I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
–William Butler Yeats, The Lake Isle of Innisfree
Dear Chief Editor Wang.
Xu Ping looked up from the racks in the male section of a mall. His brother was walking out from the dressing room wearing a new pair of jeans.
Xu Ping went over and pulled on the waist.
“Is it too tight?”
His brother shook his head.
The uniformed sales clerk smiled. “Sir, I’ve worked here for a long time, and I’ve never seen anyone wear jeans better than him.”
Xu Ping didn’t respond.
“Could you please get this pair in a larger size?” He added after a pause. “Navy blue, grey and black, one each, please.”
“Sir, jeans look better with a tighter fit. A larger size wouldn’t accentuate the lines of the hips and legs,” the lady kindly suggested.
Xu Ping paused.
“A bigger one is better. He can wear it even when he gets fatter.”
The lady didn’t argue anymore and left.
Xu Ping picked up a shoe box on the leather chair and opened it before his brother.
“Try them on.”
His brother took off his old sneakers and stuck his left foot into one of the brown leather shoes.
“How is it? Comfortable?”
Xu Zheng frowned. “Tight.”
Xu Ping opened another box and placed the black leather shoes in front of his brother.
“What about these?”
Xu Zheng stepped into the right shoe and stomped a few times. “Loose.”
Xu Ping bent over and tied the laces.
“How about now?”
Xu Zheng stomped a few times but did not answer.
Xu Ping made his brother take the shoes off and left the black pair on the chair.
The sales clerk brought back a stack of jeans ranging in hue from lightest to darkest.
Saying thanks, Xu Ping shook out the pair on top and held it against his brother’s legs before passing it to the man. “Try them on.”
Xu Zheng frowned, apparently impatient.
Xu Ping contemplated for a moment and picked out a recently purchased shirt from one of the bags lying on the floor. He took apart the packaging and said, “With this one.”
Xu Zheng looked back at him but did not take the garments.
Things became awkward.
The lady smiled. “Why don’t I help, sir?”
Xu Ping stopped her.
“I’ll do it.” He passed the box of the black leather shoes to her. “Could you please find a few sandals in this size? Grey or brown is fine.”
The lady left with the box in her arms.
Xu Ping gazed at his brother and plopped onto the chair coaxing in a tired voice, “I know you don’t like the mall, but we’ve already bought so much. Could you hang on for a little bit longer?”
Xu Zheng grumbled impatiently, “I hate changing clothes.”
Xu Ping didn’t know how to respond.
He sighed. “Then how about I help you?”
His brother considered for a moment and nodded.
The dressing room was not spacious. The wall across from the door was covered with a mirror.
Xu Ping pushed the latch in before pulling the hem of the shirt out from his brother’s jeans and unbuttoning it from the top down.
They were flanked against each other because of the limited space, and Xu Ping could feel warmth wash over him and the man’s scent touching his nose.
He lowered his gaze and rubbed his lips together.
“Lift your hands.”
Xu Ping shuffled around his brother to take off the shirt.
He turned his brother around by the waist and moved down to the jeans button.
He pulled down the zipper and was about to squat down to remove the pants when Xu Zheng pushed him up against the mirror.
He felt his brother’s member poking his stomach.
Xu Zheng’s eyes lingered on his face before the man leaned down to kiss him.
Xu Ping tilted his head away. “No.”
Xu Ping glared at him. “What did you promise me? No kissing or hugging outside.”
“This is not outside! Only me and Gege here!”
Xu Ping stayed silent for a while before whispering, “No.”
His brother yelled angrily, “I don’t want to change! Go home now!” and began to yank on the jeans.
Xu Ping hurriedly got a hold of him. “Stop it!”
Xu Zheng paid him no heed and focused on removing the pants.
Xu Ping grabbed onto his hands and finally made a compromise. “Only one kiss. You have to try on the clothes after.”
His brother stopped to look at him.
Xu Ping sighed before hugging his brother around the neck and closing his eyes as he leaned in.
His brother’s strong arms held him in a tight embrace.
I do not know how to break this to you. You have taken very good care of me all these years. Rather than a boss, you are like my teacher, older brother and friend. After my sentence, I cannot begin to imagine where I would be if it were not for you.
“That comes to five thousand eight hundred and thirty-one yuan. Would you like to pay by card or cash?”
“Sir, we are doing a promotion to recruit more members. You can become a gold card member with a purchase of eight eighty-eight or over, and after you collect enough points through purchases in our mall, you can get a twenty percent discount.”
Xu Ping smiled. “No, thanks.”
“Seeing that you shop a lot, sir, you would save a lot of money if you become a member.”
Xu Ping was quiet for a second. “Thank you. I’ll consider it if I shop here again.”
“Sure. That’s six thousand yuan.”
Xu Ping took the change and receipt and signalled to his brother to take the bags.
“Going home?” Xu Zheng asked while eyeing him.
Xu Ping nodded hesitantly.
His brother’s face had been stiff since the moment they stepped foot inside the mall, but now it had finally loosened up.
The man reached for the bags delightedly.
Xu Ping walked towards to the exit as he sorted the change.
“…gay…just now in the dressing room…on his neck…I saw…”
Xu Ping stiffened, and his head snapped towards the direction of the conversation.
The sales clerk from earlier was gossiping quietly with her co-worker with her back turned to him. Her co-worker looked up and noticed Xu Ping, and her expression froze. She patted her shoulder and gestured for her to look behind her.
The sales lady turned and shared eye contact with Xu Ping, her face contorted with shock.
Nobody said a word.
Xu Zheng caught up from behind and reached out for the paper bags in Xu Ping’s hand.
Xu Ping turned to face his brother, his face pale as one of his hands slid mindlessly to the place his brother had kissed.
Xu Zheng did not notice a thing. He shifted all the bags to his left hand and used his right hand to take his gege’s hand.
Xu Ping evaded it.
His brother stopped in his tracks and looked back, his hand still sticking out in midair.
Xu Ping could feel the two women’s eyes scorching them like an iron.
Wide-eyed, he looked up into his brother’s eyes.
In Xu Zheng’s eyes, time was motionless and the world was empty. He was the only thing reflected within.
Xu Ping lowered his head and relaxed his hunched shoulders.
He took one step forward and held his brother’s hand. “Sorry, my mind wandered.”
Xu Zheng held his fingers tightly, and Xu Ping flashed a smile at his brother.
Xu Ping turned to the place the two clerks were standing to find the counter completely deserted.
The results of the check-up came out, and I was diagnosed with stomach cancer. The day I received the news happened to be the day of the blind date.
“Xiao-Zheng, are you ready?”
Xu Ping was sitting in front of the computer in the living room, two packed suitcases by his feet.
His head was lowered as he typed.
His brother still had not replied.
Xu Ping pushed the keyboard in and knocked on his brother’s door. Before he received a response, he turned the doorknob and entered.
His brother was staring up at the sun outside the window through a pair of old, blue swimming goggles.
Xu Ping clapped his back. “What are you looking at that’s got you so focused? You didn’t even reply me.”
His brother didn’t say anything, only taking off the goggles and passing it to him.
Xu Ping put the goggles over his eyes, and the world turned light, fresh blue like the ocean.
Smilingly Xu Ping took them off and looked them over.
“I thought these were lost. How did you find them?”
His brother did not answer.
“You remember? Dad bought these for you. Mine were green, and yours were blue. He took us to the swimming pool after my junior high graduation…”
Xu Zheng simply gazed at him.
Xu Ping chuckled. “That was twenty years ago. Time passes really fast, huh?”
He rubbed the red marks left on his brother’s temples by the bands.
“Does it hurt?”
Xu Zheng shook his head.
Xu Ping loosened the band and passed the goggles back.
“You’ve grown bigger, so the goggles are smaller. How is that? Any better?”
Xu Zheng put them on, scanned the room and nodded to his brother.
Xu Ping glanced at his watch and slapped his brother’s arm.
“Stop fooling around. We need to leave in ten minutes or else we’ll miss the plane. This is our first trip. Don’t mess it up from the get-go.”
Reluctantly, Xu Zheng removed the goggles.
Xu Ping started laughing.
“You haven’t seen the sea, have you?”
His brother shook his head.
“Me neither,” Xu Ping sighed. “But I heard it’s beautiful. The sky is blue. The ocean’s blue, too. White beach, green coconut trees…”
Xu Ping stopped himself there.
He smiled to his brother. “All right, use the toilet and drink some water before we leave.”
His brother ducked into the bathroom as he was told.
Xu Ping sat down in front of the computer and continued writing his e-mail.
Please forgive me for not talking to you in person, but I cannot tell this to anybody.
I need some time to sort out my personal matters.
The telephone started rining.
Xu Ping picked it up and hung up after a few quick utterances.
“Xiao-Zheng, the taxi is downstairs. Are you ready?”
Xu Zheng hurried out of the bathroom.
“I didn’t drink water yet.”
“Well, hurry,” Xu Ping ordered without looking up.
The progress and transfer of work is written in the attachment. The texts that have been proofread have been mailed out as well. I apologize for causing you so much trouble.
I am sorry. Thank you.
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ayszhang: (added Jan 13) I didn't even get time to write a comment here ToT
Yeah guys...my courseload at school is pretty bad, and worst of all I'm trying to switch my sleeping schedule after being used to sleeping when the sun came out... So the past two weeks have been sort of hectic. I wake up early and last through the day, but by dinnertime I'm wiped and can't get any work done. Hopefully this will change soon as my body gets used to this schedule.
Brother - English Translation by ayszhang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.