Proofreaders: happyBuddha, Kai, Lee, m@o, Marcia
I have not seen his face, nor have I listened to his voice; only I have heard his gentle footsteps from the road before my house.
The livelong day has passed in spreading his seat on the floor; but the lamp has not been lit and I cannot ask him into my house.
I live in the hope of meeting with him; but this meeting is not yet.
–Rabindranath Tagore, Gitanjali
Silvery lightning arced across the night sky. Four or five seconds later, thunder boomed.
Xu Ping shivered like a leaf as he rummaged for the house keys, a small puddle forming by his feet.
The house was not illuminated by lights but by the television screen on which a dubbed black-and-white film, Waterloo Bridge, was playing.
“But you don’t know me!” The woman argued anxiously.
“I’ll discover you, spend the rest of my life doing it.” The man held her gaze steadily.
No answer came.
Xu Ping reached for the switch on the wall, but the lights in the living room did not turn on.
Right when he was pulling his hand back, somebody grabbed it, almost making him scream.
The other hand is big, dry and warm.
Xu Ping only grew easy as his eyes made out his brother’s silhouette in the darkness.
“Why didn’t you answer when I called you?”
Xu Zheng thought for a second. “The light bulb broke.”
Xu Ping stayed silent for a while before taking his hand back. “Oh, really? Leave it. I’ll change it later.”
He didn’t give an explanation for his late return home, and Xu Zheng didn’t inquire either, as though he forgot.
The wall clock ticked on.
Xu Ping remarked quietly after shivering, “It’s raining so hard outside.”
“Yeah.” A pause. “Your hand is wet.”
A smile found its way to Xu Ping’s lips. “Have you eaten yet?”
Xu Zheng shook his head.
“I’m going to take a shower and get changed. I’ll make some rice vermicelli later.”
Having gotten used to the dark living room, Xu Ping found the white incandescent light rather harsh. He squinted at the wall, its tiles a shade of oddly frightening white.
The latch on the door had been broken for a few weeks now and still had not been fixed.
He was soaked to his underwear. His sneakers squeaked with every step that he made like a sponge being squeezed. He took off his socks and found the skin on his toes all wrinkly.
With no buttons to hold his shirt together, he had to do the job with his hands on the way home as he hurried past all the pedestrians holding an umbrella, afraid to look up. He had not felt it in the midst of crazed indulgence, but the moment clarity came to him, the shame and guilt seemed to swallow him whole. There was money in his pocket, but he was too self-conscious to take the bus, so he walked all the way home.
His body heat completely washed away by the rainwater, Xu Ping was so cold his teeth were chattering.
Stripping off the clothes heavy with water, he stepped into the tub eagerly.
The moment the hot water splashed onto his skin, he felt a tingle followed by a burning sensation. It was as if his nerve endings were damaged to the point of confusing the sensation of hot and cold.
He closed his eyes as the water fell onto his head.
Only after he felt his body warming up again did he reach over to draw the curtain, but he stopped dead in his tracks.
Xu Zheng was standing in the bathroom eyeing him with a haunting stare.
Most likely due to the forceful handling, his chest and thighs were spotted with purplish fingerprints. The four-digit bruises on his butt cheeks were still very much present. His nipples were also red and swollen, appearing provocatively beautiful.
Xu Ping quickly pulled the curtain shut, barking, “Get out! Who told you to come in here?!”
The water splish-splashed away, but Xu Zheng did not answer.
Xu Ping took the shampoo container and hurled it outward. “Out!”
He heard the container clunk against the floor and bounce up to hit something else which led to even more clatter.
Then dead silence.
He sat in the tub hugging his legs, shivering.
Finally after ages, he lifted an edge of the curtain and looked out. His brother was long gone.
Water was bubbling noisily in the aluminum pot. He opened the lid, and white hot steam rushed at his face.
Xu Ping put in a handful of vermicelli and gave it a good stir. Then he made two omelettes.
And that was dinner.
Xu Ping placed a pair of chopsticks on the bowl before his brother. “Eat.”
Xu Zheng slowly picked up the utensils but his eyes never left his older brother.
Xu Ping just kept his head down eating.
Not enough salt. Oh well. It was too much of a bother to get it.
The egg was overcooked. He took a bite and felt there were bits of egg yolk stuck to his teeth.
Waterloo Bridge was coming to an end. Myra jumped, falling under speeding wheels, and the score began to play.
“I loved you. I’ve never loved anyone else. I never shall. That’s the truth, Roy. I never shall.”
Xu Ping went over and turned off the television.
He accidentally knocked down his chopsticks when getting back to his seat. He bent down to pick them up.
On the way back from the kitchen, he grabbed the salt. He sprinkled a little and stirred the noodles with the chopsticks, but it still didn’t taste like anything.
The hands on the wall clock pointed to nine-forty.
Unable to ignore it any longer, Xu Ping slapped his chopsticks onto the table and faced Xu Zheng with a glare. “What’re you looking at?!”
Xu Zheng replied, face emotionless, “I look at Gege’s neck.”
Xu Ping faltered as his hand involuntarily went up to his neck.
“There are handprints on your neck.”
Huang Fan had used a lot of force when he strangled him. Xu Ping didn’t even notice it had left marks.
“Why are handprints there?” His younger brother asked lowly while holding his chopsticks in an awkward position.
He continued his questioning, slowly but surely, and kept eye contact with his brother. “Where did Gege go today? I waited for you. You said you would come back soon. Who were you with? Gege –”
The chair scraped harshly against the floor.
Xu Ping sprung up, hands on the table, chest heaving. Only after some time did he gather his breath and hiss coldly, “None of your business!”
His brother was apparently angry.
Xu Ping was washing the dishes in the kitchen when he heard the bedroom door slam shut. Xu Ping froze for a second but continued his work as though nothing had happened.
After he stepped out of the kitchen, he found the lights off in his brother’s bedroom. He turned the doorknob but found it locked from the inside.
Only then did a hint of despair appear on his lowered face.
One by one, he turned off the lights in the rest of the house, letting it return to the embrace of darkness.
Lying down under the sheets, he felt as if his body were a loose pile of mud.
It was dark and quiet. From the bed, the ceilings seemed higher than he had imagined.
Huang Fan had screamed his name in the rain but did not say a single word. Xu Ping thought it was because the man knew they would never meet again.
When Huang Fan’s roommate barged in through the door, Xu Ping was startled and caught off guard. Huang Fan pressed his face down into the couch, and without skipping a beat, exchanged a few light words with his roommate the details of which Xu Ping had no memory. He couldn’t even remember if the stranger had seen his face or not.
Intelligent and collected, Huang Fan never let any difficulty or challenge hinder him, but Xu Ping couldn’t find it in himself to feel positive towards this man.
What frustrated Xu Ping more was the fact that his brother had seen the bruises on his body. He checked in the mirror earlier and saw that the thumb prints on his neck were slightly purple. His nipples were extremely swollen, and the other marks on his body left him feeling incredibly embarrassed. He quickly covered it with clothes, not daring to take a second glance.
He could have covered his tracks with lies, but for some reason he was in such shock looking at Xu Zheng’s stern gaze that he couldn’t get a peep out.
Since when did his brother learn how to question him?
Xu Ping rolled around in frustration.
Oh well. That boy wouldn’t understand anyway. If he asked again, he would simply say he was in a fight.
As he decided this, he let his eyes droop shut.
Perhaps because of his exhaustion, he fell into a deep slumber very quickly. He dreamt he was running for his life along the rails in a long, dark tunnel. The headlights of the train were flashing like the eyes of a wolf, trailing behind him, getting closer and closer, until the train crushed him under its wheels. He shot up in pain, shouting, only to find his naked brother lying on him.
He was dumbfounded for three seconds, and then he demanded angrily, “What are you doing here?!” as he tried to push his brother off. “Get off of me!”
Xu Zheng looked down at him, not moving an inch.
Xu Ping was a little disturbed by his expression and gave another push. “Get off!”
Xu Ping froze.
“What did you say?!”
Xu Zheng suddenly pulled on his shirt, and the two began wrestling on the bed.
The tank top was ripped very quickly, and Xu Zheng threw it down to the ground in a furious fit.
Unable to stand this, Xu Ping slapped his brother across the face.
Xu Zheng’s face flew to the side and stayed there for some time.
When he eventually turned back around, there was an expression of fury and rebellion.
He grabbed his older brother’s wrist and twisted roughly.
Xu Ping yelped in pain.
His underwear was pulled off, and the quilt fell to the floor.
Scared and shocked, Xu Ping put all his effort into kicking at his brother, but the teenager caught his legs with his own.
His limbs were all secured to the bed. Xu Ping was like a fish on a chopping board, doing his best to flop his way off, only to be pinned back down by Xu Zheng.
His brother pressed down like a boulder.
“Don’t do this, Xiao-Zheng. Don’t…” Xu Ping pleaded with despair as he continued to struggle.
Meanwhile, his brother had become erect from the wrestling. The burning erection poked at his abdomen through a pair of underpants, and the more he struggled the harder it became.
Soon his energy was drained, and his efforts to break free grew weak.
His brother held him down in a position like a wrestler’s hold. With their fingers and legs interlocked, his feeble attempts were no longer resistance but rather the lustful teases between lovers.
Xu Zheng was breathing down his neck. Skin to skin. The air was filled with the boy’s scent.
“No, we can’t do this…” But even as he said so, to his own dismay he became hard. His rationality told him to resist, but his body wanted nothing but to indulge. Xu Ping felt as though he were walking on a tightrope high in the air. His soul itself was just about to split in half.
Xu Zheng splayed one hand on his chest and began touching his nipples roughly.
“There are fingerprints here.” The boy said.
Xu Ping shook as he clenched his teeth.
His brother did not leave his lower half untouched and began kneading his crotch.
“There are here too.”
The veins on Xu Ping’s neck were about to pop.
“Gege was touched.” He accused angrily. “Here. Here. And here!”
As he spoke, he touched Xu Ping all over as though to vent his anger.
Finally, Xu Ping could no longer keep silent. “Yes! I was touched! And so what?! I wanted to be touched! It has nothing to do with you! Let go of me!”
Xu Zheng stayed frozen for quite some time until sadness, anger and disbelief all appeared on his face at once. He tightened his grip on Xu Ping’s wrist, almost making Xu Ping whimper in pain.
“NO!” He bellowed. “NO! NO! NO!”
“GEGE IS MINE! MINE! ONLY MINE!”
With desperate tears in his eyes, Xu Ping shook his head.
“GEGE IS MINE!” Xu Zheng repeated each word with frightening emotion on his face.
“No, Xiao-Zheng. That’s not true.”
Xu Zheng stared at him for what seemed like hours. Then he raised his head to the sky and screamed like a madman.
Xu Ping shut his eyes tightly.
Xu Zheng dipped his head down again and bit his brother’s collarbone so hard that blood quickly trickled out of the corner of his lips.
Xu Ping yelped painfully.
He pulled at Xu Zheng’s hair, but the teenager would not let go no matter what.
Xu Ping let his head fall back and bore with the pain, his hands creating ugly wrinkles in the bed sheets.
Amidst such pain, he could somehow feel a twisted sense of happiness. It was as if the unspeakable love that he harboured for his brother, a sin of unforgivable immorality, could only be expressed in this warped and painful way.
Letting out a shout of his own, Xu Ping held his brother’s head and kissed the boy with everything he had.
The two became tangled in their embrace, their tongues never separating for even a moment.
The taste of rust became an aphrodisiac for Xu Ping, driving him to shake with excitement.
The two of them rolled from one end of the bed to the other. Xu Zheng held his brother so tightly, as if he wanted to embed him into his own body.
Xu Ping felt like he was falling off the tightrope. His penis rubbed against his brother. His hand rushed to touch every inch of his brother’s back. He wanted to say to the boy, “Tighter. Tighter. I want you to crush me to pieces before you let me go.” But his tongue was busy battling with that of his brother.
Shutting his eyes, he guided the boy’s hands to explore his own body, and the two continued into the madness.
He didn’t want to think. He wanted only to fall, to keep falling, faster and faster. He could not see his surroundings and lost awareness of the ground and the sky. Just as time got lost amidst the tunes of the merry-go-around, he wanted to forget it all and let it all come to an end when he hit the ground.
He heard a small exclamation from his brother. Splutters of white fluid landed on his abdomen.
Everything came to a grinding stop. The tightrope-walking clown opened his eyes and found one of his feet not on the rope. The show was still going on. The fall was nothing but a fuzzy daydream.
He shoved his brother away and fell off the bed.
Xu Zheng was sprawled on the bed, panting wildly. He had just experienced his first ever ejaculation.
His semen had fallen on Xu Ping’s abdomen in a few sticky puddles.
Xu Ping ran his hand through them and found the fluid thick and gamy, forming silvery strands between his fingers like a spider’s silk.
He stared unbelievingly at his own hand. Slowly, he slumped to the floor and, with his hands tearing at his hair, began crying.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
ayszhang: Sorry for being late! Have been busier than a bee.
Brother - English Translation by ayszhang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.