He Said He’d be Wait­ing

他说好在这儿等我

Special Focus - - Contents - Mo Xiaomi 莫小米

The girl put on a blue skirt and slipped covertly out of the house un­no­ticed by fam­ily, her big pony­tail swing­ing across her slim, at­trac­tive waist­line.

She clutched a small note in her hand that she un­folded and eyed from time to time. Prompted by the small note, she took two turns, got on the bus, rode five stops, got off and crossed the street, where there was a river. Along the river, she saw a bridge cross­ing from afar. Her des­ti­na­tion was an al­ley on the other side of the bridge.

She beamed with a beautiful smile.

Two months ago, she couldn’t read the note, as she hadn’t yet at­tended the lit­er­acy class and met the man of letters.

Af­ter class the pre­vi­ous night, he gave her a small il­lus­trated note. On it was sketched a bridge, at the end of which was a fig­ure marked with the three char­ac­ters of his name, in­di­cat­ing there he’d be wait­ing for her.

How­ever, be­fore she could reach her des­ti­na­tion, she felt a pair of strong hands grab her hold­ing her back. It was her older brother. “Mom wants you to go back home.”

“What for?”

“I don’t know. But you have to go back.”

The girl was 18 years old that year. She had been pro­posed to by a fi­ancé who turned out to be her ma­ter­nal aunt’s son in Shang­hai. She had no choice in the mat­ter, although she was sweet on the young teacher in the lit­er­acy class.

She gave in to her par­ents’ wi s h e s and g a v e h e r h and in mar­riage the man in Shang­hai. She gave birth to four chil­dren in ten years. It goes with­out say­ing that she was a good wife and lov­ing mother who pro­vided a home with a sim­ple life and all the ba­sic ne­ces­si­ties, but her hus­band was the tech­ni­cal wizard of the fac­tory. He was needed to help sup­port the great Third Front Move­ment, de­signed to re­in­force China’s in­te­rior, so the whole fam­ily moved with the fac­tory to the moun­tain re­gion be­tween Yun­nan and Guizhou.

Liv­ing in poor con­di­tions, she still man­aged to keep the fam­ily’s day-to-day life run­ning like clock­work. As the chil­dren grew up, her only wish was that they could leave the moun­tains and go back to Shang­hai or re­turn to

their home­town in Hangzhou.

Later, her hus­band passed away and she went back to live in Hangzhou with her younger daugh­ter.

That day, she left the house with her sil­ver hair metic­u­lously combed, and a flo­ral scarf tied fas­tid­i­ously around her neck..

She walked slowly, paus­ing thought­fully from time to time. She rounded two bends, got on the bus and passed by sev­eral stops, be­fore get­ting off. She walked along a small bridge over a flow­ing river, lined with white walls and black tiles. The place was filled with a del­i­cate aroma, as it has evolved into a restau­rant row.

She grinned, wrin­kles rip­pling over her aged face.

That day from dawn to dusk, peo­ple were bustling all about this street lined with restau­rants and ven­dors ped­dling their gourmet food sand snacks, but no one paid any mind to a sin­gle el­derly woman lin­ger­ing there the whole day, walk­ing, paus­ing and sit­ting with­out food or drink.

Once the night fell and peo­ple scat­tered, feel­ing sorry for her, the owner of a small noo­dle restau­rant greeted her, “Ma’am, come in and have a bowl of noo­dles.”

Af­ter the meal, she didn’t have any in­ten­tion of leav­ing. She kept on mut­ter­ing to her­self to her­self, “He said he would be wait­ing for me here.”

The owner had to dial 110. When the po­lice car came, she re­fused to get in. “He said he would be wait­ing for me here.” She was on the verge of burst­ing into tears.

A po­lice­woman said cheer­fully, “Think hard ma’am, who is it that’s sup­posed to be wait­ing here for you? We’ll help you look for him.”

She fum­bled around in her pocket. She re­mem­bered that when she went out, she took a small note. On it, at the end of the bridge that had been drawn years be­fore by her lit­er­acy class teacher, there was a fig­ure marked with the three char­ac­ters of his name. As promised, he would have been wait­ing for her there.

This road was so long she had gone for a life­time.

When the po­lice­woman told me the story, she said with emo­tion, “The old lady who had only been in the lit­er­acy classes for a few days had such a strong mem­ory that she could even re­mem­ber the three char­ac­ters off the top of her head. The old man had in­deed lived in this area, but it was a shame that he had passed away be­fore she found his home.”

( From Youth , Jan­uary 2018 Trans­la­tion: Qing Run)

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