*thump thump thump* That’s my heartbeat. *silly grin* Waaaaah! I like this chapter. I think you guys might like it, too.
Chapter 7.3 – The Person I Like (3)
In the end, they found the Shanghai Film Art Centre by Fahuazhen Road.
The all-night Christmas Eve movie line-up had already started, with three movies that would be played back-to-back beginning from eleven o’clock. As they were stepping through the dark corridor into the cinema, Tong Yan could hear the song from the ending credits of the first movie.
After they had taken their seats, Tong Yan finally breathed out a long sigh of relief. Using the glow from the cinema screen, she mouthed to Gu Pingsheng, “Good thing. The first movie is a really bad one, and now we don’t have to watch it.”
On days like Christmas or Valentine’s Day, the movie line-ups for the all-night shows were all Hong Kong romance films. New ones, old ones — all types were brought out and shown. Gu Pingsheng had been the one to purchase the tickets, so she did not even know what was going to be shown next.
“Which movie was it?” he asked her in a lowered voice.
The volume of his voice was truly very low. Looking into his eyes, the thought suddenly came into her mind that, after he had lost his hearing, he must have put great efforts into controlling and practicing his speaking volume. That process would certainly have required someone’s aid … It must have been very awkward.
“ I Really Want To Be With You,” she answered.
With a hint of a smile, Gu Pingsheng gazed at her. “Really?”
“Of course.” Tong Yan scrunched her nose slightly. “It honestly sucks. Online score for it is only a six out of ten …”
She abruptly halted her words, her lips pursing together. Teacher Gu, how can you behave so inappropriately for your older age?!
“I meant …” she clarified, forming and articulating each word clearly, “the movie that just finished showing is called ‘I Really Want to Be With You.’”
He nodded. “I know.”
The lights suddenly illuminated but then, the next instant, they were turned off again. In that brief period when brightness was followed immediately by darkness, the program had already moved forward into the opening song of the next film. And in that span of time, he had already turned his face away and was watching the opening song with focused attention.
Halfway through the movie, a few more people left from the rows up ahead. In the entire cinema, only two or three couples remained, and all of them were blatantly cuddling and making out, as if in this sort of time, this sort of place, of course “something” should be done … And they were sitting in the last row, so even if they did not want to look, it was not possible to avoid doing so.
Tong Yan fixed her eyes straight ahead on the subtitles, remembering that last time, in the Upper Building, she and Gu Pingsheng had also witnessed a hot, lightning-striking, earthquake-inducing scene.
She snuck a peek at Gu Pingsheng, who was watching the film very intently. Drowsiness tugged at her eyelids until finally, she was unable to last any longer. She pulled the hood of her down jacket up like a pillow behind her head, intending on catching a quick nap. She did not expect, however, that after she closed her eyes, she would fall completely into sleep …
This slumber was very deep and also very peaceful.
It lasted until someone patted her on the face lightly a couple of times, and only then did she hazily hear the sound of the movie playing once again. She was still too sleepy, and instinctively, she nuzzled her face against that soft, fluffy hood of the down jacket. After a while, she finally had the strength to pry open her own eyes. All around, it was still dark.
The movie was still playing.
“Do you want to go back to get some sleep?” His voice seemed as if it was drifting somewhere.
“What time is it?” She worked hard to formulate words, so drowsy she wanted to close her eyes again.
“Nearly five o’clock.” He glanced at his watch. “From what I’ve watched of the plot, it should be over soon.”
“You’ve been watching the whole time?” A Hong Kong romance film, and he was still watching it with such seriousness?
“There’s nothing else to do anyway.”
She gave a very guilty smile. At the same time, she noticed that the people in the third row had — ahem ahem — not pulled away from each other at all.
Because her reaction time was half a beat slow and her gaze was moving too sluggishly, he ended up following her eyes and looking in that direction as well. And then, they both simultaneously shifted their gazes away again.
“In the winter, the sky doesn’t light up until very late.” He turned to her and continued, “It’s going to finish up here before six o’clock.”
She gave an “mm” in answer, feeling short on words for a moment. Of course, he did not hear her almost coquettish “mm,” and naturally turned his head away again to continue watching the Hong Kong romance movie.
With her index finger, she poked his hand lightly.
He turned his head back. “What’s wrong?”
“Last night, you really weren’t mad?” She still ended up asking the question.
“At first, I was a little.” She had not expected he would be so forthright. “But I’m one who is rather able to regulate my own emotions, and after I read for a little bit, I was fine.”
Read for a little bit …
“Is everyone who studies medicine so psychologically healthy and self-aware?”
She unconsciously adjusted her position again, curling her legs up against herself so that her entire body was now leaning sideways against the back of her seat while she stared at him with curiosity.
He fell into a moment of inexplicable silence before eventually answering, “No, it’s because of my mother. Since I was two or three years old, she would often say to me, ‘Mama is a little upset right now. Let Mama sit and be by herself for a little bit.”
She gazed at him as he carried on, “Later, when I was older, she would tell me that your mood is actually something that is constantly in a state of flux. Cheerfulness and gloominess are always alternating with one another, just like day and night. It’s a law of nature. Since this is so for everyone, then we should learn to control it. When we are angry, we should first learn how to calm down. Remaining calm is the best way to regulate our emotions.”
The dialogue of the movie was still carrying on while he slowly spoke these words she had never before heard.
The flickering and shifting glow of the light from the screen was reflected on the side of his face … Tong Yan initially was very envious that he had such a sensible and rational mother, but later, she felt an unexplainable sense of pity for him. What sort of childhood would his have been if he had learned since young how to regulate his own emotions?
She could not help sweeping her eyes over the third row again. Still being very cozy and lovey-dovey. Suddenly, she realized that her own position, as well as the position he was in so that he could speak to her, could easily cause people’s imaginations to fire.
It had now changed to a night scene in the movie, and hence the entire cinema naturally became much darker.
“Do you want to go back?” Possibly because it was dark and he could not see, or perhaps for some other reason, he had moved a little closer to her again.
She glanced at the screen where Andy Lau was delivering a long emotional passage of lines and then looked back at him. “Let’s finish watching …” Actually, she honestly did not know what the movie was about, but he had watched for so long already, he should at least see the ending, right?
“Let’s finish watching, then.” When he finished these words, his face suddenly leaned in closer, and then, lowering his head, he brought his lips directly to hers.
In her ears, she could still hear Andy Lau’s voice saying, “Regardless of whether you believe or not, I believe …”
Was he Gu Pingsheng, or Teacher Gu? Right now, right here, who knew? There were several seconds of only stillness, and then, he tilted his head slightly, enclosing her lips completely in his. This setting that beguiled the senses burned away her ability to think.
She stretched out her arms and folded them around his neck. On his tongue, there was a hint of sweetness as well as a trace of astringent bitterness, like the taste of black tea. It was from the drinks they had bought at the door earlier when they had first walked in. He, the healthy person, seemed as if he would never be able to change this habit of his …
As her little, disjointed thoughts flitted through her mind, she focused her attention on continually responding to him in that constantly shifting glow of lights. And then, with his one arm wrapped around her waist, she was half-lifted up into the air and brought in front of him so that her body was pressed against his.
The background music softened, and Shu Qi began speaking a long monologue: “When I was a kid, I heard on the radio that happiness is like a crystal ball. When it falls to the ground, it shatters into many little fragments … No matter how hard you try, you will never be able to pick up all of them, but so long as you try, you will always be able to pick up some …”
Listening to this, Tong Yan could not hold back her giggles. So cheesy. But, truly so touching.
Gu Pingsheng detected her action and finally pulled himself away from her lips to look at her. “What?”
She honestly did not want to repeat such Snow White-esque lines to him … Right as he was about to lower his head again, the lights in the cinema suddenly illuminated.
The movie had ended.
Tong Yan hastily sat herself up properly. Her new jacket had fallen to the ground, and she retrieved it and stuffed it into the paper bag.
Only when the cinema lights had turned on did she notice that the only people remaining were that particular couple and them. After spending the whole night entangled together in passion and intimacy, that pair of lovebirds at last broke apart, and the girl cast them a meaningful glance. Tong Yan also woodenly returned her look. The only thing that popped into her mind was one sentence: her reputation just got flushed down the drain, after all these years …
It was past five o’clock in the morning when they left the movie theatre, and outside, it was frightfully cold.
The sky was still completely dark and there were not many people around. As they climbed inside a taxi cab, the driver, who likely had worked through the entire night, looked at them with dark circles under his eyes and chatted with them, “So romantic. You guys watched movies the whole night?” Tong Yan answered with an “mm,” all of a sudden discovering that things were really good this way.
He could not hear, so he would not … feel awkward.
She gave Miao Miao a call very early in the morning to ask for time off from work, so today, she did not go to the store.
On this rare weekend where she did not need to work, she ended up simply sleeping in Gu Pingsheng’s guest room until dusk.
That evening, when he took her back to the school, she deliberately requested the taxi driver to stop somewhere nearby the dormitory building and would not let him get out of the vehicle, instead walking alone back to the dormitory.
When she stepped in the door, Shen Yao, who thought she had just returned from working her part-time job, hesitated for a long moment before stating, “I was wrong.”
Laughing, Tong Yan kicked her on the foot. “Shoo, shoo, shoo. It’s all good. We don’t even need to say those sort of things between the two of us.”
Shen Yao breathed out in relief. “I knew it.”
Upon saying this, she immediately grabbed her mobile phone and began ardently texting back and forth, a broad grin on her face.
Without needing to ask, it was obvious whom she was texting.
Tong Yan began organizing her books for this semester. Seeing this, Shen Yao suddenly wailed in anguish, “My advanced math!” At the same time, she tossed aside her phone, dug out a stack of papers, and began cramming for her course.
In the glow of the lamplight, the side profile of Shen Yao’s face as she did her practice problems made her want to laugh. After her books were all put in order, she automatically picked up her mobile phone to glance at the time, and she discovered then that it was still powered off.
“Yesterday, after you finished dinner, where did you go?” she asked Shen Yao out of the blue.
“Where’d we go?” Shen Yao did not even raise her head. “I brought them to my older brother’s bar, but some time after midnight, ‘that guy’ left. This morning, I ate breakfast with Cheng Yu and then took him to the train station.”
Shen Yao deliberately downplayed any talk of Lu Bei, but Tong Yan knew where he had gone after midnight.
Lu Bei’s text showed up on her phone shortly after she turned it on.
It had been past six o’clock when he sent it: I brought your favourite foods, the ‘candied ears’ and yellow pea cake from Xinjiekou Opening. I’ve left them with that auntie, the staff at your dorm. I’ll come see you again next time.
Lu Bei style tone and temperament. Or perhaps it should be said, to her, he was always exceptionally good-tempered.
Just like when they first met.
At that time, Tong Yan was still a very strange-tempered person, and he was one grade lower than her. That day, it was her turn on student duty, and she happened to be responsible for the discipline of the seventh grade students. Wearing a red armband, she had patrolled back and forth on that entire floor.
She remembered, that morning, he had been late, and with his bag slung diagonally across his back, he had come running up. And then, she had stopped him, pointing at the top of the stairs and stating, “The school discipline for being late for morning self-study is to remaining standing until you’re released.”
He was taller than her by nearly twenty centimetres. Tilting his head, he looked grinningly at her. “Hey, tiny Big Sister, have mercy on me. If a teacher sees me, I’ll have to repeat my grade again.”
She did not even lift her eyes. “Take your standing punishment or else have five points deducted from your entire class. You choose.”
Before she had even finished saying this, the back door of his classroom was pulled open, and from the back row, guffaws burst out from several students who were all repeating the grade.
Silently, Tong Yan sat there and deleted the text message.
The next message was from Gu Pingsheng: Rest earlier. Good night. TK
What followed was the long period of final examinations. Wang Xiaoru had at last fully returned to join them in preparation for taking on this lengthy, wearying exam season. The following week was the final examinations for all the multi-discipline common courses, but from their dorm, only Shen Yao had one she needed to attend.
And so, on Monday morning, to review advanced mathematics, Shen Yao crawled out of bed shortly past six o’clock in the morning and began working on practice exam problems. When Tong Yan awoke, only a single small lamp was turned on. Outside, the sky was already lit, but for fear of waking the rest of them, Shen Yao had not opened the curtains.
Flipping on her table lamp, she planned on studying for a while inside her warm blankets. All of a sudden, Gu Pingsheng sent her a text message: Are you awake? TK
The corner of her lips could not help turning up in a smile as she sent a reply: Mm-hmm. Awake.
Try opening your curtains. TK
Her dormitory room was on the ground level, and her bed happened to be beside the window. She had told him this before.
And, when she slept, her head pointed toward the window …
She reached over, lifted open the curtain, and looked out the window.
In the rays of the early morning sun, he and the dean of the Law Faculty were strolling side by side, crossing the road outside of the dormitory building. The elderly man was walking very slowly, and each step he took wobbled. His gaze passed over the elderly man’s head and looked towards here, where she was.
Seeming to see that the corner of the curtain had been lifted up, he quickly brought his right index and middle fingers together and touched their tips to his forehead.
In a half-joking manner, he had used … an American military salute to wordlessly say hello to her.
上海影城. Shanghai Film Art Centre is a multiplex cinema that hosts the Shanghai International Film Festival every year. It is approximately 2 km away from St. Ignatius Cathedral where Tong Yan and Gu Pingsheng were attending Mass.
 《很想和你在一起》. The actual English name of this movie is Happily Ever After, but I did a literal translation of the Chinese title so that it would make sense in the context of the dialogue of this scene. This is a 2009 Hong Kong film, starring Ken Hung and Michelle Wai.
 为老不尊 “wei lao bu zun.” This is a saying used to describe an older person, usually an elder, who doesn’t show himself respect and demonstrates poor behavior that should not be seen from a person of his age.
 This is from the movie, 《游龙戏凤》Look for A Star (2009), starring Andy Lau and Shu Qi.
 晚节不保 “wan jie bu bao.” Technically, this saying should be translated as “one’s moral integrity was lost in one’s later years.” Kissing in a public cinema showing an all-night movie run – an atmosphere that makes people automatically conjure up “not child friendly” thoughts – and then being associated with a couple who truly did those things of the imagination causes Tong Yan to feel like “I can’t believe I just did that.”
 糖耳朵 “tang er duo.” A snack food of Beijing. It is a sweet bread, twisted into a shape that looks like an ear that is fried.
 豌豆黄 “wan dou huang.” This is a sweet cake with a dense texture. It is made mostly from mashed, yellow split peas and is also bright yellow in color.
 新街口豁口 “Xinjiekou Huokou.” Xinjiekou is a subdistrict in Beijing. In the 50’s, a portion of the old Beijing city wall in this district was torn down to allow easier flow of traffic. The area where this “huokou” or “opening” was made is called the “Xinjiekou Huokou” or what I’ve translated as Xinjiekou Opening.
 美式军礼. Actually, the U.S. military salutes with a full hand. The two-finger salute is the salute of the Polish military, but I’ll just preserve the original text and not correct that.
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22 of 66 Main story segments
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