Love Story at a Well
She met him at the age of 13 or 14, an age when a teenager begins to be curious about romantic love. That day, she helped her mom fetch water from the well. She accidentally dropped the wooden bucket after filling it with water. Like a stone falling from a high place, the bucket plummeted into the water with a dull plop.
Taken aback, she hurriedly bent her head forward to the mouth of the well, but she could do nothing but watch the wooden bucket sink into the water bit by bit. She was so anxious that her eyes were brimming with tears, and just as she looked up, she saw him.
A lean boy was standing by the well. He grinned at her, and then threw a similar wooden bucket into the well with a plop. After filling the bucket with water, he lifted it up and dropped it in front of her.
“Carry it back home.”
Watching his smiling face, she was full of gratitude. That was their first encounter—it left a sparkle of happiness in both of their hearts. Later, when she found out that he was a few years older and a non-native whose family had just settled at the other end of the village, sincere feelings began to ripple through her heart.
Afterwards, they always came across each other at the well. Without exchanging a single word, they just smiled at one another.
One afternoon a year later, she was told that the boy’s name was on the list of new army recruits, and her heart immediately turned grey, as if covered with dust. When she came to fetch water at the well again, her heart was leaping madly, and she could hardly compose herself. She wanted to tell him that all she desired was to meet him in her most beautiful years, but she didn’t speak out and went back without changing anything.
After he joined the army, she felt restless. When she reached marriageable age, he still hadn’t come back, so she had to bite the bullet and marry someone else. On the night before her wedding, she went to the well and had a good cry, after that she gave up all hope.
At the end of 1950s, he came back to the village after demobilization, however, due to the social stratification of his family, he was labeled a “Rightist”, and then later, he was penalized to be locked up in the cowshed. At night,
she secretly went to see him, brought him hot meals, and comforted him with soothing words. At that time, she was already the mother of two children, yet he was still single. Shortly after that, she found herself drowning in slanderous gossip spreading across the village. Although she didn’t care about it, he did.
At each of her visit, he would try hard to persuade her not to come again. Yet eventually, she was involved in his case, and soon, she was also jailed in the cowshed with a fabricated charge.
That was probably the most beautiful time in her life. Partitioned by just a wall, they had the chance of whispering to each other. With class conflict still going on, they were often pulled out and paraded through the streets wearing a tall paper hat with some insulting words scribbled on it. Whenever they returned alive after being paraded, they felt that it was a victory. At night, they would sing to celebrate, and exchange the warmest of words to encourage each other to never give up.
One day, after he was dragged away, he never returned. It wasn’t until later did she find out that he couldn’t bear the torment and drowned himself in the well. When she heard the news, she didn’t believe it whatsoever, and she cried her heart out and wanted to end her life, but thinking of her two children made her heart soften.
When the Cultural Revolution came to an end, her grievances were finally redressed, and she embarked on a new journey in her life. She went to visit the old well, only to find that weeds had grown wild around it. As someone had died in the well, no one wanted to fetch water from there any longer, and the old well was gradually deserted. Later, tap water began to be supplied in the village, and many tall water towers were erected, and thus some people suggested to backfill the well, as there were rumors that the poultry and pets raised by villagers were often drowned in it. It wasn’t until a child from the village nearly slipped and fell into the water when playing at the well that the village committee decided to adopt the villagers’ suggestion.
When the day came, she lay down in front of the well to prevent others from taking action. “No, please don’t backfill it. I’d like to buy it with my own money.” She wailed. After some debates, the village head finally agreed, but the other
villagers refused to give in. Eventually, she had to build a courtyard surrounding the well to keep others away from it.
At that time, she was extremely hard up, so at first, she set up a fence for the well with some thorns, and then, she scraped up some money together to build a clay courtyard with a mud hut inside.
During that period of time, her family claimed that she was mad and possessed, and her husband divorced her after a big fight. Her children and relatives also cut off ties with her; thus, she simply moved into the courtyard all alone, until her hair turned grey.
When she was living in the courtyard, and whenever the sun rose, she would sit by the fence and mutter something to the old well for a while. She gazed at it peacefully, with a tranquil look on her face. The sun shone brightly on her cheeks, covering them with a golden sheen.
(From Meeting You in My Most Beautiful Years, Xiyuan Press. Translation: Zhu Yaguang) 缄其口，无功而返。
20 世纪 50年代末，他从部队转业回来，因为家庭成分的问题，很快被打成“右派”；再后来，又被关到村子的牛棚里受苦。夜里，她偷偷跑去看他，送去热饭热菜，跟他说说宽心话。那时，她已经是两个孩子的母亲，而他还是孑然一身。村里的风言风语很快将她淹没，虽然她不在乎，可是他在乎。