Two or Six
I was off from the French-Chinese class as usual. Sapphire blue ribbon in black hair, watermelon red dress on yellow skin.
It was Friday, in transparent golden sunshine. I didn't head towards home, but to the new shopping mall Solana the Blue Bay. I walked in the street, along the railings of Chaoyang Park, decorated by Olympic billboards of rainbow colors. I saw the curving lake inside shining with silver ripples among the green lines of willow trees. And student volunteers in blue and white with smiles that reminded me of the bright yellowness of sunflowers under the sky of Inner Mongolia.
I was walking in the wind towards the sun and friends in Solana the Blue Bay.
Nothing bad can happen in a place like Solana. Everything is inviting and ready at my service, except that I am not ready to take it. But I have time, and they will always be there, waiting with patience and grace. That's what is fascinating of shopping malls for women.
Ting, Yao, Sha, and me, young breaths out of laughing lips, talking about work, travels, men, music, films, American TV series and the Olympic. While looking for a restaurant.
I've forgotten what we had for dinner now, or what we said then. Everything goes too fast, especially when we are apart. The testimony of our meet is the three dresses I bought after the dinner at Solana: a red with white polka dots (like Sha), a white with black emblazonry (like Ting), and a pure violet (like Yao ). You three bought nothing. I wonder how can you remember this meeting after one month or two or six. Then I think, maybe it isn't worth to be remembered.
You kept calling me on the phone, saying let's meet after ten. I thought it would be too late, but I said that would be great. When I came out with friends and dresses to the Starbucks, you called out my name from the fountains, picked up your suit and rose, walking towards me in your orange T-shirt. My face felt your face sweating, but your eyes smiling. I introduced my friends, and you talked with them like an old friend. They quickly said goodbye, and you shook hands with them one by one.
We walked the streets, wrapped in the humidity of Beijing 's summer night. We talked about arts, captured by the conspiracy of the international fight. I told you about the self-drive travel into Inner Mongolia. The fields of sunflowers mixed with the rows of windmills. The unblocked blue sky caressed the soft stretching prairie at the horizon. The floating clouds chased after the flocks of sheep and cows. The shepherd's little boy riding a huge bicycle, his mother standing by and watching us afar, dressed in crimson from head to toe. You pulled me back to reality by telling me you'd just went out of hospital, and about the celebration at the Mexican embassy.
You led me into a bar, through narrow obscure stairs to the top terrace. It was a little crowded and noisy, but very happy. We sat down on the same bench against the wall, facing the grass-roofed bar counter. You pointed at the empty deep blue sky before us, and said the moon would arise from there. I didn't see any sign.
The taste of lemon mojito was like the sweet spring from the snow. I taught you how to pick up the ice with the two straws as chopsticks. You implied your dislike of the French by mentioning Franc's position on Iran in 1979. I told you about our family's old house in the nostalgic countryside. You listened with eyes shining like a child.
When I came to my second glass and you to your third, a Mexican band of four appeared to play. You knew every song and sung with them. Love songs. You said they sang terrible, but I said still beautiful.
The moon did arise before us. A half-moon veiled by illusory clouds like a lonely dancer.
The bartenders were giving a performance, puffing fire from the mouth, tossing bottles two and three, shaking cocktails with blue ice and bloody fire. You liked it all, and I liked the smell of your cigarettes.
I finally said shall we go. When we passed the darts at the turning corner, you invited me to play a round. I tried to refuse and said I was never good at playing anything. But you insisted with your irresistible smile, and handed me the blue darts. I took a deep breath and let myself go. I enjoyed it and you let me win.
We were walking slowly down the dim stairs. You put on your coat. I looked back at you and captured the fatigue looming in your face. You gave a yawn of contentment, and I smiled.
At the door the street was busy and bright in deep night. Rows of taxis lined up ready to take everybody back to their own privacy. People were kissing goodbye, or hesitating. The taxi drivers were waiting, expressionless. The parting part was always short and quick, maybe because it was hard.
That is where my memory always fails me. I saw you walking slowly to your home from the rear window of my taxi, smaller and smaller. I turned my head.
Chen Pingping, China
image: Fariel Shafee, USA (The other side of the moon)