Originally written in Chinese on 30 March 2008.
Recently I’ve been going through the old files on Google Drive. I decided to publish my short stories and essays here. Previously I only write technical articles in English on Medium but since this is the only blog I have, I thought I might as well just post all the writings I had even though it’s impossible to organise them into categories on the platform. My plan is to translate every piece of Chinese writing into English so that my writing could live in both worlds.
This short story is the darkest piece of all my writings. It’s quite shocking to think that I wrote it when I was 14. Rereading it now, if I have not known that it was written by me at that age, I would have laughed at the idea of a teenager claiming to have written this. Inspiration is a strange thing. At the time, I sat in front of my computer diligently typed it all out straight from my head, yet if I am to write it now, try as I might, I won’t be able to produce such a piece.
Part I. Beginning
Hello, your name was Chan Wai Wa. You were reading this story that belonged to you but had no beginning. Since every novel needed an opening, I decided to provide three situations. Please choose one.
You hung up your clothes, holding the floor mop, letting its long beard traverse the floor, in and out. You wrung the mop dry and put it in the bathroom. Mrs Wong from the next door is standing in front of the metal gate. Mr Chan you are so amazing you are seventy years old and live alone yet you do your housework so well come and help me get the soy sauce bottle from the closet will you.
You sat around the dinner table with many men and women, old and young. The old lady sitting next to you kept putting vegetables and meat into your rice bowl. Although you couldn’t hear what she was saying, she buzzed in your ear like an insect. You thought to yourself, this was what your wife was. Decades into the marriage, she was as annoying as the day you met. However, as much as you dreaded it, you really needed her to take care of all the mundane little things.
You were sitting on a park bench dozing off, wondering how you should spend your time till late at night when you were awake again and that you would need to go home to sleep until what time before coming down to the park to ponder the same question. When you were a teenager, you tried to imagine your life at an old age, and you didn’t expect it to be such a failure — no, you didn’t think it would be so idle that you should have to spend your time trying to make the clock run faster.
Part II. Middle
Your mind replayed an old memory. It was something surrounded by the smell of youth. It seemed completely out of reach, yet it suddenly appeared in front of you. It was surreal but very familiar.
It was from when you were about eighteen. You stood among your friends with a few coins in your hand, betting on who could date the most beautiful girl in the factory. You don’t remember much about what happened afterwards. A tall, dark co-worker took her hand, you recalled. For their wedding gift, you only stuffed a stack of newspapers into the red envelope and fled. You quickly shifted your target to the purist angel who made your heart flutter. You applied the formula of dating and falling in love, but left out marriage from the equation. From then on, you didn’t care anymore, so all the details were blurry. At this moment, you let yourself dream a little. Your eyes drifted to a spot in the distance, imagining that if you married the one you loved, there should be a dozen, two, or three dozen children and grandchildren in the house, living a happy life with a fairy-tale style happy ending.
The reality was different. It was never liked your fantasies. This thought broke your trance. The air seemed to have thickened, becoming heavy and turbid.
Part III. Ending
You shook your head, grabbed a bottle of brown-black liquid and handed it to her carelessly. You hung up the clothes, held the mop, and let the long beard traverse the ground, going in and out. You wrung it dry and put it in the bathroom.
You mumbled something, picked up the scissors and cut the food into shreds to make it easier for chewing. The old lady next to you kept putting vegetables and meat into your rice bowl. Although you could not hear what she was saying, she buzzed in your ears like an insect.
You remembered the fact that dozing off would make you sleepy at night, so you mustered the strength to think about what to do next, but your head was so overworked that you dozed off while wondering how you should spend your time till late at night when you were awake and that you would need to go home to sleep until what time before coming down to the park to ponder the same question again.
Different beginnings led to different summaries, but the end was the same.
In the finale, you were lying on the ground, coughing and screaming desperately. The screaming made the coughing unstoppable. Your trachea was constricted. Your lungs and brain were deprived of oxygen. Your heart tightened. Your body trembled. Your eyes rolled back and turned bloodshot. Your legs shook and stretched out. The breath was gone.
This was the end of Chan Wai Wa.