A City Integrated High School, 2008
The early morning air hung cold, as the sunlight filtered through the branches, glimpsing at the students eagerly strolling on the campus on a Saturday. Branches swayed with the breeze as the small yellow petals of the flowers swirled like rain in the air. The box-shaped identical buildings stood ominous on the ground; there was an eerie feeling of emptiness with the scattering number of students that still lingers.
On a slightly secluded path leading to the second library, a girl hurriedly drags another girl toward the so-called ‘lovers well’.
“Come on, hurry it up, XingXing!”
The girl that was being dragged since the early morning sluggishly followed the girl in front of her. She’s resigned to her fate and grumbled along the walkway, not noticing the slip of paper that slipped through her binder.
“Whether I hurry or not, that well will not vanish, okay? Let’s try walking, this running is making me muddled.”
The young girl in front of her harrumphed, her bobbed hair swaying with the motion. Arms akimbo, she stared at her cousin and sighed dramatically, “You’re going to be in high school soon, and yet there’s not a speck of romance in you! How are you related to me?”
Xingxing rolled her eyes at her cousin, “Sometimes I wonder too if we are related, Jingjing.”
“Stop yapping and just help me find that lovers well. Mama told me she wished on that well and that was how she met Papa.” Jingjing dreamily sighed.
“They both wished on that well?”
“No. Papa accidentally slipped in front of the well and Mama caught him.”
XingXing was speechless, she never thought her aunt and uncle had a very mundane and comical meet-cute.
After the voices faded away in the distance, the boy silently hiding within the bushes crawled out holding a tabby cat. There were scratches around his forearms from the cat’s struggles. He scanned the small area, and let the cat go.
The tabby cat was stuck in the tree and he happen to hear it mewling while he was inside the chemistry lab, airing it out. The second library was across the chemistry laboratory, he appreciates the minimal noise it offered. Only a handful of students pass through the secluded area unless they were going to the ‘lovers well’.
It was no more than a shabby well, but it was a famous spot for students that are heart-filled with puppy love. He doesn't understand the fanfare put into a well.
Going back to the laboratory, the wind picked up the small piece of paper on the gravel and it hit right in the middle of his face. He grudgingly took it off and crumpled it, unconsciously putting it inside his pocket. He cut through the hedges and went it by way of the window.
He was on the sink cleaning when the sliding door of the laboratory opened and in came trudging a chubby boy too focused on his game to glance at him. The boy slowly sat down behind him and muttered, “Cousin, grandfather wanted you to attend tonight’s dinner.”
“Mn.” The crumpled paper slipped out of his pockets while taking his lab gown off.
The chubby boy crouched down and took an interest in the paper. “What’s this?”
On the paper was some sort of script, with corrections and a small drawing of a dog on the lower-left corner. Behind was a paragraph written in sloppy handwriting, he read,
I don’t mind being forgotten into the abyss of time,
No one would remember me anyway,
I just hope the memories in my mind,
Would bring someone comfort today.
I hope to have the bravery to see,
My faults as scars of former battles,
Smile through every adversity,
Even when my fears in rabbles.
The boy was washing the test tubes on the sink by the window as his cousin recited the poem. He stopped scrubbing once the poem ended. A smile unconsciously graced his lips, thinking that the person who wrote the poem must be scribbling nonsense. Nonsense that made perfect sense to him.
Jiang Xingxing, 2008.
“Jing Xing Xing?” The chubby boy asked curiously. “Cousin, how did you get this?”
He shrugged. “It slapped my face.”
“What?” the chubby boy observed him interestedly. “But…but how did you know her?”
He shook his head. He never heard of the name.
The chubby boy heaves a sigh, knowing his cousin who had no interest in anything not related to science would have no idea.
They left the laboratory and passed through the corridors, both silent. On the building adjacent, there were a handful of students loitering around; some were students from neighboring schools.
There was a buzz among the students as they pass through, checking them out. The chubby boy rolled his eyes at this, his cousin could have another throng of fans after this.
There was a broadcasting competition going on inside the multimedia building, so the corridors were packed. They were eyeing the pair like a predator before a prey; scanning them up and down. A brave girl stood in front of them wanting to ask for the boy’s number, the chubby boy shaking his head at her.
There was static as the music from the speaker was cut and an even voice crooned, “That’s it for the headlines, now let’s hear it for the weather report by our poster girl, Jiang Xingxing.”
There was mirth in the melodic voice as it answered, “I didn’t know I was the poster girl, Mr. Yang, but thank you.”
The boy stopped walking upon hearing the familiar voice of the girl. It was one of the people who went to see the ‘lovers well’ that morning.
The girl that was asking for his number was fidgeting in front of him, holding out a piece of paper, deciding instead to give him hers. “Um, here’s my number –“
“The fog this morning in the fourth district temporarily dampened the air but has cleared up for a cloudy sky. The rest of the region should expect some heavy rain. It is advised to bring your umbrella this afternoon in case of a light shower and lightning. This is Jiang XingXing for the weather report for KBX radio. Please stay safe everyone! Back to you, Mr. Yang.”
“-or you can contact me via email.” The girl in front of him was holding out the paper awkwardly, expectation etched on her face but he was lost in his thoughts.
The voice in front of him was hushed by the humming sound in his ears.
Jiang Xingxing. How could such a lively voice have such depressing thoughts? Interesting.
The chubby boy beside him coughed slightly and accepted the paper instead. “I’m sorry about that, my cousin has a hard time hearing. He’ll accept it though, thank you for appreciating him despite his circumstances.”
“What’s wrong with his hearing?” the girl asked curiously.
The chubby boy shook his head sadly, “He was born prematurely so his hearing was afflicted, so was his learning. Our family were grieved by this and always welcome friends who wanted to help him.”
The girl’s smile slipped slightly and snatched back the paper. “Um, my mistake. Take it as I was momentarily crazed.” Then she ran away.
The chubby boy snickered, “Ah, these superficial people couldn’t even curb their selfish desires. Tch.”
He stared at his cousin, standing like a statue in the middle of the road, staring at an invisible faraway image.
“Have you gone insane, ge? What are you looking at?” He tried to follow his line of vision but all he saw was the secluded path leading to the second library where they came from.
“You know her?” The boy asked quietly. “Jiang XingXing.”
The chubby boy watched his cousin inquisitively, amazed at how much he could sound out almost everything. All this time he was listening to the broadcast?
“Yes. We go to the same school.”
He stood there motionless for almost ten minutes until the chatter of the people that are coming out of the multimedia building broke his reverie.
The group came down the flight of steps, chattering animatedly.
“Oh, there they are. Want me to point her out for you?” the chubby boy teased.
The boy’s steady gaze landed on the long-haired girl, timidly trailing behind the group. Her smile is hidden behind a notebook she’s closely holding, her eyes twinkling in mirth. A short-haired girl slung her arm around her shoulders, giggling.
“No need. I-”
The boy started walking towards the parking where their ride was waiting, a black sedan with tinted glass; the chubby boy trudging behind, wondering about his cousin’s curious behavior. He just left in the middle of an explanation, what a weirdo.