ZHOU HONGX­I­ANG

周宏翔

The World of Chinese - - Dragon's Digest -

Born in 1990, writer Zhou Hongx­i­ang has published six nov­els; The­beauty Bat­tle­field《名丽场》( ), his most re­cent cen­ters around the growth of an in­de­pen­dent, prin­ci­pled ca­reer woman. Zhou has also published three short story col­lec­tions and a num­ber of sto­ries on var­i­ous pub­li­ca­tions and his Wechat chan­nel, “zhouhongx­i­ang19.” Win­ner of the 2011 Sichuan Youth Lit­er­a­ture Award, Zhou ex­plores themes such as the grow­ing pains of the 1990s gen­er­a­tion, ca­reer as­pi­ra­tions, and ur­ban ro­mance. His re­lat­able char­ac­ters and clean-cut writ­ing style have won him a large group of young ur­ban fol­low­ers.

re­search­ing those top­ics. I found that I could bull­shit at the same level as Huang Zi­jian, be­cause all of the non­sense re­ally wasn’t that com­pli­cated. I started plan­ning a lit­tle pro­gram while at work, and when I went home I went to work on im­ple­ment­ing it. It re­ally was a snap to do—who said that pro­gram­mers couldn’t have a life? I set out to make my thing, and show it to Huang.

A month later, I called up Juanzi and asked her to come out. I urged her, come on, hurry, come try out the thing I made. She hur­ried over, ask­ing me, “What is it? What’s so ur­gent?”

I turned on my phone and waved it at her. “Try it out”, I said. I opened the app and had her put her palm on the screen, to which the app re­sponded. It played some nice mu­sic, and then started to tell her the story of her palm lines. It was one about a girl who worked hard and suc­ceeded in the end. “Wow, how did you make it?” “What do you think?” “Oh, I have to write an ar­ti­cle about it, you have to help me out.”

“You can in­ter­view me, but first you have to help me pro­mote it.”

“How?”

SIX

“Young miss, would you like your palm read? Try our new phone app.” “Young miss, come have a look.” “Young miss, you’ll love this app— the lines in your palm con­tain a won­der­ful un­told story.”

That day, Juanzi and I hawked the app to all kinds of peo­ple in Ma Yau Tei. Within an hour, we found our­selves en­cir­cled by a crowd of peo­ple. I told them that the app was about to go on­line very soon, and they could all down­load it.

I called Huang Zi­jian out to share a meal with me, and made a show of demon­strat­ing the app to him. He laughed as he spoke: “Hey man, not bad. Re­ally, you’ve done a good job.”

SEVEN

When Huang Zi­jian called me, I was in the mid­dle of a meet­ing, but the vi­bra­tions in my pocket caused the bosses to look over at me. I made some ex­cuse about need­ing to use the toi­let and ran out, pick­ing up the phone. “What, man, I’m in a meet­ing!”

“Screw your meet­ing, come to Ma Yau Tei. Some­one wants to col­lab­o­rate with you on your app!” “What?” “Don’t ask ques­tions, just come!” My boss came out and glanced at me, say­ing sternly: “Stop wast­ing time, you’re up.”

I put away my phone quickly, and could only say a weak “oh.”

EIGHT

Huang Zi­jian looked at me ex­tremely judge­men­tally. He spoke: “For­get it, you’re past help.” I was used to this. He’d said the same thing to me two years ago in the of­fice.

Back then, Huang Zi­jian wasn’t Huang Dax­ian; he was my col­league. Af­ter we’d worked to­gether for two years, I com­plained to him one day in the toi­let: “I can’t take it, I’m quit­ting!” He pat­ted my shoul­der and said “Yeah, I also plan to quit. Look­ing at a screen full of code ev­ery day, it’s worse than be­ing con­sti­pated.” I, how­ever, be­came aware of a lit­tle kink in my plan: what would I do af­ter quit­ting? Huang Zi­jian had a ca­sual re­sponse: dis­ap­pear off into the sun­set. A month later, he quit, and I stayed be­hind, writ­ing com­puter code like my fin­gers were on fire.

“For­get it, you’re past help.” He just threw it out there, and bounced.

Af­ter Huang quit, he was all over the in­ter­net. He made a hook-up site, more or less: guys could “like” girls, and girls could “like” pic­tures of guys, and if they both “liked” each other, they’d re­ceive each other’s con­tact in­for­ma­tion in­stantly. It was a re­ally sim­ple idea, but it was im­mensely pop­u­lar. It pro­tected users’ pri­vacy and al­lowed ev­ery­one to avoid peo­ple they weren’t in­ter­ested in. A year later, with the site en­joy­ing a high amount of traf­fic, he sold it, and then re­ally just dis­ap­peared off into the sun­set. I have no idea where he went, but when he came back, he was at Ma Yau Tei work­ing his game, liv­ing that kind of chill life. Huang gave me a busi­ness card. “Take a look who it is.” My eyes al­most popped out. “BQIT? Se­ri­ously? They like my app?”

“Hey, any­thing’s pos­si­ble. Even though your app’s just a pro­to­type, they think it’s got huge po­ten­tial. Cool, right?”

“Eh, well if I missed the boat, I missed it.”

“Missed what? Mate, they left a card, you have a shot at this!” “Nah, I can’t con­tact them.” “Liu Kangkang. This kind of mind­set will have you grow old as a mo­ron, a stupid pro­gram­mer. Alone.”

NINE

Juanzi said that she wanted to treat me to a meal. Her ar­ti­cle was fi­nally ap­proved. I said I wasn’t in the mood, but she said that was all the more rea­son to come out.

Juanzi saw how down I was at the meal, and fed me an­other piece of meat. “Where’s that guy who chewed me out back then? Come on, you look so down.”

“Ugh, I just feel like I’m al­ways go­ing to be in a not-so-great place.”

“No way. I showed that thing you made to my older brother, he thought it was great. He even said he was go­ing to get in con­tact with you about it.”

TWELVE

“You’re crazy!” Huang laughed. “Yeah, I know, I’ve al­ways been crazy.” He sipped his milk tea, full of sat­is­fac­tion. “No mat­ter what, think about it. Forty per­cent is no chump change.” “But…” “But what? You call women ‘lady’ reg­u­larly. How can you do mar­ket­ing? Keep on like this and you might as well just go back to your home­town.”

A week later, I got an of­fer from BQIT, and be­came Huang’s col­league again.

With Huang’s for­tune-telling knowl­edge and my tech­ni­cal skill, our app quickly gained a huge mar­ket share, and bonuses came pour­ing in. Huang said that he never thought for­tune-telling could be so prof­itable. With Huang by my side, I be­came more con­fi­dent in the things I pro­duced, and ev­ery time I gave a presentation at my of­fice, I nailed it. My bosses liked me more and more.

Juanzi came to see her brother a few times, but never said hi to me.

A half-year later, I moved house. I wanted to in­vite Juanzi and Huang Zi­jian over to cel­e­brate, but Juanzi said that she was busy, and so it was just me and Huang sausag­ing it up. Lame.

“Kangkang, are you in­ter­ested in her?” “Meh.” “Then don’t lead her on.” “What?” “A girl is will­ing to go out in the burn­ing sun and do ‘mar­ket re­search’ just as a fa­vor? And she’s not in­ter­ested in you? You’re a mo­ron.” “I…” “Yeah, you…” Af­ter hear­ing all this from Huang, I called Juanzi. Af­ter two calls, she ca­pit­u­lated on the third. She came out with a cheongsam on, her hair all done up. I’d never seen her like that be­fore. I didn’t have game for this.

“So, yeah…have a seat? What would you like to eat?” “What­ever.” “All right. How have you been? You look like you’re do­ing great.”

“Oh yeah, my writ­ing’s go­ing well, and my edi­tors like me more and more.” “That’s great.” “I mean, you too, right? My brother loves you.” “Well, I’ve you to thank for that.” “Don’t say that. You stand on your own mer­its.” “I…” “You what? Oh yeah, did you ever try it your­self ?” “What?” “The app.” I shook my head as the dishes started to ar­rive.

I didn’t re­ally say much the en­tire evening. I lis­tened to Juanzi talk while she had a bit to drink.

Silly co-work­ers, things that made her laugh, things that made her fume. She killed all the beers. She looked at me, red in the face. “Liu Kangkang, ac­tu­ally, I’m not go­ing to be at the pa­per much longer. Did you know that?” “No, I didn’t.” “Yeah, you didn’t. A few days ago, a guy pro­posed to me.” “Well, that’s great, right?” “Yeah, it’s great. How­ever, I’m go­ing to Paris soon to fur­ther my stud­ies.” “Sounds like a great op­por­tu­nity.” “Yeah, it is. It’s go­ing to be for three years.” “It’ll go quickly.” “Yeah, quickly…” That night, I said I’d drive her home, but she waved her hand to hail a cab. “I don’t know why, it just feels more chill to ride solo.”

That was the last time I saw Juanzi. A week later, she left the coun­try.

The day she left, her brother saw her off. He asked me if I wanted to go, but I said I was fine just hav­ing him pass a mes­sage to her from me in­stead. I didn’t re­ally have any­thing to say to her. I just wanted to tell her that for­tune-telling was le­git.

THIR­TEEN

Ac­tu­ally, when I de­vel­oped the app, I was the first user. Maybe just as Huang Zi­jian said, I was afraid of con­fronting stuff, in gen­eral. The app told me I’d suc­ceed in mak­ing some­thing big.

The com­pany had a cel­e­bra­tion that day. A new­comer came over to clink glasses with me. He asked me why I wanted to make the app.

I said, well, be­cause girls like that kind of thing.

I felt like the light went fuzzy as I looked down at the glass. I don’t know why, but I thought about that hot af­ter­noon, the first time I saw Juanzi. She was wear­ing a white dress.

As she pushed the frame of her glasses up on the ridge of her nose, for a sec­ond, I thought she was there for me. - TRANS­LATED BY MOY HAU (梅皓)

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