Never wonder what I’ll feel as living shuffles by
You don’t have to ask me and I need not reply
Every moment of my life from now until I die
I will think or dream of you and fail to understand
How a perfect love can be confounded out of hand
– Written In The Stars, Elton John
Let’s break up Yun Jin …
Yun Jin woke up with a start to find herself alone in the big room. The voice from her nightmare seemed to reverberate throughout the empty room.
She sat up in bed and glanced at the alarm clock – it was already five in the morning. She didn’t feel sleepy anymore so she poured herself some water and seated herself in front of her make-up counter.
What should a twenty-seven year old female be like? Should they be like roses – with petals in full glory only to wither in the next instant? Had she reached her peak? Yun Jin stroked her face gently. It had been over three years. To be exact, it had been forty-one months. When was the last time she thought of him, of that familiar voice?
She pulled open her drawer and rummaged about till she found the sole remaining aquamarine earring. She clutched it tightly in her hand; its coolness stung her. The heartfelt words he spoke when he was putting them on her echoed in her ears. Unfortunately, she ultimately lost one of them just as she and Cheng Zheng had lost each other.
Cheng Zheng, Cheng Zheng … The person who used to lie so close to her could also be lost to the crowds. She no longer remembered the details of the fateful night. Afterall, a person’s memory is programmed to protect herself. All she knew was the moment she stepped out of his apartment, the two of them never met again. How big was the city that the both of them never met again? The Heavens could allow lovers to reunite in any corner of the Earth but never once orchestrated a meeting between them in these long four years; could it be that it was punishing them for not having loved deeply enough?
What would be considered to have loved deeply? In the initial two months post-breakup, his shadow lingered everywhere. In every street, every corner, she would see what appeared to be a familiar silhouette. Every night, in both dreams and nightmares, he was there. But over time, it occurred less frequently. Time was a potent entity – it really did make everything better. The good and bad times had all become blurry memories of the past. Eventually, she no longer dreamed of him.
Maybe Cheng Zheng was right, she was a cold unfeeling person. In this regard, she was lucky because this personality helped her feel less heartbroken. There was once Yu Hua said although Yun Jin never did find out if it was intentional or not “From a medical perspective, losing the sense of pain is abnormal and rather dangerous. If one doesn’t know the sensation of pain, then she would not be aware of how badly she has been hurt.”
Sometimes, she was envious of the lead actors in drama serials. When they fell out of love and decide to abandon everything to roam the Earth, they would return years later to find everything had changed. But she was no female lead. In reality, to travel overseas, one needed to have some semblance of wealth. People as ordinary as her could only be contented with finding their bearings again in their original beat-down spot after wallowing in the mud of self-pity. After wiping all traces of dirt from their face, they could only limp forward with their injuries intact. Since she didn’t die then, she had to live well. She had to eat, had to pay for housing, had to support her family … She did not have the luxury of floundering in her sorrow till she felt confident enough to face the world again. Time plodded on steadily and so should she.
In that few years, the company sat up and started to pay attention to the Su Yun Jin from the Marketing department. The girl who looked timid and meek, who had very little to say and who never commented on matters that didn’t concern her, turned out to be surprisingly capable. Whatever task she was assigned, she could be trusted to execute it to her best ability. If you gave her half a month to complete an assignment, she would work at it meticulously and produce an almost flawless proposal. If the same assignment had a half-day deadline, she would still finish it on schedule no matter what. While it wouldn’t be as optimal a result, one wouldn’t be able to pick up any faults on general inspection. That was the standard of her efficiency.
At the bar, there were always some nasty male or two who liked to bully young girls by placing a glass of strong liquor in front of them and only relent when they whined flirtatiously and begged off. She never gave them the satisfaction and instead would get to her feet and drink every last drop. No matter how drunk she was, she would grit her teeth and force herself onward home where she would comfortably vomit in private. There were few girls like her, quiet and frail on the outside but stubborn to the core.
With her dedication to her job and her strong business acuity, it was no surprise to anyone that she rose steadily through the ranks in the four years. From a small time marketing planning employee to division vice-leader to assistant marketing manager to deputy director of marketing to finally her role of director today. Although she was young and single, no one doubted her capabilities or diligence.
When she turned twenty-five, she finally scrimped enough to buy her own apartment in this city where property prices were expensive. When she became twenty-seven, she bought her own Toyota. By then, her uncle had already left the clothing factory. With a sum of money that Yun Jin provided him, he was able to set up a small hotel in the county with a business partner. To quickly get back in the black, he worked extremely hard in the early days. Now, he enjoyed the fruits of his earlier labour and lived a considerably stable life with her mother.
Her step-sister was now in university with Yun Jin’s full financial support. Everything was falling into place. For someone as ordinary as her to hold such a lofty position at work, she was satisfied. Yun Jin wasn’t a greedy person; she treasured everything she possessed but somehow she still felt empty inside. She may not have realized it or she may have been actively denying it but she had a Cheng Zheng-sized hole in her heart. She would even wake up in the middle of the night feeling lost and alone. Subconsciously, she knew she would never be whole again.
When she reported for work one morning, she found plenty of work piled high on her desk. There was never an idle moment for her to grieve over what she had lost and it was just as well. After office hours had begun for half-an-hour, her department’s newest research recruit Lu Lu dashed into office and bumped into Yun Jin who was getting some water. Yun Jin cast a pointed look at her but made no comment. Lu Lu was sheepish and quickly headed for her desk.
Yun Jin returned to her office. She could see Lu Lu through the glass; a young enthusiastic girl who had only graduated from university a year earlier. She probably had partied too much the night before or overslept. This was the second time in the month she was late. Yun Jin wasn’t a strict supervisor; she rarely reprimanded her subordinates or interfered in their affairs. Most of the time, she kept her cool demeanour though she was keenly aware of the diligent, lazy or opportunistic ones and kept a mental record of their individual strengths and flaws. She had the authority to reward and punish her underlings and she was set on going about it fairly.
As for this strange new recruit Lu Lu, she was willing to extend more grace towards her as long as her work did not suffer. The occasional mistakes she was able to let slide because in truth, she was envious of Lu Lu’s carefree youth. She had been there in her life before but what was the Su Yun Jin like back then? She had been sensitive, difficult to read, withdrawn … She herself couldn’t comprehend why she was so difficult to get along with back then. Since that relationship hadn’t managed to build-up her low self-esteem, she was doomed to lose it anyway.
Could it be that the older one became, the more troubling things one would encounter? Yun Jin used her fingertips to massage her temples. Perhaps the recurring nightmare made her more susceptible to headaches. She collected herself and dived into work with renewed vigour.
In the evening, after work had just ended for the day, she had just hung up a call with the sales director Xu Zhi Heng when Lu Lu knocked on her day before bounding in happily “Boss, a few of us have decided to go out for happy hour tonight and I’ve been sent as a representative to invite you along. Do join us!”
“No, it’s fine. Yall have fun!” Yun Jin smiled before poring over her documents again.
After some time had passed, she realised something was amiss. She looked up to see Lu Lu standing in the same spot with a stern expression. Yun Jin couldn’t help but feel amused “Is there anything else?”
“Sister Su, do you have to work overtime tonight? Or do you have a date planned? Or are you feeling unwell? If it’s none of the above, why do you not want to join us? Do you know that a lady’s biggest enemy is time as it forces her to lose her youthfulness bit by bit …”
“Stop!” Yun Jin interrupted her rambling. “Tell me the venue.” She pretended not to see Lu Lu giving the victory sign to the other colleagues who did a bad job of concealing their presence outside. Maybe, she really did need to unwind.
“It’s at ‘Left Bank’. We’ll dine on the second floor, sing karaoke on the third and go for spa on the fourth. Wait for me Sister Su! I’ll take your car.” Lu Lu bopped out frantically and failed to notice Yun Jin’s hesitant steps.
Left Bank … Yun Jin was not unfamiliar with the place. All these years, she had grown out of her introverted self that she was with Cheng Zheng. After work, she would sometimes meet-up with old classmates and friends in various entertainment hang-outs in the city. Left Bank was a relatively new establishment. It had a stylish architecture and catered to the middle and upper class and was thus popular among the richer white-collared workers. More importantly however, it was a business under Zhang Yue.
After splitting with Cheng Zheng, Yun Jin and Zhang Yue did not keep in contact although Shen Ju An was still her friend. She was well aware of the sort of person Ju An was – loving him would hurt one easily. But in keeping a distance, he was a perfect comrade whom one could confide in. Ju An never brought up Cheng Zheng in their conversations and Yun Jin never pried into the stormy relationship he had with Zhang Yue.
Having finished dinner, the whole gang headed for the karaoke suite to have a roaring good time. Although Yun Jin took the initiative to be a little more easygoing after office hours, she didn’t want to lose her professional image in front of her subordinates so she chose to play the role of an audience. However, Lu Lu wasn’t about to let her off so easily and she dragged her to the pub on the fourth floor and insisted on getting high together.
The young lass had only downed a few cups but her face was already flushed. Ironically, her eyes were brighter than it ever was in office as she used her radar to scan the crowds for handsome men. Suddenly, she shook Yun Jin enthusiastically “Sister Su! Look, there’s a fine specimen there!!”
Yun Jin looked in the direction she was gesturing at but the crowds were a mess and she couldn’t differentiate the “fine specimen” from “trash” and so she replied disinterestedly “Not another one of your F4 types?”
Lu Lu herself couldn’t spot the guy again in the ever-shifting mass of people and she exclaimed in frustration “It was a really handsome guy! He had style and charisma. But where did he disappear to?”
Yun Jin laughed inwardly; the he she was referring to was some distance away, how could she tell if he had charisma?
Lu Lu sensed that Yun Jin was disinterested and said “Sister Su, you’re only 27 and you’re already uninterested in handsome guys. This is not a good sign! Women cannot do without the sizzle of romance. Look at your eyebags, there’s definite some yin-yang imbalance.”
“What nonsense! I didn’t have a good sleep last night.” Yun Jin retorted.
Lu Lu laughed in response “Poor sleep … was it because you were thinking of someone?”
The words had just escaped her lips when her sharp eyes detected Yun Jin’s expression stiffen. Because Yun Jin was such an approachable superior, she had neglected propriety in a moment’s carelessness. She recalled nervously that her boss hated discussing personal matters. She stuck at her tongue at her own misstep and tried to reroute the conversation.
What was more surprising was after Yun Jin remained silent for a bit, she suddenly nodded “You’re right.”
Lu Lu was stunned; she felt like she had just stumbled upon the latest gossip treasure mine. She couldn’t let such a golden opportunity slip her by so she grabbed Yun Jin’s sleeves and asked excitedly “Sister Su, who did you think of? Do tell!”
“My ex-boyfriend.” Yun Jin replied sadly.
Lu Lu was delighted at this response “So you had a boyfriend previously? I knew it. Someone as pretty as you couldn’t possible not have been in a relationship. Ex-boyfriend meaning you guys broke up? Why did you break up? You’re so perfect; it must have been because he had many flaws so you chose to leave him right?”
“No, he didn’t have any shortcomings. On the contrary, he’s the most outstanding man I have ever come across. I’m sure I’ll never find another man who loves me as much as he did. I simply didn’t have the fortune of sharing a future with him.” Yun Jin was equally shocked to find herself readily spilling out her secrets to this young girl. Perhaps last night’s nightmare that woke her from her sleep brought up many repressed memories for which she needed a listening ear.
“Then you must really miss him.” Lu Lu didn’t forget to empathize even as she listened attentively.
Yun Jin shook her head “To be honest, in all these years, I rarely thought of him. Funny enough, this city is not big yet I’ve never bumped into him again.”
“HE’S IN G-CITY?!” Lu Lu’s eyes bulged and nearly fell out of their sockets. “Sister Su, if you were to meet him again, what would you do? Would you cry? Would you pretend that his presence doesn’t affect you and wave casually at him?”
“If I meet him, my only hope is … that he’s not living blissfully, at least not more happily than I am. Isn’t that very selfish of me?” Yun Jin swirled the alcohol in her glass.
How could Lu Lu understand? She asked timidly “But why?”
Yun Jin squeezed her eyes shut “Because my heart hasn’t been able to let him go. Sometimes, I hate him … But most of the time, I find I still love him.”