You and I have been younger. We were almost as unpolished as this quartz stone. Our heart was little and vulnerable. When we saw a dragonfly, it wasn’t just a dragonfly. It was the whole fascinating world around the dragonfly. And when we saw a face that fascinated us, we might dream about it every night. The charming eyes. The fluffy voice. The sweet smile. All these would melt the ice in the dark. We wouldn’t feel pain when that person punished us. We would feel the joy of some strange connection. We would admire that person’s jokes or even bullshit. When we looked into the eyes, we would blush like a mystery.
At thirteen, I had this tender feeling for my Grade Three primary school teacher Mr Hu. He came as a volunteer from a neighboring town to teach us in 1999. Actually, each school year, there would be one or two volunteers like Mr Hu. The school was dirt-built, black-tiled and really old. There were no blackboards or white chalk, but wooden boards and charcoal. There were no windows in the classroom, but only a square hole. And there was no place to eat, but the families in turn would provide fresh food and firewood for the teachers.
However, the playground was paradise. We would often skip and play the Chicks and Eagle game. Sometimes Mr Hu would play the Eagle. It was then I discovered that he was not as bookish as I had thought. His usually slow movements could be sharp, his usually toneless voice could be wild, his usually shy smile could be bold, and his usually calm eyes could be sparkling. Such a contrast just ignited my curiosity and attracted me like a magnet. When he caught me as the Chick and grabbed my arms with excitement, I couldn’t move or talk. My heart was racing, my face burning, and my eyes were afraid to meet his. When he let go of my arms, I wished he could hold me for longer. His existence had possessed my whole attention, and class time was not long enough to appreciate him.
One noon, after school, I couldn’t help but stay longer to watch him cooking through the square hole that gave a view of the kitchen. He was clumsily peeling a potato. I laughed. Those smooth fingers were probably more suitable for holding books. By the time I had to leave, it felt the more I saw him the more impossible for me not to see him.
Until one afternoon in the middle of the second term, something new happened. A pig squealed like hell during our break. It was dragged along the playground by a mother and a daughter. The daughter Miao had the most beautiful smile in our class. When she smiled, her eyes smiled too. And that afternoon, her laughter resounded through the Fungshui forest beside our school with the screams of the pig. Everyone was laughing, except me. I was staring at Mr Hu. He was smiling and sometimes laughing too. His hand was holding his chin, his face was blushing, and his eyes were gazing at Miao with the same admiration as when I secretly watched him peeling potatoes. That moment, my world turned blue. I didn’t know there was such a word “jealousy”, but I envied Miao. From then on, although I frequently raised my hand in class, Mr Hu would still call Miao. Gradually I lost courage, and cried at night.
The pain accumulated till the end of the school year. On the morning when he said goodbye, he slowly crossed a stone bridge. When all the classmates had left, he turned his head with a smile that broke my heart, waving his hand for me to go home. I smiled back, one hand covering my mouth and the other waving goodbye. He moved on and never looked back. I watched him disappear into the distance. Tears flooded my face. I knew I might never see him again.
Was it secret love? What was the most nostalgic story from your school life? Have you ever had hopeless love for someone even if you knew that person would never love you back? What if you could meet your secret love again?
About Heather Cai:
Heather is the daughter of a subsistence rice farmer from Fujian Province, China. She tells stories from her experience as one of the poorest. She writes her dream to share with the world, a very personal place. She has now written two English literary novels and is looking to being published in the UK. Her passion is a splendid cocktail or milkshake of word, image, music and art. She likes collecting books, DVDs, papers, stones, shells and leaves. She desires for all forms of natural beauty. She is currently living in Shanghai and serving as Sergeant-at-arms (SAA) for Shanghai Leadership Toastmasters Club.
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