All hope carries annotations
All faith carries groans
–Bei Dao, All
SCREEEECH. A metal folding chair was opened.
On the wooden table were a pen, a note pad and a desk lamp.
A middle-aged man in green uniform suddenly sneezed. He took out a grey checkered handkerchief from his pant pocket and began blowing his nose.
“Your tea, Sergeant Wang.”
“On the table is fine.”
Then the wooden door to the interrogation room closed again.
The man scrunched the handkerchief in his hand before stuffing it back into his pocket.
The walls were painted a chilling white, and behind the man were these words painted in huge black font: LENIENCE FOR HONESTY. STRICTNESS FOR RESISTANCE.
He sat down on the chair and twisted the lamp around.
The glaring light made Xu Ping close his eyes in discomfort.
“Which ‘ping?’ ”
“The ‘ping’ in ‘ping an .’ ”
Xu Ping remained silent.
“What do you do?”
“…I’m a student.”
“Railroads No. 1 Secondary.”
“Senior year three, division three.”
“The university entrance exam is coming up soon, huh.”
“You’re the same age as my son. He’s taking the exam this year, too.”
Xu Ping looked down and didn’t respond.
“All right, be honest with me.” Wang Yong put down his pen. “What happened last night, and why did you and your brother beat the officers on duty?”
“…my brother doesn’t know anything.”
The man scoffed. “He doesn’t know anything, and he could beat a man half to death?! What a brother you have!”
“It’s true!” Xu Ping shouted frantically. “He’s an idiot! A retard! He didn’t even go to elementary school! If you won’t believe me, go ask my neighbours. They all know! He was looking for me. He’s just a big guy. He doesn’t know anything!”
“What’s your brother’s name?”
“Xu Zheng. The ‘zheng’ in ‘zheng yi .’ ”
“If you have any questions, just ask me. My brother has issues communicating. He doesn’t know how to speak with people outside the family.”
Wang Yong glanced up at him and then rubbed his nose.
“We already know.”
Xu Ping’s head snapped up. “You already know?! How?” His handcuffs clanked furiously on the chair. “Did you interrogate him? He’s stupid! He doesn’t know how to say anything! Did you beat him again?! Did you?!” He started screaming with no restraint.
BANG! Wang Yong slapped his hand down on the table, sending the tea cup lid tumbling to the ground.
“Sit down! Where do you think you are?! Think you can just scream and shout whenever you want? Do you know what you’re in for right now? Sit your ass down!”
Panting with his head drooping, Xu Ping stumbled back into his seat.
“What do you mean we beat him again?! Would the People’s Police beat the people?” He rapped the table with his knuckles. “Do you remember what the Party and the country taught you? How can you be so oblivious after so many years of school? We have rules and protocols that we follow. We consider the situation from the people’s perspective. We serve the people! We would never hit anybody without reason.”
Xu Ping hid his face in his hands and began to shake.
“I’m begging you. I want to see my brother. He was hurt badly. I want to see him, please.”
Wang Yong picked up the lid and replaced it on the table.
“You still haven’t figured out the situation!” He snapped. “Do you know you committed a crime? You and your brother sent our colleague to the hospital, and he’s still in there now! How dare you negotiate with me!”
Xu Ping was trembling so violently he couldn’t speak.
“You lay it out right now. Why did you show up at the square in the middle of the night?!”
“Can I see my brother if I tell you?”
Wang Yong burst out in incredulous laughter. “What the heck is wrong with you, young comrade? You can’t just see your brother ‘cause you want to. This is the police station, a place of law. No one can bypass the laws!”
“My brother’s only fifteen. He’s bad up here, and he’s been bullied all his life because of it. He’s alone in an unfamiliar place, so he won’t say anything even if he’s hungry or tired or in pain. Officer, I mean, Sergeant, I’ll tell you anything. I’m begging you. Let me see my brother. It’s nothing to do with him. It’s all me. It’s all my fault.”
After a short silence, Wang Yong replied, “We’ll arrange for someone to look after him while you start talking. Why did you try to enter the square last night?”
“To see somebody.”
“To see who?”
Xu Ping stayed quiet for a long time.
“…this guy who was my senior in high school.”
“What’s his name?”
Wang Yong paused.
“Huang Fan? The Huang Fan from the University of X?”
“I’m not sure if there’s anybody else with the same name, but he does go to that university.”
The man put down his pen and searched through a black briefcase by his feet. He pulled out a piece of paper with a photo printed on it. “Is this him?”
Xu Ping glanced at it and nodded tiredly.
Wang Yong put the paper on the table and after some thought, asked, “Why did you go to see him?”
“I got a call from him saying he wanted to see me.”
“Why did he want to see you all of a sudden?”
“I don’t know. It sounded like he was hurt.”
“…did he tell you that?”
“No, but it sounded like he was in bad shape.”
“Where did you arrange to meet?”
“…we didn’t, but he said he was at the square.”
“If you didn’t, why did you go?”
“He said he wanted to see me; then the call ended.”
Wang Yong eyed him suspiciously. “Why would he want to see you at a time like that? What is your relationship with him?”
Xu Ping paused for a while before answering, “Friends.”
“Friends?” The man smiled. “What kind of friends?”
“…average friends.” Xu Ping paused. “We were both on student council when he was at Railroads No. 1. He was the president and I was a representative. He looked out for me a lot.”
Wang Yong tapped his finger on the table.
“What else did you talk about on the phone?”
“Nothing, just this and that. He kept coughing and paused a lot when he talked, and he suddenly started telling me about his childhood dreams. I thought he…”
“You thought he what?”
“What else did he say to you?”
“…that’s basically it.”
Wang Yong leaned back on his chair rubbing his chin.
“What of your parents?”
“My mom passed away. My dad is out of town.”
Standing up, the man ripped out a page from the note pad and pushed the pen to Xu Ping.
“Here. Write down your dad’s employer and contact information.”
“Xu Ping!” A skinny, young officer called from the other side of a small window.
Xu Ping was in the corner hugging his knees. He looked up and stood up holding the wall.
“I’m Xu Ping.”
The officer ordered as he unlocked the metal door. “Come out! Sergeant Wang wants to see you!”
Under the gaze of the other detainees, Xu Ping cautiously stepped out of the room.
The metal door slammed shut behind him.
“This way.” The officer pushed him on the back.
Through the long hall, left down the stairs.
“Hey, Xiao-Shen!” They ran straight into a big green cap.
“Sergeant Liu.” The officer stood to attention.
“Where you off to?”
“Sergeant Wang wants to interrogate this fella, so I went to grab him.”
“What did he do?”
“He and his brother were the ones who beat our guys two nights ago.”
The higher-ranking officer eyed Xu Ping.
“Oh, right, Xiao-Shen. Your wife just came with your clothes. She’s in our office drinking tea.”
“Really?! Wow, thanks a lot, Sergeant Liu.” The officer behind Xu Ping rejoiced. “I barely have time to sleep these days, let alone go home.”
“It’s a big mess these days, but it’ll be fine again once we restore order.”
The two chatted for a while in the hall.
Looking from the second floor, Xu Ping saw quite a few people in the courtyard below. A few police cars were parked in the front. POLICE was printed on their white doors in blue paint.
“All right. Hurry up and get this guy to Sergeant Wang, or else he’s going to get angry.”
A long, gloomy hallway.
The dark green doors were numbered in order with white paint – Interrogation Room 1, Interrogation Room 2…
The ground was paved with gritty cement, cold and hard.
“Ahhh!” A scream came from one of the doors, making Xu Ping shiver. He made to slow down and take a look but was immediately pushed from behind.
“What’re you looking at? Hurry up!”
The door to interrogation room number four swung open revealing Wang Yong smoking by the windows with his back to them.
“Sergeant Wang, I’ve brought the guy you wanted.”
“All right.” Wang Yong stubbed his smoke on the window sill. “You can go.”
The door closed quietly.
Wang Yong flipped open a file lying on the table and ordered without glancing up, “Sit!”
Xu Ping slowly lowered himself onto the chair.
“So I heard you caused some trouble in the cells.”
Xu Ping looked up. His face was marked with purplish green bruises.
“I was told you were screaming for your brother while rattling the bars, keeping the other criminals up.”
Xu Ping lowered his head.
“Where’s my brother?”
“I was just about to talk to you about that.”
“What happened to my brother?!” Xu Ping was becoming emotional.
“He had a high grade fever two nights ago and was sent to hospital yesterday morning. He could’ve been sent there earlier, but your brother didn’t make a peep about his sickness and just lied there. The other criminals were dead asleep, so he wasn’t discovered until the morning shift.”
Xu Ping stared at Wang Yong quietly before bursting into tears and grabbing his head.
“I do have good news for you. Your brother isn’t of legal age yet and, according to our investigation, is indeed intelligently-challenged. So he won’t be held responsible for his role in the event. Your dad can fetch him after he comes and pays the fine.”
Xu Ping’s sobs had become silent.
After a while, Wang Yong finally continued, “But you’re different. You’re eighteen and mentally healthy. According to our country’s laws, you must be held responsible for all legal consequences of your own actions.”
He pulled out a few sheets of paper from the file.
“We went to your school to investigate. Your homeroom teacher had good words for you, said you had exceptional grades and you were a leader for your classmates. It seems like she has high hopes for you, eh?”
Gradually, Xu Ping eased his crying.
“We got into contact with your dad, too. I didn’t expect him to be famous. A movie actor, right? He was in shock when he got our call. Your dad doesn’t have it easy, raising you and your brother by himself. He kept begging us to take care of you, said you’re just a misbehaving kid. I have a kid, too. I understand where he’s coming from.”
Xu Ping wiped his face with his sleeve.
“I have a few questions I want to ask you, and I hope you will cooperate with us. Your parents, teachers and classmates all have high hopes for you. You have a future. You have a life ahead of you. You were just confused by the lies of certain people and made a mistake. I hope you can see that and change for the better. Don’t let the efforts of your parents and your country go to waste.”
Slowly, Xu Ping looked up.
Wang Yong pushed a newspaper towards the boy.
Illegal organization, City of X Students’ Autonomous Federation, has been organizing and fostering anti-revolutionary unrest. Seventeen on-the-run leaders and major actors (list of names, descriptions and photos on the back) are hereby declared wanted. Upon receiving this order, please initiate searches, and arrest and notify the Police Department of City of X upon discovery.
List of names:
Huang Fan. Male. 20yo. Registry in County of X, Province of X. Mathematics student at U of X. Height approx. 180cm. Sharp chin. Relatively skinny. Monolid, long, narrow eyes.
“I’ll just be straight with you here. Where is Huang Fan?”
“I don’t know.”
“You were the last person he wanted to see. How could you not know?”
“I really don’t know.”
“Where did you arrange to meet?”
“I didn’t arrange anything.”
“Think about what I said to you, Xu Ping. Think about your parents, your teachers. Think about your future.”
“I’m telling the truth!”
“Why did he want to see you?”
“…I don’t know.”
“What is your relationship with him?”
“Think about it some more.”
“…we…we were classmates. Nothing more.”
“He had lots of classmates and friends. Why did you call you out of all people?”
“…I don’t know.”
“Where is Huang Fan hiding now?”
“I really don’t know!”
Wang Yong fished out another cigarette and lit it. After he took a few puffs, the smoke spread in the air sending out its bitter, acrid smell.
“I don’t know. I don’t know. Why are you protecting him so, Xu Ping?”
“You’ve got to believe me, Sergeant Wang. I really don’t know anything. We used to be closer but ever since he went to university, I had to prepare for the entrance exam, and we rarely met again.”
“Does your dad know?”
Wang Yong rubbed his brow with the smoke between his fingers.
“I’ll just say this, Xu Ping. I’m only being so polite to you because of your dad, so don’t take it for granted. I’ll ask you one more time. What was your arrangement with Huang Fan, who does he know, and where is he hiding now?!”
“I don’t know where he is! He didn’t tell me anything!”
“Don’t know, or won’t tell?”
“What can I tell you when I don’t know anything?!”
“How could you not know given your relationship?”
“…what do you mean?”
Wang Yong laughed.
“Pity that your dad raised a shameless son like you!”
Trembling, Xu Ping glared at him.
“You think you can keep everything hush-hush? Huang Fan’s roommate already informed on you, said you two share a special, improper relationship. You’re a gay, aren’t you, Xu Ping? You won’t say anything because Huang Fan is your…right?”
Xu Ping began gasping for air, hands and feet numb.
“I’ll give you one last chance. You give us the location of Huang Fan’s hideout and atone for your crimes so far. I won’t bust your little gay secret, and you can go home with your dad in a few days. You’ll still be a good student, a good son. You can take part in the entrance exam and have a grand future ahead of you. The country and the people are generous but not unconditionally so. Huang Fan betrayed the people, so we must bring him to justice. You must think carefully about what you choose to do.”
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ayszhang: The hypocrisy is too much...lol
Brother - English Translation by ayszhang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.