One of the things I like about Chu Jian is, if she makes a promise, she will do it. Despite the awkwardness, she promised to “try,” so she will do it to the best she can. Think Jian Bianlin is thrilled?
Chapter 4.1 — Each Second of Waiting (1)
Going now? So soon?
Chu Jian took a deep breath. She felt she should open the door. Right, open the door.
And so, the obstacle that had been blocking their views, just like that, suddenly disappeared. Jian Bianlin’s one arm was leaning against the doorframe, and the focus of his gaze all at once switched from that little sloth bear that hung on the wooden door to her, leaving him in somewhat of a daze.
“I… just remembered that I still have a package of instant noodles. I’ll go make a bowl of noodles for you.” Choking on her words for the longest time, she finally was able to get these two sentences out.
With his one arm still resting on the edge of the doorway, Jian Bianlin thought for a moment, then nodded. While Chu Jian ran into the kitchen, he sent a text message to Xie Bin, who was out in the stairwell, telling him to come grab the key to his home and hang out for a little while in the apartment across the hall.
Therefore, when Chu Jian was searching all over for some eggs, she heard the door of her home open. Offhandedly, she asked, “Is someone here?”
Jian Bianlin walked up to the door of the kitchen. From his eyes to his face, the expression he wore was completely normal and ordinary. “No, nobody.”
With an “oh,” Chu Jian carried on going about in a flurry, trying to find a few more items to toss into the pot. The result, though, was that the better part of the bowl ended up filled with cilantro to serve as “green vegetables.” Jian Bianlin took advantage of the time she was making dinner to wander around her home, watering the potted plants on the balcony and feeding Chu Jian’s dad’s little tank of fish. Strolling back to the kitchen again, he was just in time to see her standing in the faint, warm yellow glow of that single light, her head tilted slightly to the side as she worked hard to pour the noodles and soup from the small stainless steel pot. She left not even one drop behind.
When they were kids and he still had not learned how to cook, during the times when the adults of their two families were away, he would make instant noodles for her. She would always stand beside him and continually throw out all types of requests: “Add some luncheon meat, eh. Put some leafy greens in there, too. I also washed some tomatoes for you. Oh, right, there’s chicken stock in the fridge as well.” A bowl of instant noodles ended up being cooked so that it was more like ma la tang [various ingredients inside a numbingly spicy broth] from a street vendor. At the end, right before pouring it out of the pot, she would over and over again remind him, “Don’t spill any on the counter. Whoa, slow down, slow down. It’s spilling…”
She brought the noodles out of the kitchen. As Chu Jian watched him scoop up every last cilantro leaf, she started to have regrets that she had not set aside a small bowl for herself to try. Did it really taste that good?
When it was time for him to leave, she deliberated over each option in regards to whether or not she should see him out, and if so, if she should see him to the door, to the elevator, or all the way downstairs.
Eventually, taking a sweater with her, she did see him downstairs.
Watching as he walked down two stair steps, she called out, “Jian Bianlin,” then took a couple steps forward to stand on the highest step so that she was at eye level with him. “Make sure you… you take care and be careful.”
The night wind… even it had come to a standstill.
Not far away, the security guard for the community compound was still running about, coordinating where vehicles were to be parked. Xie Bin had driven his car over for a long time already, but he dared not honk the horn to hurry them. From afar, he stared through the window at that place where they stood, silently griping over what in the world was holding those two up. This was the last flight of the night, and if they did not leave now, the plane would be gone.
“You’re not leaving? …” With her hands stuffed in the pockets on both sides of her sweater, she slid her gaze away and glanced over him at Xie Bin’s car.
Jian Bianlin’s eyes were fixed unblinkingly on her. After half a minute or so, in a low voice, he told her muffledly through his face mask, “Going now.”
Consequently, for the second time ever, Chu Jian lay sleepless in her bed the entire night, tossing and turning over and over. Even when the sky was glimmering faintly with dawn and her eyes were stinging with tiredness, she still had not recovered herself. The two of them were now considered “together,” and the theme of their first date had been to help each other brush up on fast-food cooking skills…
She did not sleep for long before groggily rolling off her bed again.
Suddenly, she remembered he was soon going for surgery, but yet he was still so busy. It seemed that was very inappropriate. As she leaned against her bed, her hands tugged at the shaggy rug beneath her until she was about to put a hole in it. Surmising that Jian Bianlin might not be available, she decided to call Xie Bin instead. When the call was picked up on that end, the first sentence that came at her was, “Hello, Jian Bianlin’s girlfriend, is something the matter?”
In front of anyone other than Jian Bianlin, she was still able to handle herself and respond with ease. After being taken aback briefly, she behaved as if nothing was out of the ordinary and confirmed with Xie Bin what Jian Bianlin’s schedule looked like for the subsequent days as well as the condition of his illness. This time, Xie Bin did not purposely try to make things unnecessarily mysterious, nor did he exaggerate or hide anything, and he gave her the rough work schedule for the next little while. So it turned out that Jian Bianlin’s schedule was not as light as he had described. Right now, he had already departed Hong Kong and was in Macau.
For at least twenty-four days, he needed to film pick-ups for that movie from last time before he could come back again and arrange for his surgery. Therefore, no matter what, the surgery would need at least another month before it could take place. While he was at it, Xie Bin sighed over how hard it was to be an artiste, and that Jian Bianlin took painkillers like he was consuming vitamin C. He added, “Hmm, that’s not quite right. He only takes two tablets of vit-C a day…” By the time he hung up the phone, even Xie Bin felt that it was not easy being the agent that he was—he was practically playing half the role of Jian Bianlin’s mother.
Jian Bianlin was filming pick-ups this afternoon, and his schedule was very tight. At the airport, he met up with a journalist who was going to interview him, and immediately after getting into a black, private van, they moved straight into the interview. From beginning to end, he endured through pain in his abdomen, patiently leafing through the interview outline and trying as best as he could to, one by one, answer each question in detail so that the journalist would have sufficient material to go back and write up the draft.
The van avoided a pedestrian street where souvenirs were sold and drove to the base of the Ruins of St. Paul.
Jian Bianlin closed the interview outline. “Thanks for all your hard work. If there are any additional questions that you need to ask, send them to my agent, and I will have him put together a text version of the answers and give it to you.”
The journalist put away his portable voice recorder, smiling as he gave his pleasantries. “Thank you, thank you. You really understand our work. It really must be exhausting for you. It’s such a short bit of time from the airport to here, but you still did an interview in it. Your work schedule is packed full, and any time for personal life has been crammed out until there’s none left.”
Jian Bianlin gave a nod. After this motion of farewell, he put on his cap, jumped out of the van, and, bringing two assistants and a make-up artist with him, strode directly up to the fort.
This particular scene was already a night scene to begin with, and furthermore, the director was known to be tiresome and demanding in his standards.
The filming of a single scene took place from when the sky had just darkened all the way until three in the morning.
Eventually, Jian Bianlin was beginning to feel weak from even the simple action of slipping on his jacket… The pain that was radiating out from his abdomen caused even the fingers of his right hand to start trembling slightly. Sensing that something was wrong, when the cast and crew had wrapped up for the day and were tidying up, Xie Bin told him to lean against the gray brick wall of the fort to take a rest.
The director seemed to detect something, and prior to leaving, he specifically inquired about what was the matter. With a wave of his hand, Jian Bianlin gave a cursory answer that he had eaten something that disagreed with his stomach and that the crew should quickly finish packing up and then go rest. He would be fine in a little bit.
It was abdominal pain, so he could not sit down. He had chewed down some painkillers, but their effect would not immediately be seen, either.
So, he stood leaning against the wall like this for more than half an hour. The crew had all left already and the painkillers had kicked in, but his legs still felt a little weak. Slowly, with Xie Bin supporting him, he climbed down the steep and tall stone steps.
“Jian Bianlin.” From somewhere far away, someone called his name.
He almost jolted with astonishment. Whipping his head around, he stared disbelievingly at that spot off in the distance.
Chu Jian jumped up from the bench that was under a tree and ran toward him.
Because the pain had been too intense, a layer of cold sweat had broken out all over his body. Now, with the night wind blowing on him, the dull throb of tension in his forehead was inevitable. Seeing her run up to him, it was nearly by reflex that he put on his cap, concealing the sweat that covered his forehead and his short, black hair that was soaked with perspiration.
“The whole time, I didn’t dare go up. I was scared you guys were still filming. Then, when I saw lots of people moving stuff down earlier but you and Xie Bin didn’t come down, I thought you might have left a long time ago and gone back already.” While she spoke, Chu Jian grimaced and twisted her face into a wry smile. In a low voice, she added, “My legs are asleep… Give me a sec to recover first.”
Under the light of the moon, Jian Bianlin watched the subtle transformations in her expression due to the sensation of pins and needles in her legs. Speaking each word distinctly, he asked, “You came here to find me?”
“Yup…” Otherwise, whom else would I be here for? Chu Jian silently muttered, before saying, “I don’t really have anything I need to do for the next little while, so I came to take care of you.”
She was not someone who did things superficially as a brush-off. Since she had agreed to try being in a relationship with him, then what should be done should be done well; for example, a girlfriend coming along to take care of her sick boyfriend was something that should happen, right? Plus, her time was more flexible than the average nine-to-fiver.
“But based on the intensity and hours of your work that I witnessed tonight, I’m guessing I won’t really be able to do much to take care of you.” She had not finished speaking, though, when Jian Bianlin took her wrist into his hand.
Chu Jian’s brows creased slightly. “Don’t move. Just wait! I’m still not better yet… Do not move at all…”
Hearing her say this, Jian Bianlin did not dare move and remained in that stiff, bizarre-looking posture with his arm half-raised and holding on to her.
After half a minute, Chu Jian finally relaxed and said. “Okay, I’m good now.” Exhaling lightly, she threw a glance at Xie Bin, who was only a short distance away. “Do you have to film into such hours of the night every time you do a night scene? Even an ordinary person wouldn’t be able to take it, let alone you’re someone who’s sick—”
His voice interrupted her. “When did you arrive in Macau?”
“About… some time past eight, I think?” she offhandedly answered before carrying on with her questions. “Xie Bin hasn’t talked to the director for you? Who runs a sick patient into the ground like that?”
Jian Bianlin paid no heed to her words, still gazing at her and asking in return, “How long have you been waiting?”
“… Quite a few hours, I guess.” She had not seriously counted.
Xie Bin had said that it was a night scene and filming would probably finish at around eleven o’clock or so. She had not doubted this at all, so after leaving the airport, she had headed straight over here. Sitting on the bench for who-knows-how-many hours, aside from sending Xie Bin a text message midway to confirm that they were still on site, she had not dared to bother them.
She actually did not really understand that agents were allowed to move freely about and do as they pleased on filming location. She had simply worried that she would disturb them and, hence, had only sat in waiting—all the way until now.
An arrival in Macau shortly after eight o’clock meant that, at the latest, she would have been sitting here by nine.
From nine last night to the current time of four in the morning, it had been seven hours. Moreover, those hours had spanned over the deepest hours of the night and had been spent in waiting.
Were it not for the chill from the night wind blowing on his clammy skin, he would even believe that this was all a dream. Even her wrist was cold…
Jian Bianlin’s hand followed the outline of her wrist and slid down to take hold of Chu Jian’s hand, where he discovered that her fingers were also cool. He frowned.
He needed to bring her back to the hotel as soon as possible to let her have a hot bath.
She must be freezing.
Chu Jian still wanted to grumble more about the director’s lack of humanity, but in an instant, she ceased all her fire.
Her mind went a little blank.
Randomly fixing her eyes on the tightly closed door of a shop off in the distance, she said softly, “We’ll be photographed…”
Chu Jian tried to pull her hand back, but without success.
Jian Bianlin’s voice was barely audible. “There’s no one around at this time of night.”
It was four o’clock in the morning. Reporters needed sleep, too.
This was a very reasonable explanation.
He gave a light tug on Chu Jian’s arm, a very gentle force, signaling to her that she should leave with him. And just like this, he quietly held on to her, not forcing her in any way. In fact, his hold on her hand even loosened slightly.
The more he was like this, the more she dared not pull away from him. Thus, after putting up half-resistance, she gave in and allowed him to hold her hand and lead her away. When they walked past Xie Bin, she even heard this great, respected agent, with eyes squinted, say, “My apologies. I just saw your text message. If I had known, I would have told you to head back to the hotel first.”
“No problem… I’d still be waiting, no matter where I was,” Chu Jian murmured, feeling an odd sense of sheepishness and not daring to look at this person who had lured her into coming to Macau.
Xie Bin beamed as he watched them leave and then carried on smoking his cigarette.
The pebbles beneath them rolled around and knocked against their feet.
It might have been her imagination, but it seemed she could still smell the aromas of pork jerky and egg tarts, despite the fact that all the shops were now tightly closed up.
So, with Jian Bianlin holding her hand the entire way, they walked down the slope… Her mind was only called back to reality, as if awakening from a dream, when, in the stillness of the night, the side door of his private van was pushed open with a whoosh. Swiftly, she pulled her hand back.
Even in the dimness of these deep hours of the night, his eyes still shone breathtakingly black. “Get in the van.”
 麻辣烫 “ma la tang.” Literally, this means “numbingly spicy scalding-hot boil.” Its origins are in Sichuan as a hot pot in which various ingredients are cooked by scorching them in a boiling broth. The characteristic flavour and numbing sensation that one feels after consuming the broth is a result of the Sichuan chilies and Sichuan peppercorn that go into making it. Ma la tang has been modified nowadays to become a popular street food. Streetside carts or shops carry a large pot of the boiling broth, and customers can choose various ingredients, often skewered on sticks, to throw in.
蛋挞 “dan ta” egg tart or 葡式蛋挞 “pu shi dan ta” Portugese egg tart. Macau is known for its Portugese egg tarts, which are a baked egg custard in a flaky shell pastry.
1 of 1 Prologue
12 of 36 Chapter segments
0 of 1 Epilogue