You can certainly hear the steps of Winter leaving. Some mornings and nights, it turns back and acts like it’s about to return into its full force. But you know it is only the last couple of glints of a setting sun. One step at a time Winter moves away, its stride free and easy. It is a graceful gait. Some days you realize it is really far away, when you see an endless expanse of blue sky stretched high over the hilly city.
January is like a long, overdue disease. I blame the unnatural attention we gave to the Holiday. All the last half of December was spent looking forward, and the first half of January thinking back; now we simply don’t know where to look or think.
That gives me a period I call “waiting to get inspired”. In the midst of the waiting, I think of my favorite writer, 张爱玲 (Eileen Chang). For as long as 80 years her name was never big in the West, rarely was her work translated. For one, her tales usually focus on woman characters and their small, untold sentiments. Back then all big writers wrote about politics, deep sorrows, horrific traumas. (Understandably, there were a lot of those in that period of China.) As unique as she was, she continued to write about small sentiments, the minutiae of daily life, the unspoken and under-told.
I think of her and how I can steal some writings from her to do the less inspiration-needed work of translating. But translating even her shortest story is unthinkable. Don’t you need a degree or something to do literary translation? Also I am, you know, busy. So, I’ll do excerpts.
At best, the result of this will be confusing, because she wrote fictions, and an excerpt of a fiction is like one snapshot in a movie. But we live with snapshots every day, don’t we? When do you get to hear the full story of anything, or anyone? All you meet with are snapshots and all you do is filling up the blanks in your imagination.
And to make it more confusing, I leave out names. I grew up required to read Russian novels, bewildered by Russian names that are as long as a running train. Much energy was to keep track of who was whom. So I’ve decided there’s only going to be “he” or “she”. If there is more than one of each, you’ll just have to figure out.
At worst, I will turn the miraculous into the mundane.
But here we go.
It is merely November and the fire is lit in their house. Red charcoals emerge from a pan of ashes as white as snow. Charcoals started out being trees, then they died, and now, through the red glow of fire they live again. They live on, only to turn to ashes soon. Their first life is of a light green, their second a dark red.
He smiled and handed her a bag of chestnuts. She took one or two to eat. Contrasted with streets that are black and trees brown, her face looked reddish, placid, brows and eyes standing out, almost like painted even without makeup. He smiled on and kept looking at her. Towards his previous women there were at times beating and scolding, towards her he often urges to say “sorry”, or “thank you”. Yet still nothing more than “sorry” and “thank you”.
He looks up at the rainbow far in the sky. He mulls over the fact that his wife is dying. Along with that dies a majority part of his own life. The life they took together that was mostly bitterness, is all gone now. All gone, and will never be minded. He takes another look at the rainbow, his love to the world is not really love but a light sorry.