Friday, October 14, 2016

Brother - ch30

Translator: ayszhang
Proofreaders: happyBuddha, Kai, Lee, m@o, Marcia
Chapter 30 of Brother!


All joy lacks smiles
All sorrow lacks tears
All language is repetition
All contact is a first encounter

–Bei Dao, All

“Urgent announcement from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army: the army, local police force and armed police force have liberty to enforce martial law through any means necessary. Protest organizers and rioters are solely responsible for all consequences…”
Xu Ping stood in front of the television, reading the rolling notice in silence.
His brother was not in the living room. Xu Zheng had shut himself in his room for the whole evening, ignoring even knocks on his door.
The clock ticked until eleven-thirty on that night of unrest and insomnia.
Brrrrrring-brrrrrring! The phone began ringing.
“Hello?” Xu Ping picked up.
No response came for some time.
“Hello? Is that you, Dad?”
Fucking pranksters! He was just about to hang up when he heard a feeble voice.
“Xu Ping.”
“Huang Fan?”
Xu Ping pressed the receiver back against his ear and tried for a long time to find something to say.
He heard a series of cracks and bangs from the other end like fireworks or firecrackers. “Where are you?”
The man did not reply.
“The martial law notice has been playing on TV this whole time. Are you still at the square?” He cupped a hand around the receiver and pressed his voice low. “They say it’s very dangerous out there. Don’t hang around any longer. Hurry home!”
All he heard was heavy breathing from the other end.
“What’s that over there? Why are you guys playing with firecrackers now of all times?!”
Huang Fan started chuckling softly for a while. “Yeah, we just wanted to have some fun while we still could. We’ll be done soon.”
Xu Ping didn’t reply. Something in Huang Fan’s voice made him very uneasy, but he could not figure it out in the moment.
“How are you, Xu Ping?”
“I’m all right.”
“…not going to ask about me?”
After a pause, Xu Ping asked, “How are you, Huang Fan?”
“I’m good.”
It was such a normal conversation, yet Xu Ping felt the tiny hairs on his body bristling.
“Xu Ping.”
But the man didn’t say anything for a very long time.
“What the hell is going on, Huang Fan?”
Huang Fan laughed. “Nothing, just wanted to call you for some reason.”
“Call me, now out of all times?! Do you not know the city is under martial law?!”
Huang Fan stayed quiet for some time before asking abruptly, “I always wanted to ask you if you had any dreams you wanted to make come true.”
Xu Ping faltered. “No, I don’t. I’m not a very ambitious person. I just want to live a normal life with my family.”
“You have nothing you really, really want?”
“I do. I want my brother to become normal, but that doesn’t seem very feasible, so I don’t think about it much.”
“That’s great.” Huang paused. “Growing up, I thought I was like a rat living in the gutters. The other kids were all nice and clean while I was the only one who was dirty and stinky. Nothing could rid me of the smells I had. So the biggest dream I had was to be able to not lie in the gutters one day, but sadly this hasn’t come true yet.”
“Why are you telling me this? Where in the world are you, Huang Fan?”
“Xu Ping, if you didn’t have your brother, would you want to be with me?”
Xu Ping considered for a moment and answered slowly, “I don’t know.”
Huang Fan started laughing again, but laughter turned into coughing.
“I really envy Xu Zheng. He might be an idiot, but he has someone like you loving him wholeheartedly.”
Xu Ping clenched his fist. “Stop talking.”
Huang Fan chuckled. “What are you afraid of? You know, Xu Ping, your biggest fault is being hesitant and fearful, always keeping yourself in a tight frame, unable to relax for even a second. Let me guess. Did you put down Beijing schools on your application?”
Xu Ping clenched his teeth.
“You want to force yourself to be apart from your brother, thinking that would sever your feelings for him.” He began laughing and coughing simultaneously. “Xu Ping, you truly are the biggest fool I’ve ever seen. What’s the point living like this?”
“Did you call just to make fun of me?” Xu Ping spit coldly.
Huang Fan continued without paying heed. “If I were you, Xu Ping, and I met someone I liked, I wouldn’t give a damn about what anybody says. I’d hold onto him with everything I got and never let go.”
“He’s my brother!” Xu Ping snapped.
“So what? Does he like you?”
Xu Ping didn’t speak.
After a spell of violent coughing, Huang Fan continued quietly, “Really, Xu Ping, I really envy your brother.”
“What’s there to envy? He’s just an idiot.”
“Yeah, that’s why I envy him. He has obtained what I want without lifting a single finger, but he doesn’t have the slightest clue as to its value.”
Xu Ping chose to stay quiet.
As he listened to the man’s heavy breathing, a firecracker seemed to explode near him on the other end. BOOM!
Xu Ping shuddered.
“Huang Fan! Are you really playing with firecrackers?! Where are you?! The People’s Square?!” He shouted into the receiver.
Huang Fan laughed. “Yeah, we’re at the square with firecrackers. The ertijiao is pretty loud. Why, did it scare you?”
Xu Ping couldn’t speak through his clenched jaws.
“You’re too much of a scaredy-cat, Xu Ping. You need to let yourself go. Sometimes you have to let go first to get what you want. But,” he coughed through his laughter, “it’s not good to be too reckless, like me.”
“Huang Fan, you’re wounded, aren’t you?”
Silence on the other end, then weak chuckles. “Amazing. You could tell over the phone. I was caught off guard by the firecracker and fell down some steps and bumped my head. Don’t worry, though, it’s just a light scratch. It’ll go away tomorrow morning.”
Xu Ping covered his eyes trying to push back the tears.
“Oh no, Xu Ping, we can’t talk anymore. I borrowed a Brick from a friend from Hong Kong, and the minutes are very expensive, and the battery is about to die. Say goodbye to me, Xu Ping.”
“Huang Fan, you fucking bastard! Why the hell did you call me?! You don’t want me to rest easy, do you?!”
After a long pause, a quiet response came. “I’m sorry, Xu Ping. I’m a selfish person. If I could, I really want to see you again. I miss you. I’m sorry.”
Doo-doo-doo. The tone began to play.
“Hello?! Hello?!” Xu Ping yelled into the receiver, but the connection had been terminated.
He smashed the receiver back onto the phone.
The martial law announcement kept rolling across the television screen.
“Urgent announcement from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army: the army, local police force and armed police force have liberty to enforce martial law through any means necessary. Protest organizers and rioters are solely responsible for all consequences…”
Biting his nails frantically, Xu Ping paced the room a few times before dashing to his bedroom for a jacket.
He knocked loudly on his brother’s door. “Xiao-Zheng, I’m heading out for a bit.”
His brother didn’t answer.
When he was getting out his sneakers from the closet, his brother finally came out from his room.
“Where are you going, Gege?”
After slipping on his shoes and grabbing his keys, Xu Ping turned around. “I’m going out for a bit. Be back very soon. You stay here. Don’t go anywhere.”
Wearing a tank top and shorts, Xu Zheng shot forward and grabbed him. “I go, too.”
Xu Ping eyed him and then gave him a powerful shove, warning sternly, “You stay home, and don’t go anywhere!”
Xu Zheng heard the front door locking from the outside. After a moment of stupor, he leaned out the balcony and saw his brother racing out the building wearing a grey jacket and blue jeans.
Leaning on the railing, he hollered, “GEGE!”
Xu Ping didn’t hear. His running was swift and nimble, like a soaring bird, flashing once under the streetlight before disappearing into the vast darkness.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Video clip of the new broadcast referenced at the beginning of the chapter
Video of ertijiao being set off.
Militia at Tiananmen Square in 1989
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
ayszhang: As you probably noticed, I specifically choose to translate stories that showcase cultural, historical and social aspects of China. This is another period of pain and sorrow in recent Chinese history, and as people living outside of PRC we are privileged with the task of remembering this event and not allowing it to fade away in time. I'd like to thank the author for being so brave and portraying this event so faithfully.

EDIT (2017-04-14): A kind reader pointed out that the clip of the actual news footage can be found on Youtube. I have linked it above.


Creative Commons Licence
Brother - English Translation by ayszhang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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