Another Moon

by Tome Loulin

Above me spreads the hot, blue mid-day sky,
Far down the hillside lies the sleeping lake
Lazily reflecting back the sun,
And scarcely ruffled by the little breeze
Which wanders idly through the nodding ferns.
The blue crest of the distant mountain, tops
The green crest of the hill on which I sit;
And it is summer, glorious, deep-toned summer,
The very crown of nature’s changing year
When all her surging life is at its full.
To me alone it is a time of pause,
A void and silent space between two worlds,
When inspiration lags, and feeling sleeps,
Gathering strength for efforts yet to come.
-Summer, Amy Lowell

On the last day of my job that I did for about a year and a half at a language school, I speeded up my pace to clean up my remaining belongings in the office. The photos of my students sticked on the wall of the classroom were stripped off and thrown into a dust bin by a female coworker who will later use the room. When I mentioned the photo and suggested to take the photos home, her mouth curled surprisingly, offered to pick up those photos thrown by her from the dust bin and said that she thought I would no longer need those photos because the students had graduated. ‘Aren’t they already graduated?’ She asked.

Though I worked for the company for about more than a year, I have either social nor medical insurance. So when I was admitted to the graduate school I applied, I decided to quit but have to work in the company for three more months because of the contract I signed.

Being required by the administrator of the school to stay after work because there was a ceremony to be held for the leaving of a colleague from Beijing, I glanced at the room where coworkers were gathered. Seeing them eating pre-sliced fruits, I decided to leave. A female recipient observed my intention to leave and walked into the room, imitating the way I walk with exaggerated gestures making other coworkers burst into laughters and said to other colleagues: ‘ Mr. Tommy was walking this way and said he will go anyway.’ She walked zigzag with the head raised.

At that summer early evening, the sun was late to set, giving more light than other days of other seasons. On the way home after leaving that office, I walked the way I usually walk and watched cars passing me by. I noticed my body being trembling uncontrollably. And for the first time in my life, I wanted to simply stop walking. I was thinking of me because at that time it is apparent that there in this world, only me, I myself could truly ‘think’ of me. I think of me not because of what I looked like, not because of what kind of clothes I wear, not because of which gender I am, not because of how much money I have, not because of what kind of the way I walk. Not because of anything in the world other than me.

They say
Don’t weep boy
Because you are
A boy.

They say
Be a lover instead of a beloved
Because being a boy biologically means
To love others instead of expecting to be loved.

They say
A boy should be like this
A boy should be like that

They say
They say

But darling
Who are they?

Who
Are they?

I am not like any boy nor any man

I am like a person. Another person. A person.

Quitting, for me, somehow and sometime, is like a rebirth. Just like paying the last homage and saying goodbye to the then will-soon-disappear three gorges scene in early 2000s. On the eve before the Three Gorges Dam was setting to be built, my father and mother had brought me to take a visit to the gorges. The advertisement said: to see the three gorges for the last time. It surely and always was the last time for people to see the three gorges of the Lang River before the dam to be built.

There are also people from other countries coming to have a last look. While on the board of the boat in the center of the water, the tour guide was telling folklore and history stories of the gorges to visitors as usual. I forgotten most of the detail but remembered a story of Wang Zhao-jun. Miss Wang, a resident of the gorges area, and sent by the emperor of Yuan of the Western Han dynasty to marry Chanyu Huhanye of the Xiongnu Empire in order to retain a peaceful relationship between the two, was memorized by local residents as a godlike figure protecting the safety of the people commuting through the gorges part of the Long River. And according to local tales, there was a statue of Wang Zhao-jun on a mountain top of the Xiling gorge safe-guarding the people traveling through the gorges.

Then people on the touring boat changed the topic, saying that when the dam is built, these cultural and natural heritages echoing the past of our people as a whole will forever be submerged. Also gone was our memory of the lives in the gorges. Looking at the pebbles under the water, I heard echoes of monkeys that were jumping on and changing different trees. Li Bai, a poet, while passing through the gorges, had written a poem: The sounds of monkeys on the either bank of the valley seldom cease. And when learning this poem in school courses, I always thought of the sounds I heard during my travel with my parents in the gorges before the dam was built. And it may be then that the echoes of monkeys in there had been stayed in my mind forever.

Maybe overwhelmed by the intense parting feelings, some tourists started to talk about the mythicised death of the poet, Li Bai: on a boat at a midnight at the center of water, drunken as usual, Li Bai, after seeing the soft reflection of the moon on the water and confusing the moon on the water with the real moon in the sky, determinedly jumped off the boat into the water in order to pursue the moon on the water. It’s a romantic re-imagination of the very poet’s death and reflected the narrator’s own romanticisation of the very story. Surely enough, every ethnic group has its own myths and romances reflecting its past and ethos. That story is even saddening and beautiful. Are we forgoing our history or are we becoming negligent in our very imagination of our past as a whole? Those heritages submerged, boat trackers in the gorges area, and the people commuting to and fro the gorges are becoming another reflection of the moon on the water of the gorges but now who is fascinated to that moon? That clean and soft moonlight.

Gone with the moonlight was the past; left unforgotten was the hope. Their hope for reconciliation and reconstruction.

And at this later summer night, I have seen a full moon in the clean sky. How soft is the light. How fine, tranquil and free.

Where We Live Now

We were in the office waiting for the clock to tick to five so that we could have our dinner taken but in this food desert where our office located was nothing particularly delicious to eat so we were not particularly expecting that time to come. But my colleagues won’t keep silent simply because the dinner failed us.

“I wouldn’t take my son to go through that snack stall anymore which was such a temptation for him that he insisted me to buy him guokui cake every time while passing that stall by.” Wayne said while frowned a bit. “That’s expensive and due to my unstable wages, I need to save more instead of expending more currently.” She added.
She was referring to his son’s elementary schooling cost and said to us that in order to make his son be an advantaged learner, she had enrolled his son to our second-language teaching institute which costs a lot to an ordinary wage earner and in order to encourage his son to read more books she has to buy a lot of books. “But it was also worth the investment because of the competition my son will be facing in the future.”She said.

I was interviewed by her initially when applying the position in the institute as a teacher and she very warmly told me what I need to expect in the future in order to fare well.

“You need to smile often because young pupils were mostly reserved and afraid of strangers.” She said while referring the demo class norms which were practiced to prospective students to attractive their parents to buy our courses. “Do you love children?” She asked.

“Yes, I thought so.”after a moment of thinking, I replied. And though she wanted to hire me but there was still a test I need to pass that is, to be interviewed by that institute’s director who also is the investor, Miss Chan.

“Miss Chan was tough and hard to deal with.”Wayne said to me while frowned slightly.
I had passed that test and after several months of working, I heard that Wayne was initially appointed by Miss Chan to be the executive of our institution but she chose to step back to work as a sales consultant. “Because the water here was opaque and deep.”She said, referring to the working environment. “If I were the executive of the institute, I won’t be sure whether I may be able to preserve my authenticity which I cherished the most.”Wayne said to me.

One day she said very tenderly to me: “It’s so lucky that we could have met together. And I always saw you as a younger brother of mine.” I thanked her.
She also wondered why I do not find a partner. “What kind of person would you like to be your partner?”She had asked while almost all the colleagues were in the office. Feeling embarrassed but trying to pretend not so, I said fast that whoever is outgoing.

“Outgoing?”

“Oui.”I smiled.

“I felt so regrettable that I had gotten married and had child borne that early and if I could choose again, I would choose to remain single longer.” She joked to us.

“Come on, you got a boy that is tender, you are lucky.” Colleague Jane said, almost protesting, “And your son is invaluable.” Jane had just got married and worked here as a teacher too. “Why is it so hard to be a teacher in private school.” Jane half joked and half smiled.
“While being a teacher is no easy thing no matter whether you work in a private or a public school.”Another colleague replied.

“Well, at least they who work in the public school do not need to worry like I do about whether those difficult parents will continue to pay for my courses or not and that was such a horrific thing that I had trouble sleeping.” Jane said.

“While, there is no easy job for people like us and that’s all.” Another smiled and replied.

Most colleagues were in their middle twenties and planing their future. Some were dreaming to find their potential partners and others planing to have a child. Sometimes I wondered when will they get bored about those family topics but never once had I found they be so.

Emma, another colleague, who had a younger sister was sitting beside Wayne eating the lunch in the small room where dishes were served by our school. While I was taking my helpings, I heard Emma saying that her mother had indirectly hinted that her sister’s upbringing in the future was up to her and she had a bit tired of picking her sister up from kindergarten to home. “I was supposed to find a boyfriend and have my life started but they said to me that come back to work because in Qianjiang, they could care for me more.”She said to Wayne.

“And I really thought if they were unable to rear a second child, just not do that. But now they got me a sister and said that all duties were on my shoulders because they are too old to take care of my sister, that’s just nonsensical.” Emma added.
Wayne listened then consoled her saying “it’s true that having to help raise a sibling is hard. It takes time.”

When Emma ranked first in overall performances and with the norms to compensate good performers, the senior supervisor Mr. Zeng was obliged to reward her something, so he half joked and half congratulated her, saying: “What’s your most wished thing? While not knowing yours but I wish you to find a matching up candidate.” referring to perspective marriage partner.

While laughing but slightly irked, Emma resented Mr. Zeng and asked whether he thought she was that leftover to have to make wishes to have marriage candidates.

Are they shopping people? to have people called marriage candidates—which in Chinese are called xiangqin duixiang–I thought and was eager to rush home.

While we prepared to trip home from the office, Emma said another matching-up man had failed her because he had refused to meet her after knowing she works in a private school.

“He wants to find a partner working in a public school just like him.”Emma said contemptuously. And she added: “Not even want to see my photo, how would he know whether we would be fit or not? Is his job in the public school a superior one?”

Comments about Some Undercurrents in This New World

阅读中文版

When cleansing our company’s floor, I asked Katie, a female coworker in her twenty-something, about whether she would take university entrance exam again if possible. ‘No’ She answered, fretted.

We work in a second language teaching company where she worked as a sale consultant; I a lecture; both of us were insecurely hired because private company doesn’t guarantee stability.

‘No vacancy for job candidate over thirty’ the company’s hiring ad reads. There were so many demands for second language education that in this company and this sparsely populated city, three of us the lectures cannot satisfy the mounting demands so that hiring new teachers is urgently needed.

A interviewee returned from Bulgaria told me she graduated from university with a vocational degree in Business English and married an Italian husband. Slightly sunburnt, long-haired, whose husband silent siting beside her, she said the thing she considered most successful is that when in Bulgaria, foreign to almost everything surrounding her and lonely, she managed to learn Bulgarian as best as she could under Northern Europe’s chilling condition. With her husband, she also learned some Italian.

After saying goodbye to her, being asked about opinion on whether to hire her, I said her experiences were amazing and said it would be okay to hire her given her willingness to work long-termly.

‘She seemed too old to teach.’ The administrator, a man in his thirties, said to me. Suddenly, I was almost impressed by his remark but everyone sitting around me in the office said nothing. What if we are in thirties? Will there be an opportunity for us? After seeing the administrator leave, uttering those words, I found myself trembling and feeling sympathetic for the interviewee. ‘Private companies have zero interest in protecting workers’ interests; they are no charities.’ One coworker said.

No one had suggested that private companies to be charitable. Rather than turning a presumably suitable candidate away, it’s reasonable to give opportunities to applicants a bit fairly. But at that time, demanding for a fairer hiring seemed a way going too far for them, the administrators.

It may sound true that I had no sympathy for the administrator when he said to us in the office that ‘oh why is it so hard to hire a fit teacher.’ No one uttered a word to him because it was so obvious to know what the word ‘fit’ truly meant in his very mentality that no one bothered intervening. If an applicant is not slimy, wearing proper makeup, dressing sophisticatedly, he may well define such a person as unfit. Once more, one knows that a word is defined by the definers not the defined.

We compromise, bent our souls in order to live. But what we have got in return? Recognition, respect or fortune? Not a thing. One tried hard not to be treated harshly but ended up wounded everywhere inside.

I asked Katie why not go to university again to study a major in which she really interested. Apparently quivered, she said that those high school years were so painfully passed that she has no courage to go back to where she suffered again. ‘My mom was very critical toward me which caused me to have a really low self-esteem and eager for recognition, I do not think I can manage to go back to study again.’ She answered.

It’s true one being criticized often may have a really damaging self-image which can cause self-destructive behaviors. Her upbringing has apparently made her become what she is now but by searching for her salvation, she find consolation in dating.

She casually mentioned that she want to beautify herself to improve her confidence lest she be looked down on by others.

Coworker Roce, a female in her late twenties, was busy in matching ups. She often talk about how difficult to find a proper marriage ‘candidate’ who would be ready in everything including houses, cars, and all you can imagine later in life. She very often uses business words to talk about marriage, such as wealthy, job positions, social status, and money etc. She said a ‘candidate’ was poorer than her family so that she was deciding whether to resume matching-up with that one. ‘You surely are not doing matching up with money, are you?’ Another female coworker shouted out, obviously disgusted.

This office was like a cave’s cave. If human world was like a cave lightened by bonfires and everything happened within was like a shadow, maybe what happened in this office is a kindle of the bonfire flickering at this dark corner of the cave.

Being marginalized, poor or disadvantaged is a thing, losing one’s ability to see the world clearly is another.

In a world full of ill-willed forces, knowing where he or she is going about is a thing that is much mattered than ever.

Regarding Humanity in the Age of Irritation

He knew it would be a matter of time before the outbreak to be contained someday.

In Chinese Mahayana canon, one of pupils’ main goals was to escape the cycle of endless death and rebirth into Nirvana as final destination beside pursuing self-enlightenment. The pupils were taught that life is suffering but we can search for our salvation.

When city where I live in Hubei was sealed off, I thought this unprecedented quarantine policy implemented to the whole province might not last long then. Now I’ve got used to this, of being sealed off home. At least I have food to eat, I thought. And it’s nothing as long as my life still goes normally. To medical workers, some of whom have worked all day long but hardly had a chance to rest, this is the hard part to cope with. Awakening in the morning and checking news related to the outbreak, I’ve only found out things, from containing efforts to food supply, have gone down. “Does any one be afraid of dying?” I smiled, thinking and looking around, no one is here. No. People just don’t wanna die that hard. People toiling their whole life only wish to secure they wouldn’t be dying hard on the streets.

Infectious diseases as symbols of suffering serve as tools for some, who seek easy path to counter their fears about the diseases, in society to stigmatize and smear the weak and disadvantaged. People try desperately to sort out and simplify others’ personalities to pretend they are doing something to understand others as if people’s traits be less diverse and won’t be changed. AIDS at 1980s as an unknown disease served as tool to stigmatize gay people- gay disease, dehumanizing and labeling them as being punished by God for violating the natural law which only allowed sex to happen between men and women. As creative as people can imagine, Wuhan coronavirus serves as another tool of anti-Asian sentiment.

A video tape captured in New York subway circulating on the Internet showed a Asian being hit and chased for wearing mask when the new Coronavirus death toll in the mainland China increased. Some colored persons dragged his clothes, insulted him saying words like contagious, diseases etc, fearing him to spread the virus.

Well, people may say what they’ve said and acted irritatingly is what made them humane. ‘People fear about unknowns’ says someone, shrugging whose shoulders off. If things were happening only to limited groups, ones outside of the mess usually speak nothing.

In the later years of a Russian writer, a line written by him goes although I may be as famous as Shakespeare be, I don’t understand what I am doing this for? Look what I had done, what for?

Modern society values youth as the most powerful. It is not hard to find that some slogan appeared somewhere says 60 is the new 40. Aged people feel powerless due to their loss of physical strength or maybe of their physical attractiveness as if people may be less valued when not being sexy. But this is not all of their fault, our society’s uncontemplated obsession on physical appearance has taken a part. In that obsession, If a person is not being described as beautiful so he or she may be labeled as undesirable. But it is false. Since everyone will get aged, only time can tell what is really valued, things like generosity, kindness, pursuit of truth and the good are valuable things too. Time is the most efficient equalizer which works indiscriminately.

Ancient Greek philosophers had argued what we the people should be going to pursue. They say for the good and the truth.

Roaming the Open-air Marketplace Where We Shopped

A friend of mine had once told me that when she felt stressed, a marketplace would be the only cure. She likes to walk in the open air marketplaces that was sort of the ‘birth place’ of her childhood memory, and it had shaped her way of living in her early twenty something. When people were around, life cures life. At that moment when people talking and walking, she could finally feel relieved. It’s not a place for me, my place for relieving is remaining unclear. Skimming over the ocean, I stood up on the beach of Zhoushan where the pier is always busy for seafood trading and the boats moored in the harbor are waiting for a sailing to fish, I was fifteen. Roaming the beach where we had swam the sky was blue. There bottled water sold then was charging for 10 renminbi- a special price sold for visitors only even though we had better buy some and we must buy some without considering the price that had been overcharged for the sake of surviving and away from the thirsty. To seek the light of life, I can’t feel much. Sometimes not much is too much. I can’t stop thinking about the sour of life. Without money and power, our daily routines could turn to a fast draining boat. I was speechless in the circumstance of continuing fighting for a way of being that I had always been speechless. There was A song line I’ve heard that goes “my mother said to me: “Don’t stop imaging. The day you do is the day you die.” I had been touched though I barely admit it. I’ve once stopped imaging the possibility of my life, fortunately, I regrasped ability of reconstructing and reimagining for the future ahead again. With a heavy heart, I have been living in the past for a long time, partially, because the future is a way I barely think about. I have no way to hide but forward.I want to find you but surrounded by nothing, nothing surrounded by us. People would never stop hurting, but I have stood up just for myself. Needless to say, I am still dreaming for my life. I have a plan that is my life is my life so you were part of it or not, it doesn’t matter. it is like an island separated from the mainland as we are the sea as the island that dotted in the ocean likes thoughts of ours standing on the ocean. I have always hoped you would be there to stay with me, someday.