Oh my, how can you not feel for these two? As much as they work hard to move forward in life, there are some hidden things that are just waiting to come forth. And so, we have one of them in this update.
Chapter 16.1 – My Mister Gu (1)
When the very long summer vacation came to an end, she began the true lifestyle of an intern student.
It was not as she had imagined. It was not very busy, but she would always have opportunities to see various defendants and plaintiffs as well as their legal representatives.
Gu Pingsheng’s new students were all very delightful.
The first time she went to his school to wait for him to finish his lectures, they ended up causing her face to flush a brilliant shade of red and her ears to turn crimson. That afternoon, after the bell signaling the end of class rung out, a crowd of students soon stepped out with him enclosed in the middle, like the multitudes of stars surrounding the lone moon.
Leaning against a railing, she stood not far away and watched him until he noticed her, and then she immediately made an impish face at him.
“Teacher Gu, is that our esteemed shimu [teacher-mother]?” a female student inquired of him.
After he directly affirmed this, teasing heckles began to rise up from all those students who were two or three years younger than her. In voices that he could not hear and from angles that he could not see, there were endless cries of “Esteemed Shimu, hello,” or “Esteemed Shimu is really pretty,” or other similar things … She was reminded of how, in the past, at her school, her own classmates had also did the same, always, from below the podium, using voices that he could not hear to tease her.
In terms of time, it was now more than a year removed, and in terms of location, they were more than 1400 kilometres away.
But he was still Teacher Gu, that same Teacher Gu who wore button-up shirts and enthralled everyone.
“I remember someone once cautioned me that university teachers and doctors are the professions that most easily give in to temptation. You say, in the next thirty-odd years of your future, you will always be looking at seventeen, eighteen year old students. So, when you go home to see me and I’m looking more and more like a worn housewife, will you even be just a tiny bit swayed?” She was sitting on the couch, her legs resting on top of his thighs. “Plus, men don’t age easily …”
When Gu Pingsheng finished watching this long babble of hers, he raised his brows in a smile, then lowered his head to resume flipping through his book.
He was not even paying attention to her idle worries.
She had initially only said those words in jest, but seeing him now being so uncooperative to indulge her, she continued in great displeasure to rub her foot against his leg. Only after he at last raised his head and looked toward her did she set down the National Judicial Examination practice exam paper and sidle herself from her side over to his. “What if a girl student falls for you like I did?”
His expression seemed to grow serious, and he contemplated for a while before suddenly sighing, “That is indeed very highly possible.”
“Very highly possible?” Tong Yan silently fixed her eyes on him.
“This university has a relatively large law school. From the looks of it now, I will be coming in contact with the students of nine different classes. If we estimate the probability based on Mrs. Gu’s success rate, then indeed, the situation is very dangerous.”
“Yes, yes! You only taught one class and you were already able to nab a girl …”
“But for every class, before I begin teaching them, I will let them know that I am already ‘not available.’”
That was a good way of saying it. She smiled in satisfaction. “Mr. Gu, what would you like to eat tomorrow? Please, go ahead to make your requests. No need to be polite with me about it.”
He nodded. “Let me have a good think about it, and I’ll let you know at noontime tomorrow.”
Alas, man proposes but God disposes. When Tong Yan came home from the courthouse and finished preparing dinner, it was already nearing 7:30 p.m., but he was still not home. Grandmother’s schedule tended to be quite early. Usually, dinner for her would be between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m., and by 9:00 p.m., she would promptly retire for the night. Tong Yan texted Gu Pingsheng three times but received no response, so she could only say to Grandmother that perhaps he had some matters at the school that he needed to attend to.
However, though she was not certain the reason, a persistent sense of unease plagued her heart.
At some time past eight o’clock, she could not remain there in inaction any longer, and arbitrarily making up an excuse to Grandmother, she left the home. She took her phone and began to repeatedly dial his number. After the taxicab had driven for ten minutes, the call was suddenly picked up on the other end. “Hello? Is this … um, is this Shimu?” It was a male voice that sounded very young.
“Mm, yes, it’s me.” Tong Yan provided this response first, then took a deep breath. “Has something happened to Teacher Gu?
Upon throwing out this question, though, she did not wait for the person on the other end to answer and quickly followed up to ask, “Did he fall? Is he at the school or the hospital?”
“The hospital.” Afraid that she would become anxious with worry, the boy quickly added, “A bunch of us guys, all students, brought him here. Teacher Gu regained consciousness just earlier …” Her ears were filled with a droning hum. The voice inside the phone at times would seem far away while at other times, it felt so close she wanted to move away from it.
After getting an understanding of approximately where he was, she quickly told the driver to turn around and head straight toward that particular hospital.
When Tong Yan stepped inside to where he was, there truly were three or four young men surrounding his bed, anxiously watching him. A doctor, who could not be considered very young, was there, holding a film sheet, and the expression on his face was rather odd. “Do you have some sort of past medical history? This picture …”
All her attention was focused on him, and she did not care at all what sort of picture the doctor was looking at on that film sheet.
If there were any issues, they were undoubtedly repercussions left behind by that sickness.
“Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.” When Gu Pingsheng finished stating this, he saw her approaching the bedside, and the corner of lips turned up into a smile.
“SARS …” The doctor automatically simplified it down to the acronym and then abruptly turned his eyes to the film sheet in his hand.
One of the male students unconsciously took a step back, but soon realizing what he had just done, he bowed his head.
That student was standing in a position at the end of the bed, and Tong Yan had seen his action very clearly.
“That’s right, then. Angina — chest pain, discomfort, or tightness — due to lack of oxygen to the heart. This last week, there has been relatively more rainy weather, and the air has been stuffy and hot as well. It should have been like this for you these last several years, right? During hot, humid weather, you need to be especially mindful. In the summer, there is more rain and the humidity is a lot higher, so you must minimize your activity …” Once the doctor learned of his medical history, he quickly understood the cause of the condition.
When he had nearly finished providing all the required explanations and instructions, he inquired further, “Which hospital were you in before? I mean, during that time with SARS.”
“Peking Union Hospital.”
“Peking Union?” The doctor recalled, “The treatments at Peking Union at the time could be considered the most successful. You were pretty lucky to have been sent there. Did you live nearby?”
Gu Pingsheng seemed not to have fully recovered yet and was controlling how deep each breath was as he replied, “I was a doctor there at the time.” His expression was just as unperturbed as always.
Something flashed in the eyes of that boy with the slight figure who, earlier, had instinctively backed away, and he looked over their way.
Astonishment came over the doctor for an instant, but he soon adjusted his facial expression and began to carry out an exchange with Gu Pingsheng about his colleagues at Peking Union during that time. Gu Pingsheng’s duration at Peking Union had been very short, but as luck would have it, he happened to encounter the SARS outbreak. In the conversation, the doctor mentioned that one of his classmates had passed away during that period. When he stated the name, Gu Pingsheng quickly nodded and told him he had once shared a hospital room with that person.
The several students who were present appeared to be younger than Tong Yan by two or three years, and at the time, they had been young so they did not really understand that disaster that had long since passed. They merely were somewhat amazed that Gu Pingsheng had once been a doctor, and even more so, just like Shen Yao in the past, they held an admiration for him.
After all, medicine and law sounded like they should be so very different.
Only that one boy was listening with seriousness, so serious, in fact, that it was rather excessive.
In the end, because it was too late, Gu Pingsheng told those students to leave first. Tong Yan sat beside the hospital bed and listened as these two men who originally had been strangers to one another now casually chatted. When she was very little, she had always believed that doctors were all-powerful, that so long as you told them where you were feeling unwell, their medicine would act and the sickness would disappear. Her faith was even to the point that, the instant their stethoscopes were placed on your body, you would stop coughing and your fever would subside.
Later, from high school through to university, she heard more and more about “red packets” [cash gifts given to medical personnel] and the refusal to treat patients.
It seemed the only thing the media could provide was negative reports. And then, she had met him once again. In particular, in those several months when he had left for his surgery, she had repeatedly searched for news of that specific period, and she had inexplicably felt a sense of ruefulness. Only during major epidemics were doctors called “angels in white coats.” Once the epidemic passed, they were reverted back to being “butchers in white coats.”
Angels could save and heal people, but ultimately, they still had to die in sickness and pain, unable to save themselves.
That night, Gu Pingsheng did not choose to stay in the hospital, and the doctor personally saw him downstairs to the main entrance hall.
“Nowadays, doctors’ reputations aren’t even as respected as those of people who make ‘gutter oil’ [illegally produced cooking oil, recycled from waste oil].” The doctor gave a bitter smile. “I look at you and I look at that classmate of mine, and I feel that it really wasn’t worth it.”
Standing there in that entrance hall, which was now significantly quieter than during the daytime hours, in a tone which was not clear whether he was laughing or sighing, he replied, “Were it not for the fact that my physical condition is not ideal, I would without a doubt choose to return to the hospital. Your classmate would probably have given this same answer, too.”
As the two of them stepped out the main hospital doors, an extremely worried look finally showed on Tong Yan’s face. “There are really no issues with you? Should you stay in the hospital and be under observation for some time?”
Regardless of whether it was a problem of the lungs that had led to lack of oxygen to the heart or something else, he truly had collapsed unconscious due to angina. Problems of the heart could be just little ones, or they could be very big … She simply was not able to regard this as a small matter.
Before Gu Pingsheng could provide an answer, he looked in the direction behind her.
Following his gaze, she turned around and discovered that, surprisingly, that boy was still here.
“Teacher Gu.” The boy’s Mandarin was not very good. “Since I was young, I’ve heard the people around me talk about SARS. Guangdong was also one of the hardest-hit areas, so …”
Gu Pingsheng walked over and patted him gently on the back of his head. “Hurry back to the university. Teacher Gu has a wife and family, so if the dormitory doors are locked, I won’t take the responsibility of taking you in for the night.”
The boy seemed as if he had words to say but he swallowed them. Even when he was leaving, the expression on his face was apologetic.
It was already past midnight by the time they arrived back at home. Tong Yan was worried about him and was unwilling to sleep in a separate room from him anymore. After hurriedly showering, she walked into his bedroom.
Every time she slept with her arms around him, she could feel that his body temperature was lower than her own. Tong Yan lay there for a while but after discovering that he was actually not asleep, she decided to simply turn on the table lamp. “The last several days have been rainy as well as hot. Once I’m not in an air-conditioned room, even my chest will feel heavy and tight. Do you think you should request some time off with the university and rest up for a few days?”
Gu Pingsheng squinted his eyes as he faced the light and answered, “Sure.”
She pondered on something for a moment, then asked him, “Before, you would sometimes not go to school and would always say that there were things in your family that you needed to take care of. Were you actually feeling unwell then?”
As she spoke, she placed her hand on his chest, trying to feel his heartbeat, but she could not figure out a right method. While she slowly made her attempts, her chest actually started to feel very uncomfortable, as if she was in tune with him and could experience what he was feeling.
Gu Pingsheng lay with his left hand beneath his head, merely smiling and gazing at her.
“Teach me how to take a pulse, okay?” she unexpectedly said.
“Tomorrow, after you’ve come back from the courthouse, I’ll teach you then.” He picked up his watch from the bedside table and glanced at the time. “It’s nearly two o’clock. How about we sleep first?” After he said this, he moved to turn off the lamp.
She grabbed his hand, finally speaking out the guilt she had been feeling the entire night. “I’m not a good wife. It seems like I don’t understand anything and don’t know how to do anything. Besides cooking for you everyday, everything else, I need you to do.”
And even when he suddenly collapsed and was admitted to the hospital to be checked, she was also the last to arrive.
She had no real-life experience in society, nor did she have a whole, healthy family. She did not even know what it meant to be a good wife or what little things a normal family would do everyday behind their closed doors.
“Other than earning money, I also don’t know how to qualify as being a good husband. And on top of that, the money I make is not considered much.” He clasped her hand in his and placed it on his chest. In a serious tone, he told her, “Right now, all these things you are negating yourself over do not actually have much to do with you, personally. They all still stem from me. Yan Yan, I am actually very selfish. I know that my health is very poor, but I still am resolute on being with you.”
红包 “hong bao.” The “red packets” or “red envelopes” are the name of cash gifts put in a red envelope. In the context of the health care system in China, they are referring to cash gifts given to medical personnel by potential patients as an expression of gratitude but is also used as a way of exchange to secure higher quality care and services. “Red packets” have a negative connotation of bribing your way to better health care.
 地沟油 “di gou you.” The term “di gou you” or “gutter oil” is used to describe cooking oil that was made illegally by processing waste oil, i.e. oil that was recovered from garbage (trash cans, dumpsters, even sewers). Producers of it sell this oil at a below-market rate to the food industry. This is a huge food safety issue.
“Were it not for the fact that my physical condition is not ideal, I would without a doubt choose to return to the hospital. Your classmate would probably have given this same answer, too.” Such a big, beautiful heart. And also shows the price he paid, that he gave up his dream.
Those last two paragraphs just really tweak something in my heart. *sigh* Think about what type of childhood they must each have had. Neither of them even know what a wife or husband “should” do. Their love is so deep, but neither has seen a healthy, loving relationship modelled for them, so they feel at a loss. In my opinion, they are both doing a wonderful, beautiful job of loving each other and contributing to their little family unit, but to them, it’s not about what other people feel or see, it’s what they perceive. They have nothing to compare to, no model of a relationship to measure themselves against, so they always wonder if they are measuring up to what a “proper” spouse should be like. The self-doubt you see in them here shows that for both of them, their parents (or lack thereof) really are a wound and, I believe, a cause for low self-esteem.
1 of 1 Prologue
47 of 66 Main story segments
0 of 3 Epilogue segments