Wunderkind

One

Once upon a time, there was a boy living in this rural town happily and lovingly; his name is Little Eddie and loved playing with every child he encountered. Wiggling heard from swings, seesaws. He never got bored.

The town itself was and is dreadful. People walking on the street looked dull. Eddie’s family members all worked in the local hospital which is the only one in that town. Once a little girl whom Eddie usually played with was left her residence with packs of suitcases, Eddie stood backward watching, curiously, feeling a bit hollowed out because he never experienced such slightest form of dissociation that for the first time he wanted his family could move to other places suddenly too. Not feeling pitiful or mournful, he just thought that kind of sudden disappearance without saying goodbye was rebellious.

When elementary-schooled, he found he loved playing shuttlecock-kicking and hide-and-seek, so often that some name-caller called him little girl. Little Eddie felt hurt but never really cared about that so long as he could just live and study.

The town itself was soulless. once he was walking along the main street afternoon, a young man seemed bored by this deserted atmosphere approached to him asking where can he find a bookstore. For years he never truly found anyone asked this question to him as if there wasn’t anyone cared about buying books and newspapers so he also pretended not to care much about. But so enlightened was he then that not only did he answer happily but also guided that young man a bit far to ensure he wouldn’t got lost.

The main street was dirty filled with plastic bags and dusty. ‘I dare not eat the snack I bought nearby until home because of the flowing dust in the air.’ A girl walked with Eddie told him, serious faced and her elbow clasped owing to two bulged mounds on her chest. With meek, soft rays flowing over their faces, the sun was declining west.

Eddie had written a severance poem to one classmate by whom he was bullied but decided to keep it secret.

Farewell

‘Twas

Spring. Wounded heart invisible

Outwards. Softly, sunlight coming into my room.

Streets stretching to the skyline

Dusty, seemingly endless.

Day and night

No longer needing to see thee was I.

So long as I

Remain alive;

So long.

Grandma Summer had find that piece and mentioned that smilingly to him. ‘Interesting.’ She said. Feeling awkward as his secret was unveiled, he didn’t know how to response but rather stood motionless, beaming awkwardly. ‘You should keep doing that.’ Summer said. That was afternoon and the sunlight as strong as ocean. Happily, he daydreamed of himself naked swimming in the river of life and never feared anything.

Keep that, he told himself.

Some boys in that school teased Eddie by calling him little girl. So often was that calling happened that he felt overwhelmed. Once in the classroom at a spare noon, while everything was as normal as in a dessert, a boy Eddie doesn’t acquaint shouted out “Little Girl.” Tired to defense, unable to swallow such a humiliation at such a young age, he spoke nothing, leaving the room with a strange and saddening silence, only to find out that his classmate Zheng had started to stand out with him saying that no one has right to label a person as such and Eddie has his right to be what he wants to. Shocked and overjoyed by Zheng’s remark and not knowing how to express his gratitude, Eddie for the first time wanted to hug a boy, and thanked him for saying that.

“Next time if anyone tries to shame you, ensure you hit them back to tell them that what I am is non of their business.” Zheng said.

That was afternoon and they walked along home. Eddie had said goodbye to and thanked Zheng for that.

It was then he started to think his town was not that dreadful. There were hardships, but which place have not.

Eddie sat before the railing on the baloney, watching potted flowers blossom. Later in the night, fallen asleep, he had dreamed about sunny afternoons.

Two

Eddie loved crafting, inspired by an America program teaching children about how to make small artworks. He brought oil brushes from a migrant worker’s daughter named Swallow who seemed reckless and whose skin sunburnt. Eddie invited her home to oil-paint but Swallow seemed uninterested, and said she was hungry.

Providing her with food cooked by Grandma Summer, watching her devour down half of the rice in one bite, Eddie disappointed but said nothing.

Small town sold no thing relating to books, brushes, only foods and its residents only play pokers and mahjong to get days by with a river flowing through main street.

There were funeral wagons passing by the main street and sobbing girls hired to mourn the lost; when happened, it usually happened in mornings. Eddie had made a oil-painted ornament shaped like the sun which hung on the doorframe of his mother’s room.

Every afternoon there were people talking about lottery, mahjong and money but they were too poor to be heard seriously. There was only one bank in operation and no supermarket. Everything seemed so lacking that Eddie wanted to escape and never to return.

It’s lunchtime and Eddie’s mother said she would prepare to transfer Eddie to county seat to study after he finishing his elementary schooling.

When real separation came, seeing everything packed up and being sent away and his reading desk nearly ruined, he felt uneasy and almost cried. Only when forced to leave, had he realized living in this lacking-almost-everything town is actually a blessing.

New school was not good if not horrible, filled with bad-habited students who didn’t read books, let alone speak properly. Eddie always wondered what happened to those student to make them not value their very opportunity of getting educated. Girls here wanted love; boys reverence.

Initial days in the middle schooling was fearsome. When sitting still waiting to get familiar with new classmate, instead of finding consolation, Eddie saw girls smoking cigarettes showing their made-up rebellious attitude as if wanting to show they had never experienced hardship or poverty but actually had a lot. The reason why covering up is called so is that it’s so obvious that people don’t bother unveiling.

In his second year in middle school, a transferred in boy named Wong from Shandong started to notice him. Wong was square-faced and spoke Shandong-accented mandarin which hardly can anyone understand what he was talking about at first fashion and to make it worse, he was deadly shy so his voice usually was insects-likely faint. But Wong liked to initiate talks with Eddie. Everything went fine then.

Until it went otherwise when there were only two of them in a corner of the school to cleanse the floor, Wong said shyly that he thought Eddie was goon-looking. Unsure and unable to think about how to react properly, Eddie was suddenly hugged by Wong.

Releasing Eddie from his arms and apologetically voiced, Wong lowered his head saying sorry to him.

Eddie rushed away from him. Suddenly, he felt everyone around him—students, teacher passing be, was like gazing at him, mocking him.

Eddie had never figured out how this had happened. Sometimes he raise his head staring deeper at the clear sky, alone. In his heart of hearts, the sun setting west, reddening the playground of the school that time was indeed as same as ever.

The Tepee in Our Heart of Hearts

Hearing fireworks booming was in the midnight; Moy, in his early-twenties, had thought that sound might be a false alarm of the lifting of the quarantine measures since the city where he resided was hit by the Coronavirus and locked down indefinitely since.

But this time the initial unsealing of quarantine measures put to this city seemed true; people were celebrating outside, he could hear that. Laying on the bed seeing outside the hollowing, bottomless-dark sky, rarely had he felt so exposed to his vulnerability that though clock is ticking to two, he was still tiredly sobering.

“People always have good hopes,” he thought, “that is a good thing.” During the lockdown, no one was allowed to go outside unless shopping for necessities once within days.

He was home alone and still is. “How’ve you been recently.”the message he received from an acquaintance, Jed, showed; he remembered the last time they conversed and met was almost two years ago in a hot summer. Details relating to what they talked about got blurred in his memory. “Protect yourself while I am not with you.”Jed said while smiling back to him and departing from the train station for home. That was two years ago. He wasn’t sure if not because of the pandemic, whether will they have any contact or not at all. But he knew that Jed’s intention of sending the message was purely out of humanitarian consideration, a sort of regards-exchanging usually happening between normal coworkers.

“I got to measure it out.”thought Moy, managing his words lest he be to overstate while replying.

“It’s fine here. How’s it going?”replied Moy.

Then there was a silence so long he felt trapped, in an otherworldly abyss, and thought Jed might actually not care much about whether he replies to him or not.

“It is fine; not receiving reply from a rather less contacted person is okay and this won’t matter much.” he remembered consoling himself saying.

“It was not his negligence towards me that hurt; instead, it is about my care of politeness. Do not expect anything about anyone except about oneself.” Moy stopped writing.

“I’d love to be your friend.”Moy’d remembered Jed once said to him. Moy thanked him for saying so and thought that would be fine to have a thoughtful friend.

Jed was thoughtful.

He remembered he had once misspoke a French word—plaire—he remembered; hearing Moy mouth slipped Jed didn’t interfere.

“You should pronounce this in this way.” “You need pronounce this like me.”

Coworker here try hard to let them be seen smarter over others and thus assert those so-called correct-pronouncing-suggestions to Moy while he was teaching though there were helps easy to obtain from the internet and dictionaries if he wants and would ask for help if necessary, but he doesn’t want to waste energy to quarrel with them. “People there want respects so desperately that you doubt whether they were sick; what made them such needy for superiority may be their genuine lack of that.” Moy wrote.

Elo, a coworker, transferred from Wuhan to the school where Moy works. “I don’t like of staying in small cities, you know, traditions I cannot bear were terribly hard to get used to; if not of marriage, I wouldn’t, you know.” She said with a shrug while showing her contempt with the rising of her eyebrows.

One day a parent of Elo’s student comes to the school reception center protesting saying “What a horrible teacher of Elo, her accent is exhaustedly unheard-of, how come you the administrator of the school failed to notice her accent and what a standard are you adopting to Elo, who is definitely unqualified of teaching to my child. I want you to change a teacher for my child.”

Moy had just passed by, hearing that dissension, but instead of feeling pity for Elo, he felt a bit guiltily content. He remembered thinking if this is happening to him, they, Elo and others, might feel the same, too.

Such is the life. He thought.

“Am I beautiful?”asked Liz, another colleague of Moy, in the office; as she faced no body but a mirror before her, this question is open to all in the office.

Moy’s face seemed being physically shaken but kept the face muscle tight enough lest his facial emotion be recognized out.

“You are already enough, I mean, beautiful.” Said Elo while patting Liz’s shoulder.

“So happy to hear, wanting to kiss you.”Liz beamed.

“I was confused about whether I was working in a school or a marriage company; you know, everyday, seldom were there coworkers who around me were not conversing things about men or women and physical appearance. Though I know, to them, this might be pretty natural and marriage for them must have been a very urgent thing but I still feel unnecessary to talk that loud about the preferences of their future partners as if they were shopping people, you know, shopping people. I felt otherworldly in this place. I used to think this might be something I understood wrong and thus need to get accustomed to but…” Moy wrote in his dairy. “But they have their choices, that is what made them humane. Why should I wish them to change.”

“For once in a lifetime, just let it go.”he wrote.

“Just let it go.”

Jed had replied to Moy at night saying “Just got your message and wish you will be fine in the future.”

Thinking retrospectively, Moy smiled and still felt thankful that Jed is seemingly fine about current model in which they keep contact, too.

For once in a lifetime, just let this go. Moy thought, “And if this is what our interaction will be like, well, leave it be.”

Leave it be.

“So happy is receiving the message from you that hardly can I find words to say much; only to wish you have a good night.” Moy wrote and sent that to Jed.

Things seemed to go back to normal in this pandemic-ravaged city. Waking in the mornings, noons, he got stretches and tried to be as authentic a person as he could.

Sitting on the bed while feeling the glimmering of the mellow sunlight flowing on his face, shoulders, and hair, Moy felt consoling of the warmth he received from the light.

The outside world was going back to normal; people celebrating with fireworks; and the sun looking strong and powerful. It’s about time to take a good sleep, Moy thought, feeling exhausted while looking outside of the window; how silky the light. How fine, loving, and free.