Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
Earlier in the week before the blind date, Xu Ping realized he had made a mistake.
He had placed the clock that his brother gave him beside the desk lamp in his bedroom. At times when he was reviewing drafts under the lamplight, he would see the wood sculptures and feel happiness.
He thought the birthday present was very sweet and precious. Had he not been a light sleeper who would be bothered by the ticking of the hands, he might even have put it on his bedside table.
For three consecutive nights, he was awakened by the chirping pigeon and music at twelve o’clock midnight and could not fall asleep until after two hours of tossing and turning.
He bore with it without complaint until Tuesday morning when he mentioned it nonchalantly at the dining table, “What happens if the clock breaks?”
“I can fix,” Xu Zheng answered while eating congee.
“Can you also change the time that the pigeon comes out?”
His brother nodded.
“Very tricky. I can change.”
Xu Ping let out a breath of relief. He carefully took the clock in his arms and placed it on the coffee table.
“If you have time after work, could you change the time to six o’clock?”
Xu Zheng looked at his brother for a while and then nodded.
Noontime on Tuesday, a few of the higher-ups went out of town for a meeting, so the atmosphere in the office was very relaxed. Xu Ping let a few colleagues know before leaving for the hospital to pick up the check-up results.
He had lost the receipt slip and had to go through a whole procedure to get the results.
He flipped through it and found that other than the basic vision, weight, blood pressure and so on, there were many Latin abbreviations and medical terms that he did not understand.
The doctor had left two pieces of advice in the final summary. One, he was too light, and that was not a good sign in terms of health. Two, his CEA levels were on the high side, and it was recommended that he consult the related doctors.
Xu Ping flipped back to find after much searching the CEA item under the blood work results: 8.2. The brackets behind it showed the norm was below 6.0.
Xu Ping frowned.
The check-up department had a doctor specifically to answer any inquiries regarding the reports, and there was an incredible line outside. Xu Ping had to wait for a long time.
The doctor was a middle-aged man wearing glasses.
Xu Ping passed his report to him.
“I’d like to know what a high CEA means.”
The doctor looked through his results and asked with a frown, “Do you smoke?”
“Have you ever been diagnosed with cirrhosis or pancreatitis?”
“Has your stool been normal recently?”
“…I think so?”
“Do you get bloody stool?”
“Have you eaten lunch yet?”
“Great. Take this report and register at gastroenterology. Ask for a gastroscopy and colonoscopy.”
Xu Ping remained silent for a bit before asking in a whisper, “Could you please tell me what this CEA is?”
“It’s just a glycoprotein. A high number usually means you have some problems with your digestive system, but we can’t say for sure until we do an examination. Go register downstairs. Gastroenterology is on the third floor.”
Xu Ping lay sideways on a white cot with his mouth open.
The doctor stuck a black plastic tube through his mouth. Even though local anaesthetics had been applied, the feeling of a foreign object in his esophagus was far from comfortable. His gag reflex made him want to puke, and his saliva dribbled out from his lips. The doctor reminded him not to swallow, so he could only bear with it.
The entire procedure took half an hour. Because it was a biopsy, he could still feel a burning pain from his stomach two hours after the examination.
The doctor asked him to come on Friday for his results and to try to eat liquid foods, and no vegetables, fruits or dairy products for the colonoscopy on Friday.
Just thinking about it made Xu Ping uncomfortable, especially since he had a blind date on that day.
He was still very concerned, so he consulted the doctor before leaving.
The doctor only said they would discuss it after the biopsy results. His tone was calm and collected, and he didn’t blink even a lash.
Xu Ping was very busy throughout the week. He had previously taken too many days off and now had an endless stack of work. A book he was responsible for was to be sent to the press next month, but the editing had not been completed yet. Wang Zedong reminded him every day in his office about the blind date on Friday, reminding him about the suit, leather shoes and haircut. Not even his brother let him rest easy. Apparently Xu Zheng had eaten something bad and had diarrhea for the entire Wednesday night. Xu Ping could only take him to the hospital in the middle of the night for intravenous drips.
Xu Ping was almost driven insane.
It wasn’t that he did not think about the report. He looked up CEA online the day he returned from the hospital. Its original name was carcinoembryonic antigen, and this made his hands and feet cold. But the information online also pointed out that a high level of CEA could be the result of many things, and the single item could not be used to diagnose cancer alone. Moreover, 8.2 was higher than the norm, but actual cancer patients had CEA levels higher than 10.0, so many hospitals argued that “less than 10.0” should be the norm. From this, it seemed he was fine.
Don’t fret for nothing, he told himself.
He chose to push this matter aside because worry could not give him any answers. The doctor was right. Everything should wait for the biopsy results, and before that, life continued as always.
The bottom line was that he was not alone. He had a brother to take care of.
Noontime on Friday, Xu Ping asked Wang Zedong for leave and went to the barbershop for a haircut. The hairstylist was a sixteen-year-old boy with bleached golden hair who gave him a Japanese hair magazine to pick his preferred style. Xu Ping looked through every single page but found none he liked. Every model looked more effeminate than the last, and he was surprised to find that Japanese men styled their eyebrows.
He closed the magazine and asked the hairstylist to give him a buzz cut in spite of the teenager’s insistent advice to do otherwise.
With his hair dealt with, Xu Ping went straight to the hospital without going home.
The doctor he saw last time was not working. After some consideration, Xu Ping decided to register for a specialist.
While sitting on his seat waiting for his appointment, Xu Ping thought of his dad. His old man was in his early sixties when he passed away and just six months prior had participated in some television show’s shoot. He had felt discomfort in his throat and coughed a lot during the shoot. Xu Chuan himself had not thought much of it and only saw a doctor after the show aired. Before the diagnosis was certain, he kept a merry face, and no one even guessed anything was going on. Only after he received the diagnosis that he was soon to leave this world did he notify Xu Ping in secret.
He had made meticulous arrangements for everything after his death, involving bank accounts and the inheritance of property and such. He even planned his own wardrobe at his funeral, its location and the graveyard. Xu Chuan was very strong during all this. His attitude was not so much calm but cold.
At the end of the end, he only left Xu Ping one utterance. “Don’t abandon your brother.”
Xu Ping stood up from the bench and followed the nurse into the office.
The doctor was a man around fifty years in age with square-set jaws and peppered sideburns. His name tag said Zhang.
He carefully studied the various test and biopsy results.
He said many things to Xu Ping with many medical terms, over half of which Xu Ping heard but did not understand.
He spotted a small cactus growing on the window ledge with a white flower blooming on the top.
He could feel his heart pumping steadily in his chest.
The windows were set rather high in the wall. From where he was sitting, Xu Ping could see the blinding sun rays. It made him squint.
He had seen the biopsy pictures before seeing the doctor. He didn’t need the doctor to tell him that he had a tumour.
“Is it benign or malignant?” Xu Ping asked with his eyes cast down.
Everything the doctor said, all the medical explanation and analysis, was unimportant. Ultimately, he only had one question to which he needed the answer.
“It’s best if I could discuss this with your family.”
“I have nobody. My dad passed away from throat cancer just two months ago, and my brother…” He paused. “He has severe communication issues.”
The doctor studied him as though discerning whether he was telling the truth.
Xu Ping sat completely still for the doctor to observe. He had already guessed the answer, but he would not think about it as long as the doctor had not announced it.
“It is malignant.”
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ayszhang: Merry Christmas Eve to all those who celebrate it :) Happy Holidays!
Brother - English Translation by ayszhang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.