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You must have received 16 mails from Xie Yao. You two still maintain the old habit of written letter, for she said it emitted fragrance of summer in the flimsy letter.
The sullen autumn day drenched in incessant droplets of stinging raindrops smacking of yells in deep-rooted nihilism some eight-year-ago memory flash back into your mind. Reveling in this era, the cement is neither enamored by the then wild grass, nor by revival resuscitated, but by an iota of piffling breeze. In your youth, you nurtured the guts, and borne the vision to embrace all and aspiring to annihilate the whole gamut of things.
You enjoyed basking in the moments of riding alone when you could now take glimpse at fusing cloud and now veer to a corner.
You never intentionally remember opening hours of the swimming pool. Smearing a droplet of public body wash, you applied it to your body under the sprinkler. Shower empowered you with new sensory perception, for your stinging tears mixed with raindrops clashed in your feeble shoulders, before falling to the ground and bounding back. People were reveled in swimming binge outside the glass door. Casing your glass at them, you tried to name them by figures, their mysterious identity, that went by 016, 7899 and 2.78.
The space was awash by hues of blue and green, colors you felt repulsive were turned to singing spirits. Light purplish red, grey and black would not dampen vision only in the swimming pool. A green figure demonstrating the glistening body of Xie Yao was approaching you, undoubtedly, smiling.
‘I will definitely listen to you playing the piano if I have the chance. ’ Xie Yao said, in an earnest way she always registered.
You nodded, indicating yes.
‘I can smell your taste when you come here.’
Xie Yao thought it over and replied, ‘it’s special. Something different in this era. Whenever spindrifts emerged in the ripple, it reminds me of your arrival. But I can predate the ripple in sensing that.’
Some people could feel things you try to negate and some are only concerned about things you try to smash. Holding up your hand and scratching the air, you seemed to hunt for and confirm some nihilistic truth.
With Xie Yao’s implication from reflection of her eyes on water and tree shades from the glass ceiling falling on her shoulder, she seemed to bring back a summer many years ago. You could not check your smile, ‘you mean my existence?’
‘Exactly. Your existence and our encounter. I can sense them all.’
In your mind, that was the most romantic words of love ever.
In plain words, your school life was having a bosom friend called Delight who got good academic scores, was a band pianist and a member in the swimming society.
The pale spray spraying on the cement never sprinkled in the music classroom. Two to three tall and slender windows were akin to useless teapots used to boil coffee. Sitting on the unfitting music stool, you put your fingers on the piano and gesticulated the distance between keys. Failing to quantify the distance, you would miss out keynotes with vacancy of meters. Sometimes, you would chime with the solitary notes. You began to learn piano at the age of four. Back then, you would feel that each octave was likened to an isolated independent space that would arouse your passion with special intertwining.
‘Smell of popcorn chicken.’ Poking at your back, Delight said, ‘I know it must be Litchi.’
Lowering your head, you smiled. Smell would foresee arrival of a person.
Litchi, leading singer in the band, held a bag of hot popcorn chicken. ‘Go on with your rehearsal after taking some.’
Delight would play with the drum set. You were into abruptly accelerated drumbeats for they born semblance to quiet yet insurgent heartbeat when climax of tragedy stroke. Litchi got a chivalrous sound. The snowflakes falling to the mountain creeks were likened to the Milky Way. Her singing voice could be so saturated enhanced by the quietness. You loved the band, but you felt yourself as unfit. Outside the cramped window was suffused with sentiments emitted falling leaves shrouded and devoured by surliness.
The dim gray turned into purplish red.
Delight sipped the new-taste soda water beside you. The streaks on the green schoolbags pointed to the garden maize in the city. You have been with the bag for years. It would grow dim after you looked at it for a long time.
‘I got to go.’ His eyes would always sparkle in the night scene.
Standing in front of the station, he seemed to teeter. Lowering his head for a little while, he then approached you and looked at you into your eyes. He said, ‘You like our new song?
You nodded yes.
He whispered, ‘ you don’t.’
‘No, you don’t.’
‘You don’t like it.
You nodded yes.
Refraining from any response, Delight checked a hiccup.
The roaring train that came closer clashing with air, which seemed to repetitively narrate solitude. Maybe many years ago, when people harked to hoarse sound of the same train, they would foresee this moment in the future.
Blowing his nose, Delight turned around and approached the train. With his back looming in the distance, he waved goodbye.
You got a message from him soon after. ‘Can you come or not? We’ve been friends since primary school. We used to bath and engage in a fight together. Though I am called Delight, you were way more delightful than I was, because you can laugh at all things. Why can’t you turn better…’ You switched off your phone.
With quiet rotation and boisterous reincarnation, the world as a whole seemed blind.
When night befell, the black big-wing monster was unfurling its wing. Juice was sprayed on ground and soon entered oblivion. Spasmodic laughter clashed and led to nihilism. Pedestrians walking past by were hunting for the unknown. You knew it that all things stemmed from your instant mind rather than the perpetual night.
You missed Xie Yao so.
The phone was picked up.
Her greeting was enough to bring back grin to your mouth.
You were lost at what to utter.
You were a coward. You always so. You didn’t have the guts to unshackle your sealed glass cup nor felt temperature of water on the other side. You didn’t fear scald or freezing cold. You just dread the swarming eruption of emotions burned that would tear all your vulnerability.
A long silence, you extruded the most genuine sentiment. ‘What the f***, I don’t even know myself.’
It was so harsh to exchange ideas. What a lame talk again.
You got to ruminate over all words, and over how to give room for others to reply, how to bring the topic to the most supplemented state, and how to come across as skillful in talking. You got bored.
However, at that moment, you wanted to talk to Xie Yao in a natural way. Although you didn’t do it, she couldn’t reply at your first word.
You hanged up the phone.
Time rolled back to 14 years ago, when you first met Xie. At that time, Grandpa Bridge, the ditty, still lingered around Fan’s ear, but you had no idea drastic changes would occur to you or your era.
‘Hello, Xie. Don’t cry your heart out when you walk into the water. Look at our teacher. He is so grumpy. I bet he won’t come over to rescue you.’ Memory was dreadful, but you started the talk. Embraced by her mother, Fan got bubbles from his mouth. Neither you nor Xie were tall, but she stood upright and said with earnest eyes. ‘Stop. Is that baby your younger sister?’
‘My younger brother.’ Fan was one year old. He got long hair growing upwards and he looked like a girl for his eyes were so big. You pinched Fan in his plump hand and said to Xie. ‘I got to be a role model for Fan for our first-time swimming.’
Then you jumped to the water. Ripples got bursted from your body. You might get choked by laughter and looked up with a rush. All things around seemed to be extraordinarily rosy and magnificent. With her fine white arms grasping the handle, Xie Yao jumped to the swimming pool and swam towards you. Your mother sat on the slick deck chair and observed you along with Fan. At that moment, it was like time in pause.
It was a time when summertime didn’t fleet by like fast and people lived their days casual and free. In your third grade, you got your life stuffed with classes on Chinese, mathematics, English, piano, swimming and portrayal and seemed to turn into a modular robot. A whole afternoon without doing anyway finally came. You lied idle on the sofa and watched TV programs on warriors, snidget, heroes and supermen. It suddenly hit you that every single hero story had a girl who escorted the protagonist in different mood to counter against the bad demon. It was the first time that you began to miss Xie Yao. Since then, the 10-year-old you craved for the precious time starting from 2:00 p.m. every Wednesday and Friday. She said she was born in September and hence she got the credit for dispelling your hatred towards the opening date for the semester. She enjoyed spitting bubbles in water, so you liked to suffocate your breath and watched her spitting bubbles that seemed to be singing by a merman for you. It began to dawn on you that it was called crush. You craved to fight back the bad guys with Xie Yao hand in hand even in your dream.
By pressing the floating plate on your belly, getting your head float on water, and kicking your legs like you drive a bike, you smilingly called it backstroke. The floating plate was a combination of blue and red, the swimming pool indicates weather, and glass ceiling is reflected on the rippling water. The teacher was cladded in a bathing suit that looked like a shark. Two strangers on the deep-water area were drenched in game scene. An uncle passing by got his third pee done. It was a quite summer day.
‘You know what, the swimming pool smelt like chlorine.’ She said.
‘I don’t smell anything.’
‘For real? You are the first person I know who doesn’t smell anything.’
‘Kidding. How come.’
Dysosmia was your secret. Whenever a classmate called out that he was about to fart, you would be the first to muffle your nose and said it stinked. You didn’t share the secret with others, not even with your parents.
‘Xie, don’t you feel the cloud today looks like tomato.’
‘It looks like watermelon flesh.’
‘Nonsense. It’s peach.’
‘Strawberry.’ You didn’t flinch.
‘Dragon fruit.’ She got excited and bursted out into a wide smile.
She was about to utter another fruit when she stopped and responded you by your name.
You and Xie Yao were like small sharks under the ceiling. You both owned the whole world even when time rolled by. Xie once asked you where you were swimming to, and when you would stop. You observed the clock on the wall for three seconds and replied, ‘Ocean, for keeps.’
It was an autumn eight years ago. You were lost by your mind.
That night, Xie Yao called you back.
‘You okay?’ It was her voice. It was like she came to you and accompanied you in swimming to the Ocean.
She disappeared from your life when summer ended many years ago, and it was lucky that you met again and maintained contact. All things are drastically changing. With tickling of time, life would be easily deprived. Hearing her harsh breath, you closed your eyes and got yourself into the most secured murkiness. You called her name many times.
‘Xie Yao…Xie Yao, Xie Yao…’
‘Xie Yao, we got no cloud now, not any more. It gets only a few damning days in summer. The machine is rotating nonstop over there. The whole city seems to be stirred up, and smashed into withered grass and haze. It’s lingering cool autumn we are enduring. I suck.’
‘My mom wants me to step out of the city when I was younger. She wants me to go to a bigger city, so she enrolled me in so many classes and instilled me with loads of values. She lives a toilsome life, I know it; but you know what, I am like a machine.’
‘She lives a toilsome life…
‘Why didn’t I die then?
‘It’s called Cry Wolf. I lie to people that I can smell stinky fart, but I was hopeless when gas leaks. I had no idea, Xie. I am despite to smell coal gas or chlorine in the swimming pool or smell when a person arrives or fart…I want to know what that’s like. But I…’
‘Fan was in the kindergarten. He and Grandma were sleeping. If it were not Grandma who timely woke up, we were all dead. But it was Fan who passed away. They blamed it on the backwardness of a small city that used gas tank. They blamed it for the closed window, but no one blamed me who was the only one awake. Fan died because of me. When I woke up, he was gone. I am lost. F***, all is gone.’
‘It’s pathetic that my parents thought I could smell things. They thought I didn’t do it because I was not sensible enough. When they came to me from afar, they would always give me a smiling face. But look at them, their hoary hair. They have been going through more than I could conjure up. They got no time to bemoan life. They do everything to accomplish me.
‘I get good academic scores. I take the road everyone wants me to take. I am lost. I am drowned. I should have been gone by the coal gas, but they ditch me to a quagmire. I can’t swim. I am being choked. I am forever floundering with nothing but water waves around my eyes and ears.
‘I wanted to talk about all the burdens with Delight, but he would always change subjects. In actuality, I was not into my ex. We broke up after two weeks. The nihilistic and empty happiness makes me sick. I got so many rewards for my debate, but I am not brave, not at all. I never express my true feelings to anyone. Damn it. They all think of me as perfect. I couldn’t bear all this. I am so tired. This is not the life I want. They would say it’s hypocritical, but I think it’s who I am. What should I do.
‘Xie Yao. I got no summer. We would breathe the air full of particles. It’s pretty much like what do with coal gas. We will chronically die.
‘…Xie Yao. They all anticipate my accomplishment. Yet, in my heart, I am the murder of my young brother. Why do they want me to climb up all the way to the pinnacle of this era? I am as damned as this era itself.’
At 7:03 p.m., you were all tears. The stinging glitz got crippled by your tears. The strain by the juice was treaded by the 40th passer-by. The sound of puffing and blowing in the factory was reduced to familiar noise. Your true world consisted of bold tracking and quiet ogling by strangers and the cold cement suppressed in flashy light. You gasped like hard to sense all the temperature. You showed all the audaciousness to embrace the wind despite its biting coldness.
You were not in the least happy nor relieved. For a long time, it was the first time that you truly lived yourself.
Xie replied over the phone, ‘what about we go swimming.’
You flied there at night in a bid to strip away from the collapsing city.
In the swimming pool, two shark-like figures were reflected in the glass ceiling.
‘Stars.’ She looked upwards into the sky with her feet trampling the water.
It was no precious for you two were so glittering. The sea waves came over and swatted against you. The stars got emerged into the murky canopy dotted with one star. You were swimming, nonstop. With dark water waves clashing against firefly in the deep ocean, you could feel your pounding heart despite changes in temperature. Shoals of fish passed to narrate all the sorrow and joy. The particulate in the morning saw no boundary that passed away along with fluctuation of sea water. All can be ascribed to the eternity you are unable to hunt for.
Eight years had gone by. You finally comprehended that the truth about yourself or the universe would be forever indistinct. Sad stories accumulate over time, yet you go into overdrive to stay away from the abyss loop. Your depression is traced to its failure for recovery and the sorrowful days are no longer resentful in your eye. The city you are in outstrips the small city you used to live in its indifference. You ares segregated from others in the densely-proportioned ants-esque cluster, but the most important thing is that you could observe a distinct self that he is living with power.
Xie Yao is still writing you letters from afield telling about her life bristled with joy or sorrow in the small city. You have been grateful for her and missing her, as a friend only.
You smell the smell of the ocean whenever that night eight years ago crushed into your mind.
Sharks will eventually swim into the ocean.