Love Story at a Well

井水之爱

Special Focus - - CONTENTS - Hou Yonghua 侯拥华

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,

遇见他,正是十三四岁情窦初开的年纪。那天,她帮母亲到井边打水,忽然一失手,装满水的木桶,如一块高空坠落的石头,直线下坠,然后就是“扑通”一声沉闷的响声。

她吓了一跳,急切地把头探到井口,眼睁睁看着深井里的木桶,一点一点沉没。她急得眼泪汪汪,抬起头时,看见了他。

清瘦的他,站在井栏边,咧嘴冲她一笑,将一只同样粗大的木桶,“扑通”一声甩进井里,一桶灌满水的桶提了上来,一把甩在她面前。“把它担回家吧。”望着他微笑的脸庞,她内心全是感激。那是他们第一次相遇,彼此心间都有一种朦朦胧胧的甜蜜感。后来,她知道他住在村的另一头,是刚刚落户的外乡人,年龄长她几岁,内心生出无限憧憬。

再后来,他们常常在井台边相遇。彼此只是笑笑,再也没有只言片语。

一年后的一天午后,她忽然从旁人口中知道,入伍新兵的名字里有他,内心陡然间落满尘土,灰蒙蒙的。再到井台边打水,那颗突突跳动的心,总是无法平静。她想对他说,只求在最美的年华遇到你,最终还是三

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。

他参军后,她那颗心便无法安置。此后,到了婚嫁的年龄,见他依旧没有回来,她一狠心,嫁了他人。只是在出嫁前夜,她跑到井栏边,狠狠地痛哭一场,再无他念。

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。

每次见她来,他总要劝上一番。最终,他还是牵连上了她,很快,她也被以“莫须有”的罪名关入牛棚。

那段时间,应该是她今生最美的时光。一

墙之隔的他和她,有了说悄悄话的机会。斗争还在继续,他和她不时被人揪出来,戴着高帽游街。每次只要被游街的人能活着回来,他们就觉得那是一种胜利。夜晚,他们会唱歌来庆祝,并用最温暖的话语鼓励对方继续活下去。

有一次,他被人揪出来,再也没有回来。事后,她才知道,他不堪折磨,投井了。得知这个消息,她死活都不相信,哭得死去活来。再后来,想想两个未成年的孩子,她的心终于软下来,不再寻死觅活。

“文革”结束后,她平反昭雪,重获新生。她去看那口老井,发现井口周围杂草丛生,一片荒芜。因为这里死过人,再也没有人愿意来提水,那口老井,废弃不用了。之后,村里开始用自来水,高高的水塔在村头竖起来。有人建议把那口水井填平了,因为村里不时传出谁家的鸡狗掉进井里淹死的传闻。有一次,村里一个小孩在井栏边玩耍,差一点失足落入井里。村委会经过研究, 决定采纳大家的建议。

村长带人填井那天,她横在井栏边,死活不让大伙动手。她哭着喊着说:“不要填,不要填,我愿意用钱买下来。”经过一番争执,村长终于答应了,但村民不答应。最后,她只好建一座院子,把井围起来,不让他人靠近。

那时,她家里异常拮据,她先是用荆棘在井栏边扎起一个带刺的篱笆,然后东拼西借,建起一个土院子,还在院子里建了一座土屋。

那段时间,家里人都说她疯了,鬼迷心窍,丈夫和她闹翻,离了婚,子女和亲戚也不愿意和她来往,她干脆搬进这座院子住下来,直到白发苍苍。

住在这座院子里,每天太阳升起来的时候,她都要坐在井栏边,对着那口水井,说一会儿悄悄话。她目光安详,神情安然,阳光洒落在脸上,一脸金灿灿的笑容。

(摘自《只求在最美的年华遇到你》 西苑出版社)

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