So sweet. It’s unfortunate that the day had to end in disappointment for Tong Yan and Gu Pingsheng.
Chapter 14.3 – The Love At the Time (3)
The next morning, she woke up relatively late. While she was looking at the mirror and brushing her teeth, she heard Grandmother and Gu Pingsheng conversing in the living room. The soundproofing in this home was very good, and despite pricking up her ears for a long time and trying to listen, she still could not catch the essence of the conversation. When she stepped out, she saw him on the balcony, his arms propped against the railing as he gazed at the scenery outside.
He had donned a soft, exquisite-looking white dress shirt and a pair of chinos, and his sleeves were rolled up. Walking over to him, she patted him on the back, and as he turned around, she discovered that he was actually wearing a tie as well … It was seldom that he dressed so formally.
Narrowing her eyes, she made a show of admiring this look of his.
“You’re going to the school today?”
“Going to get married,” he stated.
“Huh?” Tong Yan stared uncomprehendingly for a moment. “Married?”
“Today is a business day, and moreover,” he said in a low voice as he loosened his tie slightly, “your grandmother has agreed to it.”
With an “oh” in response, Tong Yan looked first at his eyes, then allowed her gaze to travel its way down until she saw the ring on his finger. Her mind inexplicably went blank for some time. Then all of a sudden, she gave a cry of “I’m going to take a shower!” and hurriedly dashed back into the bathroom.
This was a perfectly proper matter, but it threw her into disarray for the entire morning. Simply selecting her clothing alone took a full hour as she tried on different outfits. Her bedroom did not have a large enough mirror, so she could only haul a huge pile of clothes into the bathroom to try on. However, dissatisfied with all of them, she brought them back out and continued on to carry another batch into the bathroom. At last, even Gu Pingsheng found her actions funny. Pushing open the door, he stepped in and assigned to her a light pink dress to wear.
She also thought it was good, so she slipped it on.
But when they were sitting in the taxi, Tong Yan looked down at the dress she was wearing and suddenly felt it was unsuitable. “Is it too pinky and immature? Not formal and dignified enough?”
Gu Pingsheng looked her over carefully. “No, it’s very nice. Mrs. Gu looks very pretty.”
She smiled, then after a while, felt something was peculiar. “How come you’re not nervous?”
“I am. I’m nervous, too.” With a very attractive smile, he quickly added, “It’s true.”
Tong Yan gave a lopsided smirk in an expression that showed she did not believe him.
Gu Pingsheng placed his hand forward and motioned to her to give her hand to him. Although Tong Yan did not understand, she still did as he instructed and set her hand on his palm. And then, she could feel that there was actually a slight dampness to that hand that was holding hers.
“Do you believe me now?” His voice was solemn and his manner was serious.
She nodded, not pulling her hand back and merely turning her head away instead to face the window with a ceaseless smile.
In her past twenty years of awareness, Tong Yan had never believed that a person could smile for such a long time. How good did a person’s mood have to be to smile like a starry-eyed girl who did not care at all about her image? But when she stood in front of the door to the Marriage Registration Centre of the Civil Affairs Bureau and discovered that her lips were still spread in a grin, she finally believed that a person truly could be so happy that she could smile nonstop.
The sunshine of early summer felt warm and tickled the skin as it shone down on the people below.
Perhaps because it was a working day, there were not many people inside. There looked to be eleven or twelve couples, some of them sitting in front of the counter, filling in forms, and others consulting with the staff. When they walked in, an older woman at the door was rather keenly helpful and instantly directed them to take a premarital medical examination.
Tong Yan paused in surprise and automatically glanced toward Gu Pingsheng.
He had stepped in later and had not seen what this staff member had said, and only after seeing that Tong Yan was looking at him did he ask, “What’s the matter?”
“Little lass, a premarital medical exam is a must.” This auntie-figure noticed that Tong Yan did not look willing and very patiently advised, “This is very important. You kids all don’t understand this.”
“We’re not doing it,” Tong Yan swiftly declined. “What’s the next step?”
“Auntie still advises you that you should do it.” This staff member was very dedicated and kindly counseled, “Last month, there was a young couple that came and registered their marriage, but they didn’t do the premarital medical exam. This month, the girl’s parents came and said the man has fertility problems. The girl is regretting her decision, and they were yelling at us, saying we weren’t taking responsibility for the issue. But these days, premarital medical examinations are optional. What can we do about it?”
With a shake of her head, Tong Yan grabbed his hand and continued walking further in, deciding simply to find and read the sign that had instructions on the entire process.
That older woman truly was only speaking out of good intentions, but Tong Yan was most clear on what the condition of his health was. Even though she did not know exactly what a premarital medical examination entailed, she did not want to affect today’s good mood.
Behind them, that woman seemed to be lamenting to someone that nowadays, young girls were just not being realistic by choosing not to do such an important medical check-up. Pretending not to hear, Tong Yan lifted her head and carefully read through the process. She discovered that it really was very simple. They only needed to take a photograph together and then they could head directly to the counter to do the registration. She tilted her head sideways to look at him. “We’ll go to the room next door to take a photo and then come back here to the counter to register.”
He answered her with an “alright,” seeming not to have been affected by the staff member a moment ago.
They paid the photography fee, and while they were standing in line waiting to have their photograph taken, Tong Yan watched the young couple in front of them smile as if they had just won five million yuan. The elderly man taking the photographs kept telling them, “Smile a little less widely. Even less. Your teeth are all showing …” Those two looked and laughed at each other for a long while before they finally re-adjusted their smiles. Though they were a little stiff and nervous, they managed to put together a proper pose for the photograph.
When the photo was printed and they were walking past Tong Yan, the girl even deliberately said sorry to them for such a long delay. Tong Yan hurriedly shook her head. “No worries.”
Once the subjects of the photograph became her and Gu Pingsheng, she finally understood that the photographer was definitely the one who created the stiffness and nervousness.
“The one on the right, bring that lip up higher. I’m talking to the girl.” The old photographer meticulously directed them, “Don’t let your mouth smile too wide … No, no. Now your smile is too fake … “ It was evident that she was dazed from all these instructions.
After the photograph was placed in their hands, she saw that in it, against the red background, his smile was neither overstated nor too subtle, just simply perfect. Her own expression, on the other hand, was very bizarre … You could not say whether she was trying to cry or smile.
“Look at your husband and how natural his smile is.” The old photographer even did not forget to throw in his own comment as he took advantage of this moment when there was nobody else waiting in line.
Putting on an unperturbed front, she took a pair of scissors and cut apart the four photographs. Carefully, she tucked two away into her wallet while she held the remaining two in her hand in preparation for attaching them to the marriage certificate later.
The entire time, Gu Pingsheng merely watched until, with a serious manner, she had readied everything. Then, he at last slipped his arm around her shoulder and suggested, “When you’ve come back after your finals, we’ll go and take a real set of wedding photos.”
With her lips turned out in a pout, she very sullenly stuffed the photographs over to him. “Some people were just born with a ‘waigua’ [a ‘cheating tool’ to make things easier in life]. Makes people so darn jealous.”
“Waigua?” He copied the shape of her lips and repeated this term.
“It’s basically a plugin or tool in online gaming that makes you invincible under the gaming heavens.”
“A programming bug?”
“No, not really a programming bug.”
And hence, while the two of them were in line waiting to register their marriage, they began a serious discussion on the difference between a waigua and a programming bug. When it was their turn, they still had not arrived at a definite conclusion yet, but Tong Yan and Gu Pingsheng sat down and decided to first take care of their proper business.
Gu Pingsheng took the pen and form and had soon filled in his own information. For some reason, when Tong Yan brought her pen to the paper, her heart began beating rapidly and she wrote each word very slowly. For many basic pieces of information, she had to think for a long time before she knew what she should write.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw that he had already completed filling in his and seemed now to be looking at her. In an instant of anxiousness, on the place where she was supposed to sign her signature, she ended up writing in her birthday …
The middle-aged woman behind the counter burst out in a chuckle. “Little lass, you really are nervous. Not at all like when you were talking about gaming just a little while ago.”
TongYan smiled embarrassedly. Crossing out her birthday, she hurriedly signed her name.
“Your hukou [household register and declaration of permanent residence] booklet and identity card.” The middle-aged woman smiled and took the forms back from them.
Gu Pingsheng pulled out his passport and Tong Yan’s hukou booklet, and Tong Yan also handed her identity card over. The woman casually flipped through them before very puzzledly asking Tong Yan, “Little lass, this hukou account doesn’t have you registered in there.”
Tong Yan gave an “ah” and stared blankly at Gu Pingsheng. Gu Pingsheng looked as if he did not understand what was going on either.
“Did you transfer your hukou [registered permanent residence] to somewhere else?”
She seemed to suddenly realize something. “I think when I first got accepted into university, I transferred it over to the school …”
“You’re still a student?” The woman was rather taken aback. Although university students had long since been allowed to marry, it was still only a small number that actually did.
“So, I need to transfer my hukou out from the university?” Tong Yan seemed as if she could not quite catch the direction of the discussion. “My identity card won’t work?”
“In these last two years, they have basically stopped attaching a student’s hukou to his or her educational institution.” The middle-aged woman patiently explained, “But a few years ago, all students would be registered in their school’s collective hukou account. That is a little more troublesome because you need your school to provide a verification. Is your school here?”
“No, it’s in Shanghai.”
“Then you need to obtain a proof of residency, and you need to do that in Shanghai.”
After the entire discussion came to an end, she realized that the whole time, she had been facing that staff member and Gu Pingsheng could not see the conversation in its entirety. When she was about to explain the situation to him, he had already smilingly squeezed her hand. “We’ll take it slowly. We can resolve this one step at a time.” She nodded and took all their items back from the staff member’s hand.
Joyfully, the two of them had come here, but it had turned out to be a fruitless effort.
As she gazed vacantly out at the endless streams of traffic outside the main entrance, she was extremely dejected. He, on the other hand, did not seem overly affected emotionally and asked her whether she wanted to go back home or go pick up Grandmother to go out for dinner.
She absentmindedly answered him. Then after a little while, she tentatively turned the conversation topic back again. “If I go back to the university and ask them for a verification, would it be a lot of trouble?”
No matter what, they had met in the university and their relationship had been teacher and student. Even though he had now already decided to change to a different university to teach, the gossip and rumours that were being spread privately as well as the attitudes and stances of the fellow students of her class would more or less still reach Administration. If she had not had these as the basis of the situation, she could simply have thickened her skin and still gone to ask for a verification of her hukou …
“Doing that could very likely affect you so that you won’t be able to graduate normally. We can just wait until you’ve graduated and make up the official marriage registration then,” he said in solemnity.
She nodded and stretched out her hand to take his right hand. “Let’s go home to eat?”
With a “sure,” he held her hand in his and waved down a taxi, going home the same route they had come.
When they arrived at the door to their home, they realized they had not bought groceries to make dinner, so they went to a restaurant near their community compound and bought a couple dishes of takeout. Once they were back home, though, they discovered to their astonishment that an entire table of food had been laid out, the meal so sumptuous it left them dumbstruck. Tong Yan was a little stupefied and clearly did not know how to react to the dinner Grandmother had prepared. Fortunately, he was there and was always able to give a good and apt reason to explain unexpected disappointments.
After she returned to her own bedroom that night, a rare bout of insomnia caused her to lay awake until past one o’clock in the morning. Eventually, truly unable to fall asleep, she got off the bed and in her bare feet, quietly opened her room door. Their home had two normal bedrooms and one master bedroom. As the master bedroom had its own individual bathroom, needless to say, it was given to the elderly one of the house. Therefore, their two bedrooms were actually adjacent to one another.
When she turned the doorknob and stepped inside, Gu Pingsheng was still leaning back against the head of the bed, reading a book. To her surprise, he had on an attractive pair of glasses and was still wearing the white dress shirt from the daytime.
Seeing Tong Yan walk in, he set his book down beside him and opened his arms to her. Tong Yan hopped onto the bed and burrowed herself against his chest. After holding him for a little while, she tilted her face up to ask, “Why haven’t you showered yet?”
“I’m going to be depressed and disappointed for several days because we could not obtain our legally recognized papers,” he replied in a half-joking tone. Lowering his head and nuzzling it against her cheek, he asked her, “Why are you in here so late at night instead of sleeping?”
His face was pressed against hers, so naturally, he would not be able to see the shape of her lips when she spoke. Tong Yan cuddled a little while longer with him before lifting up the light blanket and nestling herself under it. At last, she looked at his eyes. “I’m here to go to sleep with you. When did you start wearing glasses?”
“Sometimes I need them, but in the future, I may be inseparable from them.” His elbow was resting on his pillow as he propped his head on his hand and gazed at her. “Side effect number one: vision will gradually deteriorate. But good thing, once I put on glasses, it’s not much of a hindrance.”
Before he had even opened his mouth to speak, Tong Yan had had a suspicion that this was the case. Now, she merely stretched her hand forward and placed it at a distance very close to her eyes as a demonstration to him. “Once something is past this point, I can’t see it very clearly. Super nearsightedness. A prescription of minus five. Normally I wear contact lenses so you can’t tell. Do you know what the biggest advantage of being nearsighted is?”
Gu Pingsheng gave a silent smile and did not reply.
“If you take off your glasses, the entire street is filled with pretty girls and handsome guys.” She slipped his glasses off for him. “Do you see a very, very, very beautiful girl lying on your bed and smiling at you?”
“I think there really is.” His eyes narrowed slightly.
“I have a question I’ve been wanting to ask you for a long time.”
“Go ahead, ask.”
“Can you truly not hear anything? Can you wear a hearing aid?” She reached her arms out and, with only that thin dress shirt separating them, hugged his waist.
“I can, except I just don’t want to. At least, up to the present, I do not want to.”
So it turned out, it actually was not so irreversible and hopeless.
Tong Yan’s mood immediately improved, and she swung her legs on top of his. Lying on his side, he hooked his arm under her legs and pulled them up onto his waist. It was a simple action, but it tickled the heart and made it restless. And on top of that, he was unconsciously drumming his fingers on her bare calves as he pondered on something.
 外挂 “wai gua.” The Chinese gaming term for cheating/hacking tools (gamebots, cheat programs, etc.) used in online gaming in which a player is given an advantage over other player(s). Tong Yan is saying that Gu Pingsheng was born looking perfect and just seems to be able to do everything so easily and perfectly, like he was born with “cheat tool” that gives him an advantage in all things in life.
 Recall in footnote  in chapter 11.2, the hukou is China’s household registration system where, basically, a person declares a location of permanent residence. This is important because the hukou area determines where you can access certain services, such as medical insurance, public schooling, etc. Organizations, such as businesses or educational institutions, can set-up what is called a 集体户口 “collective hukou account.” Therefore, students of an educational institution can transfer their hukou into the school’s collective hukou or employees can transfer their hukou into their employer’s collective hukou, especially if they are changing where they would be living (i.e. the school or employer is located outside of where their hukou area is). Tong Yan brought her hukou booklet that she had at home, but the account in that booklet would be tied to Beijing, and since she had transferred her own hukou into the school’s collective account in Shanghai, the booklet would not have her registered in it.
 Legal age of marriage in China is age twenty-two for men, twenty for women. In even the early 2000s, undergraduate students of post secondary educations institutions were prohibited from marrying while they were studying. This blanket rule was abolished in Sept 2005 and students were allowed to marry.
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