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.”
“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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
“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.
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)