Can you imagine how significant the events, how deep the wounds must have been for a person’s personality to do a complete a 360 degree change?
Chapter 14.1 – The Love At the Time (1)
That evening, when they returned to the hospital, another of the patients in the room was already asleep, and for reasons unknown, she had no family or other people staying to take care of her. The family member of the patient nearest the window had pulled the bed curtains shut and was quietly conversing with the patient.
Opening her notebook, Tong Yan began reading over a stack of copied class notes that had been printed out.
In order to express that she had toiled away with great difficulty to take down these notes, Shen Yao had every so often written some words enclosed in parenthesis between the lines of the actual notes. For instance, there was “(The boy in the desk next to me is looking at me)” or “(Goddess of Nightmares’s clothes are so tacky today)”, or similar, and from these, Tong Yan was always able to imagine what sort of state Shen Yao was in when she was in class … She read for a little while, then sent a text message to Shen Yao: Gu Pingsheng is back.
In less than a minute, Shen Yao called her on the phone.
“He’s back? He’s really back?!” Shen Yao was clearly more excited than her. “Let me tell you, you need to give him a good schooling. Such a huge thing happened, and he didn’t come back until now … But, oh well, forget it. Men always have a lot of excuses. As long as they’re acceptable, then it’s fine.”
Tong Yan was about to die laughing listening to her, and holding her phone, she stepped out of the room.
“Did he gather you into his arms, give you fierce, hard kiss, and say, ‘Wifey, it’s been hard for you. Thank you.”
“…… You could say he did.”
Shen Yao laughed gleefully. “You’re at home? Or at his home? Or at the hospital?”
“The hospital.” She stood in front of the hospital room, watching as two nurses walked by. “It’s the final course of chemo. Grandmother will probably be discharged from the hospital in July or so. It’ll be perfect timing, and I can go back to take my final exams.”
Shen Yao was now alone in the dormitory all day long and had long since been going mad with loneliness, so hearing her say this, she immediately cheered jubilantly and quickly stated, “In any case, he’s back now, so make him help you keep watch over Grandmother through the night. It’s in times like these that men should come forward and help. You can put ’em to the test.”
Tong Yan brushed over this with a couple of vague sentences, and then picking up her notebook, she began to ask about the places in the notes where the handwriting was illegible. Shen Yao was terrible in physics as well, and for most of the notes, she had basically taken them down and then forgotten about them. She did not even know what she had written, but clinging on to face and pride, she answered with a bunch of nonsense that caused Tong Yan to grow even more confused after listening to her.
Eventually, she decided instead to ask Gu Pingsheng the next day.
When she hung up the call, she happened to hear the conversation of several personnel who were on night shift.
Within the abundant amount of gossip that was being exchanged, she faintly caught the words, “Doctor Gu.” Subconsciously feeling it might have to do with him, she pretended to lower her head and send text messages while she listened carefully to the details of the dialogue. Gradually, though, she discovered that there was something not right, and listening further, she realized that by “Doctor Gu,” they were actually referring to his mother, Gu Tongke.
There were many comments and opinions and all of them were good ones, such as, “Doctor Gu was so nice to people and even nicer to patients, and she took such good care of the graduate students that she mentored. No matter how busy she was, she would still go to cities in other provinces to perform surgeries, too.”
As she mechanically pressed the keyboard on her mobile phone, she imagined what type of person his mother might have been … Based on what he had said in the past, his mother was someone who was always very calm, having even taught him as a child how to gain control of his own emotions.
“I’ve always heard that Associate Chief Physician Gu was very good-natured and stuff. The ones nowadays are too arrogant and look down on people. The other day, I even saw the three associate chiefs of cardiology get in an actual fight.” The young nurse’s lips curled into a sneer. “Two men and one woman having a war of words. What a lively and exciting sight.”
The young nurse’s face was animated as she recounted this.
Tong Yan had heard about enough and was just about to turn around and go back when she heard some dialogue regarding him.
“Actually, Doctor Gu’s son’s temperament was not good. He was always so cold and unfriendly.” A nurse who appeared to be approaching thirty years old suddenly mentioned him. Though she had not specifically stated any names, Tong Yan could guess that she was referring to him. “But these doctors all have such weird temperaments. He’d actually be considered pretty normal, just that he didn’t really like talking to people.”
Bad temperament. Didn’t like talking to people.
That did seem like the feeling she had gotten the very, very first time she saw him.
“And then afterwards, during the SARS outbreak, he changed a lot. This afternoon when he was here, he was like a completely different person from before.” The nurse gave a sigh and added, “I heard that he saw Doctor Gu commit suicide. It was at home … No wonder his personality has changed so drastically. It had to have had some sort of effect on him …”
While her heart was palpitating from listening to this, from the corner of her eye, she saw Gu Pingsheng walking over from the elevators.
After a brief moment of surprise, she quickly adjusted the expression on her face and turned her head to smile at him, acting as if she had not heard anything.
The resting area for nurses did not have a view of the entire hallway, and as a result, those nurses continued their discussion and did not notice at all that the person who was central to their conversation topic was actually here. Only when he drew near did the nurse who knew Gu Pingsheng suddenly shut her mouth in realization, but then, remembering that he was actually deaf, her expression relaxed again.
Gu Pingsheng glanced in their direction and gave a polite smile.
Those nurses greeted him rather awkwardly, “Doctor Gu? You’re here so late?”
Out of habit, they still addressed him as “doctor.”
“I came to see my wife.” He pointed at Tong Yan. “I was worried she wouldn’t be able to handle everything alone.”
When he spoke, his eyes were on her.
With his words, the nurses followed his gaze toward her. Tong Yan’s cheeks reddened slightly. This was the first time she felt that eavesdropping on people’s gossip was even more shameful than gossiping about people.
Inside the hospital room, the patient and her family member who had been chatting earlier on were now asleep. Worried that she would disturb the other people, Tong Yan pulled him into the stairwell. The breeze that blew in through the window carried the feeling of a busy city core and blended with the heavy smell of disinfectant from the hallway, causing a person to feel slightly dazed. She raised her arm and glanced at her watch. It was past eleven o’clock already.
Three hours. The two of them had been apart for only three hours, and now he was here again and so late at night, too.
“I’m probably still adjusting to jet lag. I laid down and read for a bit but still could not fall asleep, so I came here to see you.”
He explained it in this way, but unfortunately, those eyes of his had already clearly stated the true reason. He missed her.
“I can’t sleep either.” Echoing in Tong Yan’s mind were still those nurses’ words, but concerned that he might perceive something, she raised the stack of notes in her hands instead. “Since you can’t sleep too, how about doing some physics problems with me?”
As this sentence slipped from her lips, she ended up laughing at herself first. Oh, dear Lord, what kind of lame excuse was that? …
“Sure.” He also could not hold back a smile. As he took the notes from her hand, he happened to see Shen Yao’s comments that were written in parenthesis. “Shen Yao is truly a rather fun student.”
“Don’t say the word, ‘student.’” She snatched the top sheet of notes back from him. “She is Mrs. Gu’s best friend. When you say she’s your ‘student,’ it makes me feel really weird and awkward.”
“ ‘Covering your eyes while stealing a bell’ [only deceiving yourself].” After he had smilingly made his critique, he carried on looking at the other sheets of notes that had been below the previous one. “Go grab a newspaper.”
Tong Yan gave him a puzzled look.
“To spread on the windowsill. It’ll be easier to work and solve problems that way.”
She happily accepted this assigned task.
And so, with an air of earnestness, the two of them truly began to do physics problems in the stairwell. He was very focused and serious as he explained things to her but Tong Yan’s mind would frequently wander, and by some time past three o’clock in the morning, she could no longer keep herself from drifting off. With her elbow propped on the newspaper-covered windowsill, she sleepily closed her eyes. Very soon, she felt a warm touch against her lips, and her eyes flew open.
“Go back in to sleep.” He had already straightened himself back up, and putting the cap on the pen, he said, “It’s almost four o’clock.”
“You’re still not sleepy?” She had no real experience with jet lag, and only now, after seeing that his dark eyes were still bright, did she at last have a bit of a sense of what it was. “No wonder you looked like you were always really tired during the day. And here I was all worried for no reason.”
“It will gradually get better. It’s only because I just got back and haven’t adjusted yet.”
“I’ll keep you company for a little bit longer. Just this night.” Her eyes swept over their quiet surroundings. “How about you tell me a ghost story? I’m really easily scared. Once you’ve finished telling it, I’ll immediately lose all my sleepiness.”
“Ghost story?” Gu Pingsheng was silent for a moment. “I really can’t think of any.”
“You said before that people who studied medicine are the best at telling ghost stories.” She reminded him, “It was during that first time we went to the Upper Building. I told you a ghost story but you weren’t scared at all. Didn’t you tell me at the time that medical schools are the birthplace of ghost stories? That the classrooms, laundry rooms, shower rooms, washrooms, cafeterias, and even every dormitory room and every bed have a ghost story that can be told about them?”
Gu Pingsheng had a very innocent smile on his face. “I really said that?”
“Of course. If medical schools already have so many ghost stories, then hospitals should definitely have even more.” Tong Yan seemed to suddenly think of something. “Alright, ‘fess up. Did you ever tell ghost stories to female nurses or other girls and then take that chance to get touchy with them?”
“I honestly don’t know how to tell ghost stories.” His smile grew even more innocent. “But I do remember, before, when the students from the medical college came here to pick up the bodies that had been donated for medical study, it was through this stairwell here that they left. Out of respect for the deceased, the people who were moving the cadavers would not carry out any conversation, and so over time, anyone from the hospital who passed through this place would also keep their silence.”
Instantly, her hands and feet turned to ice, and her heart hammered so heavily her chest hurt. So that meant, tonight, they had violated the taboo … The night wind at four o’clock was a little chilly and even more so made the skin crawl. And yet, there he was laughing.
“Really?” She did not dare turn to look out the window. Clinging tightly to his hand, she still felt as if her hairs were standing on end, and she slipped herself in close to his chest.
Too scary. In the middle of the night, simple sentences like those could definitely cause people to make all sorts of mental associations.
“No, it’s fake.” He pulled her into his embrace. “How is that possible? This place is just the oncology department.”
But as a result of his little untruth, Tong Yan truly did not dare stand there anymore. After he had left and she was lying alone on the foldable bed, her imagination was still running wild. Unable to endure this, she pulled out her mobile phone and sent a text to condemn the main culprit of her situation: Oh no, I cannot sleep at all. You have to take full responsibility for this.
She rolled over and sprawled on top of the small pillow, staring blankly at her phone.
Since the hospital was carrying out a trial to implement “zero accompanying persons,” the standard of nursing care had actually improved quite significantly. With this, plus Auntie Liu’s extra attention to ensure that they were being well taken care of, the entire time, Grandmother had actually had fixed nurses who cared for her as well as nurse’s aides to help. In truth, these last few months had not been too exhausting for Tong Yan.
A newspaper, her books, her mobile phone, her laptop computer, and a folding bed were adequate enough for her to be able to get through every night.
During all those nights, she had often worked on practice problems into the middle of the night. Part of the reason was because she knew that Grandmother was in great pain from the chemotherapy and could not sleep, so she used this as a way to keep her company. The other part of the reason, however, was because she was always thinking about him and could not help speculating what he might be doing during the daytime over there.
Yet who would have thought that, though he had now returned safe and sound, she would still be unable to sleep?
He had left the hospital, come back, and left again. Going back and forth in the span of just several hours, on the surface, appeared to be rather overdramatic and did not at all seem to be something he would do. However, it was precisely because it was not like him to do this that she even more so felt that in the 117 days they had been apart, there must have been many, many things that she could not even begin to imagine or comprehend. It was just like the many burdens she had shouldered alone here but did not want him to know about either.
He loved his mother very much. She had sensed this from their very first encounter, when he had sat slumped over brokenly against the wall, as well as later, when he had, partly out of needing a place to redirect his anger, lectured her in a berating voice. Even a very simple power outage had been able to create such anxiousness in him … At the time, he had said, if he had just been a bit more aware, a bit more attentive and if had truly listened carefully to the sounds coming from her room, his mother would not have left the world so early.
Her mobile phone unexpectedly lit up. Her eyes were unable to adjust to this sudden brightness, and squinting them, she read his text message: Rest assured. Mr. Gu is someone who takes responsibility for his actions. He’ll keep you company until you fall asleep. TK
掩耳盗铃. This idiom is illustrating that, in a futile attempt to cover up something that is plainly obvious, you are not able to deceive anyone and can only deceive yourself with your actions, like an ostrich burying its head in the sand.
One of the main purposes of this particular chapter is to give more insight into Gu Pingsheng’s character and how his past affected him. You realize that beneath the surface of that warm, imperturbable man who always seems to have a smile on his face, there is much pain in his past. You may have seen me write this. His maturity and strength came with a very high price.
But actually, did you guys catch the other side of him? The naughty side. LOL. Tong Yan asked him whether he used to tell ghost stories to female nurses to use that as an excuse to “comfort” them. Judging from what the nurses said here, that he used to be cold and distant to people, the answer to Tong Yan’s question is probably “no,” but that doesn’t mean he can’t do it now. Naughty Mr. Gu told his wife a scary story so that she immediately snuggled herself up right against him and he had a valid excuse to give her a nice, comforting hug. 😉
1 of 1 Prologue
41 of 66 Main story segments
0 of 3 Epilogue segments