My grandfather's Medal Awarded From the Korea War, 1954 | 《爷爷的抗美援朝纪念章》

Bumps | 颠簸

Frightened, 2015.5.12 | 《害怕》

Frightened, 2015.5.12 | 《害怕》

 

“Little shit, useless! Little shit, useless!”

My father would shout this when he beat me with a dustpan – my earliest memory. He hated me being born as a dwarf, particularly a female one. He didn’t stop beating me until one day he almost beat my mother to death.

 

Patriarchy, 2015.5.20 | 《父权社会》

Patriarchy, 2015.5.20 | 《父权社会》

 

Influenced by such violence in a patriarchal family, where all parents favored a boy over a girl, my brother also liked bullying me. He learned to beat me till one day he was scared when he cut my forearm deep with a scar.

 

Scar, 2015.7.9 | 《伤痕》

Scar, 2015.7.9 | 《伤痕》

The Scar, 2019.10.19 | 《那道疤痕》

The Scar, 2019.10.19 | 《那道疤痕》

 

Years of my mother staying unwell in bed gave me more chance to do farm work, housework and take care of two young sisters. And that somehow made me useful in my father’s eye.

 

Family, 2015.5.13 | 《家庭》

Family, 2015.5.13 | 《家庭》

 

When mother got better, I started school at ten. Things were fine till Grade Five when my Chinese teacher doubted my writing, “Have you copied this from an Essay Book?” I said no. He then left a striking red mark: Whether or not you have cribbed your article off a book, you know the best! 

 

Vulnerability, 2015.5.12 | 《脆弱》

Vulnerability, 2015.5.12 | 《脆弱》

 

My private Shenzhen library built from a dormitory window that liked receiving wind and rain uninvited, 2013.9 | 《我的深圳私人藏书屋》

My private Shenzhen library built from a dormitory window that liked receiving wind and rain uninvited, 2013.9 | 《我的深圳私人藏书屋》

 

The irony was that I didn’t even have a book. To prove myself, I insisted on joining a writing competition, which no one believed I should. In the end I won First Prize in the whole district. I thought that would make people look at me differently, but it didn’t. Their silence was confusing.

 

Confusion, 2015.4.17 | 《困惑》

Confusion, 2015.4.17 | 《困惑》

 

Nonetheless, I kept studying hard and being a good student. This didn’t change until a kidney stone that almost needed surgery in high school made me start wondering: What was the point of being good? What had good writing done for me? Why should I meet an expectation that was not mine? Why not just listen to myself?

 

Be Wild, 2015.3.18 | 《自然野》

Be Wild, 2015.3.18 | 《自然野》

 

Therefore I half listened to my father about becoming a teacher. But behind his back I chose Hainan Island for my college life. This was strongly against his wishes because it was too far away. For days, he didn’t sleep or eat much. At last, he gave me a thick roll of thirty-eight hundred cash and told me with red wet eyes, “This is all I have. Don’t come home until you can afford it.”

Father, 2015.4.25 | 《父亲》

Father, 2015.4.25 | 《父亲》

 

I assured him, “Don’t worry. The school offers a five-thousand loan every year.” 

But I could never tell him that the loan was a lie. How could I?

 

My grandfather's Medal Awarded From the Korea War, 1954 | 《爷爷的抗美援朝纪念章》

My grandfather’s Medal Awarded From the Korea War, 1954 | 《爷爷的抗美援朝纪念章》

 

Owing half my tuition fees, I had to constantly take different part-time jobs. Yet my salary was never enough to pay off my debt. When the time came to register for the second year, the administrator refused me unless I paid off everything. Accordingly I showed him these two things: “Look, this is my grandfather’s medal awarded from the Korea War and his Military Certificate authorized by the renowned General Chen Yi. It clearly says, His family get preferential treatment.”

 

My grandfather's Military Certificate, 1951 | 《爷爷的革命军人证明书:司令员 陈毅》

My grandfather’s Military Certificate, 1951 | 《爷爷的革命军人证明书:司令员 陈毅》

 

“Is he still alive?” He sneered.

“No… please!” I suddenly knelt down. “My grandfather had fought many wars and sacrificed a lot. He had become crippled and deaf, and almost been killed on the battlefield. His greatest wish was to see me graduate from college.”

“Your grandpa is dead. What’s the use of all this?”

 

Sob, 2015.7.7 | 《哭诉》

Sob, 2015.7.7 | 《哭诉》

 

I got up slowly, pulling myself together. I began to make phone calls and borrow money. This made me sick. When I asked for a raise after three years of working for my first company, the boss killed me as a chicken to scare the monkey. And later in the second company, I found my basic salary had been underpaid for six months. What the hell made people do that to me?

 

Mankind, 2015.5.6 | 《人》

Mankind, 2015.5.6 | 《人》

 

Unhesitatingly I quit my full-time job to chase my writing dream. Had I not been framed by a world where the colors are drawn by child abuse, sexist bullies, social suspicions and human unkindness, would I struggle even now to tell the bumps of my life stories? 

 

A Framed Life, 2015.7.11 | 《一个被设限的生命》

A Framed Life, 2015.7.11 | 《一个被设限的生命》

 

I’m not going to ask ‘Why me?’. Because it is not just me. It is a bunch of mes. But what bumps do you have and what impacts do they have on you?

 

Hope, 2015.7.5 | 《希望》

Hope, 2015.7.5 | 《希望》

 

捕获

 

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—Shanghai Leadership Toastmasters Club Still Drives Me Crazy, 2019.10.19 | 《上海头马依旧让我痴狂

 

Related article:Transformations

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Note: To build a mutual Literature & Art community, Heather has now opened her personal channel (WeChat ID: Heather69) to her friends, who are following HeathersChamber. No cheaters!
备注由于时间和精力有限,为了建立一个互敬互惠的文学艺术圈子,阿太特向已关注此公众号的朋友们分享她的个人微信号:Heather69 。骗子勿扰!

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Heather Cai 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 working for Shanghai Taichi Center.

希瑟·蔡太莲是福建一个自给自足稻农的女儿。她作为穷人的穷人之一,讲述的故事来自最底层的仰望。她写就她的梦想与世界分享一些个人独特的亲身经历。她完成了两本英文文学小说,喜欢收集树叶、书本、影碟、贝壳和剪报,向往各种自然美。目前在上海从事太极文化行业,也在努力打造“阿太的密室”,集文学、艺术、文化、哲学和世界女性于一体的个人公共服务平台。

Copyright © 2019-2020 Heather Cai. All Rights Reserved. 所有版权归作者蔡太莲所有

Writer’s Block

---Dancing in the Dark, 2015.7.10 | 《在黑暗中跳舞》

—Dancing in the Dark, 2015.7.10 | 《在黑暗中跳舞》

 

Imagine your head is empty and you are facing a blank wall. What conversations can you possibly have?

 

---Fashion, 2015.5.17 |《时尚》

—Fashion, 2015.5.17 |《时尚》

 

In the first half year of 2015, my brain was erased. I couldn’t read or write. Nor could I communicate with anyone, including myself. The only word that kept scratching my skull was “curse”. You might ask, what curse? What happened?

 

---Torture, 2015.5.16 |《痛楚》

—Torture, 2015.5.16 |《痛楚》

 

It was about my younger and only brother. When we were little, we already believed that the only hope to escape from poverty was to climb out of the mountains, go to a college and work in a city. And we did. He has everything that many Chinese people long to have – a stable career as an official Shenzhen teacher, a house, a car and a lovely child. But he has a drama-queen wife, or should I say, an ex-wife? Honestly I don’t know. They got divorced a year ago and now they seem to be together again. For what? I really don’t understand their love if there is love and their marriage if there is still one. Just like I never understood how she could storm into his class, slap his face in front of his students and argue with his headmaster, just for a Taobao password? Even when they just started a relationship? And how she could call the police one morning when he couldn’t drive her to work because he himself was running late? Don’t you think that is too ridiculous?

 

---Pray, 2015.5.1 |《祈祷》

—Pray, 2015.5.1 |《祈祷》

 

Almost every goddamn time, when I heard or witnessed something, it was all like a chicken fighting against a dog with no peace. How could my brother tolerate such a ridiculous woman over and over? What exactly has he seen that is so good in her? Does he actually love her? Is love really a bitch?

 

---The Dream Police, 2015.5.3 |《理想的警察》

—The Dream Police, 2015.5.3 |《理想的警察》

 

I asked him these questions during Spring Festival of 2015 after she had smashed glasses all over the place. But he kept silent. His silence made me feel that his marriage was a curse. And the curse almost crushed me. I became depressed.

 

---Man & Science, 2015.5.4 |《人与科学》

—Man & Science, 2015.5.4 |《人与科学》

 

Worse, the following month of not being able to write a single word scared me. The fear urged me to make a move. On Feb 28th, the same year, I traveled to Sri Lanka. Like magic, when I was using the toilet in the first hotel, a strange face popped out between my feet. I took a long look. The face became more and more vivid. I couldn’t help sketching it, and made it the very first drawing of my life: The Left Eye.

 

---The Left Eye - my very first drawing, 2015.2.28 | 平生第一幅速写:《左眼》

—The Left Eye – my very first drawing, 2015.2.28 | 平生第一幅速写:《左眼》

 

 

From then on, I started seeing faces everywhere and kept sketching them for months. Here are some of them.

 

---Queue In China, 2015.5.8 |《在中国排队》

—Queue In China, 2015.5.8 |《在中国排队》

 

At this point, I still couldn’t read or write. But luckily I could speak to nature when traveling and talk to some strangers on the road. They mostly encouraged me by sharing their stories or listening to mine. And, one of them actually pointed out that I was experiencing so-called Writer’s Block.

 

---Writer's Block, 2015.4.29 |《创作灵感障碍》

—Writer’s Block, 2015.4.29 |《创作灵感障碍》

 

I started searching it online. The more information I gathered, the less fear I had. Gradually, the wall of my mind cracked. I came to understand the reason why I had this writer’s block was not only because I had depression, but also because I was ignorant of the fear. As soon as I knew what was happening to me, in July, I could read and write again. This assured me: depression is temporary, writer’s block is temporary.

 

---Half Man Half Beast, 2015.5.9 |《半人半兽》

—Half Man Half Beast, 2015.5.9 |《半人半兽》

 

But do you find it easier to talk to someone you don’t know at all than to someone you know very well? Why? Why does it feel easier to chat in a shared taxi when you are traveling together but not looking each other? Why is it more difficult to have a conversation with yourself than with strangers? Are you afraid of a new place in a distant land or more afraid of the unknown possibilities in your imagination?

 

Heather Cover

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.

Copyright © 2018-2019 Heather Cai. All Rights Reserved. 所有版权归作者所有!


 

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A Little Complicated

That shadow is relatively of my father's, as white as a ghost.

That shadow is relatively of my father, as white as a ghost.

My father suddenly called me early morning on Friday. The last time he called me was more than a year ago as I just realised. As before, there were only bad things happening.

“Lotus (my Chinese name), last week, Sheng, (who was one of our relatives younger than my father), fell from a bus and died because the driver let the door open while driving.”

(Sheng’s father and my grandfather were cousins who lived under the same roof for a couple of years before my parents built our new dirt house in the village.)

There was a brief silence, cast by darkness, sadness and uneasiness.

“Everyone has returned to Shouning and now are gathering  around the traffic police station for justice. I wish I could go, but I can’t. How about you go for me and for our family?”

My mind was shocked and blind. I didn’t know what to say at that moment.

Then his low voice continued on the other side of the phone.

“Look, his wife died of cancer the year before. His parents passed away one after another last year. All these funerals, none of us went. Now he also has died without a word, but with three children. How can I face them and all with my conscience if I don’t go? How can I call them if one day the same thing ever happens to us?”

“No. What would I do if I go?” said I bluntly, imagining the worst picture of me being there, with the white pale death, many familiar yet strange faces and me having nothing in my life to stuff in those warm mouths but a mere dream and some luxury travels.

“You don’t have to do anything. Just follow the people. If they march on the street, you go with them. If they gather at the police station, you follow them. If they eat, you eat too. If they sleep, you sleep too. And don’t worry about food and bed. Just go, okay, for heaven’s sake?”

“No, I won’t go.” I said firmly.

“Why? Only you are not working…” He raised his voice which sounded angry. And his last words turned almost mockingly hurtful. Thus our old topic was, once again, fatally  thrown in, no matter what.

My throat was blocked, my face turned pale and my blood stopped running. Why do I have to go through this over and over again? My brain has lost the ability to defend me and the power to convince him once again. Yet, I know, all useless, whatever I say.

“You are the only one staying at home and doing nothing; the only one going traveling so often and making no money; the only one getting old but making no effort to do anything. Shame on you! What do you expect from your fucking book? It has been two years, and you are still doing the same thing. Even the beggars are doing better…”

…I deliberately took my phone away from my ear.

“If not, you come here to replace my work (as a night watchman). You know how to guard the gate for the factories here. Just for three nights.”

He must be so mad at me that he had gone far out of his mind. Everyone knows it’s not safe for a little woman like me to work there.

“Why not ask Ping? Have you talked to him yet?” Ping is my only brother. He’s still on his summer vacation from teaching.

“He’s still tired from traveling. He’s been busy receiving his school friends in our new apartment since he returned. These days his phone rings all the time. What have you done? Nothing! Nothing! “

“I’ve got something to do…” I bet he didn’t know I have been traveling for a month and just came back days ago. Or he would point it out more angrily.

“You’ve got nothing but shit to clean. We all know that. Now listen carefully. The sooner you give up dreaming, the better. You aren’t going to make a fortune out of that fucking book. Your mind is blind, corrupted, rusty and rotten. You are useless, the worst of the worst.”

My last words were drowned in my tears, my sorrow. The phone was hung up long before I realised it. I just held the screen still, kneeling on my bed, numb and powerless.

The day was a ruin. I called everyone in my family. In the end, I transferred six hundred rmb to my brother to see what he could do – whether he could find anyone available or work himself in my father’s job.

The next day was a total disaster, because my dad fell in the toilet. My brother said these days he’s been suffering from the pain and he couldn’t even stand up after squatting. It was something terribly wrong with his knees. My mother once mentioned it to us. But my father insisted there was nothing wrong.

However, my brother made the appointment and yesterday my father finally agreed to see the doctor downtown. After seeing the scans with a report, the doctor said, “If necessary, a major surgery ought to be done – the sooner the better. The cost will be around 70,000 to 80,000. Think about it.”

“No, but what kind of surgery?” My dad said promptly.

“It will be surgery to replace your whole knee. Your left one is much worse than the other. Luckily your body is not big and you are not fat…”

“Yes, but does it have to be such a surgery? Eight years ago, I went to see the doctor in my hometown alone and he said it cost more than ten thousand. Without thinking, I refused. Because ten thousand was impossible. Now you are saying eight times more, it’s more impossible. I’m soon sixty. I’m afraid even if the surgery is successful, my bones are not strong enough to recover fully. Besides, I have important work to do; I have a family to take care of; I have many debts to pay… Couldn’t you just give some medicine or anything without that surgery, please?”  

So at last, he left with a bag full of medicine. Out of the hospital was the scorching sun above our heads. My father was wearing a pair of brown sandals. He looked around the surroundings with his eyes forming into a straight line, murmuring, “The buildings are taller; the traffic busier; more cars, less legs. People walking more quickly, though. … The downtown is even hotter, a shitty place with no wind at all.”  

I watched his figure becoming shorter and shorter, lighter and lighter. Until his back disappearing into the crowds and the mist of heat.

Since when did he begin to see things in a way sharp and sarcastic?

After all, before coming to Shenzhen in 2007, all his life was out in the open fields, as a true honest farmer, only looking up at the sky for a glimpse of the weather or looking down at his feet for the way ahead of the land.

Drawing#23: Like Father Like Son

IMG_20150522_221244

Can you see the baby elephant and father elephant? :-P.


From now on, I’ll post my drawings weekly, or maybe twice a week. To share the below auto-biographic stories, I’ll keep being creative, transforming my thoughts into words and images.

I started school when I was ten. In primary school, there was no lessons other than Maths and Chinese. The rest were merely reading on your own and doing homework. So basically, I had to skip the rest of the classes to do housework or farmwork. And the teacher used charcoal to write on the wooden board. Not to mention that I never owned any proper paper. One evening after dinner, I invited my best playmate to visit my room. We sat up on the bed face to face, looking into each other. Then we came up with an idea to draw each other’s face. So we used the back page of my Chinese and Math books, which were blank and white. In the end, we looked again and again at the drawings, laughing with pride. Too bad, soon the pictures faded away naturally. Now the drawn face has become vague, but the memory of my very first drawing with a pencil is still vivid. Continue reading

Drawing#22: Family

Family

Family education are very important to the development of society. If parents are happy, their children will be happy and grow up healthily. If not, more children have mental sickness and more social problems are unavoidable.


From now on, I’ll post my drawings weekly, or maybe twice a week. To share the below auto-biographic stories, I’ll keep being creative, transforming my thoughts into words and images.

I started school when I was ten. In primary school, there was no lessons other than Maths and Chinese. The rest were merely reading on your own and doing homework. So basically, I had to skip the rest of the classes to do housework or farmwork. And the teacher used charcoal to write on the wooden board. Not to mention that I never owned any proper paper. One evening after dinner, I invited my best playmate to visit my room. We sat up on the bed face to face, looking into each other. Then we came up with an idea to draw each other’s face. So we used the back page of my Chinese and Math books, which were blank and white. In the end, we looked again and again at the drawings, laughing with pride. Too bad, soon the pictures faded away naturally. Now the drawn face has become vague, but the memory of my very first drawing with a pencil is still vivid. Continue reading