Chinese Stories in English
A Woman’s Loves (Excerpts)
[Adult content and language. Let the reader beware –Fannyi]
Without doubt Jasmine was the slenderest girl in class, and the one with the whitest skin. She tested into a school in the county seat from Clear River, but she didn't look like a country girl at all. In winter she wrapped herself in a thin-waisted, fake cashmere coat, a pink one with the cuffs worn into balls of yarn, and when she swayed along in a group of grimy students, she looked like an immature cherry tree.
Precious Gao told her, “Your back’s a little hunched.” Jasmine snorted and covered his mouth with her hand. There was always a smell of cold cream about him. If she guessed right, he probably swabbed his mother's "Elegant Beauty Emulsion" on himself when she wasn’t looking.
Where could they go? It was winter, but to make a good impression she didn’t want to wear cotton. Precious was only wearing jeans and carrying a leather jacket with a hurdler’s vest inside it over his shoulder.
The two had to walk south along the school’s outer wall. Precious held her hand until her palm got sweaty. They were tired from walking that time, so why were they panting heavily as they hugged each other at the base of the wall?
Precious stood on his tiptoes and kept blowing into her ears. Jasmine giggled. He said they’d get married when she graduated from high school. She said, “I’m three years older than you. Will your parents agree?”
“We’ll elope if they don’t. I have a cousin who’s a foreman at Master Kang's Instant Noodle factory in Tianjin.”
“You’d do that?” she asked. “You’re ready-made food and I’m farmer’s food.”
“You’re the love of my life. Let me be struck by lightning if I’m lying.”
She hurried to cover his mouth with her hand. Her pores seemed to have exploded and the fragrance of roses flowed from them. She knew it wasn’t the wind. She also knew that his voice sounded sincere but everything else was fake.
He was only fifteen years old, after all. Maybe he hadn't matured yet. He hadn't even had time to grow a beard.
Her friends Sweetie, Old Gan and Little Five all knew about her and Precious.
That night Jasmine ate dumplings filled with beef and green onion at the snack bar outside the school with Sweetie, Old Gan and Little Five. Old Gan ordered two bottles of beer, and they almost froze their teeth off. That was Jasmine’s first drink.
They ate their dumplings slowly and sipped the beer. Later they hummed tunes softly while they gradually warmed up by the lit stove, with its raging fire crackling and popping. Jasmine stared at the other three girls as if they were separated by a mist. Their faces all seemed distant and blurry.
She thought, “We’re all here in the county seat, but I’m the only one from the countryside. They can't test into college but they don't care. They have parents to help them financially. It won’t be hard for them to find a good job and marry a good man. But who’ll help me? Does that mean I’ll marry a carpenter too young, like my sister, and give birth to filthy kids and soak in piss and shit all day? I won’t be able to avoid crying my eyes out and having my nose go sour.”
Sweetie kept poking her with her elbow. “Go ahead and poke,” she thought. “There’s an eighty percent chance Precious will be there for me, and if he is, let him. What better can you expect from him? He’ll be just sixteen years old after the Chinese New Year, and even his voice sounds like a girl.”
It wasn’t until she lifted her head to look at her friends that she noticed a boy standing behind Old Gan. He looked rather familiar, and after thinking about it, she realized he was the one who’d given her a high five during a performance at Number One High School. What was he doing here? Old Gan was the only one not surprised. She patted the boy on the shoulder and said, “Hey, this handsome fellow was my classmate in junior high, First Glow Gao, from the basketball team.”
The boy called First Glow couldn’t take his eyes off Jasmine. She got a little flustered and couldn't help pulling on Sweetie’s hand, who rubbed her palm to calm her down. By the time she looked up again, he’d already pulled over a bench and sat down. “Hey, Old Gan,” he said, “you invite someone to eat, and this is all you got? Cook, give us another plate of fried liver tips.”
The wedding arrangements were done and she married First Glow on July 1. She’d chosen the date. In her senior year of high school, she’d liked to listen to Ai Jing's songs the most. It was because she had such an innocent face but always sounded risqué:
“Take me to the garden of earthly delights, mark me with a big red stamp.
“1997 will be here soon, I’ll see if the Yaohan Center is really what they say.
“1997 will be here soon, and I’ll be able to go to HONG KONG.
“1997 will be here soon. Let me stand in Hongkan Stadium.
“1997 will be here soon, I’ll go with him to see the midnight light show….”
Back then Hong Kong felt very far away, and so did 1997, but singing about it was like being there. First Glow had no objections; most of the time he seemed to be a mute. How come there are people in the world like that, who don't like to talk? It was as if he’d said half of everything he wanted to say in his life on that cold winter night at that bar.
That guy First Glow, he was really a pain to her. She started out working as a cashier in a Li-Ning Sportswear Shop on the pedestrian street, and was doing well, but he forced her to quit. He wasn’t a talker; the only thing he did good for her was in bed. He’d played basketball for the Sports Department, after all, and could usually keep going the whole night. It was like his toy was an iron sledgehammer that glowed brighter the longer it was used.
She liked his broad shoulders, but wide shoulders don’t put one’s mind at ease as well as a wide open wallet. She told him, “Working your butt off in the foundry only gets us a little over a thousand yuan a month. It'd be better to quit your job, take out a loan to buy a big truck and move to Xinjiang Province. Haven't you heard about driving a truck in towns there? Making a hundred thousand yuan a year would just be a drop in the bucket.”
He didn't say anything, but the next day he went to see his dad to ask for money. His dad just had the one son, but he’d already been sucked dry, so One Glow had to borrow 150,000 yuan from a bank to buy a truck. Then Jasmine told him, “I worry about you running off to Xinjiang by yourself. You'd be better off finding a real good buddy who could drive the truck with you. You could take turns driving and pay him a monthly salary.”
One Glow thought it over and said, “River Li.”
After he’d been driving for four months, the year was coming to an end. He counted his money and found he’d earned 50,000 yuan in less than half a year. Jasmine told him, “We’d better get a new condo next year. Heating the stove in our place in winter is dirty and unsafe. You weren’t here, so how could I go about getting gas?”
One Glow said, "Yeah.”
“Old Gan bought a gold necklace,” Jasmine continued. “She shines all over when she wears it.”
“Buy one,” he answered.
“River Li’s worked hard for you for the better part of a year. He does his job and no complaints. Invite him over for drinks tomorrow and I’ll fry up some snacks.” One Glow touched her nipple and said, “Hits the spot.”
Jasmine went to the supermarket early the next day. She boiled some shrimp, stewed some meat, and made a table full of side dishes. River Li and One Glow each drank a bottle of booze. While they were drinking, River took a box from his pants’ pocket and said, “I bought this jade bracelet in the Grand Bazaar in Urumqi, Sister. They said it’s high quality Hetian jade. It wasn’t expensive, but consider it a New Year’s gift from your brother, an expression of my regard for you.”
Jasmine turned to look at One Glow and he smiled, so she accepted the gift. "Having you do this kind of thing is a rare treat,” she said “Let me drink to you.”
River gave One Glow a look. One Glow smiled and said, “Go for it.” River and Jasmine each downed an entire cup. She’d never drunk the hard stuff before and couldn't keep from coughing. River hurried over to pat her back to help her. His hands were big, but they felt very soft when he patted her on the back.
“I’m OK! I’m OK!” she said. “I feel foolish.” She held out her hand and fondled the bracelet, looking it over. It shone with blue light under the incandescent lamp and was as transparent as ointment. She put it on slowly, almost reluctantly, then raised her arm and waved it back and forth. “What do you think?” she asked One Glow. “Is it too expensive?” Then she looked at River and said, “Or, maybe you should give it to your wife?” River was younger than One Glow but had married earlier. He had a child who was fully two years old, and his wife was a teacher at the county's Number One Primary School.
“Sister,” he said, shaking Jasmine’s hand away, “it's not worth more than a few yuan. Besides, I bought something for her, too.” Jasmine rubbed the bracelet with her fingers. It was a bit cold but warmed up after a while. “Sister,” River continued, “don't sit around the house being bored. You’ll get cabin fever. Someday have my brother take you to Bayanbulak Nature Reserve. Such beauty. To be honest, when I saw swans in the lake there, I thought of you.”
“How can you guys shove me around like this?” Jasmine was shouting into the phone. “River shoves me around, that whore shoves me around, even you guys shove me around!”
Little Five whispered, “Old Gan and I are buying cloth gloves at the Laborers Insurance Shop on Stalin Street. We’ll be there soon. Don't get all worked up. What good does it do to get worked up about this kind of thing?”
No doubt about it. Getting worked up wouldn’t accomplish shit. Jasmine found a stair in the parking lot and sat down. The more she thought about it, the more she felt like she’d been wronged. She jumped up and did wrist stretches, leg splits, foot presses and waist twists like a pro athlete warming up before a competition.
Eventually she held her breath and kicked out at River's Mercedes, setting off the shrill car alarm and flustering her. She picked up a rock from a flowerbed and spent a few minutes going through the motions of throwing it at the car’s windows, but after adding up all the costs of a trip to a full-service shop, she threw the rock back into the flower garden. She yelled at a blind stray dog lurking in the flowerbed, “Get out of here! Scram! What’re you looking at?” The stray wagged its tail and darted into a thicket.
She never expected that River would do a girl in her own restaurant. And he not only did her, he made such a concentrated effort of it.
Four years of marriage to River had gone by in a flash. Their daughter could already sing hit songs from the TV. Back then, she and River had even been regarded as an item in the county. She’d never counted on becoming people's after-dinner conversation in that way. One Glow had come home from a driving job late one night and caught her and River in bed. Anyway, that’s what the rumors said. Or anyway, that’s the story that spread around, so people believed it.
Someone asked Old Gan what was going on and she’d said, “Shit happens!” River had gone to Jasmine's house to take her something, just as Jasmine was eating, so they had a couple of drinks together. Is there something wrong with male and female friends having drinks? They had a little too much and took a nap to sleep it off, and that’s what set the tongues wagging! Someone asked Little Five what happened and she said, “Like the saying goes, ‘Even an upright official finds it hard to resolve family problems,’ so you’d better take care of your own wife.” There were also rumors that when One Glow was driving on River’s off days, River would go over and sleep with Jasmine. And since that went on for more than a year or so, they were sure to get caught sooner or later.
River came to see her several times. He said he was also divorced, and if she agreed, they could go to the Civil Affairs Bureau to apply for a wedding license. Jasmine thought about it for three days, then told him, "Let’s do it, but I want to have an extravagant wedding." When the word "extravagant" came out, she startled herself. What’s an extravagant wedding? She didn't know any more than he did.
River touched her shoulder and said, “Whatever you want, Jasmine. I’ll do what you want now, and I’ll do what you want after we get married. I’ll do whatever you want all my life.”
It was indeed an extravagant wedding. River rented a small helicopter from somewhere and airlifted Jasmine from her mother’s home in Clear River to the bridal chamber. Rumor had it that he didn’t have approval from the air traffic control agency and was fined 50,000 yuan.
Jasmine opened the copter door and got out slowly in her wedding dress. With her long slender neck and white fabric blowing in the wind, she really did look like a swan at Lake Bayanbulak.
River kept a truck for another year after the wedding, but someone else’s truck, of course. Jasmine told him, “Stop driving and find something to do in town. Restaurants are hot, so you could open one. River did some figuring: he would probably have to invest seven to eight hundred thousand yuan. Jasmine thought it over. “I have three hundred thousand on hand,” she said. “Take it and put it to use. If it stays in my hands, it might as well be dead.”
River was stunned into silence for a moment before he said, “Damn! Eight generations of my ancestors must have accumulated good karma so I could marry you!”
Jasmine just hugged him and said nothing.
They opened the door. A man had his head buried between a woman's legs and kept going at her with his snout. It was a body that Jasmine couldn't be more familiar with. He always bragged about his slim waist. The man and the women were basically too involved to notice that some spectators had entered the room. First Little Wu's face turned red, then she couldn't help coughing. The man turned his head abruptly. River's face looked greasy in the dark room. He stared at Jasmine before asking, his voice trembling, “You.... What are you doing here?”
This was the first time they’d been to a karaoke since New Year’s. They hadn't been singing for a long time. “Sing a Dave Wang song for me,” Jasmine said. “Sing something by Dave Wang for me, Old Gan.”
Old Gan took the microphone and belted out "A Game and a Dream", or maybe it was "The Red Dust Has You", and then stared at Jasmine without saying anything. After so many years, her voice was so dry, like it was cracked. It sounded like static from a broken speaker.
“Fuck his uncle.... He never kissed me there.... Jasmine said. “Really, he never kissed me there. He said he couldn't stand a woman’s smell.... Liar.... He never kissed me there.... I should’ve got a pair of scissors and cut his.... Bastard without a conscience. He never kissed me there....”
Jasmine and River divorced that spring, and Old Gan married a civil servant from the tax bureau. Her wedding ceremony was rather simple. Almost everyone except the bride and groom wore a white mask. They distributed ten bags of Isatidis Root Infusion to each guest in addition to the traditional wedding candy. The TV said that a kind of severe acute respiratory syndrome called SARS had claimed a hundred and twenty-four lives in Beijing alone. Cantonese no longer dared eat civet cats.
She always ran into that guy Mr. Jiang when she took her daughter to school early in the morning. Could he be a civil servant? He looked kind of dark in his jacket and leather shoes, but dark like a black wolfberry. On the other hand, his eyes were bright with reflected light, like a disco ball....
He looked at Jasmine and said, "You’re always the one who brings your daughter to school every day. Must really be tough on you."
Jasmine looked at the traffic on the road. “Takes a long time to get here,” she said, “but I’ve gotten used to it, you know.”
The government solicited donations after the Wenchuan earthquake. The Pine Pollen Association that Jasmine and the others belonged to raised money as well, and they asked Jasmine to take it to the Civil Affairs Bureau. She bumped into that Mr. Jiang at the office door. When he saw Jasmine, he adjusted his collar hurriedly and quietly tightened his belt. Then he smiled and asked, "What brings you here, if I may ask?"
“Our association donated some money and other things, and they asked me to bring it over.” she replied.
"You, uh, didn't you know I work here? You could’ve called me and I would’ve driven over to get it.”
“How could I trouble you with such a little thing? Besides, I didn't know how to get in touch with you.”
He took her phone and dialed his number. Then he bushed the hair from his forehead and told her, “Save it right away. From now on, if anything comes up, just let me know.
Of course Jasmine knew what men thought about her. But the number of men who thought about her seemed to have increased in the past few years.... As for men, she thought she could take their pulse accurately. Like this man Jiang, that little scheme she’d just seen him do was indeed ridiculous, but kind of cute, too. More than that, his appearance was a good sign. He didn’t look like other men of his age, with bags of rice on their bellies and loaves of bread on their butts. Moreover, his shoes were always polished to a shine.
Some matchmaker came around to propose a marriage not too many days later, and Jasmine smiled crookedly when she was shown his photo. It was the man from the Civil Affairs Bureau, Mr. Jiang, whose full name was Ocean of Virtue Jiang. His wife had died of cancer the previous year and he was having difficulties raising his son by himself. He was originally from the countryside but had a home in the county seat.
Jasmine told Old Gan about him. Her friend gave her a look and said, "Thirty-seven or -eight and still just a clerk in an office. What’s he got going for him? Besides, are you willing to be a stepmother? A stepmother has to beat the child morning and night.”
“He’s pretty good looking,” Jasmine said after a moment of silence.
Old Gan sneered. “Is that worth a shit? Which one of the men you’ve been with was ugly?”
Jasmine went to talk to Little Wu, too, who listened to Jasmine beat around the bush while she was tattooing eyebrows on a customer. Then she straightened up to wash her hands and had a sudden thought while she was scrubbing. “Does this guy Jiang gamble?” she asked Jasmine distractedly. “Is he looking for a mistress?”
Jasmine shook her head and Little Wu continued, “As long as a man doesn't go to prostitutes or gamble, he’s a good candidate for marriage. Even if you don’t want to get married, find someone you can get along with. They might not warm your heart, but keeping your feet warm is OK, too.”
The wedding was scheduled for the eighth day of September. Jasmine just liked autumn.
“I saw Precious Gao the other day, Jasmine.” Jasmine didn’t know what to say for a long time, then seemed to think of something. "Him? I haven’t seen him in sixteen years. Where is he now? Moved somewhere for a good job?"
“I heard he stayed in Beijing to work in film and television after graduating from university,” Old Gan said. Jasmine didn’t say anything. “He hasn't gotten married yet,” Old Gan continued. “Maybe he still thinks about you.”
“Leave it to you to say something like that,” Jasmine snorted. He… How’s he doing?"
If you want to see him, I can arrange a get-together for you. He and my brother were classmates, you know.”
They really did meet once. A lot of people were there, including Old Gan and Jasmine as well as Old Gan's brother and a bunch of classmates. They drank a lot. Precious hadn’t changed much; his baby face was as pretty as a fine ceramic. He was only three years younger than Jasmine but still looked like a teenager....
“You hurt me to the core, Jasmine,” he said. “I loved you from afar for so many years. Even today I can’t find a girlfriend.”
Old Gan, standing off to the side, said, "You were star-crossed lovers, OK? I remember the two of you always going off into the dark forest."
“It would’ve been nice if there’d been a dark forest. All we did was walk around in the snow. There was so much snow in that decade, we called it The Big One. It was really snowy back then.” Turning back to Jasmine, he asked, “Hey, how is it I couldn’t compete with One Glow Gao?”
Jasmine squeezed out a little smile. "You were better than him in every way,” she said. “I didn't think I deserved you."
“Nonsense,” he responded, “Nonsense. If I hadn't transferred to another school halfway through, and had kept on wasting my time with you, I’d have ended up is a psychiatric hospital before long.”
Jasmine held a cup of booze in front of her in a traditional gesture of respect. “Precious, you’re not a fish or shrimp in a small pond. You’re a whale in the ocean, and none of us could’ve kept you back.”
“Yeah,” he sniggered, “I'm seaweed in the ocean. Wholesale value not even a head of cabbage.” Jasmine patted the back of his hand and said nothing more.
Jasmine discreetly pulled him away from the banquet. The two walked around Stalin Road first. Precious suggested they go walk by the school’s south wall. He said the most memorable thing in his life was kissing her in a corner of that wall. Jasmine said, "What kiss? You were so short, you barely came up to my eyebrows."
“That’s the thing about you,” Precious said. “You’re so cruel. It’s understandable, though. Beautiful women are a drug, untouchable.”
Jasmine groaned, "What about me is as cruel as you? I just took a walk with One Glow, and you were all for a hunger strike and cutting your wrists. I was so young, I was really scared for you, and even more afraid see you.”
Precious was silent. They continued walking along the road and eventually came to Jasmine's house. Her daughter has away visiting her grandma, but the room was very hot, so Jasmine turned on the air conditioner. She turned on the TV and a live broadcast of the Olympic Games opening ceremony was on. The two sat side by side on the sofa.
After watching a while, Jasmine realized something. “Is today August 8th?”
“I guess it is. Damn, the year has gone by so fast and, what do you know, the Beijing Olympics are kicking off.” Precious couldn’t resist trying to slip an arm around Jasmine’s waist as he spoke.”
Jasmine gently brushed his hand away. “Want a glass of milk? It’s on ice.”
Precious tugged her toward him. "What, cow’s milk?” he murmured. “I want to drink your milk...." He took her in his arms. She was a little bewildered, and for a moment felt as if she was back several years in the past, with the two of them hugging like crazy up against the wall and him blowing in her ears, making them hot and itchy. All of a sudden she remembered talking to her girlfriend Sweetie – the two of them leaning against a frigid poplar tree, and Sweetie advising her to break up with Precious. “You two don’t have a future together,” Sweetie had said....
Surrounded by Precious's heavy breath, which smelled of beer, she looked at the mirror opposite her and saw the door opening. Ocean of Virtue Jiang stood in the doorway holding a watermelon and staring dazedly at the couple on the sofa. The watermelon fell from his hands and pieces of its bright red flesh rolled over the floor, one by one, like the petals of a single rose that fell in their garden in late spring.
Years later, Jasmine could still recall how Ocean had looked that night:
He lay in a pile of watermelon pieces, rolling around and crying. His white shirt was immediately stained red by the juice, but he didn't care. Maybe he only cared if others could hear him crying.... Later he moved over in front of the window, slipping and sliding with every step. He yanked the window open and leapt out onto the ledge. Jasmine shouted, “Ocean of Virtue Jiang! Are you crazy? Get back in here!”
After two quick guffaws, Ocean laughed and shouted toward the sky, “My wife’s been stolen! My wife’s been stolen! She’s made me a cuckold! Fuck their mothers!”
Jasmine dragged Precious to the door and told him to leave. “How can I leave,” he said. The guy’s crazy. What if….” Just then Ocean turned his head and said to Jasmine, “In your dreams! No way I’m going to jump off this building! I'm going to be a deputy section chief soon, and I’ll make sure you two pay for this!”
Old Gan sometimes joked with Jasmine about this incident while they played mahjong. She’d always end by shouting in her broken-gong voice, “I'm going to be a deputy section chief soon, and I’ll make sure you two pay for this!” Jasmine wouldn't get annoyed. She’d roll her eyes and discard a tile steadily, not forgetting to say, “What a mess that was!”
Usually it was a Friday night. Jasmine, Old Gan, Little Five and Mighty Cai, Little Five’s cousin, would have an all-night mahjong session at Jasmine’s condo. Mighty was a good player and often won, but he wouldn't act proud even when he took their money. He’d just say, with a cigarette dangling from his lips, “I never lose at Sister Jasmine's place.” Once when Old Gan asked him why, he gave her a look and said, “Sister Jasmine’s my good luck charm.”
Jasmine smacked him and said, "You little jerk. You learned how to B.S. people even before you learned how to shit."
Old Gan laughed like a duck quacking and said, “Oh, no you don’t. Jasmine’s a decade older than you. You’re just talking trash to get her to sleep with you.”
“What's wrong with that?” Mighty said while sorting his money. “She’s such a pretty lady.”
They played until three in the morning that night before they all crashed. Old Gan and Little Five squeezed into the same bed while Jasmine slept in another and Mighty slept on the sofa. Jasmine got up in
the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and noticed that Mighty had fallen asleep wearing just his underwear, so she got a sheet to cover his stomach. Before she knew it, his eyes popped opened and it was a night for sex.
He didn't say anything, just tugged her over and enveloped her with his body. His lips locked onto hers as tightly as a crocodile’s bite before she even had a chance to struggle. She stared at the room where Old Gan and Little Five were sleeping, afraid they might hear something. She didn't even dare let out her breath. She heard Mighty muttering something – it was really tense. Then there was a wild banging and an oppressive ramming.... She was pressed down by him, reined in, squeezed tight. She couldn’t shout or move and would’ve been afraid to even if she could. His elbows jabbed her and sporadically poked her swaying breasts. She smelled a faint scent of pine resin pulsing out from his body.
He spent three or four nights a week at Jasmine’s place. She wheezed and asked how he explained it to his wife. Mighty replied, “What do you care about that shit? Every day I’m with you, I treat you well all day.”
Jasmine said, “I sincerely look forward to your leaving. I don’t stop worrying until you’re gone.” Mighty just put her legs and feet on his shoulders and set to work with his cock, bang, bang, and she wasn’t willing to say another word.
Mighty had been rather apathetic when he’d come over the last few days. When asked about it, he said he’d been pressing people for payment on some accounts. Jasmine couldn't help asking him if he was able to earn interest. “It’s five times what a bank would charge. You think that’s high? You know the bottom line about the underworld. You think they don’t get their money?”
Jasmine thought for a moment. “I’ve got some coin around here. If it's convenient, help me earn some interest on it.”
“Loan sharking is risky,” Mighty said. “The methods are all illegal. You shouldn't get mixed up with that stuff. Could be something’ll go wrong someday.” Jasmine nodded, and Mighty continued, “But there’s a surer way. You know the gauze factories in the county seat?”
“You mean the stock traders? Sure I do. They’re all private operators. But I heard that the ones who don’t do well still get their mitts on a steady four to five million yuan a year.”
“What I’m thinking is,” Mighty said, “I can take your money to a gauze factory to invest and you’ll make three times as much as a bank would pay in interest. Not as good as loan sharking, but safer.”
Jasmine thought for a while, then said, “I’ve eight hundred thousand yuan right now. You can take it tomorrow.”
Mighty stared at her. “Fuck, you’re really made out of money!”
“A person’s got to prepare for retirement,” she said. Mighty hugged her and kissed her neck. Why did she think of River right then? He’d said she was like a swan on that lake in Bayanbulak. All these years and she’d never been there. She asked Mighty, “Do you like Xinjiang? If you’d like, we can take a trip there.”
“Let’s do this,” Mighty said. “I’ll give you an IOU. Interest will be paid monthly, and I’ll have them deposit it directly into your bank account.”
Jasmine said softly, “If you have some free time, I'll book the airplane tickets for us.”
“Fucking-A! How did I ever find a sweet little lamb like you?”
It turned out to be quite a long trip. First they took a train to Beijing, then a plane from Beijing to Urumqi, and then another a plane from Urumqi to Yili. Finally they had to check in with their tour group and spend a day on a bus....
She woke up in the small hours of the morning to go to the bathroom and stared at Mighty laying on the bed. She couldn't help but stretch out her hand to touch his Adam's apple and his beard, and run her fingers around his eyes. He snorted a couple of times and turned over. She hugged him from behind, rubbed his belly where there was no trace of flab, and massaged his broad, smooth back. She thought she could do this the rest of her life.
The two of them went to Swan Lake the next day, then to the Nine Twists Eighteen Bends Viewing Platform.... They were quite tired when they returned to their room. Jasmine said she’d take a shower and Mighty said, “Great, I’ve got a phone call.” When she came out after her shower, Mighty was gone....
He hadn’t returned by three a.m., and his phone was turned off. Jasmine could wait no longer and contacted Little Wu. She was his cousin, after all, and might know something. Also, she didn't care what Little Wu thought about their relationship.
Little Wu was probably woken from a sound sleep. She had no reaction when she heard that Jasmine's call was coming through Uraula. After a long while, she asked dully, "Did you and Mighty go traveling? How can you be together?”
Jasmine looked at the phone, not knowing where to start.... Little Wu said a few things that she didn’t hear clearly. It was so dark outside the window that only the white snow atop the nearby mountains could be seen. It looked like she could reach out and touch it. She felt compelled to open the window. The wind was blowing so hard that she shook.
“What do you have to be depressed about?” Old Gan asked. “You’re good looking, you have a condo, a car and a daughter, and you’re not lacking for men. What more do you want? Your life’s much better than mine or Little Wu’s. Jeez....” Jasmine raised an eyebrow and looked at Old Gan, who continued, “That man of Little Wu’s, he was hooked on gambling for money. He used public funds and got found out, so he ran off. Little Wu, she’s hanging on to him for dear life and won’t get a divorce. Dumb woman, she’s more stubborn than a mule. “I heard that Mighty conned you a few days ago, took of all the money you got from selling your house. Jeez, what did you see in that scumbag?”
Jasmine couldn’t think of anything to say and asked, “What?”
Old Gan, embarrassed, said “Fuck, bald head, big mouth and a belly. Hey, you're not an outsider, so I can tell you. Just between you and me. Absolutely don’t tell anyone else. If Little Wu knew I told you, she’d chop me into meat sauce. Little Wu, she was in good with Mighty for two years.”
“That’s bullshit! Mighty’s her cousin.”
Old Gan glanced at her. “Don’t sweat the small shit. A man can’t get in good with his female cousin? They’re outside the five degrees of family.”
Jasmine got goose bumps all over and almost fell off her high-leg stool. Old Gan said, “With you stupid cunts for my best friends I can never get a moment’s peace. Makes my life hell. But when I’m dying of thirst, I can’t be choosy about which fruit….”
Jasmine went to the kitchen to cut a watermelon. It took a long time to cut and bring it to the table. She handed Old Gan a piece woodenly. Old Gan glanced at her like she wanted to ask something but didn’t ask. Facing each other in the living room, they each could hear the gnashing of the other’s teeth on the melon’s flesh.
2018 Short Stories, 2018 短篇小说, p. 56
人民文学出板设 编辑部, Translated from 凤凰网 at:
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