A Snowy Day
For the whole day I had been sleeping. I woke up at the time when the night curtain had gradually fell onto this little room of ours, when I could sleep no more.
I had been lying for so long a time that my back was painful, and my shoulders, too, were aching sharply, my stomach empty. Getting off the bed and turning on the light, I sat on the bedside and in the chair respectively for a little while, then gave the hair a scratch and the eyes a rub, feeling empty and helpless in heart as if thrown into a dark coal mine without a lantern, while I myself was sinking slowly, into the bottomless darkness. Although the room in reality was quite small, yet to me it well equaled a lonely square, with its walls as distant from me as the high sky. I said so as neither the room nor its walls could help a little while my stomach was totally empty!
All the noises of the street were shut outside of the window, thus the passage here on the third floor was unusually quiet. Whenever a person walked by, I could hear clearly his or her footsteps. That was the remarkable sound of the hard-soled leather shoes, or that of women’s high-heels with more loudness and somewhat haste. And sometimes it was a succession of sounds by a collection of men and women. I had all the inviting sounds in the passage enjoyed through, but without opening the door to have a check I could conclude that none of them belonged to my Lang Hua.
The window was pretty high, very much like that of a prisoner’s cage. I raised up my head, only to see a riot of downy flakes of snow heading towards the earth hastily. Some falling on the windowpane thawed quickly, turned into water drops and rolled down the glass, leaving behind a mess of meaningless and irregular lines.
It put me into reverie. I asked myself: why would the snowflakes keep whirling and dancing without a rest? Was there any meaning in it? Then somehow I thought of myself. Wasn’t I the very symbol of those meaningless snowflakes? Sitting in the chair, with a pair of hands empty yet doing nothing, and a mouth lying open yet taking nothing, I was very much like a discarded machine that had completely stopped working.
A dim yet seemingly familiar sound from the passage put my heart into anxiety. Wasn’t that the sound of my Lang Hua’s footsteps? As the rustling sound of the rubber-sled shoes approached, I almost jumped up, wondering with worry: Was he shivering with cold, and after all, had he earned the bread back home?
I opened the door, only to find a hotel attendant standing there.
Would you like to order supper?
What’s the price?
Zero point six yuan per share, and 15 yuan for a month.
Without any hesitation I had my head shaken repeatedly and resolutely, as if dreading that he would throw the meal to me and force me to take it, that he would then ask me for money. Sending the attendant away, I had the door closed tightly again. The happy laughter next door plus the inviting smells of the meals all together were shut outside. The very door isolated me from the world.
It was not until Lang Gua came back, his rubber-soled shoes stepping on the threshold, that my mind was pushed back from that tray of the attendant’s, with meat pies, golden potato chips and big, soft chunks of bread…
His jacket was drenched all over with melted snow, and his trouser legs, too, were wet with mud. His soles got holes, thus having his socks soaked as well.
He went into the quilt to get some warmth, his dirty and icy feet placed outside, while I was cleaning the mud on them with a rag.
Then, like a puppet unable to bend his body, he inquired without affection, “You are hungry, right?”
I almost burst into tears, yet only replied a “No”. Then to droop and hide the tears, I had my back so badly bent that my face nearly touched his cold feet.
Since all his clothes were completely wet, I had to cross the road and buy the steamed bread myself. Then with the help of a tooth mug standing on the naked table and the steaming water in it, we finished this meal. Now that the steamed bread had been up, both of our eyes were shifted to the copper coins on the table, only they were inedible.
Then Lang Hua opened his mouth, “Are you enough?”
Yeah, I said, and asked him, “What about you?”
Me, too, he replied.
The accordion next door began to sing. Was it the hardship of living that it was singing? If not, why was its voice so sad and somber then?
Mounting the table, Lang Hua had the small window opened. It was the only medium that linked us with the world, where we saw roofs of buildings, chimneys, the heavy and dark sky floating with snowflakes, and streetlights, policemen, buses, hawkers as well as beggars; all these things revealed themselves in the small opening, to the accompaniment of the din of the busy streets.
Thus the singing of the accordion next door got drowned and disappeared in our ears.