Important announcement for ayszhang readers
Important announcement for ayszhang readers
You can only imagine
When you are awake
But in your sleep, dreams visit
–Ai Qing, Dreams
The report on Xu Chuan’s service ultimately surfaced in the entertainment section of City of X Evening News under the headline “Actress Guan Jing appeared at Xu Chuan’s funeral service, black clothes, no makeup, sorrowful expression.” Along with it was a photograph of Guan Jing bowing and offering the flower with tears brimming, and in the corner was a blurry family member, Xu Ping.
Xu Ping was back at work from his bereavement leave the morning he read the article. He had been waking up early because his brother was working a temporary job unloading cargo at a factory starting at six in the morning. He bought a newspaper from a street vendor before entering the small building that was the publishing house. The hallways were quiet, as nobody was at work yet. Xu Ping first took the mop and washcloths from the bathroom and cleaned the place, and then he made a cup of tea for himself and sat down in his chair. He laid out the newspaper and began reading from one end to the next, not even missing the dating advertisements stuck in the middle. By the time he finished, the office was quite noisy with people.
The morning went by without much excitement. The chief editor Wang Zedong announced a meeting first thing, and they all spent the morning studying red documents and harmonious ideology. The atmosphere lightened up only after boxes of fruit were passed out to everyone.
Most of his comrades in the house were female, and the other male editors had much more experience than he, so the job of transporting these boxes landed on Xu Ping. He and the driver, Wang, carried box after box of apples upstairs. Soaked with sweat, he hadn’t even gotten the chance to rest when the telephone on his desk rang.
Wang Zedong was asking for him.
Xu Ping knocked on his door. “You wanted to see me, Chief?”
“Yes.” Wang Zedong looked up from his desk. “Sit down.”
Wang Zedong was well into his forties and had gained a few pounds. He had a daughter who was heading into senior high and was said to have good grades. His wife was an able woman herself and managed her own company. He truly had the perfect life.
The man took off his glasses and rubbed his brows. “Why did you end your leave so soon? It’s only been the first seven days , right?”
“The first seven ended two days ago, but I’d taken a lot of time off work when my dad was sick. I think I’ve taken more than a few years’ worth. Now that his funeral has been dealt with, I thought it was not productive to just stay home, so I came back to work.”
“I see. I had a call from my cousin last night. She said my uncle couldn’t eat for a few days after attending your dad’s funeral.”
Xu Ping remained silent.
Wang Zedong’s uncle was his dad’s former colleague, Zhang Jinmin, who had taken care of him in his childhood. He was a fairly well-known scriptwriter in the country and wrote for quite a few television series. With his connections in the media world, he lent a helping hand to Xu Ping in his darkest times and recommended him to his nephew’s firm as a typesetter. It was only after many years of hard work that he became an editor.
“But you and my uncle, boy, why did you have to be all mysterious? He didn’t even tell me who your dad was when he sent you here, only said an old friend. Now I know, eight years too late.”
Xu Ping smiled. “I didn’t think I could stay that long. I just thought it would be a temporary job. I’d worked other jobs, but they would fire me before long, so I thought this would be the same, too. So I didn’t tell you. Plus, I’d been in prison. It’s not something I can proudly share.”
Wang Zedong leaned back in his swivel chair and touched his forehead. “You don’t say. I don’t think much of it now, but if you’d told me you were behind bars ‘cause of something like that, I’d have probably rejected you. It was different back then; nobody wanted unnecessary trouble, right?”
Xu Ping just chuckled.
“But my uncle’s really something. He looks like an honest guy. Everybody thinks he is, but when the honest guy starts telling lies, then it’s really trouble. He didn’t even blink when he lied to his own nephew! I know my uncle hates asking for favours through connections, so I kept trying to figure out what you had to do with my uncle to make him do this for you. I kid you not, I even thought you might be my long lost cousin.” Wang Zedong then broke out in laughter.
“Mr. Zhang watched me grow up. My dad was always away filming, so I’d go to Mr. Zhang’s house for dinner after school. One time I had a fever, and it was he who sent me to the hospital in the middle of the night. To be honest, he’s kind of like a father to me.”
“I’ve heard about that, too. My cousin got sick the same night as you, and my uncle brought you to the hospital first and left my cousin at home. My aunt hasn’t let him off the hook since. She was still using that against him in arguments a few years back.”
Feeling awkward, Xu Ping nudged his glasses back.
“My uncle said you stopped going to their house except to pay them a visit during the holidays. He really missed you all. See, my aunt’s just a little, you know, she doesn’t only target you. She made my mom so angry a few times that she cried. My mom wonders why a kind man like my uncle married such a woman, so you shouldn’t take it too personally.”
“Of course not,” Xu Ping laughed. “Ms. He was really good to us. I remember the meals she made for us. I learned how to cook when I got older, so I didn’t want to trouble them.”
Wang Zedong nodded. “It’s good that you say that. My uncle really sees you as half a son, so go visit him when you have time. He’s been down since your dad passed away.”
Xu Ping nodded.
“I’ll go back to work if there’s nothing else.”
“Hey, there’s no rush.” Wang Zedong took out a stack of forms from a drawer and explained to Xu Ping as he flipped through it. “You weren’t here two weeks ago so you might not have heard. Our firm is going through an appraisal next month. Your information isn’t complete.”
He pushed a form to Xu Ping. “HR told me to give this to you. Fill it out and give it back to me.”
Xu Ping picked it up. It was a questionnaire about background information with a slip for a check-up.
“Is the check-up part of the appraisal?” Xu Ping frowned. “I thought only new employees had to do it.”
“Why so many question? We just have to do what the higher-ups want us to do. It’s paid for, so just see it as a work benefit.”
Not sure how to respond to that, Xu Ping folded the papers in half twice and stuffed them into his jacket pocket.
Wang Zedong began eyeing him with a funny look.
“What?” Xu Ping was a bit disturbed.
Wang Zedong rubbed his bald head. “You know what, Xu Ping, my wife was right after all. You’re just too skinny. If you clean yourself up a bit, you’d be a handsome hunk too!” He leaned his head forward secretively. “Be honest with me. Are you seeing someone?”
After a pause, Xu Ping ultimately shook his head.
“Well, perfect!” Wang Zedong slapped his thigh. “Hear me out. There’s an accountant at my wife’s company who’s one year older than you and divorced two years ago without children. She’s a hard worker and has a gentle personality. She’s good with work in and out of the house and has worked for my wife for many years. She’s honest and trustworthy, a perfect match for you. If you want, I could arrange a meeting for you –”
“No, thanks!” Xu Ping interrupted.
Wang Zedong stopped, puzzled. “What?”
“…I don’t want to think about this now.”
“Why not?” Wang Zedong became anxious. “This is one of the most important things of your life! You’re thirty-five this year. You think you’re still young?”
Xu Ping didn’t reply.
A thought occurred to Wang Zedong, and he whispered, “Is it because she’s older and was married before?”
“No, it’s because I personally don’t plan to marry. I have a brother to take care of, and you know his condition. He has problems with his head and has had to depend on me his whole life. What woman could stand that? I’d rather not cause any trouble for her.”
“Well, don’t you worry about that.” Wang Zedong sighed in relief. “My wife told her about your situation. She’s not young either and is divorced. She doesn’t ask for much, just a nice, sensitive guy to spend the days with. Your brother has a job, doesn’t he? You can’t say he totally depends on you.”
“I can’t,” Xu Ping declines firmly.
“Why can’t you?!”
“…I cannot get married!”
“What the heck is wrong with you? You got all your hands and feet, a proper job, a decent face. Your dad left you a property. Why can’t you get married?!” Wang Zedong was a bit angry now.
Xu Ping couldn’t refuse the man harshly anymore, but he finally said after a long time, “I can’t have children.”
Wang Zedong froze.
“…Both my mom and my brother have mental and cognitive issues. I’ve consulted doctors and they say it’s eighty, ninety percent hereditary. My mom died young, and my brother has been bullied all his life. I don’t want to bring my child into this world to suffer.”
“I shouldn’t be telling you her private matters,” Wang Zedong found his words again after some time and added, “But if having children is your taboo, you can rest assured. This woman I’m talking about, well, she can’t have children, either. Her ex was a rich guy, but he always beat her. She was pregnant once, but her ex came home drunk from a business dinner and started beating her. She lost the baby and could never get pregnant afterwards regardless of what methods she tried. She’s a pretty girl, and her ex didn’t want a divorce, but her mother-in-law wanted a grandson and forced the divorce to happen. She’s doing well financially and doesn’t lack anything in her life, just a sensitive guy to spend the rest of her life with. She hasn’t taken a liking to any guy she’s looked at so far, but when my wife told her about you, how you’re a good son and you’re taking care of your brother, that you’re righteous and hard-working, she consented. If you two get together, she would’ve found a good man, and you would’ve found a wife to share some of the burdens, and neither of you want children. It’s perfect!”
Xu Ping stayed quiet for a long time before shaking his head. “No.”
Wang Zedong was furious now. He slapped the desk. “I spend all this time persuading you, and you just go ‘no’ and that’s it?! Why ‘no’? Tell me!”
“…I don’t want to.”
“But you haven’t even seen her.”
“My dad just went to rest. It’s too early for this…”
“Who said you have to see her now? I’m just letting you know now. We can talk about it after the fourth seven.”
“I don’t –”
Wang Zedong stopped him with his hand. “No more excuses. This has been settled. You’ll be thanking me in the future. Now, back to work.”
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ayszhang: Things are going to be hectic for me next term (Jan-Apr), so I won't be updating as often as now. I will likely be releasing in the new year TDDUP's prequel, Living to Suffer, as I am about two-thirds the way through now. Brother may be put on hiatus or I might try to finish it before the term starts.
Brother - English Translation by ayszhang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.