Proofreaders: Luzo, Pau, & Red
The Rental Shop Owner ch 16 & 17
I had more confidence than I had ever had.
After knowing what was most important to me, I didn’t make any more wild speculations.
My face was puffy like a marshmallow so I couldn’t go to a hotel. After some consideration, I decided to go back but I could only hide out in the new den until my face could be shown around town.
Binbin kept cussing out the tall guy who hit me. “That motherfucker. To think I washed his socks and made roast pork for him. Ungrateful son of a bitch. Goddammit. If I ever get my hands on him again, I swear I’m gonna bust his balls. Fuck…”
He didn’t do it on purpose and he even apologized to me, which was thanks to you. But before that–
“Hey, how come you’ve never washed my socks or made roast pork for me?”
He glared at me and nudged the bruises on my stomach really hard.
“Ah! Help! Someone’s trying to kill his Romeo!”
The more I yelled the more he became worked up, and he even began to pinch my marshmallow face. I was grimacing and gasping from the pain.
My little devil, my troublemaker, I’m waving the white flag, okay?
“Hey, stop. Please. Hey, I’ve already lost my good looks.”
He held my cheeks between his fingers and demanded angrily, “Say that again? Who’s Romeo?”
“You. You are!”
Only then did he smile. He patted me a few times and snuck a few kisses. “Ge, you’re such a good boy.”
Hmmph! It’s never too late for revenge. Plus, you’re Romeo and I’m Romeo too. There’s no conflict there.
He really ended up cooking for me. The first bite of the sweet and sour ribs made my jaw drop. Yum! Even better than my mom’s! But then why hadn’t he done more at home? I recalled that gross bowl of instant noodles—ewwww.
“Me cooking for Ding Hongmei? Maybe in her dreams.” He sure knew what I was thinking.
Well, you could have cooked for yourself. Idiot.
The getaway only lasted two days before I had to open the shop for business and report my current status back to the mothership. My cell phone had been getting so many calls the past two days while I had to pretend that I was in Shanghai waiting for merchandise. It was exhausting.
I asked him to watch the shop for me. He didn’t say much. I supposed he gave it the a-okay?
I topped twice that night.
He lied on top of me limply, mumbling, “I got some money saved up. I don’t need you to provide for me.”
I fondled the tender meat on his butt while he was vulnerable. “I provide for you? You wish!”
“But if I watch the shop for you, your family…” He licked my nipples and then squeezed them before looking at me. “Uncle and Aunty Shen…”
He called my pa and ma, uncle and aunty.
He called his mom Ding Hongmei.
“Don’t you worry.” I won’t let anyone bully you. I prepared for the worst case scenario.
I rubbed his head so he would rest assured.
He didn’t make a sound for a while. “Ge, we can’t let them know about us.”
I know, I said to myself, let’s keep it a secret.
It was just that my old lady would start to see Binbin around all the time. She wouldn’t think about homosexuality but she never liked Binbin.
“Ge, how ‘bout I bring you home tomorrow?”
I looked at him. The room was actually really dark but I still saw his black, shiny eyes.
I held his hand.
He and I went home together the next day.
I discovered that maybe I had not really known the ma who had raised me for twenty-seven years, until that day that is.
I wrote a whole script, said I got in a fight with the video merchant and even went to the police station and it was Shen Bin who saved me.
That was the first time that my mom actually met Shen Bin. She didn’t say much and was even polite.
Shen Bin called her aunty and he did it very sweetly.
And when my old man came back from his stroll, Shen Bin called him uncle and he did it very solemnly.
I’ve always been curious. He would sometimes be full of shit but other times he would be so nice and quiet that he seemed to be another person.
How much of him had I not seen? But I wasn’t in a hurry. I had all the time in the world.
After he left, my mom was surprised and asked me, “Was that Shen Bin?” But she spoke again before I could answer, “Doesn’t look like a murderer to me.”
I had planned for the worst case scenario.
I told my mom that I felt sorry for him, that he wasn’t a bad person, that he had gone through a lot, and that he was my friend, my little brother. I told her that he didn’t have any family and was alone in Shanghai so I asked him to come back and help me.
My ma, she went to do my laundry without saying anything, and then she helped me change my medication. I added that the person who had been changing it was Binbin.
Afterwards, before going to sleep, she said, “You’re old enough now and these friends are yours anyways. This Shen Bin guy doesn’t look like he’s up to no good. He was really good with his fists before, so no one would mess around in your shops if he’s around.”
“Plus, you’ve always been introverted. I’d never seen you bring a friend home. The society’s a complicated place. It’s not bad to make friends with people from different backgrounds, but I’m just worried that the honest old you would get pushed around by others. If Shen Bin wants to be with you, then that means he got some sense in him. If our son isn’t a good person then I don’t know who is.”
I knew very well that what she meant by ‘Shen Bin wants to be with you’ wasn’t in that sense, but I was still happy. I might not ever get their blessings but an ambiguous one like this wasn’t so bad either.
After, she went on to saying how it was sad for him to have a mother like Ding Hongmei. It turned out that Shen Bin’s real dad died on the battlefield in Vietnam.
How come I had never heard him mention it?
Of course, she still told me to be careful.
She had always been scared that Shen Bin came to take revenge. She said that she never thought this kid would be this sweet, and that if she knew she wouldn’t have asked that second brother for that favour.
What comes around goes around. If she had not done that extra thing, I wouldn’t have my Binbin now.
My pa said to me, his woman only had her baby son in her heart. Whoever was nice to her son was her family; whoever was bad to her son was her enemy.
Perhaps most mothers are like this?
Several months went by in peace.
Shen Bin and I lived in the new place, watching the shop by day and going home by night.
He went over to my house whenever he got the time. Aunty this, aunty that—he made my mom a happy woman.
Sometimes I couldn’t go back, he would invite himself over. He would go grocery shopping with my mom, help her in the kitchen, chitchat about everyday gossip with her and even play mah-jong with the old ladies when they were missing a fourth player.
I had never known how to display filial affection. I had always been doted on heavily by my mom. I would reach out and there would be clothes; I would open my mouth and there would be food. I even learned to talk back when I grew up.
Before long, I became jealous. How come my twenty-something-year relationship with my mom couldn’t even compare to Shen Bin’s hundred-day-or-so relationship with her?
I questioned the little brat, “Where did you learn to suck up like that?”
The little brat retorted, “Why would I need to suck up with mom?” He lowered his head and told me that he never had a mom this good.
I felt pretty guilty.
I never thought my mom was that good. My mom didn’t have much education. She was naggy, stingy, biased and sometimes harsh.
To which the little brat said, “Aunty is good. She is so good to me. She even makes underwear for me.”
It used to be my shirt. My ma noticed that I wasn’t wearing it anymore and wanted to remake it into boxers, which I outright rejected. In the end, the little brat began to wear the shirt-turned-underwear around day in and day out, even flashing it in front of the mirror and asking me if it looked good.
Hey, why don’t you just hurry to bed? If your ge gets a nose bleed, you’re going to have to pay for the dry cleaning. Thank you very much.
My pa praised him, saying he who recognizes his wrongs is virtuous. I swear my pa almost changed his name to Shen Guo, middle name, Gaizhi.
The little brat stood there, tall and stern—he got scared by the old tricks that my pa liked to pull. He came back saying, “Uncle is really knowledgeable. He reads these really thick books.” He told me that most of the characters he couldn’t even read and even if he did, he didn’t understand what they meant.
It was just Guwen Guanzhi in traditional characters. Geez.
Then, the brat started learning Classical Chinese with my pa and tested me when he came back home, “What’s the line before ‘the autumn water connected the sky at the horizon, forming a unity’?”
Oh my god, let’s spend more time discussing the issue of who will be on top instead, please.
I really didn’t expect it to turn out like this.
Around the end of April, a shooting called the April 23rd Murder took place in Fushun, Liaoning, and shocked the entire country. The criminals acted five times in one week, killing six families, totalling twenty-two people, not even sparing the children and elderly.
Binbin said, that was the way his boss did things, quick and fierce like the lightning, never leaving loose ends.
Then there was no follow-up. It was likely going to become another one of the Republic’s unsolved cases, just like the ’96 Ripper Case in City N.
And I was proven wrong again.
The case was solved and some reporter wrote a documentary novel based on it. The three felons were all shot on sight, including the boss who gave me a smoke.
But the boss’ episode did not just end like that.
Before Labour Day, I received a registered mail for Shen Bin. The letter went to my shop—thank goodness my shop was a pretty recognizable icon. It was from some real estate company in Shanghai, asking Binbin to go over and do a home inspection.
We had no idea what was going on but we went anyway. The company was in Pudong. They said their development had been finished for a long time and our unit was the only one who hadn’t done an inspection yet. The lady asked us for the pre-sale contract but how could we possibly have it? But Shen Bin had his I.D. card and residence registry. He was even going to take out his certificate of discharge. The brat told a beautiful lie: the house caught on fire and it was burnt.
Fortunately, the company had the contract. The lady said there were eight in total. The signature on it was Binbin’s.
We paid the inspection fee of a couple hundred bucks and went to inspect the house. Three bedrooms, two living rooms, six hundred twenty-five per square. The place was across from Century Park.
The lady was about to scram after giving us the keys.
I called her back, “That’s it? He gets the house?”
“Oh right, we will contact you regarding the property ownership certificate. There’ve been cases like yours. It’s more of a hassle but it’s not a big problem.”
I stared at Binbin and Binbin stared back at me.
The brat said he kind of remembers signing these papers. The boss told him to sign for insurance and he did it.
“What if you signed a slave contract instead?” I fumed.
The little brat was more furious than I. “I can read, you know. It’s a property contract, not a slave contract.”
“Then why didn’t you say so?”
“How should I remember?”
His boss actually gave him a house.
I got angrier; well, jealous more like it.
“Brother’s a straightforward guy. I saved him twice. He’s just repaying me.”
Fine, I’ll think of it like that. The man’s dead anyways.
It still felt like a dream when we got back home—the brat was a home owner. Although we were both home owners, my house was in the countryside while his was in the city. It wasn’t the same!
“Ge, I think the rental shop would make a lot more money if it was in Shanghai,” he said as he rode me. When did he learn to speak so indirectly? I laughed.
I actually considered long before him to pawn the shop and sell the house—move to Shanghai.
That place was bigger, therefore safer.
We were scared that one day the beans would spill and mom and pops wouldn’t take it well. Once we were all the way out there, the chances of coming out would be a lot smaller.
The first thing my ma asked about when we went back was the origins of the house. This we already thought of ahead of time.
“Binbin saved a federal official, right? He wanted to thank Binbin so he gave him a house.” Fortunately, the elderly are easy to fool. “But, mom, you can’t spread this around. The chief wants to keep it a secret.”
“I know, I got it. Wow, Binbin! This is what they call what goes around comes around!”
My pa was about to launch into his usual speech about being kind without the expectation of a reward when I interrupted. “The chief wants us to have it. If we don’t take it, he might think we think it’s not enough! This way, the chief can feel relieved. I think it’s a good thing.”
“Yeah, Binbin, don’t pay attention to that old bag of bones. You risked your life for this house! I don’t see why you shouldn’t take it!” My mom was being biased again.
Then, I brought up the idea of going to Shanghai.
Ma and pa were more excited than I was.
“I wanted you to go for a long time. The big city will have lots of nice girls. You have such high expectations, never could find one you liked. Going to Shanghai will be good for you.”
Binbin snickered secretly beside me. I pinched him at the waist.
“It’s a good idea. Men must have high aims. You should go out and experience the world. Plus you can always come back here if you don’t like it there!”
After we came back to our den, I asked Binbin, “What are you going to do after we get there? What am I going to do?”
“Me? I’ll look for a job. And you? You look for girls–ah! Ouch! Damn you, Qian Jiying, pinching me again. Just you wait. Just you wait…”
Just I wait, what? Worst comes to worst, I let you fuck me. I giggled as I ran outside.
After that, it was smooth sailing.
There was nothing to be afraid of.
As long as we were together.
Therefore, I went to Shanghai to find my old classmates. The brat came with me a couple of times, too, to see if he could find a job. But he was a high-roller now, completely financially-independent. He had at least two hundred and fifty bucks a month from renting out the apartment at Century Park.
I went to City N to stock up for the last time the day before National Day and for the first time in a million years, the Shanghai-Nanjing Expressway was jammed. I should have gotten home at seven pm but I only got past Zhenjiang at nine. Coincidentally, Lin Dongfu was getting engaged on National Day so he was having a fiesta. A fiesta was none other than dinner, karaoke and then hitting the bathhouse. The brat joined in on the fun, too. He was their leader after all, so he had to show up and show off, so as to say.
However, emergencies just had to happen at a time like this. My ma called me, crying and howling, telling me that my pa fainted.
“Why’re you calling me? Call 112 emergency service!”
“I did. It’s been over ten minutes and they still haven’t come yet. What do I do? Wahhhh. You can’t leave me, you old bag of bones!” She started wailing!
My god. I called Binbin. The call went through but no one picked up. Was he in the bathhouse already?
Dad! I was shaking. I was afraid. I mean, you can’t be alive and not fear anything. After that, no one picked up when I called back. No one picked up when I called Binbin, either. By the time I got back at ten thirty, Binbin called, telling me to go to No. 2 Hospital.
My pa had diabetes for more than ten years and recently, he began eating off-limit foods, the result being fainting from high blood sugar. Thankfully, there were no complications. He was out of critical condition after getting some insulin.
The point is that after this incident, my mom began to think of Binbin as her real son.
According to Lin Dongfu, the little brat went out of the baths in a towel and heard his phone ringing. How strange, right? He didn’t hear it when I called but he did when my mom called.
Not even bothering with clothes, he dashed out with only the bathhouse’s slippers and a bath robe. Luckily, my parent’s house wasn’t far. He threw my dad onto his back once he got there and left like the wind. The house was an old, non-licensed building and the alleyways were complex like a maze. No wonder the ambulance couldn’t find it despite it being no more than one kilometer from the main road. He couldn’t hail a taxi either when he got to the road, so the brat just hauled my dad to the hospital.
And I’d have you know, my dad was ninety kilos, exactly, on the dot. If it were me, I would have outright collapsed.
My mom had already gone soft in the knees at home. By the time she made it to the hospital, my old man was already in the emergency room. They said if he got there any later, there would have been more complications.
The brat told me that my mom grabbed his hands and kept saying: Aunty’s sorry. Aunty’s really sorry. My dear, I’m so sorry.
The brat thought my mom was still in shock. Why are you sorry, Aunty? He asked.
I knew why.
My mom really thought of him as her son after that.
Then, the next day, she wanted Binbin to be her godson and call her mom. After my pa left the hospital, we even had a banquet in his honour and my mom announced in front of seventy-eighty people of the Qian family, “From now on, Ding Hongmei’s son, Shen Bin, will be one of us. I will be his mother, my old man here will be his father and Jiying will be his brother.”
By then, familial love seemed to overpower our love.
I wondered if the little brat would listen to my ma if she didn’t let him be with me
I asked him when we went home. He just wouldn’t answer me. Only after a long time did he burst out laughing.
“C’mon, Qian Jiying. Are you jealous of your mom here? Or are you jealous of me?”
Probably both. I was feeling like an outsider already.
“But, I don’t want you to feel guilty.”
“That’s why I’m extra good to them! I can’t leave your side. Without you, I’m nothing.”
Maybe I was thinking into it too much, but hearing him say that he can’t leave me, I felt warm and reassured inside.
I can’t leave his side either.
Let’s just keep the elderly happy for now.
Every gay person has to face this obstacle. We didn’t even have Shen Bin’s side to worry about. We were fortunate enough.
I wanted to end it here. I thought maybe, lolol, that the ending was a bit rushed and some things weren’t explained well enough. Some I left it that way on purpose; there’s no beauty in making it too explicit. Others I’ll fill in using extras and stuff.
ayszhang: Woot! Happy ending <3~
Tomorrow will mark the two year anniversary of our blog! ^^ Love Late was first posted on June 20th, 2013 and chapter 17 will be posted June 20th, 2015! Woot~ Please check back tomorrow to continue the late loving!
The Rental Shop Owner - English Translation by ayszhang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.