you fall asleep in the middle, that'll be it.
"Once upon a time there was a child cutting grass. A teacher asked him, 'What're you doing that for?'
"He said, 'To sell it, for money.'
"'What do you want money for?'
"'To build a house.'
"'Why build a house?'
"'To find a wife.'
"'Who taught you to say that?'
"'Who's your dad?'
"'Blind Man Zheng.'
"'So, why do you want to find a wife?'
"'To have a son.'
"'What do you want a son for?'
"'To cut grass.'
"'Child, come study with me. If you get an education, you won't suffer in poverty.'"
"Then what happened?"
"Then the child went to school, and he became a big boy, uh— ha—"
"And then what happened?"
She interrupted: "Later he grew up and became a soldier. Then later, he had a son. The son hadn't cut any grass, and he was especially naughty. And later on, when he went to war, the son asked his mama, 'Why did Daddy leave?' And mama said, 'Daddy went to cut grass.' Carrying the boy on her back, mama cried to herself. Still later, he came back from the front and came home, but could only stay half the evening. OK, now stop bothering your father."
"Then you tell me another story."
"How about a song?"
"Then close your eyes."
"I'll rub your back while I sing.
"Let me swing a pair of oars,
"The little boat pushes through the waves...."
She sang, she clapped. The longer she sang the more distant her voice seemed, the longer she clapped the lighter the sound became. Before she finished the fifth song, she and their son had traded positions.
"Yu's asleep, Shucheng!"
Her husband was snoring, sound asleep. She kissed him on the shoulder. It tasted of salty sweat.
She rested her head on her arm. Her face was blank. The alarm clock ticked, no longer sounding like a machine gun.
Shadows quickly moved a few feet across the bed in the moonlight.
"Wake up, Shucheng."
He rolled over, his mouth twisting as though he were chewing something sticky. His snoring got heavier and more prolonged.
She kissed his shoulder and nibbled chastely a bit, then quickly pretended to be asleep.
He turned and sat up. "Is something happening?" He got out of bed and fumbled around blindly until he bumped into the wardrobe. "Damn thing!"
Suddenly a peaceful, reddish glow filled the room.
His wife's face.
百年百篇经典微型小说 100 Years, 100 Classic Mini-stories, 2nd Printing, March 2012, P. 125
Also Published at http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_51a8d0c70102e2z4.html
3. You Did the Right Thing (您做了件好事)
Zhao Xin (赵新)
Zeng Qingming, principal of Mentai Village High School, made up his mind right after listening to two lectures given to students by Mr. Tai Dazhi in Language and Literature class. No matter how hard it would be to do this, or how complicated, I’m going to get Mr. Tai out of my school and send him back where he came from. He’s simply not qualified. It would hamper our students’ progress if he were to stand at the lectern again!
Mr. Tai had been transferred to Mentai High about a year earlier, and all that year Principal Zeng had been listening to the other teachers’ opinions: they said that when Mr. Tai was the home room teacher for a large class of second-year students at a junior high, he was unreserved in his private life and didn’t take his duties seriously. For example, every day he would have the students clean his room for him, or get him water, or go to the store to buy his cigarettes. Sometimes he would even have the girls do his laundry for him. For another example, he drank a lot and when he would go on a bender, he’d leave the students to do self-study. And still another, he liked to gamble at mah-jongg, and since there was no mah-jongg parlor at the school, he’d go play near the County Government Building and not return until the wee hours…. Principal Zeng knew these things were basically true. He’d talked to Mr. Tai very seriously several times. Principal Zeng had said, Teacher Tai, you’re only about 30 years old, you should be a person of exemplary virtue. You should control yourself strictly, be industrious and conscientious, and make contributions to the teaching profession. Your name means “Great Aspirations” and you should live up to that name! Mr. Tai had laughed and said, my name does mean “Great Aspirations”, so why wouldn’t I have my own interests, things I strive for? Principle Zeng, you talk about being industrious and conscientious, and making great contributions, but you’re still just a school principal; no matter how industrious and conscientious you are, no matter how great your contributions, in 5 years you’ll still be just a school principal!
They’d talked several times, and each time Mr. Tai had taken this sort of flippant attitude. In a huff, Principal Zeng had called He Gang, Director of the County Education Department, and asked him to transfer Mr. Tai. Director He had said, Principal Zeng, Tai Dazhi has been a teacher for 6 years and has changed schools 7 times. How can I transfer him again?
Principal Zeng had understood what a difficult position Director He was in. He had quietly hung up the phone.
Then Principal Zeng went and sat in on Mr. Tai’s Language and Literature class for second-year junior high students. As a graduate of the Chinese Department of a teacher training college, Mr. Tai should be a whiz, very relaxed. His lectures should be profound and moving, taught vividly and lively. He was explaining the idiom “if you’re riding a tiger, it's hard to get off” [or as the English say, “holding a wolf by the ears”, meaning there’s no way to back down from a difficult situation]. But Mr. Tai explained it this way: He asked the students, is a tiger ferocious? When they answered yes he continued: Tigers eat people, so once you’re brash enough to get on one’s back, would you dare get off again? The students answered no and he said: Right, you wouldn’t. So the significance of “if you ride a tiger, it's hard to get off” is to warn us to do things cautiously, to be prudent, not impetuous or careless; don’t be so rash as to climb on a tiger’s back, or you’ll get eaten! Mr. Tai called on a student to make a sentence using the idiom and the student said: “When crossing a river we should remember ‘if you ride a tiger, it's hard to get off’, otherwise we might fall into the water!”
Principal Zeng almost fainted.
This time Principal Zeng went straight to the County Building and found Director He Gang’s office. He told Director He straight out, if you don’t transfer Mr. Tai, I quit! Director He said, Daming, I’ve already got it all cleared up, your Mentai Village government asked the Education Department for someone who’s literate, so I transferred Mr. Tai there for them. Principal Zeng said, someone who can’t even explain “if you ride a tiger, it's hard to get off”, how is that literate? Director He said, just you never mind that. If he can’t explain it, he can copy someone else’s explanation!
So Mr. Tai was transferred to the Mengtai Village government.
One morning Principal Zeng went to the government offices to take care of some business and happened to come across Mr. Tai cleaning up the Village Chief’s office: He scrubbed the floorboards diligently until they looked like new; he very attentively polished the furniture to a brilliant shine; he straightened up all the publications and documents; then he steeped some tea in the Chief’s cup and put the lid on it; he laid out cigarettes and an ashtray for the Chief; then he went out in the courtyard to wash clothes. He did all this in a very orderly fashion, quickly but not hastily.
The strangest thing was, as he washed a shirt, he would knead it for a bit, then sniff at it.
Principal Zeng smiled. Mr. Tai, it’s really interesting the way you wash clothes, washing and smelling, washing and smelling….
Mr. Tai said: This shirt belongs to the Village Chief. He got drunk yesterday and threw up…. The Chief’s really afraid of his wife. I’ve got to wash the shirt clean so there isn’t any alcohol smell on it, or any cigarette smell, either. Otherwise the Chief won’t be able to go home….
Principal Zeng said: You really take good care of him, Mr. Tai. What a sense of responsibility!
Mr. Tai said: I have to do what the boss wants, to make him happy. I’m the Village Chief’s man, and of course I do my duty to him. The Chief takes me out drinking with him. He really likes that I can hold my liquor. He’s always getting me into drinking contests – he lets me lead the charge, onward to victory!
Principal Zeng thought, this Mr. Tai, he’s really changed. He’s not at all like he was at school!
Principal Zeng thought, maybe this is his strong suit. It’s his forte.
Two years later Mr. Tai got promoted to Assistant Village Chief of Mengtai Village; four years later he got a promotion to Village Chief; five years after that he was transferred to the County Government and, just like that, he became Director of the County Education Department, taking over He Gang’s role!
Zeng Qingming was still at Mentai Village High School when he reached the half-century mark, and was still the principal.
One morning he got a call. It was Director Tai calling from the County Government Building. In warm and melodious tones he said: Hello, there, my old principal and boss, this is Dazhi! Wait for me, I’m on my way over to see you. Principal Zeng said: Director Tai, you’re so busy, it would be better if I…. Director Tai said, don’t turn me down, old fellow. Even if I was busier than I am I’d still want to see you and raise a few glasses to your health! You really did the right thing. If you hadn’t got me transferred out, how could I be where I am today?
“Stories Old and New”, 2010, Issue #1145
4. A Questionnaire for Hubby (老公调查表)
Peng Pei (彭佩)
My wife has taken great pains to produce a questionnaire that she can use to keep up with the trends in my thinking. The old lady has nagged me to fill in each row of the form with complete candor. If she should happen to find that I've acted perfunctorily, she will certainly punish me. Moreover, after I finish filling in all the rows of the form, I must implement my selections in every single aspect of my life that relates to the contents thereof, without exception. I cannot renege.
Survey Question 1: Dear, where is the most secure place to put the money you keep at home?
A. In your wife's account at Workers Bank;
B. In your wife's account at Agricultural Bank;
C. In your wife's account at the Bank of China;
D. In your wife's account at Construction Bank.
Survey Question 2: If I ask you to go shopping with me, how long do you think it is reasonable and fair to accompany me without overextending your stamina?
A. 4 hours;
B. 4.5 hours;
C. Over 5 hours;
D. 6 hours or more.
Survey Question 3: As for the following options regarding the issuance of your monthly spending allowance, which option would find most satisfactory?
A. 250 Yuan;
B. 837,489.95 Vietnamese Dong;
C. 61,981.20 Italian Lira;
D. 42,558.325 South Korean Won.
Survey Question 4: Honey, if someday I find that you've been keeping a private stash of money behind my back, which of the following options for your punishment could you accept?
A. Your written self-criticism to be posted on the front gate of our residential community;
B. Your written self-criticism to be posted at the entrance of your place of employment;
C. Your written self-criticism to be printed as leaflets and distributed in the streets;
D. Your written self-criticism to be sent as a mass email to all of your friends' mailboxes.
Survey Question 5: Which of the following do you think is the best option to make me feel you are absolutely loyal to me?
A. When you receive a text message on your cell phone, you let me read it before you do;
B. You let me keep your QQ password, email passwords and text message password for you;
C. You transfer your incoming calls to my cell, and you can call the person back after approval by me;
D. You store the contact info for all your female friends with me for future reference, concealing none and omitting none. Whenever you are about to make a new female friend, you must first report it to me.
Survey Question 6: At home every night after dinner, what you most enjoy doing?
A. Tying on a pretty little apron and doing the kitchen chores;
B. Using thoughtful techniques with moderate strength when giving me a massage;
C. Sitting next to me with a happy face while we watch Korean soap-operas together, and getting a box of Kleenex ready to hand to me whenever and wherever so I can wipe away the tears;
D. Talk a little about anything that happened during the day to make you unhappy, so that I’ll feel thoroughly happy.
Survey Question 7: At this moment, what do you feel you most urgently want to do?
A. Consolidate your wife's absolute dominance in the home for as long as you live;
B. Reveal your better nature by coming forward with all the money you've hidden from your wife;
C. Increase the intensity of your exercises to enhance, as soon as possible, your ability to do the cooking and other housework;
D. Break off your relationship with your gang of drinking buddies so you can devote more time to the great cause of loving your wife.
Survey Question 8: After those occasions when you cannot resist being obstinate and quarrel with your wife, what will you do?
A. On your own initiative, confess error to me in a fifty-thousand-word letter of repentance, written by you, in which you guarantee never to repeat the error;
B. On your own initiative, repent and correct your errors by agreeing to do all the housework for six months;
C. On your own initiative, go out on our small balcony and stand in the cold, howling wind, facing me as I sit on the couch watching TV, and repeat two thousand times, "Dear Wife, I was wrong.";
D. On your own initiative, hand over a 10,000 Yuan fine. Alternatively, sign an IOU embossed with your seal and do housework to get a principle reduction.
2013 Annual Humorous Writings of China, from Comedy World Magazine, Ding Si, Ed., p. 108
Also available from民间故事 at http://mjgs.d0088.cn/archives/5596.html
5. Wanting Love (要爱情)
Wang Shuo (王朔)
The sunlight shone on her face through the glass window. In that moment, I understood the meaning of the phrase, "a heart beating with desire".
From then on, her every move led my eyes to follow. Her every frown or smile could turn my mood upside-down. I'd wait by the side of the road where she often walked, just to catch a glance of her. I'd follow her, quietly and far back, all the way until she disappeared into her building….
I'd often imagine various scenarios where she and I knew each other. Some were romantic, and some were prosaic. I'd get myself all worked up over them. But every time she actually got near me, I couldn't control my throbbing heart or keep my eyes from turning toward the ground. As a result we'd pass by shoulder to shoulder, and I never even got to see the expression on her face. When I could I'd turn around and quietly watch her as she walked off into the distance or disappeared around a corner.
Her smile, her eyes, her long, flowing hair, the gentile sway of her skirt…. These things took over my soul as if by some magic power. I wanted to express my feelings in writing but I couldn’t get it right regardless of what I tried. I hated my inability to write lines as a poet would. My intense emotions turned pale and feeble when I put them down on paper. I was disheartened. I listening to tragic love songs and struggled to find similar explanations for my own grief.
Then, all of a sudden, I slapped myself upside the head. I loathed my feebleness. "If you're a man you should tell her everything," I said to myself. "Right! I'll do it tomorrow!" I snapped my useless pen in two with brute force.
I waited on the corner of the road where she normally walked, rehearsing over and over the lines I'd scripted. The wind was chilly but fire was raging in my heart. After just a few minutes, I even got the idea of taking her hand and leading her to the plaza to look at the fountain. We'd snuggle together like in a scene from a syrupy movie. I got so excited my knees were shaking.
Then she came, and in an instant my heart turned as cold as the North Pole. She was holding hands with a man and I'd never seen her glowing so brilliantly. I stood by the side of the road, dumb as a post, while the entire world grew quiet and lonely. I heard only the rustling of leaves being blown about by that dismal north wind.
I'd finally found an apt explanation for my grief, and it gratified me. My nose was running, and suddenly I felt the biting cold in my bones. It occurred to me that I was catching cold from being out in the frigid wind for so long. Good health is the seed capital of a change in one's life. Even if I couldn't have love I could still have a career. Thus I cheered myself on.
I walked hurriedly to a small drug store on the side of the road.
"Welcome to our store. What can I get for you?" A clear, crisp voice, a delicate, pretty face, and a warm, soft smile.
In a split second my heart was on fire again – "a heart beating with desire".
Old Qin said, "Don't get excited, things are never as bad – or as good – as they seem." Now I believed it.
Old Qin also said, "Don't get excited, you'll find your lover eventually." I believed that, too.
So, I'd met another girl. She said she'd suffered the pain of love, and now the only thing to do was find another good person, and I told her I'm even better than [model citizen] Lei Feng. She said she wanted to feel safe, and I told her I'm safer even than the Forbidden City. She seemed to believe me, and I had to wonder: Are girls these days so easy to fool?
She really did seem to have been through a lot of pain. There was always a trace of it in her eyes, the kind of pain I myself had become familiar with. She always said she was happy when we were together, but she never called me on the phone or initiated text conversations.
She often used screen names like "Want Happiness", "Hoping for Serenity", or "Stable Happy World" to sign in on websites, but there was always that unspeakable grief.
Her favorite expression was "whatever". What's for dinner?" "Whatever."
"What movie you want to see?" "Whatever."
"What you want to do?" "Whatever."
"Let's break up." "Whatever."
So I met another girl. She said she didn't care about external things. She liked my deep-thinking philosophy, and that gratified me. A day later she asked me why I hadn't washed my hair. Three days later, she told me my coat looked too unsophisticated and my shoes were really ugly. A week later she said my condo was too small and my car was a mess…. A month later she said, "Sorry, there's really no way I can be with you. We're really incompatible." I indicated that I completely understood what she was saying and smiled as I parted ways with her.
So I met another girl, a nice girl who really loved me and really liked to cuddle up with me. She was like a little bird, quite charming, and it gave me a sense of accomplishment. She was very naïve and cute, but her mother was always on her lips.
"My Mom says women are to be loved so much it hurts."
"My Mom says that what you look for in a man is how much money he has and how much he's willing to spend it on you."
"My Mom says the way to tell if a man really loves you is to see if he remembers what you were wearing the day you first met."
It made me feel proud to have such a sensible woman for a future mother-in-law. And the girl liked me to be with her all the time: We'd go shopping together, and eat, and go shopping again, and eat again, and go shopping yet again, and eat yet again…. On those occasions when I wasn't with her, I'd spend half my time calling her on the phone and the other half texting her.
Eventually I was completely worn out, body and soul. I told her one day, "My Mom wants me to come over to her place for dinner. See you around."
After that, I found another girl. This really was the kind of girl you could fall in love with at first sight, a girl who blossomed when you saw her. I was completely smitten. I was willing to give everything I had for her.
She said she liked people with good taste, so I went with her to drink wine and eat paté, and see the trees in the village in spring, and listen to Sarah Brightman. She said she liked people with a sense humor, so at night I memorized corny jokes. She said she liked people with wisdom and foresight, so every day I took a dozen or more intelligence tests and worked at getting into Mensa. She said she liked romantic people, so I spread candles in front of her building, sometimes forming images and sometimes spelling out the English word 'LOVE'. She said she liked literature, so I memorized every poem in every volume of Tang and Song Dynasty poetry, as well as Keats and Shelly. She said she liked to travel, so I was ready to go with her all around the world….
Finally she said, "You're a good guy and I really like you, but it's a brother-sister kind of like. Do you understand?"
I said, "Yes, I understand, and I'm willing to be your big brother. It would make me happy. Really."
The quest for love is a long, never ending road, with many ups and downs, which requires work all along the way. I have never given up. I am very content.
When a girl comes along with white robes fluttering in the breeze, and a broad smile and clear, warm eyes, my heart may begin to throb again. With a trembling voice I'll ask her: "You... Do you… still believe in love?"
2013 Annual Humorous Writings of China, from Comedy World Magazine, Ding Si, Ed., p. 228
Translated from version at http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_48d0b609010112qo.html
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