Secret Love

--- A quartz stone I picked on the way walking from Xiadang Middle School to my home village 19 years ago. Photo taken in Shanghai, 2019.7.22

— A quartz stone I picked on the way walking from Xiadang Middle School to my home village 19 years ago. Photo taken in Shanghai, 2019.7.22

 

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.

 

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--- Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, 2015.3 | 斯里兰卡·锡吉里耶

— Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, 2015.3 | 斯里兰卡·锡吉里耶

 

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.

 

--- Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, 2015.3 | 斯里兰卡·锡吉里耶

— Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, 2015.3 | 斯里兰卡·锡吉里耶

 

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.

 

--- Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, 2015.3 | 斯里兰卡·锡吉里耶

— Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, 2015.3 | 斯里兰卡·锡吉里耶

 

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.  

 

--- Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, 2015.3 | 斯里兰卡·锡吉里耶

— Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, 2015.3 | 斯里兰卡·锡吉里耶

 

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.

 

--- Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, 2015.3 | 斯里兰卡·锡吉里耶

— Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, 2015.3 | 斯里兰卡·锡吉里耶

 

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.

 

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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?

 

--- Spring Picnic in Grade Three primary school (1999). Total sixteen students, six from a nearby village. My young brother and I were in the same class till Grade Two in middle school. And I did meet Mr Hu again when I graduated from high school in 2006. That was anoher story.

— Spring Picnic in Grade Three primary school (1999). Total sixteen students, six from a nearby village. My young brother and I were in the same class till Grade Two in middle school. And I did meet Mr Hu again when I graduated from high school in 2006. That was anoher story.

 

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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My Birthplace Stays Green Green

You know? Since ever China opened the door to the world, many of the poorest and the most remote Chinese villages began to die one after another. So has my home village.

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This is the house which was built exactly the year I was born in 1986. It still looks new from the outside, doesn’t it? It was built up with rough mud and stones with black tiled roof. Outside the house, is a small shelter without a door. It’s the toilet made of two giant wooden buckets with only one short stepladder, and two pigsties. Between them, there is small space to store the pig shit and any other shit that could be used for fertilizer. Beside it in a small corner, there was a home for many lovely rabbits. But not now, not when I visited back in September 2014.

There are only my uncle and my auntie still living inside the house. All my side of the family moved out in 2008. Now all the wooden furniture has been eaten by bugs, all the metal farm tools rust in the damp, all the wooden floors are spread with rat shit and dead bodies of cockroaches, all the rooms are covered with a certain smell of dust, all the doors, windows, poles, beds and each corner have spider webs with different spiders building their homes. And because of frequant strong windy storms coming with big floods in summer, the mud walls gradually lean towards the right side. God knows when, the house will break and collapse to the ground, and if ever anybody would afford to build another one or just let the village completely die in silence.

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No matter what season and no matter where, there are always many places with dark green, light green, grass green or pure green. But due to less and less people using the wood burning stove, the chimney with the purple smoke gradually becomes more and more attractive to me. Living for about 15 years in a house surrounded by green fields growing rice, green trees rising to the sky, green wild plants and flowers and green wild fruits, with the smoke moving freely in the air, I feel the conception of freedom, much like a baby coming to the world naked. Unfortunately, it’s the high technology and money that drives the villagers away from their original place. They live far away from their birthplace. They now mostly live somewhere in a city with pollution, sighing to the cold wall made of concrete with grey or white paint falling now and again. They would question themselves, “Where do I belong?” Maybe many out there have some money, own a house out of downtown, buy a car driving around, marry to someone blindly and carry their family lines by having another son or even another illegal child. But really, are they all happy in the city? Happier than the old time when there was no single bridge to connect to the big cities?

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See the road? It’s a place located at Xiadang Township(This link -released old photos reveal Xi’s experience in Fujian, my hometown),where the current chairman, Xi Jinping, had work experiences before and visited again last summer, there is still corruption and corrupted feudal thinking. It has taken so long to build a proper road and it is still not finished. It’s definitely not lack of money but where the money has gone.

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As a village on the edge of China, any idea for the good of its own might go nowhere. Just like no one knows how the cock communicates with the hen and how it is possible that the oldest woman still survives in my home village with her bound feet. Look at her, isn’t she like a model or something for a painter or photographer?

Look at the chickens, it seems they don’t even bother to talk to each other. They are the victims, just like those villagers who have moved to big cities and who also don’t bother to talk like they did before in the village.