Chapter 55 (2) – A domineering couple (1)
Every time I started up the computer, there would be a floating notification window, ready to inundate me with some kind of news. It was the same every time: some fight broke out somewhere, the latest perceived threat to our personal or national safety, someone seeking some dangerous thrill to feel alive……
Gu Wei had long ago concluded that if Sansan and I ever met someone who wanted to end their life, it was certain that neither of us would step up to warmly talk them down, only–
“Jump, then, if you mean it! It’s not like it’s hard labour or anything. If you need help I’ll go up there and kick you off myself!” This was Sansan: derisive, turning up her nose at things.
“Ai, if it’s what you want.” And this was me: the resigned one.
That’s why when it came to life partners, I sought out someone warm-hearted and helpful, and Sansan sought out someone stoic, with a cool disposition.
In contrast to Chen Cong’s glossing over my shortcomings, Sansan approached Gu Wei with seriousness, reason and a readiness to criticise. Her reasoning was: if you could find something sinister about someone, they weren’t a saint.
Once, Sansan had told me about the beautiful future she imagined: “When you come to City X, we’ll live together and depend on each other. You’ll live inside, and I’ll live outside, I’ll chop firewood, and you can cook.” And what I got in the end was–- “What do you mean this will make us all closer? That is just tempting adultery!”
I didn’t understand. “Weren’t you really keen on me winning Gu Wei over in the beginning?”
Sansan: “Back then, you refused to get your feet wet (in the dating pool), I was worried you wouldn’t know how to start things off! Who knew that the moment you decided to dip a toe in you wouldn’t just get your feet wet, but jump in entirely? What do you see in him?”
I said: “He doesn’t need to do anything, just standing there he is a work of art.”
Sansan snorted. “”I never took you to be a swooner.”
I huffed. “Oh child. You don’t understand because you haven’t experienced it yet.”
And then, Xiao Zhongyi came along. I had long caught a whiff of the romance in the air; Sansan was swooning before she was even aware of it. “Their assistant manager is so young! And more importantly, he’s very handsome.”
“Handsome in what way?” I asked.
Sansan: “He is……the kind of handsome that you look at, and feel happy for a long time.”
To me, it really was a case of beauty being in the eyes of the beholder.
Once, Sansan and I were out shopping, when we came across a blood donation cart. They were short on A- and O-type blood. We deliberated for a moment, then decided to donate. As we were waiting in line, we overheard a conversation two girls were having by the billboard.
Girl A: “OMG, don’t ever donate blood. I did the last time, and now my cycle isn’t normal anymore.”
Girl B: “Yeah, exactly! I read on social media about someone who, after she donated blood, had dizzy spells for two months. She even lost weight and got sick!”
Sansan couldn’t help herself. “Did she smoke 200 or 2000 sticks a day?
Girl A: “Women must learn to take care of themselves. Look at these stupid women lining up to donate blood!” They both turned to look at us as she said this.
We were the only women in line at the time. Sansan, already in a bad mood from being given a hard time at work having had to do overtime, rounded on her: “Miss, have you rotted your brain cells reading too many posts on the internet? No one’s holding a knife to your neck asking you to donate.”
Girl A: “Then why don’t doctors and nurses come to donate blood?”
Sansan: “Well, how is it that all the doctors and nurses I know donate blood? Surely it’s not a case of me just being drawn to like-minded people?”
Girl B, holding Girl A back: “Alright, alright, don’t be angry.” She turned to us and smiled, saccharine-sweet. “Jiejie1Jiejie – lit. big sister; one would call one’s own sister this, but it is also an informal form of address towards a woman who is older than you, after donating, go home and drink 200cc of chicken soup to nourish your blood.”
Sansan: “Was it your middle school biology teacher who told you that chicken soup can directly impact blood count?”
The nurses and donors around us heard her, and had a good laugh about it.
My arm threaded through Sansan’s, I said to the two girls, “I wish you both good health. May you never have to experience anaemia, never have to undergo surgery, so that there’ll never be a time that you need the blood of idiots to save your lives.”
They left quickly.
Sansan was hot-blooded; stubborn and intense. She never lost that part of her, despite everything she had been through, a trait that I found commendable. There had been a time when she, too, enjoyed a naive and innocent first love. In high school, she had been the class representative, and had grown something of a “situation-ship” with her vice-representative over time. But at their age, at the time, besides the occasional exchanging of words and gifts, most people would not take the risk of entering a serious relationship. So the two of them simply flirted back and forth without becoming anything more during their high school days.
After the college entrance exams, Sansan moved to City X, and the vice-representative moved to City Z, and the two began a long-distance relationship. But there was nothing romantic about how it ended; the vice-representative swore undying love to Sansan, and gave his intimacy to another woman. She had flown to City Z to surprise him, and surprised they had both been, but not pleasantly. So she neatly and curtly wrapped it up: called him a bastard a few times and then returned, and cried in my arms for the rest of the night. From her sophomore year to her third year at college, she had waited for him for four and a half years.
I comforted her. “Don’t worry, it’s not your early twenties if you haven’t fallen for a scumbag or two.”
When she was done being sad, her anger returned. “I’m in the prime of my life, I’ve got nothing to worry about!” But from that day on, she never gave another man a chance. “I’d rather focus on earning money! Since when were men ever reliable sources of financial support?”
She ran into that vice-representative once at a get-together after work. She had dealt with it calmly, and upon returning home phoned me and said, “I think I really am over him, but somehow it still makes me sad.”
Getting over someone was a matter of the mind, sadness was a matter of the heart. That was the only rose-tinted view available to someone whose life had been spent buried in books.
But before Sansan had been able to process her emotions, rumours began circulating among their classmates.
That night, at a gathering, Sansan had drunk herself into a high. Her deskmate had generously offered to send her home. But, riding the excitement and alcohol, she let something of her past slip.
It wasn’t anything juicy at all, she had only mentioned that, back in the day, she had had feelings for her vice-representative. But to a gossip, it was enough to construct an entire narrative around. After this, with the vice-representative shamelessly fanning the flames, spawned rumours that grew wilder and wilder, and less and less accurate the more they circulated.
Sansan was livid. “How could my deskmate in high school start rumours like this? She has no shame!”
Despite Sansan’s steely exterior, she was vulnerable. She was the kind of person who always took someone’s best interests to heart, and had often suffered for it. I didn’t want some stupid rumours to bring her down, so I tried a little bit of tough love: “Next time, remember not to show your scars to people who aren’t close to you. They’ll see it as entertainment, not something to be sensitive about.”
I often wondered when a woman as good as Sansan would finally find a man worthy of her, who would love her, protect her, and cherish her the way she deserved.
When Xiao Zhongyi was wooing Sansan, her guard had been up; she was as prickly and well-defended as she could have been. He took on the challenge like it was welcome, braving the proverbial hell and high water. Every block in the road, every upset he bypassed and rid them of, until there was nothing left.
Before she gave in, Sansan asked him, “What do you see in me?”
Xiao Zhongyi looked at her and said, “Why do I need a reason? I just want to be with you.”
And so, she was his.