A Hometown of One’s Own

Everyone’s hometown could be regarded as unrecognizable at some rate after all. Surrounded by rows of emptied houses, feeling lonely, witnessed neighbors to have moved away from here, I knew what was life in a lonely town like. Although I had never gone to Sahara desert, but felt deeply after reading San Mao’s–a traveling writer–‘The Stories of the Sahara’ because of the emptiness of this lonely countryside.

Because my grandparents worked as doctor and nurse, I had witnessed peasants, both sexes, undergoing gastric lavages in the emergency room–which was simply a bed placed in the lobby–in order to be rescued owing to their suicidal acts by gulping pesticides. I had saw them laying on the bed unresponsive surrounded by crying relatives who wore over-worn clothes with dried muds stained on their pants and were sunburnt, sobbing, kneeling. They were people living in the fields.

The town itself was like any other one in rural China—though lacking cultural activities but authentic at some degree. I had never travelled out of my home county but never given up thinking about what would outside world like: would that be some place better than mine. My family lived in the near edge of the town but were not farmers. Grandparents working in local hospital were living a very simple life.
There were birch trees before our front door, unoccupied fields cultivated with vegetables. Every afternoon then I remembered seeing the reddened sun set west like Monet’s impressionism paintings, blurring, engaging.

My mother was scared to sleep alone–although she had me to be with–so that she had requested a female coworker to companion her. I was very happy to have a new guest in the house and had requested mom’s colleague to companion me to tour around the town and she agreed. Holding hands, we had reached before a lotus pond.

‘Lotus’. She said to me, pointing her fingers not very far away. Some lotus leaves was above the water and withered lotus darkened. There was a silence and both of us haven’t spoken about anything but gazed at that pond, motionless as if stunned.

She must had felt about the inevitable force of life and death of the lotus but she had just taken my hand, led me home.

Our family had used twigs to cook and without grandmother’s help, mother cooked awfully as if doing chemical experiments. One day grandmother had gone to her mother’s house so we had to cook by ourselves. There were still some dried twigs in the keeping room, so mother had started cooking and I had watched her kindled stove. Then I fueled stove and saw smoke circling away through the chimney. After some minutes, somehow, the food we cooked was just over-burnt; while in shock but not very feeling shocking, I thought we must have been very careless about cooking to have such an outcome.

When we moved to an apartment near the main street, I had tended aloes, cactus and flowers and because of the southward balcony, the outcome of that tending was very fruitful. When felt idled I could be sitting beside those potted plants watching and watering them for hours and still feeling refreshing. Those days were always gentle and loving because of those flowers. So years later when I lived in a place where the sun didn’t shine much, I felt lost that I couldn’t tend potted flowers. And because of that, when a university classmate, Sarah talked to me enthusiastically about her tented flowers in her balcony, I had felt envious.

Sarah said that while she was growing up, her grandma had treated her critically compared with her younger brothers. ‘My grandma preferred boys.’ She said. And when in a late summer night, sitting on a stair after a day of fruitless job seeking, we talked about what we had dreamed about our future and she said she had always dreamed to own a flower shop in order to live with flowers—her favorite thing. Worked for a flower shop with a low pay, feeling defeated by the reality, she said she had to quit her job as a flower seller. ‘It cannot make me a living.’ We bent our dreams in order to live.

Sarah had said to me that in her backyard was a fruit tree that was very very huge and her love for flowers and plants was because of that tree. And every time when she thought about the flowers, she thought about the tree.

The town itself was no longer recognizable while I walked in the narrow main street again but never so strange had I felt because in my memory this currently dirty, narrow, lifeless main street was a street full of people, wide, hustling. Never once had I felt so helpless when finding out that hometown was forever gone, and only existed in my memory.
Or maybe that town had never existed; I had remembered that wrong, had deceived by my inaccurate memories—those overly-loving memories. ‘Life was like walking back to one’s hometown and finding out how strange it was to call it hometown, again, as if something gone had simply gone, gone.’ I had joked to myself, smiling while saw those shattered country roads. In some ways, it had never gone.

‘Aren’t you a Qianjianger?’ Joseph, a colleague of mine, had asked me when asking me why not speak Qianjiang dialect. I had excused that because the town I lived had been forgotten by Qianjiang city. Was I mourning the fall of my hometown or why. Was I living in the past unable to face the reality that the hometown in my memory was no longer there?

Chinese families usually celebrate their children’s birthdays when they were one, ten year-old, their successful university enrollment and marriage banquet. I had only remembered my 10 year-old celebration in a very old, dirty restaurant but still felt happy maybe because those grownups coming to celebrate with me didn’t judge me in someway. I had never held a university enrollment banquet because I felt uncomfortable to face my sharp-mouthed relatives and the university that admitted me was not well-known, in those relatives standards. With a cake and smiling grownups surrounding me, I blew out the candles on the cake. Those grownup had devoted their time for me at that time to celebrate with me. We were poor but we care about others. My childhood lacked materials but never lacked people caring others’ emotional needs. I didn’t know their names but still feel grateful for their time devoted to me at that time. I am thankful for their attention.

‘You said Qianjiang city had neglected your hometown, now you see those beautiful newly-built roads, I hope you would be forgiving about the city because we are all just that—not that rich to care for every town.’ Joseph had said to me. I managed to calm down a wave of sadness inside me and thanked him.

When I was in elementary school, teachers had asked us what we wanted to be in the future. I was always unable to answer that question. ‘Surely you will be somebody and leave here in the future.’ A teacher said to us.

Slouching toward Wherever the Sun Shines

‘Sunshine cleaning’, a movie I watched years ago, presented stories about different women who divorced and tried to restore their savaged lives back to normal with positive thinking and challenge taking traits, and its characters’ willingness to endure and change. For most of us, life may be seen as living with challenges that need to be overcome, and we manage and get through. At that point, every person may be seen as a sort of hero.

the weather, in the Northern Hemisphere is getting much warmer and the sun much brighter and shiner, so shine I feel enlightened, physically. Do you love summer time? Answers may vary but I thought, most people may not dislike sunny days. Sunshine is bright, clean, and loving, and also evokes positive feelings. Looking on the windowsill in my room, full of potted greenies and flowers, which are blossoming progressively like burning kindles. Glistening lights are basking in my room, making it finer and softer. I feel happier staying in sunlit room maybe because that gives people a warmer imagination for our future lives, and strength to overcome the hardships we face.

I’ve always remembered that summer my father took me a tour outside of a elementary school when I was six-year old. His belly bulged and he wore a dark-red T-shirt. Leading the way to that school, on the trail outside the school fence, he turned his face back, facing me, slightly smiled and raised his forearm pointing towards the front-door of the school, saying that he prepared to let me study at that school. I felt his pride while he talking, saw swarms of pupils playing on the playground, crazily, enchantingly. That was summer; the small path we walked outside the school was surrounded by walls of burning ivies and greens. That was an afternoon, the most clear and exhausting one in my memory. “Dad.” I remembered saying and he answered slowly, softly and gently. “That’s a good school.” He said.

After a fierce argument between my parents, my mother had temporarily taken me back to her hometown that year so I didn’t go to that school. Every September when the school year began, I remembered that walk with my father, his gentle tone with his will to enroll me to that school. I didn’t forget though he had never mention that again. But I know as long as summer continues to come I won’t forget that summer when he walked with me beside that school, with water-clean light.

After graduating from university, I had tenanted with one of my schoolmates, in an apartment near a lake in Guanggu, a newly constructed borough in the city of Wuhan. While in university, roommates were eager to find jobs to earn money. “Whatever the job is, I will do; and where there is a job, there is hope.” A roommate joked saying. But if one said he or she doesn’t want to find some work to do then, that won’t be true. They need money to go to restaurants, to buy extra outfits to increase their attractiveness and to show their power. Most of the students I encountered then wanted to work, to improve their living standards.

So hurry was I to find a work to do then that I was lost. I had met a friend, Bee who in his middle thirties, was working as freelance. In his age with an unstable working position, life was fragile and depending on luck. Though getting days by, he loved outings in mountainsides and thus invited me to go outside biking.

We decided to go to Jiangxia, a mountainous suburb in Wuhan, to have our afternoons pasted. We bought transit tickets and rented bikes to go into the forest in the mountain. There were trees and the sun shining sharply, making us sweating like mad. But he loved biking and often turned his face back to me encouraging me to compete with him on the mountain path on which we biked. There were raspberry bushes, whose twigs were full of thrones. Though unwashed, he picked those berries and ate happily, smiling to me. That was summer; there was sunlight. I knew life could be hard. He struggled to find a well-payed job to get him being able to stay in Wuhan. He said he had never thought about buying house in Wuhan, so expensive that he said he would never bother considering. “Do you know where can a person find a well payed job?” He had asked me. Struggling to make my ends meet, I said I didn’t know either. While sitting on the bench in the neighborhood where then I resided, I saw his face darkened, though that was a bright afternoon and the sun was near setting.

He said he always loved days we spent on biking together in Jiangxia’s mountainside because he felt he was alive by our energetic defiance towards money. Though we were both not living high-standardly, we felt happy and that was summer.

There is the light and it has come into my room.

As Happiness Is the Romanticization of Ephemerality

It was afternoon I walked and cycled on the lanes around East Lake. ‘Green lanes’ square-shaped signs showed. Trees and greens were everywhere as well as people cycling around the lake.

Breezing around the lanes, I saw happy faces as well as saddened, serious ones.

I wasn’t alone; I was with my friend.

There was a teen-age girl standing before the rock-made railing gazing at the surface of the lake, apparently saddened by her personal affairs. There was an unspeakable strength of saying nothing at all around her that could be seen by all passing her by. Had not life silenced people’s ability to express their feelings, they might still be willing to dream.Consciously saying nothing when one was obviously overwhelmed by something is a learned behavior. Learned helplessness, they, psychologists, called. Who had taught them that skill of not expressing their feelings? Mom usually says nothing while her eyes are apparently filled with untold uneasiness as though she have gone through a lot. Idling around the room then sitting on the armchair, mostly she was simply sitting, motionless, silent.

“Find something enjoyable to do, that may do you good.”

She will not listen.

Riding bicycles going towards wherever I was aimlessly was what I thought living. “I love to see you smile.” Zon said while sitting astride a bike looking at me, smiling.

I returned that smile and proceeded going into the deep forest in Jiangxia’s green lanes.

“How could a place be beautiful like this.” Zon meant the serenity of the forest we are in. “So serene that it seemed like a miracle.”

A miracle; It truly was, to me and Zon. So tender was to breeze around the trails in the forest on which we rode our cycles as free a experience as no one could ever have that I thought chancing our ability to understand very originality of living is a way to learn what is really worth having.

While resuming to go into the forest deeper, we expect no thing though still feeling fulfilled. Happiness to me seemed to be be that easy to obtain when we just noticed that there was a loquat tree beside the lane on the hillside and picked up some produce it bore to taste then that we didn’t realize it was such precious a thing to be cherished.

Before night people riding bicycles on a bridge over East Lake.

The loquat fruits we picked weren’t much tasty but they were everywhere; other tourists were idling picking those too. No one had said anything; they were eating, searching there for the next source of matured loquat fruit which could be much easier picked. Some seemingly delicious produce those trees bore were on the boughs too affluent to ignore and too high to be picked, about which we feel pitied.

So ephemeral was our trying to remember those sparkling bits in our lives in which we found our consolation when feeling hurt that we didn’t realize just that suddenly a moment we no longer knew what that very happiness was felt like.

Cool winds before night at that time in the forest of Jiangxia flowing through us made us aware again about our very nature of originality.

It had occurred to me that the less we expected about what we might be encountering around next corner of the mountainside, the more meaningful experience we might gain.

On the way home, seeing our shadows first, riding on the bikes, we felt thankful that we were on the right side of the lane at the right time as profound a feeling as a person could never imagine to experience.

And if in another portion of my heart I could still feel that part of me at that time, That smiling face of mine could still be felt there as much real as I could ever be.

On Lakes

Somedays were dreams, but some, you know, were not. Walking on the bank near the lake where I had walked many times before, I recalled so many memory fragments that belonged to me and some one whom I had befriended. The water of the lake, the lake of South, dotted with and surrounded by willow trees on its bank was and is shrinking. There the lake now has never happened of having the tide of the flood invaded its lower-bank again after a heavy rain, which had come to Wuhan in the year of twentysixteen, poured tons of water into the city and helped cause a catastrophe of flooding on the every inch of the city’s ground.

People in China had since friendly teased about that Wuhan as a coastal city had its main feature of sea view although the truth is that Wuhan is a inland city thus it does not own a perfect sea view. But at the same time, as this disastrous scene of flood got even worse, there was really no difference between whether to tag Wuhan as a coastal city or a inland one because it was simply a city on the verge of complete turmoil.

The city had since been turned into a sallow harbor which state had lasted nearly a month in that summer, a disastrous but enthusiastic period– we used to call it the raining season. You know, some people did feel the harm caused by the extreme weather but some did not. I could barely move down to the street to buy some food. Everything there and then was both dependent and independent. We were like being living in an island but had never felt to be so self-reliant and complete when I was picking up food from an icebox and cooking the food we’d bought online before. Food there were not expensive. Feeding ourselves at such an economical way at that time was a creative way of living, which our lifeworld had never been so colorful and fulfilling. Life is simple although it is full of challenges but that are the challenges we must deal with sooner or later. We loved it. Flooding waters had divided the city into smaller rivers. Every building that was standing higher than the depth of the flood was like an island. The winds that had been blowing heavily and constantly made us start to worry about the stability of the building we lived. I was worrying about whether the building would collapse by the force of floods and storms though it didn’t happen.

There is a picture I have shot gone to a sitting-on-the-bench girl who was facing on the surface of the lake. It was autumn, but the sky was so shiny and bluish that I had failed to realize that was autumn if I was not checking the calendar. The girl who sat on the bench might be full of an optimistic view since it was such a lovely day. The breeze was so tender it had made me heart-melting. I knew my heart was full of happiness when facing the lake I loved. Everything here and then on the bank of the lake I was facing had never been so familiar. The birch trees, stone benches, stone-made railings beside the bank, and mosquitos, they bite me as usual, had never been so enriching, vital and meaningful to me. Even the pain caused by the mosquitos’ biting could not shy me away from the land of wonder. I was thinking magically but that was the way I love.

Is the autumn here this year the new summer? Everything is unceasingly changing so to answer this question is just so meaningless maybe mostly because here the city I have been living for a long time has not rained much this year. And that is the real problem. This land is used to be called a hazy and misty land on the south of the river- the Yangtze. The axiom related to this issue of constant changing is something we have already known. But with a hope to preserve the moment we lived, we also want to do something even though we know that we can’t change the universal nature of changing. To live is to change. That is why we are always nostalgic. We don’t really own our time and our bodies since we cannot control it and it seems like that the only thing we owned is change. We still are, say, at this moment.

在香港的夜班巴士与武汉的夜巷

当地球得了痛症,冬天,成了巨大的冷库

“人生是一连串纵横捭阖的把戏,要研究,要时时刻刻的注意,一个人才能维持他优越的地位。”

坐在香港的夜班巴士上,冬天的香港不太冷,明穿一件黑色运动服,巴士开屯门,车上的人都睡了,他望着窗外,闪过几栋公屋,路边都是山景,有许多沿街广告牌。“申请破产,即日起停止追债。”一则破产的广告,看的出神。心里一阵剧痛。

天空好像是灰色的,天桥下的汽车,左边塞的满满的,右边却空空的。他走过天桥,准备叫车去

灰尘弥漫的夜晚,路上都是灰暗的拖车,像往生开来的车,巨大的声响似打战一样,比打仗还慌乱,生厌,灰夜里城市也不比战争残墟,没有同情可言。

明同贝达见面的时候,迟了些,看得出不愉快的神色,虽总会有理由来解释,但还是没出声,解释反而恶化,沉默。是什么样的人,只有自己知道,其余都不大相干。

贝达的眉毛有些粗,眼睛表达不满,声音粗但锋利,难以想象。问到明现在工作的怎么样,声如利刃。慌张,反而忍住。随口道“还好。”

“去吃些什么东西吧?”

“也可以,找个人多的地方。”

过马路时全部都是等待,路过的是装满灰尘的拖车。一辆一辆轰隆隆,没有尽头,仿佛整个城市在重生,所以需要大动干戈。似从死亡里堆出来的生命,人类文明也似沙滩上的蜃楼,幻灭如影,也没人太在意?或是因总可以再来?太阳有照射不到的角落。黑暗中,毁灭在进行中。或许最后总会有人记得,也许没人记得,后果也是暂时的,没有什么不是暂时的。无人的夜晚,只有货车在路上,明看到夜间开工的工地,好像一切都很赶,赶着完工,再赶着被毁灭?他站在路边,同初次见面的陌生人等红灯。

不吃了吧。

都脱口而出。

归途,空气中都是施工灰尘,不能呼吸,黄色的夜灯,照着马路上,像沙漠,夜的沙漠,滚滚而来的黄尘,武汉有时也像沙漠,黑暗的夜,一辆又一辆的车,明感觉像提前经历了一次,也许以前梦见过。

爱,在这寒冷黑暗的地方,没有一丝发芽的能力,许多年后想起,也不知道是不是曾真的爱过,或许人总该是孤独?

人们期望被更深入的了解,这个世界上,谁能真正了解谁?因此总是之在,愉快或不愉快过后,看着骑车离开的那个背影,连再见也不及说,说出来又仿佛太郑重,因此手也没抬起来。曾有人对明说,记得曾爱过你。再想起,总是在虚无缥缈间,这么大了,也不至太相信这些。生命中某个匆忙的夜晚,偶尔走过这荒流的人群,也许偶尔也疑心……是不是应该再看一次?

也许人生应该独自走,偶尔想起,也回过头来,微笑。距离隔的刚刚好,没太远也没有太近。

旧忆

去杭州的时候,只去了西湖,其他都寥寥。正好是周末,人潮汹涌。走上雷峰塔的时候, 我看到台阶上的电梯,不禁感叹。如同Rico看到黄鹤楼里的电梯时的感受。与时俱进?

俯瞰西湖。与在黄鹤楼时的感受一样,又想起在香港大佛寺上看到的纪念铭,买了串佛珠,店员同我用粤语讲多谢,不会粤语,也不适合讲英文,因此一阵沉默,突然自己也像默剧演员,只用眼神表达情感。

我也喜欢沉默不做声的微笑,就像你又从我身边走过,我也同你一起走。

自己的夜光

电影中,来自美国丹佛的邮递员去巴黎度假,已然五十有余,独有一条小狗相伴,“麻烦请问有餐馆推荐吗”当地人友善的推荐了家中餐馆,走过巴黎熙攘的公园,深夏的巴黎像梵高的向日癸,炽烈,清然,“我独身一人,却在这个时刻,突然觉得,我爱你,巴黎。“她反不像五十岁,像二十岁。最深爱的一刻。人老了,心为身缚,成了时间的俘虏。”我现在二十岁。“一位老人说,”身体是我的牢房。“

王摩诘有诗云“语笑且为乐,吾将达此生。”无人的时候,一个人看书,看到同感之处也不禁微笑,那么容易满足,有些不敢相信。重读红楼梦时,总被香菱的达观感动,为学诗而借书学习,算浪漫的人生,谁又能说中国人不懂浪漫,虽算最痛切的一种,浪漫给自己看。

“你是否觉得我们可以教人去爱?” 许久的沉默“不能”一位母亲回答。“也许我们只能让人习惯于某种联系,但不能教他去爱。爱就是爱,当然他永远都是我的儿子,但我不能教他去爱。”是美国公共广播的采访。听后总觉得很寂然,也似这拉长的沉默一般。

这世界总有阳光照不到的角落,许多个夜晚,夜光照进窗来,想,这世界上的误会这样多,实在是懒得去解释,也许不过意的事情立刻就该说出来,不然只是徒然伤情。

偶然看到“网络消失(Ghosting)”指觉得不合适但不说,只是沉默不做声,这当然是网络时代的新现象。或许觉得连说”我们不合适“的必要都没有?爱情当然没有那么容易,不过在礼仪缺乏的时代,许多不必要的自痛,也许可以免了,算是预防针。真正爱的人总不会不联系太容易失去联系,爱与不爱,也不是这么快,转瞬之间,总是早已有了底。也许生命里的相遇只是数学上两条直线的交点,再想起,也当然是最美最特别的点。

“喜欢看你微笑时候的样子”曾有人对我说。

“老了就是精力不及以前了。”奶奶说着也微笑了。