Fanatical

Fangirling Chinese Novels

The Healing Sunshine (一厘米的阳光) — Chapter 5.2

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I will be away for the next week and a bit to get some much needed escape from the cold. (Spring is refusing to show up here where I am.) You will not be missing any updates during this period as I have translated the chapters already and have scheduled them to post at their usual time. So, come back like you always do to get your fix. 🙂 Same vacation procedure as usual: I likely won’t be replying to comments in that period. If there is something specific you want me to respond to, leave an @Hoju in your comment and I’ll make sure I get to it when I’m back. Peanuts will be keeping an eye on comments and postings for me, making sure technology works and everything does post as planned, but please be nice to her if there are some hiccups. She’s just watching things for me. 🙂 Next chapter links and index will be updated when I return. Cheers, and see you all in a week and a bit!

Jǐ Yi’s story behind why she is always left to fend for herself. 😦 To go through something so traumatic but then have no one you can share the experience and seek comfort from…

Chapter 5.2 — You are by My Side (2)

This story was translated with the express permission of the author for hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. All forms of reproduction, redistribution, or reposting are not authorized. If you are not reading this from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com, the copy is unauthorized and has been taken without consent of the translator.

 

It was evident that on the drive back, she had already returned to normal.

For the trip here, they had taken a very roundabout route in order to visit Grandaunt and had used three days. Going back, though, was much better, and in approximately only one and a half day’s time, they were nearly back to Chengdu. During the return drive, she spent more than half the time sleeping in the vehicle with her head against the window. Occasionally when she awakened, she would glance curiously at Jì Chengyang to see what he was doing. Then, she would carry on looking out at the scenery before falling asleep once more.

The dreams she had on this journey were all fragmented and scattered. One moment, she was dreaming about being scolded by her teacher, and in another moment, she was in an orchestra rehearsal. The scenes flitted and changed. Appearing before her was the image from that day when, in the corner of the rehearsal hall, he had played the piano, his fingers rising and falling, his motions smooth and flowing…

All of a sudden, there was violent shaking. Jǐ Yi felt as if she was flying upwards.

And then, pain snapped her awake abruptly. She opened her eyes. Through the haze, all she could see was the collar of a black, button-up shirt. She was tightly enclosed in Jì Chengyang’s arms, her entire body enveloped in this embrace, protected within it.

Instinctively, she shifted, but he told her, “Xixi, don’t be in a hurry to move.” Upon saying this, he took a glance toward the front, and only then did he slowly loosen his arms from around her. Then, he swiftly examined her to see if she had suffered injuries anywhere.

“Your lip is split?” he asked her in a low voice, wiping her lip with his index finger.

His voice tended to be cool and detached to begin with, so when he purposely made it soothing and gentle, it always gave people a feeling that there was a hint of feminine-like softness in it.

But it is this type of voice that can yank a person out from fear and anxiousness.

“Mm.” Her heart was hammering wildly. She did not know what had happened. She licked her lip as well. Maybe… she had bitten down on it and broken skin?

After a brief moment of chaos, she finally saw the dreadful state of this vehicle.

Only two hours before they were to enter Chengdu, the driver had dozed off, and the entire front end of their vehicle had rammed under the large freight truck in front of them. Although he had spun his steering wheel at the last-minute and managed to save himself, the whole roof over the front passenger side had been sheared open, and glass had shattered to pieces. In that instant when her eyes took all this in, terrible fright came over her. Blood was dripping down the driver’s face… It was not until afterward that she learned it was from splattering glass that had cut him.

Fortunately, Jì Chengyang had not been sitting there.

On the entire trip out, he had sat in that spot, and only in this last half a day had he sat in the backseat to keep her company.

<>Copyright of Fanatical, hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. Translated with the express permission of the author for hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com only

Jì Chengyang swiftly finished the necessary communications with the driver of the truck, and then straightaway, he hailed a taxi and brought their driver and Jǐ Yi to the hospital. Jì Chengyang insisted that the doctor examine Jǐ Yi to verify that there were no issues with her whatsoever before taking her back home.

In the study, Nuannuan’s mother was so worried she was pacing about in circles. Only after she saw Jǐ Yi was she able to breathe out in relief.

“Xixi.” Nuannuan’s mother felt extremely guilty. Looking her over meticulously, she asked Jì Chengyang, “Has she been thoroughly checked over?”

Jì Chengyang nodded.

Jǐ Yi, however, felt that she had actually added troubles to others.

Prior to leaving the study, she thought for a moment, then said to them, “Don’t tell Nuannuan.”

Jì Chengyang and Nuannuan’s mother both looked at her. Rather awkwardly, she explained, “I’m worried she’ll get scared.”

This was the friendship she and Nuannuan shared. Jǐ Yi would feel bad that she had added troubles onto Nuannuan, while Nuannuan would also feel guilty that she had left early, leaving Jǐ Yi to face those dangers alone…

After Jǐ Yi departed from the room, Jì Chengyang dwelled upon those words she had just said. He opened his mouth to speak, but then hesitated.

“You want to ask why Xixi is so mature and considerate?” Nuannuan’s mother was able to guess what he was thinking. “If we were to explain it, it’s actually quite complicated. Her dad and mom were part of the ‘up to the mountains, down to the countryside[1]’ group that was sent to rural areas to work and live. Her mom married her dad in order to be able to return to the city again, and there really were no feelings or love between them. We had all thought that they would separate eventually, but for some reason, her mom became pregnant with Xixi and actually had her.”

“Mm. And then?”

“They took care of the birthing part but not the raising part.” Nuannuan’s mother sighed, “So, Xixi’s grandfather, her father’s father, brought her back with him. The problem is, Xixi’s dad is the only one in the family who doesn’t wear a military uniform, so the father-son relationship he has with Xixi’s grandfather is really bad. Supposedly, Xixi’s grandfather is only fulfilling a moral obligation and will just raise her. It’s impossible for him to truly put care and heart into looking after her.”

He was not certain why, but the memory came up in Jì Chengyang’s mind of her when she was little, working out how she should take her medicines. She had so casually stuffed those anti-inflammatory and fever medicines by the handful into her mouth, just so that she would get well quicker and not feel sick and uncomfortable anymore.

Nuannuan’s mother was a very sensitive and emotional person, and as they spoke about these things, her eyes had reddened slightly. “You haven’t had much interaction with her. That child truly is especially good and mature. Back then, we weren’t living in apartment buildings yet, and when she was four or five years old, she would already be out alone in the yard, waving the fan and brewing Chinese medicinal herbs for herself. She’d hold a watch to keep track of the time, and when it was done, she would bring the pot down, pour the medicine out, and then wait for it to cool down before drinking it herself.” Nuannuan’s mother gave a pained smile. “I’ve even seen her taking scissors and cutting her exam papers as well as essays that were printed in the newspaper. And then, she took those one-hundred-percent grades of hers and also those essays and pasted them into a notebook to give to her mom as a birthday present.”

… As Jì Chengyang listened to this, all he could feel was an ache in his heart. Mechanically, he reached for his cigarette pack but discovered that he had left it at the hospital.

“I was worried she would go astray during those rebellious ages, so I asked her once whether she was mad at her dad and mom. She told me, though, ‘Auntie, I’m already especially blessed. Back in the days before jianguo [founding of the PRC in 1949][2], Grandfather was barefooted when he was admitted into university. In middle school, when he didn’t have tuition money, he even needed to walk for one whole day and night in order to go home and get the money needed for tuition…’” Nuannuan’s mother sighed. “You say, if you’re going to look at it that way, then all the children in China are much more blessed than the ones in Africa. But the key point is, you can’t compare things that way…”

<>Please read this translation at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com instead

 

All along, Jì Chengyang had not expressed any opinions or remarks. Bystanders have no right to judge any person’s life, because you can never understand all that she has experienced, be it the pains or the happiness.

In terms of material possessions, she was much more blessed than most children who lived in the mountainous areas.

But, she had loneliness that nothing in this lifetime could ever make reparation for. And it just so happened that the ones who bestowed that on her were all of her family and kin.

<>Copyright of Fanatical, hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. Translated with the express permission of the author for hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com only

In a muddleheaded state, Jǐ Yi chatted idly with Nuannuan. They were each holding a stack of playing cards in hand and, out of boredom, playing a game of “Pull Big Carts[3].”

Images of the driver’s blood-covered face, as well as the completely ripped-open roof over the passenger side of the vehicle and the shattered glass, were swirling through her mind this entire time. Although it was all in the past now, even when she was back in the Jì family’s home at night and in front of Nuannuan, her mind was still somewhat unfocused, as if her soul had flown out of her. She was feeling retrospective fear.

All of a sudden, she especially wanted to make a telephone call to her mother. Borrowing Nuannuan’s mobile phone, she ran to the little yard outside the door and, leaning against the wall, dialed the number of the home phone. No one answered. She dialed her mom’s mobile phone. No one answered, either.

She actually very rarely called her mom, and furthermore, every time she did, her heart would pound fitfully.

It was as if she particularly looked forward to the call being answered and that one greeting of “Hello?” but was also very scared of hearing that greeting…

Her dad was even slightly more unfamiliar to her. The number of sentences he spoke to her within a whole year would not be more than a few.

The entire time, there was simply the long, even sound of brrring, brrring inside the phone. The line was not busy; rather, the phone simply was not being answered. She squatted down against the wall’s corner, fiddling nonstop with some pebbles. Suddenly, she heard a voice. “Hello? May I ask who this is?”

This gentle voice eased her anxiousness. “Mom.”

“Xixi.” There was some surprise in the voice.

“Mm-hmm…”

“Are you having fun in Chengdu?” When Mom spoke to her, it was always as an equal, like… an adult speaking to another adult.

“Mm-hmm…”

She wanted to say, “I was in a car accident today. It was especially scary. Even the roof of the car was ripped open.” But after wavering for a long while, she still ended up only asking, “Mom, when will you be coming back to Grandfather’s home to see me? …”

“After some time, I think.”

She did not utter a sound. And then, after a little while, she finally said, “I’ll bring back some of Chengdu’s snacks for you. Don’t you like eating spicy foods? … Nuannuan’s mom said…” Without even being aware of them, tears were already tumbling down. Crouching there, she said in a small voice, “Nuannuan’s mom said the food in this place is really spicy and especially tasty.”

“Okay.”

“Well, I won’t say any more. Bye.”

“Bye.”

The call was hung up.

With one hand, she clutched the mobile phone while her other hand dug its fingers fiercely into the red brick of the wall. Due to the bricks’ old age, flakes of debris would scrape off the instant she jabbed her fingers in. Only when she had forced all her tears back did she return to the room and hand the mobile phone back to Nuannuan. Nuannuan was tickled when she took the phone “Why is your whole hand dirty? How old are you anyway? Hurry and go take a shower.”

Jǐ Yi’s mood was downcast, so without saying much, she grabbed some clothes and went to shower.

After bathing and stepping back out dressed in her pajamas, she discovered that Nuannuan right then was actually sitting in a chair and looking at a webpage, not chatting with Class Prefect. She did not appear happy. Jǐ Yi asked her what was the matter. Letting out a “humph,” Nuannuan answered, “He said we couldn’t just keep on texting. He’s almost out of money on his phone again, so he told me to go to bed earlier. His home doesn’t have internet, either. How am I even going to get through this night?”

She gave an “oh.” As she remembered the phone call from earlier, her nose still tingled.

“Jǐ Yi, let’s drink some alcohol,” Nuannuan suddenly whispered. “I want to drown my sorrows.”

She was silent for a moment, then nodded.

And so, Nuannuan dashed very quickly out of the room and dug out the qingke liquor that had been delivered here just this afternoon. Hugging the bottle, Nuannuan introduced the drink as “an alcohol that has absolutely the same alcohol content as rice wine and will not get anyone drunk at all.” Therefore, the two sat inside the room and were not worried as they boldly drank it down.

She actually had no awareness or recollection of how exactly they fell asleep.

The next day, when they crawled out of bed, they found that their clothing had been changed and they had been stuffed under the quilt.

……

Jǐ Yi suddenly felt abashed. What was up with you last night? You’re staying over in someone’s home as a guest.

Nuannuan’s expression also shifted dramatically. “Oh no, I’m finished. My mom must have come in. Jǐ Yi, do you still remember anything?”

She shook her head. She had absolutely no impression in her memory of anything.

But what was even weirder was that no one pursued this matter any further with them. Nuannuan’s mother actually acted as if nothing had happened. At the table during mealtime, she merely advised the girls in a nonchalant, laidback tone that they should not drink, and in the future when they went out, they even more so should not, particularly since their alcohol tolerance was so low. As Jǐ Yi tucked her head low and ate her food, she felt her face burning up.

<>Please support this translation at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com instead

 

The day before he was to leave, Jì Chengyang personally drove the car and took Jǐ Yi and Nuannuan to casually roam around.

Jǐ Yi and Nuannuan ate spicy foods until tears were springing from their eyes, but still she did not forget what she had told her mother. Pointing at the mao cai[4], she asked Jì Chengyang, “Is there a vacuum-packaged version of this type of snack?”

He asked in response, “You really like it? You want to bring some back?”

“Mm-hmm.”

“Then eat more. You can’t bring it back. And plus, you should be able to find this to eat in Beijing, too.”

Oh, if that was the case…

“Then what’s a unique local specialty here?” Jǐ Yi looked at him with great seriousness. “It needs to be especially spicy.”

“I’ll bring you to go buy some later.”

In the end, he did bring them to buy some special local products, and then they had dinner as well. When the streetlights had turned on and Nuannuan saw all those teahouses that densely dotted the street, she felt that she absolutely needed to go experience this lifestyle that other people lived.

And so, he selected a quiet place and brought two little girls along with him to… have tea.

As he ordered the teas, the server in the teahouse was particularly friendly and keen—that type of friendliness and keenness that comes specifically from seeing a man with a clean, handsome appearance. Nuannuan was enthused from observing this, murmuring by Jǐ Yi’s ear, “When I went out with Little Uncle in the past, and also when I went to the U.S. to visit him, all the girls would treat him like this. Don’t you find that my little uncle especially attracts people’s attention? The more he keeps his distance and is aloof, the more people want to say one or two words to him. It’s a type of… especially seductive draw…”

Jǐ Yi shook her head.

She didn’t find him aloof and distant…

<>Copyright of Fanatical, hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. Translated with the express permission of the author for hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com only

Rolling her eyes, Nuannuan continued holding her mobile phone and firing off text messages without any restraint whatsoever. Jǐ Yi rarely drank tea. After taking a sip of her own Tieguanyin tea [type of oolong tea; also called Iron Goddess of Mercy tea], she turned her gaze over to his Dragon Well tea [type of roasted green tea] and even scrutinizingly tried to determine the difference between the two types of tea leaves.

She stared at his cup.

Jì Chengyang could tell what she was thinking. “You’d like to try?”

“Mm-hmm.”

Filling his own cup with tea, he handed it to her.

She took a sip… There actually was not a big difference.

Thinking of something, she moved in closer to him and asked softly, “Last night… did you know that Nuannuan and I got drunk?”

He nodded.

“Did we do any bad things?” This was what she was actually worried about.

He was silent for a moment. And then, he gave a rare smile. “No.”

She breathed out in relief.

He watched as she yanked out a napkin and spit a tea leaf into it that she had taken into her mouth. Then folding up the napkin, she tossed it into the ashtray.

<>This translation is authorized to be posted only on hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. Please read it there instead

If a teenage girl, when she got drunk for the very first time, knew only to hug you and cry, saying, “Mama, I’ll be good and listen,” over and over several hundred times until her voice was raspy from weeping, and still, she would not go to sleep… yet the next day, she had completely forgotten everything that had happened…

Just how deep was the wound on that little girl’s heart?

For even she herself dared not touch it.

<>Copyright of Fanatical, hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. Translated with the express permission of the author for hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com only

[1]上山下乡 “shang shan, xia xiang.” This literally means “up to the mountains, down to the countryside.” It was a movement in the 1950s to 70s that sent what were called “educated youth,” urban young people with usually high school education, out of the urban districts and “up to the mountains, down to the countryside.” The idea was that these young people were to live and work in the rural areas in order to become more well-rounded, to fully develop themselves, and to learn how to be better citizens.

[2] 建国 “jian guo.” This literally means “founding of a country,” but it is actually also how the Chinese refer to the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

[3] 拉大车. “Pull Big Carts” is the name of a simple card game. While there are small variations and also specific rules, the general gist goes like this: The playing cards are equally divided amongst the players and each holds his cards facedown in a stack. Without looking before playing the card, the first player pulls the top card off of his stack and lays it face up in the center. Each player repeats this, placing the card he plays on top of the one played by the previous player. When a card is played that is the pair of a previously-played card, the person who played it takes the pair plus all the other cards sandwiched between them and adds it to his playing stack. The one who uses up all his cards first loses.

[4]冒菜 “mao cai.” This dish originates from the city of Chengdu in Sichuan. It can be thought of as a personal-size, fast-food version of the hot pot. In Sichuan dialect, 冒 “mao,” means to blanch foods in boiling hot water. These ingredients are then placed into a soup and served up to the customer. The soup itself has many variations but is usually red and fiery spicy and then seasoned with other things such as Sichuan peppercorns, garlic, chilies, ginger, black soy bean, etc.

Mao cai (image credit)

This story was translated with the express permission of the author for hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. All forms of reproduction, redistribution, or reposting are not authorized. If you are not reading this from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com, the copy is unauthorized and has been taken without consent of the translator.


Additional Comments:

Remember when eleven-year-old Jǐ Yi sliced off a part of her thumb, but her instinct was not to wake her grandparents and, rather, was to not leave a mess and clean up the space beside their bed before even dealing with her wound? Is it truly only an example of considerateness from this terribly mature little girl or maybe something else as well?

Just wanted to point a few passages out from some of the chapters we’ve already read:

After the watching the movie in the compound’s cinema, Jì Chengyang extends a hand to her. “Actually, it was apparent that Little Uncle Jì was not used to to holding the hands of children, for his clasp on her was a little too firm and was somewhat uncomfortable. Still, though, the entire time, she did not move, for she was afraid that if she did, he would find her a bother and would not be willing to hold her hand anymore.” (Chapter 2.3)

On the drive into Daocheng Aden: “She wanted ask whether the place they were going to was fun, but worried that the driver would find her a bother, she did not inquire any further.” (Chapter 4.3)

When she went to use the bathroom in Great Aunt’s home and she was terrified because it was so dark: “Inside, it was pitch black. There was no door. So scary. But Jì Chengyang was behind her, watching her. Clinging tightly to the belief that ‘I cannot cause trouble for him; I cannot embarrass myself,’ she finally stepped inside.” (Chapter 4.3)

After this car accident, where she had done nothing to cause it and had merely sat in the vehicle as a passenger: “Jǐ Yi, however, felt that she had actually added troubles to others.” And also, “This was the friendship she and Nuannuan shared. Jǐ Yi would feel bad that she had added troubles onto Nuannuan, while Nuannuan would also feel guilty that she had left early, leaving Jǐ Yi to face those dangers alone…” (Chapter 5.2)

Do you catch the pattern in her thought process?

Also, in chapter 2.2, an only eleven-year-old Jǐ Yi’s thoughts were “In front of her good friends, she never cried.” Or here, she is terribly hurt that her mother does not care at all about even going to see her, that even after such a horrific car crash, she has no person to run to to seek solace and comfort. But she chooses to cry it out in a corner, then wipe her tears away and not tell Nuannuan, her best friend, anything.

I feel that up to this point, Jǐ Yi is terribly insecure. She does not have many relationships, and she is scared of losing whatever she may have. She is constantly afraid that she will be a bother to other people, and she will try to do whatever she can to accommodate people. She does not cry in front of others, especially those who are close to her, for fear that this may be too much of a bother on them and turn them off. She dares not wake her grandparents, even though blood is gushing from her thumb, because she is scared she will be adding troubles onto them and will turn them off. Her desire is to please, or, at a minimum, not to displease anyone. That is why, when she realizes that Jì Chengyang truly is kind to her, she vows to herself that she will not cry in front of him again. She wants him to see her strong side. Do you think a part of it is because she values him now and does not want him to find her a bother?

Have you ever noticed that some children will act out more when they are at home? That’s because they know they are safe there. They can push boundaries around the people they love, because they have a sense of security with those people and know the bond is strong enough that no matter what they do, they will always be loved. Jǐ Yi doesn’t know that with anyone. It’s not that Nuannuan will reject her. It is simply that never has anyone filled the role in Jǐ Yi’s life of a safe haven for her to run back to; never has she had someone whom she can completely “let go” of herself in front of and not fear rejection. The author has so cleverly inserted these subtle behaviours and thoughts from her that, at least to me, demonstrate she is searching for someone whom she can feel accepted with and who can be a refuge to her.

(On the flip side, any relationship that Jǐ Yi has is very precious to her, and she cherishes it dearly.)

 

 

Completed:
11 of 69 Chapter segments
0 of 1 Epilogue

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7 thoughts on “The Healing Sunshine (一厘米的阳光) — Chapter 5.2

  1. no wonder JY will treasure any love given to her since the familial love is so lacking

    Have a great short vacation!

  2. Thank you Hoju and Bonnes vacances , my heart aches for JY 😣

  3. Ji Yi’s background and lack of parental love and care did contribute to her insecurity. Plus Chinese are a performance culture. Early in life we learn that we are accepted or rejected for our performance. I love MBFB’s way of bringing it across to us readers and pulling at our heartstrings at the same time.
    Thanks Hoju.

  4. Whenever I read a novel that touched my very core and made me weep or in love or heartbroken for and with the characters, I always wondering: how could i have so much tears in me? How durable is my heart to be easily broken, ached or buoyed to the sky?

    Together with Shi Yi, Ji Yi is one of MBFB’s character whom I admired the most. She was strong in a fragile feminine way , and her perseverance plus loyalty was commendable.

    To me, Ji Yi was not clingy. She valued and wanted to give the best of her to the people who cared and loved her. She didn’t want to show her weakness, pain or trouble to them because she knew, they would be bothered and thought deeply about it. She just wanted to show them the smile and happiness since that was what they gave to her. To be able to smile and be happy despite everything what happened in her own family and home. She wanted them to see that with them she was able to raise high and be happy.

    Gosh, this book always make my heart ached and warm at the same time while my head spun and analyze the character deeply. I can feel you, dearie, when you have to translate each sentence and word that reflected the inner thought of these beautiful characters.

    Have a pleasant time travelling and get as much sunshine as you need. The flowers bloomed here although the weather still nearly freezing temperature. Thanks so much, Hoju. for in depth analysis and another heart warming plus aching chapter. ❤❤❤

  5. I am still heartbroken over it. I can’t even imagine how hard it is to live in such a way. To me just a bit of favoritism that my parents might show to my other siblings (which they think is not favoritism) is enough to make me feel sad and cry over it.
    I wonder how people survive like that… All that indifference as if it doesn’t matter whether you exist or not.

    • She lacked nothing in terms of material possessions, so in certain ways, she is definitely more fortunate than Zhao Xiaoying, but the emotional neglect… 😔

  6. So here I’m at my desk trying no to cry (︶︹︺)

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