3. A Youth With Regrets
During youth, because we haven’t been hurt before, we don’t know how to be benevolent; because we don’t have dread, we don’t know how to give in. We are headstrong, reckless and hurt others without care. Only one day when we have been hurt and understand pain and dread will we know what benevolence and giving in is. But at this time, everything related to youth will have gradually left us.
We have grown up and inside our chest is an already mottled heart.
The new term started, Li Shen and Ni Qing still revolved around Lin Lan and were still fond of spreading what the handsome boys and pretty girls of each class were doing.
In our year level, the girl with the most rumors was Xiao Fei and the guy was Zhang Jun. Li Shen started to hang out with a few high school students. I don’t know if it’s because she heard about my relationship with Xiao Bo but she became unusually friendly towards me. She knew that I was very close to Xiao Fei so she never discussed Xiao Fei.
Because they couldn’t discuss Xiao Fei, naturally, they could only discuss Zhang Jun.
Zhang Jun’s new girlfriend had an entirely different personality to his old one. His old one was quiet and low key but this one was bold and assertive as if she didn’t care the least about being older than him. Sometimes, she even came to school to wait for Zhang Jun.
She dressed in a fashionable and modern style. When she stood in the the middle school department’s small garden, she looked like a movie actress, she was in a completely different world to us clear soup noodle girls.
Zhang Jun’s scandals became the best topic to chat about among the girls, even the most gentle and quiet girls would stand in front of the windows and curiously peek at Zhang Jun’s girlfriend.
Li Shen and Ni Qing chattered in discussion, I wanted to leave but I couldn’t help but also want to listen.
Li Shen asked Lin Lan, “I heard she is in the same office as your mom?”
“Mhm, she’s an arts student who transferred over last year. She does modern dance, her personality is very bold and powerful.” Lin Lan slyly smiled, “I just fear Zhang Jun’s met his nemesis this time.”
Ni Qing asked, “Is there no one who likes her?”
“How is that possible? My mom’s office is filled with pretty girls, every one of them has a bunch of people chasing after them. She’s also very lively, there’s lots of people chasing her.”
Ni Qing was puzzled, “Then why does she like being together with Zhang Jun? She’s old, why would she like being with a boy younger than her?”
It was only a simple conversation but Lin Lan sudden became unhappy and coldly said, “It’s her choice who she likes, even if you want to like him, Zhang Jun won’t even look at you!”
Ni Qing started tearing up and Li Shen gloated in it. Lin Lan ignored them, she turned and left.
After a period of time, news spread from the gossip in the class, Lin Lan’s parents wanted to get divorced.
In that era, divorces were rare but what was even more rare was that Lin Lan’s mother wanted to get divorced for a young university graduate who has only been transferred to our city for a few years. That man was only ten or so years older than us. This matter spread like wildfire at the time. Pretty much everyone knew that there was a woman in the city’s art center who was having an extramarital affair with a man eighteen years younger than her, even my parents heard about it.
My mom and dad discussed it at the dining table, the two of them completely couldn’t understand why this woman would do this.
Mom asked me if there was a girl called Lin Lan in my class. I nodded annoyed, thinking that mom would be like the other aunties on the other floors, who when hearing that I was in the same class as that unconventional woman’s daughter, wanted to know everything about Lin Lan as if she was abnormal. I didn’t expect mom to warn me not to chat about it or ask Lin Lan about her parents. She also warned me not to intentionally alienate her or get close to her, I should continue to act as I used to.
I was very surprised but thinking back to grandpa and grandma’s divorce, it was probably because mom understood how it felt so she pitied Lin Lan.
Lin Lan was still proud, still pretty and still played with Li Shen and Ni Qing. However, in her eyes was a detachment and alertness that didn’t suit her age. If you look carefully, you’d realize that when she was alone, she would often be in a daze but as soon as someone sees her, she would immediately use her smile as a weapon to protect herself with
My relationship with her became more and more close. We usually weren’t very intimate but I could feel that she trusted me. When she was with me, she didn’t have to say a word or laugh and joke around, she could quietly sit there. Perhaps it was only because she knew I never judged others so when she was by my side, she felt at ease.
One morning, when I got to the classroom, she asked me, “Can you go out to play with me?”
I saw that her eyes were bloodshot and immediately agreed.
We didn’t take leave from the teacher or tell anyone else. We rode off on our bikes and after riding for the entire morning, we arrived at an ancient city set used for film and drama shoots. She took out lots of money and spent large amounts of it, we rented numerous costumes and took countless pictures.
Lin Lan gave a large deposit and rented two princess costumes from the Tang dynasty. She then used her nimble hands and gave us beautiful hairstyles. The two of us roamed around the ancient city in our Tang dynasty princess costumes and as we walked, she suddenly said, “My mom and dad got divorced.”
I didn’t know how to respond much less how to comfort her. I could only stay silent but she seemed to be very grateful for my silence. She held my hand and continued to happily roam around pretending to be a princess.
That day, we ate all kinds of snacks and drank the most expensive soft drinks. If we saw any interesting things, no matter if it was me who liked it or her, she would immediately buy it.
From when I was small to now, it was my first time spending money so unscrupulously but that day, I understood, in this world, money can’t buy happiness!
Lin Lan and I skipped class for the whole day but Treasure Bowl didn’t scold us, he probably also heard the news about the divorce and felt pity for the bright and competent Lin Lan. Later, he even chose Lin Lan to be the representative of our English class and gave her biased love.
If adults because stubborn like children and refused to accept responsibility to go and protect their children, then their children can only quickly grow up to protect themselves like an adult.
Usually speaking, a divorce between parents will affect their children. Moreover, Lin Lan’s parents had created such a stir with their divorce. However, Lin Lan’s grades didn’t change at all, she still organized the class’ participation in art festivals. She was still bright, beautiful and popular and she used this to crush all the curious gazes.
Once, the two of us were sitting at the school’s artificial lake. She suddenly said “Do you still remember our class monitor who transferred to another school?”
She smiled, “The two of us probably won’t forget her, the two of us owe her more than one ‘sorry’.”
People often say that there are no regrets during youth but actually, how can there be no regrets during youth?
A teenage heart has undisguised warmth and cruelty, we are easily hurt by others and we also easily hurt others. Along with the flow of time, we will forget a lot of people but those that have hurt us and those that we have hurt will clearly engraved forever in our regretful years of youth.
If you who is reading this story is still young, please remember to treat the people you meet with gentleness, not for their gratefulness towards you but for when many years later when you suddenly look back, you can have one less thing to regret about.
Brother Li used his connections to buy two old Jeeps that were discarded by the Public Secretary Bureau. Although some parts of the Jeeps were so old that the paint had fallen off, there weren’t many private car owners in this city.
I heard he had become friends with the son of the Public Secretary Bureau chief and along with another prominent figure Song Jie, they became investment partners. The brothers and little brothers in his friends circle gradually decreased as so and so section chief, so and so director and so and so head of departments gradually increased. Everyone stopped calling him Brother Li. Those with western style called him Mr. Li and those less refined called him Boss Li.
The 80s to the 90s were China’s most intense era of social change. In the short ten years, people went from in poverty to well off. China created a marvel that attracted worldwide attention. Many things that we take for granted nowadays were what we had experienced for the first time back in those years. For instance, the first time using a water heater to take a shower, the first time to ride in an elevator, the first time to drink Coca Cola, the first time to eat Kang Shi Fu noodles, the first time using Pantene, the first time to eat KFC……
Our city was also changing at lightning speed and to keep up with the speed, people also changed rapidly, or, is it because people were changing rapidly that the city was changing lightning speed?
I wasn’t clear on this, I cold only see the whole city change with each passing day, fortunately, there were still things that didn’t change.
Brother Li bought himself an old car but gave Xiao Bo a genuine, imported Japanese motorbike. At the time, it was definitely a hundred percent a luxury good but Xiao Bo rarely used it, he still rode around on his broken bicycle. I often sat on the back of his bicycle and went into the small alleys with him to look for snacks.
I probably read too many books written by adults as I gradually discovered myself being out of touch with people in this era. I couldn’t bear to part with things that were going out of style. I listened to the ‘Four Heavenly Kings’* songs but I didn’t really like it. I first started liking Teresa Teng and from Teresa Teng, I got to know Zhou Xuan and from Zhou Xuan, I listened to Han Bao Yi.
*[Andy Lau, Jacky Cheung, Aaron Kwok, Leon Lai]
Dad’s company discarded an old fashioned gramophone and a bunch of old records that looked like black flying saucers.There was Teresa Teng’s songs and a lot of songs from the revolutionary songs. At the time, everyone was busy becoming ‘modern’ and no one liked these old fashioned things so I brought them back and put them in Xiao Bo’s office. I would read novels while listening to the songs or do homework while I listened.
Once, Brother Li opened the door to enter and heard singing praising the red army. He immediately closed the door and after a moment, opened the door again stroking his head, “I didn’t walk into the wrong place!”
Wu Zei and the Enchantress hugged their stomachs with laughter, Xiao Bo and I also laughed.
Brother Li walked over and closed the textbook in front of Xiao Bo smiling, “Stop reading, let’s go and eat together tonight.”
They went first, Xiao Bo sent me home. I gave my mom a lie then went.
The five of us ate while chatting. As expected, Brother Li’s business expanded again. Brother Li was enormously proud of his success but couldn’t stop sighing over how there was no one reliable and competent. Everyone knew that he was pointing at Xiao Bo but Xiao Bo wanted to go to university and was unable to help Brother Li. However, Brother Li was only sighing and wasn’t actually wanting Xiao Bo to give up on his academics to help him. He treated Xiao Bo and Wu Zei like real little brothers, he was also very happy that Xiao Bo could go to university.
As Brother Li chatted and chatted, he suddenly asked Wu Zei, “When do you and Enchantress plan to settle down?”
The Enchantress lowered her head but her expression looked like she was listening attentively. She was three years older than Wu Zei and naturally cared more about this. However, Wu Zei laughed, “You haven’t settled down so what am I rushing for? I don’t want to get married, dating is so fun, right Enchantress?”
Enchantress was only able to nod her head and her smile seemed forced. However, Wu Zei, this unreasonable person, couldn’t see it at all and wore an expression like he and the Enchantress were on the same side.
Brother Li laughed and said to Enchantress, “That’s fine, after two years, wait until my business is more stable and I’ll plan a luxurious wedding for you two.”
Xiao Bo also laughed, “I will call no one other than Enchantress sis ‘sister in law’.”
Xiao Bo and Brother Li both made their position known, I also hurriedly declared,”Don’t worry, Wu Zei is very stupid, only you will be able to dump him, he won’t be able to dump you.” Brother Li and Xiao Bo both slapped a hand on my shoulder. I immediately changed my wording, “I’m saying that you’re really beautiful, where can Wu Zei find someone else this beautiful.”
The Enchantress started smiling. Wu Zei’s parents didn’t like her too much so Brother Li and Xiao Bo’s approval was very important to her and let her be at ease. Wu Zei was still oblivious, he used his chopsticks to point at the food, “This is good, don’t just spend your time talking!”
I whispered to Xiao Bo, “Dumb people have dumb luck, I really don’t know what Enchantress sis sees in him!”
Enchantress heard and smiled at Wu Zei, her eyes filled with warmth. Brother Li lit a cigarette and smiled watching us, he also had something very warm in his eyes.
After eating, Brother Li went off to handle business matters. Enchantress wanted to dance thus the four of us went to ‘Across the Water’ together. As soon as we walked in the dance hall, I felt something unusual. The dance floor which was usually squeezed full with people was empty, everyone was standing around the dance floor.
Xiao Bo and Wu Zei thought something had happened and hurriedly rushed to the front. Suddenly, the music started. It was the Taiwanese Golden Melody Awards winner, Chen Xiao Yun’s ‘Love Cha Cha’. Because it was in a South Fujianese dialect, it wasn’t particularly popular among students but it was the decadent type of music that I liked. It was also a song pros at the dance hall liked, it was best used for the cha-cha.
A hot woman wearing a red dress was dancing alone with the music. Her dancing was very professional, no wonder everyone stopped to watch her dance.
Wu Zei laughed, “Zhang Jun’s new babe has more flavor than his old one. It looks like finding a woman who can dance to be your babe makes sense.”
The Enchantress pinched his arm and asked, “What do you mean? Do you want me to help introduce one to you?”
Wu Zei looked around to make sure no brothers were watching so it wouldn’t harm his reputation then begged for mercy in a low voice.
Since Zhang Jun’s girlfriend was here, where was Zhang Jun?
I searched for him among the crowd of people and saw him standing in front of the crowd watching his girlfriend with a smile. His girlfriend danced her way to his side then suddenly reached out her hand and pulled Zhang Jun onto the dance floor. Everyone started laughing, there were people whistling and Wu Zei also whistled loudly. Enchantress pinched him again in anger.
Cha-cha is a female led dance and female’s dancing skills have to be very high. The whole dance is led by the female but as it is a two people’s dance, if the male didn’t dance well, it wouldn’t look good either.
Zhang Qun calmly stood there for a moment then smiled and also started dancing. They shone under the blurry lights, the male was handsome and uninhibited, the female was beautiful and dainty, it was touching in an indescribable way.
There was sharp pain in my chest. In an instant, I understood, if this was a romance novel, they were the true female and male leads. I wouldn’t even be considered as a female supporting role, I was only a passerby yet I kept having extravagant hopes of seizing the female lead’s part.
Wu Zei pulled the Enchantress onto the dance floor, the two of them were both pros at having fun and due of Wu Zei’s words earlier, the Enchantress let out her suppressed energy and started dancing, she was so enchanting she couldn’t be anymore enchanting. Seeing their skill level, other people dared even less to go and dance. On the huge dance floor, we only watched the two couples dance.
Xiao Bo knew that I couldn’t dance and found a corner to sit with me.
My line of sight secretly followed Zhang Jun. Although my eyes were completely dry, there was torrents of rain in my heart. How much I wished for him to still be that hedgehog haired boy who didn’t grab the attention of girls and didn’t have any girls liking him. Only I saw the good in him and felt his warmth but he chose to become like this. Like a star, he rose higher and higher, his radiance becoming brighter and brighter yet leaving me further and further behind, going to a distance that I couldn’t reach no matter how I stretch out my hands.