Yu Zhou Zhou constantly said that the name Ben Ben is good.
At the time, there was a cartoon on television where the main character was a little yellow car that looked like a bumper car, flat and cute like it had been blown up like a balloon. That little car was also called Ben Ben. The little car was partners with a boy and together, they went to many, many places in the world with the goal of finding his mom.
Yu Zhou Zhou didn’t understand how muddled the mother could be to lose her own child so she felt very sympathetic for Ben Ben. That was pretty much the first time she felt a cartoon was utter nonsense.
She looked at her own mom who was currently sewing and thought, look, moms will forever be by your side. Thinking like this, she happily patted her chest as if she was a survivor of a disaster treasuring her luck.
However, later, she really met a Ben Ben, a boy who had been intentionally lost by his mother.
After the happy ending of that cartoon, she happily ran to tell Ben Ben: “You’ll also find your mom. Definitely.”
The little Yu Zhou Zhou always thought that the tragedies in cartoons were all nonsense, such as Ben Ben being lost by his mom, whereas the happy things were definitely all true- such as Ben Ben finally finding his mom, laughing brilliantly in a sea of flowers.
When she grew up, she realised that her perceptions were only correct when inverted.
Those sad and despairing people always created many beautiful fantasies to lie to people with.
Ben Ben was always discouraged. He believed that he may not be able to shake off his alcoholic father for the rest of his life.
Yu Zhou Zhou teased him, asking him how he’d know about something as long as a lifetime.
“Is a lifetime very long?” A wry smile that did not match his age appeared on his face. At that moment, Yu Zhou Zhou froze. She didn’t know why but she liked that smile of his. It seemed to contain a lot of responsibility, like an adult. Then, after thinking more about it, she felt that it was actually better if Ben Ben cried- he cried like a little kid.
“A lifetime isn’t that long. I was pushed by him and my thigh knocked on the edge of the table. The next day, when I checked, it was purple. After a few days, it turned black and a few days later, it was purple again. Finally, little by little, it turned into a light yellow and finally, it disappeared.”
Yu Zhou Zhou didn’t understand, “What do you mean?”
“I’m saying, when I count the days of my bruise fading bit by bit, I won’t finish the ones I’m currently counting when new ones appear. Just by counting the days like this, I discovered that the days go by quite quickly. Is a lifetime long?”
Later, Yu Zhou Zhou pretty much forgot Ben Ben’s appearance but she always remembered, there was a boy who told her that the passing of time wasn’t just calculated through calendars.
Time could also be marked through using the period it takes a bruise to fully fade as a unit.
Yu Zhou Zhou looked at Ben Ben and sorrowfully thought- that is if she had understood that the emotion she was feeling then was sorrow- how perfect cartons were, the car Ben Ben wanted to find his mom and he was able to move immediately around the world. He had friends, he didn’t have to worry about food and petrol, how long the road was and he didn’t have to ride the train (because he was a car)……
In the past, when she heard Qiao gege* from her eldest uncle’s family say, “life is a blurred net”, Yu Zhou Zhou didn’t understand. But in this moment, when she raised her head and saw the thin spider web, she thought, if life is a spider’s web then what are they? Are they little bugs caught in the web and can only wait to be eaten?
“My mom and dad also fight a lot. They fight really fiercely and they throw things too. They threw a bottle of ink on my head. Uh huh.”
Yu Zhou Zhou said this like it was a coincidence. Actually, she has only seen her dad two or three times and only once out of these times did her mom and dad both appear. Plus, they were fighting. They fought like they were about to tear the house down. She didn’t know that her originally quiet and gentle mom could also have such power. She had learnt two words from television when she was little, one was ‘hysterical’ and the other, ‘over-emotional’. She felt that she could put these two words together to describe her mom and dad that day.
Yu Zhou Zhou naturally didn’t get hit by the ink bottle or else she wouldn’t have lived until today. However, she sincerely, to the extent that she boastfully said it out loudly, wanted to comfort Ben Ben.
The world’s best way of comfort wasn’t telling the other person, “Everything will become better”, but saying, “Why are you crying, look at me, I’m worse off than you.”
Hence, the successfully comforted Ben Ben very sincerely said, “Zhou Zhou, I don’t want my mom, I want you.”
The two pure six year old kids were naturally unable to tell how awkward this sentence was.
Yu Zhou Zhou continued to pat his shoulder and vowed, “I will always be by your side.”
She had learnt this sentence from a cartoon. They were both touched by themselves and the other person and the atmosphere couldn’t be beter.
I will never leave you, what a beautiful yet painful lie.
Yu Zhou Zhou only found out later, that her first lie in life was copied from a cartoon. She had firmly believed many wrong matters.
Life in the large compound peacefully passed by day by day like this. Yu Zhou Zhou still stayed at home every day and every evening from six to seven, unaltered by any circumstances was cartoon time. In the weekend, she went to grandma’s house and occasionally, when Mama Yu was at home in the evening, she would go out and play with the other kids.
For the rest of the time, she lived through the small stage in her mind. Sometimes, she would play in her imagination until she got a headache and had exhausted all her sources. At those times, she would quickly go and read some stories to accumulate new inspiration. She had three sets of books at home, Hans Christian Andersen’s complete edition, XXX, XXX.
The books were all words with no illustrations. Yu Zhou Zhou knew a lot of words from watching television. Basically, they were all words that she saw until she became familiar with them. When she read stories, she read them half guessingly without understanding but, she was very happy.
The storybooks with no illustrations completed her imagination. Without any pictures to help guide her, she studied the long, long descriptions of the scenes in XXX and XXX intensively, giving the plants and food that she had never heard before exclusive depictions that only belonged to Yu Zhou Zhou’s mind……
So, when Lin Yang kindly invited her over to his house to watch Disney’s Snow White during primary school Year 6, she stared at the short haired, white princess in a blue dress on the screen and said at a loss, “It’s not right, it’s not right.”
“What’s not right?”
“She doesn’t look like Snow White.”
“Ha,” Lin Yang laughed, “Can it be you’ve seen the real one?”
She ignored him and only stared at the screen. The little girl who wasn’t yet thirteen’s face had turned weary.
In summary, the Snow White in her mind didn’t look like that.
As Lin Yang gnawed an apple, there was a little mouse in Yu Zhou Zhou’s heart that also gnawed at the secret garden that only belonged to her.
The biggest crisis the six year old Yu Zhou Zhou faced was when the national television station and the state television station broadcasted two cartoons she liked equally both at 6 o’clock. Other than switching between the two channels frequently, there was nothing else she could do.
After she grew up, when she heard a good friend with her foot in both camps*, the first thing she thought of was switching between the channels when she was six.
*[It means keeping in touch with both parties but is also used when someone is having an affair.]
She felt very sympathetic for her good friend. She thought it must be very hard and dull.
Her good life ended at the start of autumn that year.
The daughter in the family that lived furthest to the west died.
Her body was found in a drain gutter not far from the houses. Apparently, she was strangled. Of course, there were also women whispering very secretively that her body was found naked……
Yu Zhou Zhou didn’t understand why the bad person wanted to steal her clothes.
As for the young lady that died, the last scene Yu Zhou Zhou remembered of her was a few days ago when the very beautiful young lady walked past their house wearing a brand new pair of bell bottom jeans with curled hair. She had smiled at Mama Yu who told her that her clothes were beautiful. She didn’t pretend to be modest at all, she laughed and her bright lips shone under the sunlight.
Indeed, she was very beautiful, Yu Zhou Zhou had thought.
At that time, Yu Zhou Zhou had already understood appreciating beautiful women. Also, when she was very, very young, she had once heard her mom and auntie praise a fashionable woman who had walked by. Yu Zhou Zhou immediately ran in front of them and pretended that she was also a passer-by. She turned her head and pointed herself at her mom saying, “Mom, mom, quickly say that woman [herself] also looks beautiful.”
The young lady’s family didn’t plan any grand funeral for her. They had even held back their tears, as if it was a very shameful thing.
Later, Grandma Po’s tofu sho was pried open and two hundred dollars inside the till was stolen. Suddenly, everyone’s hearts became worried. They didn’t know if it was done by a criminal on the run or if it was someone inside the yard so everyone was fearful. Mama Yu no longer allowed Yu Zhou Zhou to stay at home alone. In the daytime, when she went to work, she brought Yu Zhou Zhou with her.
Back in the year, Yu Zhou Zhou’s mom didn’t do well during the gaokao and was only able to get into a state technical school, studying Chinese medicine. Later, she suffered a setback and put off work early in her career. She opened her own acupuncture clinic and managed it completely by herself. When she did physiotherapy for her clients, often, she had to go to the client’s house to do it so every day, most of her time was spent riding her bicycle around the city.
Now, there was now an extra person on the bicycle, Yu Zhou Zhou.
Mama Yu always felt very, very conflicted about letting her small daughter tail around after her. If her daughter’s childhood ends up being gloomy, then she, as the mother, will always blame herself for it. In reality however, Yu Zhou Zhou was actually very happy. She felt that she was a little bug who broke away from the spider’s web and is flying anew again, seeing a different world.
There were people of all sorts, that was how big this world. Is.
She learnt to politely greet adults, when to talk and when to keep quiet. Sometimes, the client might worry that she would be very bored by herself so they’d find some toys or picture books for her. Sometimes, there were also fruit and snacks to eat. What they didn’t know though, was that she wasn’t the slightest bit bored. In every different house lived different people, giving her endless new inspiration. She wasn’t able to act it all out like before so she quietly cuddled in a corner, and used her vast imagination instead.
During winter, the roads in the North will be coated with a thick layer of ice. Apart from the main roads which were able to be cleared of snow quickly, much of the snow on the smaller streets were crushed into thick layers. People wearing non slip shoes had to be very cautious, let alone those riding bicycles. Yu Zhou Zhou started walked with her mom and squeezing onto public buses. Sometimes, she was squished between people with her feet dangling in the air. However, she liked walking because every time they walked past a pancake* stall or a cart selling candy apples, Mama Yu would always buy some for her.
She felt that this was an unexpected bonus whereas her mom thought of it as compensation.
That year, Yu Zhou Zhou walked past longest road of her life and at the end of that road, she met Chen An.