2. Arts Festival
Growing up is like participating in a running competition.
You won’t necessarily be anxious and sad if you see someone else running faster than you.
Only when someone who was on the same starting line as you surpasses you with each passing day, will you be anxious and sad. Perhaps you won’t remember those people who have fallen far behind, but you will always remember that person who ran in front of you.
When growing up is finally refined by time into grown up, at the crossroads, perhaps you will wave at each other, perhaps you won’t even wave at each other. When each of you embark in different directions, you’ll let out a breath assuming that the competition has finally ended, not knowing that you’re standing on another starting line. The new competition has already started. You question, why hasn’t it ended? When I will be able to rest?
Never! This is life!
‘The Flowering Season of Age Sixteen’ was currently a hit broadcast on television. In it was a very beautiful girl called Chen Fei Er. Many people thought that Xiao Fei looked like Chen Fei Er, plus her name also had ‘Fei’ in it, so the classmates all started to affectionately call her ‘Fei Er’.
Along with the popularity of ‘The Flowering Season of Age Sixteen’, Xiao Fei’s reputation also grew bigger. Quite a lot of boys from higher year levels and boys outside school all came to see her, gave her notes and invited her out to play. Xiao Fei became the dream girl in the hearts of many boys.
If it were other girls, they’d definitely be very satisfied but Xiao Fei wasn’t happy and ordered me not to call her “Fei Er”, she didn’t care who liked her, she only cared about what Wang Zheng was up to recently and if there were any girls who dared to get close to him.
Actually, up to now, I haven’t properly seen what Wang Zheng looks like. However, every year near the end of the second semester, the school will hold an arts festival and I’ll definitely be able to see Wang Zheng and admire what this drummer who has conquered many teenage girls hearts looks like exactly.
The arts festival is quite an interesting thing, to explain it more precisely, this is the chance for the pretty girls and handsome boys from every year level and every class to vie with each other for glamour. Lin Lan was in charge of the performances from our class. She was very talented in this area making people can’t help but admire her. She created everything from the dance moves to the costumes designs and even made two dances. The funniest was that for the first dance, she could borrow ready made costumes but for the second Dai* dance, she wasn’t able to get ready made costumes and nobody had the funds for getting them custom made. Treasure Bowl was anxious but he couldn’t do anything. One day, after Lin Lan stared at the school’s national flag for a long time, she was hit by inspiration and asked Treasure Bowl to go and borrow the school’s color banners (every time the school had some big event, other than raising the flag, they will also put up colored banners on both sides of the road).
*[Dai- an ethnic group in China with close relations to Thailand and Laos]
Lin Lan wrapped the color banners around each girl’s body and used pins and thread to secure it. They wore vests that she had borrowed and their hair was brushed sideways with a red flower in it. Under the lighting, from afar, they looked just like Dai girls.
I don’t know what Lin Lan was thinking, she clearly knew that my small brain wasn’t very developed but she still invited me to join in the dance performance. I politely refused however, I was willing to be her helper. I liked to watch them dance, a group of youthful teenage girls dancing very lithe and gracefully.
After class, I would help Lin Lan push all the desks and chairs to the front to make room for them to practice dancing. When they were practicing, I would sit on the podium and and help them keep watch to guard against people from other classes secretly peeping.
Xiao Fei joined in Class (2)’s performance. What exactly they were performing, I don’t know, this was the top secret of every class, I don’t plan on being a traitor and Xiao Fei also doesn’t plan on being a traitor so we became busy with our own things.
After working hard for half a semester, the pretty girls could finally look forward to the arts festival. As the two dances from our class had the same dancers, the make up and changing costume time was quite tight so I was responsible for helping the pretty girls hold their costumes and makeup cases, much like a typical maid.
The order of performances was decided by drawing lots. The first dance from our class was very close to the front and the second dance also had a good placing, However, Xiao Fei’s dance performance was rather unlucky, they were first to perform.
As I was following Lin Lan and the others around, helping them hold their costumes and makeup, I couldn’t sit with the audience and watch the performances. I was only able to watch half of Xiao Fei’s dance. Their dance was pretty good but their costumes weren’t very colorful and under the beam of the light, it didn’t have any flavor. The girl who made up the dance could dance but lacked stage experience.
The moves and costumes for our first dance, ‘Lady of Heaven Scatters Flowers’, were both up to standards but a girl dropped her basket while dancing so we lost quite a few points. Although Lin Lan was unhappy inside, she didn’t show it at all on her face and comforted that girl continuously, “It doesn’t matter, nobody will blame you. We all know you tried your best.” Whereas Li Shen had a moody expression and glared at that girl quite a few times.
I was watching on the side and I grew a a little more respect for Lin Lan inside.The homeroom teachers of the other classes all managed the performances themselves, depending on their relations to invite professionals to create the dance. However, Treasure Bowl had only just graduated and was newly assigned to our city so he had no connections and everything was dependent on Lin Lan. From the moves to the clothes of the girls to how their hair should be brushed were all planned out by Lin Lan, plus she had to adjust the relationships in the group, it wasn’t easy!
When they were taking off their makeup, I was rather bored so I looked at the program schedule. Year 1 Class (5)’s performance was very simple, three people singing and one person solo. The solo performance was about to start. When I saw the one person solo, my heart quickened a little. I couldn’t attend to helping our class get ready for the second performance so I asked Ni Qing and some other people to stand in for me before I ran to the stage to watch.
It really was Guan He, she was wearing a simple purple lace dress which ruffled as she walked, like a gust of wind blowing a lotus leaf. She bowed to the audience then sat on the chair. Her makeup was very light, like a fair, slim and graceful lotus in the water.
The host said, “Next up is Year 1 Class (5)’s performance,an erhu solo, ‘Galloping Horse’, performer Guan He.”
After the lights slowly dimmed down and a beam of light shone on her, she started to play. It was like ten thousand stampeding horses right from the start. The entire hall seemed like it had been transformed into the vast grasslands. allowing the horses to freely gallop. During the middle, she used her fingers to pluck the strings, initiating the sound of horses stamping. Her skills were clearly quite outstanding and the lady from the city’s arts and literature group who was specially invited to join the judging panel was visibly moved.
After the song had finished, the applause from the entire audience was thunderous. Class (5)’s guys loudly shouted her name. Guan He calmly smiled and bowed then walked off the stage. The music teachers from the middle school section and the lady from the arts and literature all gave her the highest score of close to the full score.
I heard someone from the side of the stage whistling. I was very shocked, the headmaster was sitting below, who was so courageous?
Because I wasn’t sitting below but standing on the side of the side, I was able to clearly see the stage behind the curtains. A handsome youth wearing a Mongolian gown and a Mongolian felt cap was smiling widely, he had his thumb and index finger in his mouth, whistling to congratulate Guan He. It was actually Zhang Jun! When Guan He walked past him, she nodded her head smiling, expressing her thanks.
I only felt that my heart was immersed in a frozen pond nine days after winter solstice*, Zhang Jun and I had long become strangers. After starting middle school, Zhang Jun hardly hang out with guys in the same year level and the girls don’t even need to be bothered mentioning. However, he clearly treated Guan He differently from the others.
Class (8)’s performance was a Mongolian dance. I never thought that Zhang Jun would also join in but thinking again, what was so strange about it? The arts festival was a game for handsome boys and beautiful girls, Zhang Jun was a popular among many girls and long wasn’t the boy with the hedgehog hair I had seen that year. He was also very outstanding in athletics.
I wanted to leave, but I also wanted to watch; wanted to stay but also wanting to leave.
During my hesitation, four boys and four girls from Class (8) had already gone on stage waving their long sleeves.With the Mongolian music, they sang and danced. The boys were vigorous and the girls were enthusiastic.
I never knew Zhang Jun was so good at the arts, unexpectedly, he was the lead male dancer and danced with a pretty girl who had pigtails filled with pearls. Sometimes he was a horse galloping in the grasslands, other times he was a male eagle soaring in the blue sky.
He squatted and his body leaned forward, imitating the position of a horse galloping. He danced towards the front and I saw that he was about to come close to where I was standing. I immediately turned around and left. I hurriedly jumped down the stairs and opened the curtains to go backstage to find Lin Lan and the others.
Lin Lan saw me and immediately asked, “Did you see Class (8)’s Mongolian dance? How was it?
I calmly replied, “Average, ours is better. Let’s first not talk about winning an award or not, on such a hot day, wearing a robe is already hard enough to bear.”
Lin Lan laughed, “I heard Class (8)’s choreographer, Tong Yun Zhu, is Mongolian and is very good at Mongolian dances. If it wasn’t for the performance, I’d really want to go and see how their dance is.”
Ni Qing hurriedly ran over boastfully, “Heavens! Class (8)’s dance is just too good! Zhang Jun is too handsome! That Tong Yun Zhu is truly worthy of being Mongolian, she dances even better than the ones on television!”
Lin Lan glared at Ni Qing, pretended not to hear and continued supervising one final makeup check. Ni Qing hadn’t realized and continued to stand by Lin Lan’s side, Lin Lan ignored her.
When it was time for our Dai dance to go on stage, Ni Qing and I ran to the front to watch. Class (5) and Class (8)’s performances were all exciting and the previous two classes had modern dance performances so the audience had been roused all the way along, providing our dance, ‘Dawn of the Dai Family’ with a lead up.
The music was pure and gentle, the girls were flexible and graceful. Under the stage lights, the lace dresses the girls wore were brightly colored. If it wasn’t mentioned, there definitely wouldn’t be anyone who would’ve thought they were color flags. When the dance was close to the end, Ni Qing and I retreated backstage and held their clothes while waiting for them to come back.
Lin Lan didn’t have time to get changed, arm in arm, we squeezed to the front of the curtain to await the results. The headmaster and music teachers from the middle school department gave very high scores, the scores from the other two judges also weren’t low. The lady from the city’s Arts and Literature center gave us a rather low score. Lin Lan stamped her foot and muttered, “My mom sure is harsh!”
I was astonished, “Is that your mom?” No wonder Lin Lan has so much natural talent in the arts, it turns out that it was passed down the family.
I comforted her, “It doesn’t matter, everyone else gave very high scores, we’ll definitely be able to get an award. Your mom is doing this to prove that you can depend on your own capabilities without needing her.”
Lin Lan smiled and could be considered to have become a bit happier.
I wasn’t in the mood to watch the later performances and when I remembered Wang Zheng and hurriedly went to ask, someone told me that, this year Wang Zheng wasn’t able to represent the class by participating in the performance because during rehearsals, the headmaster didn’t like his item saying that the topic wasn’t healthy and positive so it was taken off.
The results of the competition came out, first place from Year 1 was Guan He’s erhu solo performance, second place was Class (8)’s Mongolian dance and our class’ Dai dance. Class (2)’s dance didn’t receive any award making Xiao Fei a bit dispirited but she feeling more of injustice for Wang Zheng, condemning the headmaster for not having an eye for beauty.
Afterwards, the students walking around were all discussing the just ended arts festival. The girls talked about Zhang Jun and the boys talked about Guan He. I was in a trance, Guan He and Zhang Jun appeared alternately before my eyes. Guan He was elegant and graceful, Zhang Jun was handsome and talented. I started feeling that my distance from them was growing larger and larger, the two of them were like brightly burning lights, their brilliance were more and more intimidating whereas not only did I have any brilliance, I was lazy and infamous.
Understanding the gap between us, I was feeling a bit sad , a bit unwilling to resign to fate, melancholic, but more so was helplessly accepting. Probably inside my heart, I had understood long ago that I am an unremarkable person, someone who stands there looking up at the brightness of others. Even if I envied them, I couldn’t become them.
Not long after the arts festival ended, the list of member changes in the middle school department’s student council was announced in advance. Shen Yuan Zhe was elected as the new student council president.
As Class (6)’s class monitor,under his management, Class (6) had the best class discipline out of all the classes in the year. He was already popular so his position as the new student council president was received with positive support.
The ‘Double Kings’ of our year were elected by acclamation. The white prince was Shen Yuan Zhe. He had refined and gentle features, good grades, his personality was very good, he was warmhearted and kind, willing to help others and he got along with the teachers and students. He had a warm smile that was like the sunshine, there were numerous girls who liked him but he had no scandals, he treated all the girls equally. His warmth and kindness allowed all the girls who confessed to him and get rejected to still consider him as a friend.
The dark prince was Zhang Jun, handsome and spirited with average grades. He was quiet and taciturn, around him, there was no collective feelings of honor nor any unity with his classmates. He never helped others but he also never bullies anyone. The girls who liked him were complex, there were girls from higher year levels and technical schools and there were girl delinquents. There were many rumors related to him but because he never spent time alone with girls from our year level, there were no scandals about him from our year, I also haven’t heard about any girls from our year confessing to him but I have heard about how girls from higher year levels would often grow hate for him due to love and find people from all around to beat him up. Whether or not he was beaten up, no one knew.