Chapter 1 (Part 1): The story goes like this
One summer, I received news from my mum that Zhang Ziyue (Zhāng Zǐyuè) was getting married. My mum said while shovelling the julienned potato in the pot, "Minmin*, do you already know that Zhang Ziyue from downstairs is getting married?"
*T/n: Nickname for Xie Huaimin (Xiè Huáimín)
I happened to be using all my strength in chewing a piece of beef tendon right then, when I heard the news, I momentarily lost control and bit my tongue firmly, resulting in my tears tumbling down furiously. It really hurts! My mum went ahead, "We've been neighbours with the Zhang family for so many years, when me and your dad just came here to work back then, Zhang Ziyue was only 5 years old. This child has been smart and sensible since young, now that he has grown up he also holds a good job. Have you seen his girlfriend before? I heard that she's a model?"
I wiped my tears and lisped, "Not a model, she works in an advertising agency."
"Anyways, your Aunt Wang feels relieved now." My mum was quite elated, "What do you say we should send as a gift? Just wrapping a red packet* isn't that generous." I sneered while harboring bad intentions, "Wedding gift, isn't that easy. It's the most suitable for us to make a frottage of the erotic drawings which have been passed down from our Xie ancestors and send it over."
*T/n: Literally a red packet that is supposed to contain money. It is usually sent as well wishes and is common during the Lunar New Year and weddings.
"My mum swung the spatula around preparing to beat me, "Such a young age and not learning proper stuff. Is this what a girl like you should say?"
I gave a lopsided smile and the more I smiled the more I felt my tongue hurt, "They're already getting married, what is there to be shy of? Carrying on the ancestral line is only something right and proper. What kind of people are we? We are the Xie's who have been an influential family in Traditional Chinese Medicine for generations."
"I think that the Xie family's hundred years of reputation is going to be ruined in your hands", my honourable mother glared at me in anger.
Me? What is not good about me?
Of course, not only did I not inherit my mum's porcelain-white skin and my dad's tall figure, I didn’t even receive much of the medical talent that runs in the Xie family's blood. Back then the reason I learnt Traditional Chinese Medicine was because my Humanities' grades were too atrocious and I also didn't have any other specialisations I liked, thus making use of the opportunity.
The outsiders who didn't know would praise a few words, "Huaimin has lofty aspirations, she's going to take up her ancestors' mantle and bring the family to greater heights right?"
When that happened, my whole family will giggle. Among all the Xie's family children in the same generation, three have their future secured, two are abroad and the one within the country who is inferior and idling is only me. My mum will then often sigh, Xie Huaimin, why can't you strive hard and lift up to my expectations. Actually, she should not have such high expectations for a girl. Even though they say that we resolve to work hard so that we're not crushed, but if we're to compete for everything, we would have long broken down.
I practise medicine and pursue the Doctrine of the Mean (Zhongyong)*, as long as I can do everything seventy percent, I'm already satisfied with myself. Everyone is competing to be the leader of the race and it makes no difference even if they're short of me, I have the self-sacrificial spirit of being willing to be the green leaves which set off the fresh flowers.
*T/n: Zhongyong is a doctrine of Confucianism
The Xie family is an influential family of many generations in Traditional Chinese Medicine, now that it has been passed on to our two generations, there are also my uncles and cousin brothers learning Western Medicine. My dad personally took over the clinic passed down by my paternal grandfather and it has at least been 21 years since the year I was born.
21 years, I'm afraid I have also loved Zhang Ziyue for 21 years, I think. The Zhang family is our old neighbour, the three times we moved house we ended up being neighbours, this is no ordinary fate. Zhang Ziyue is older than me by 6 years, when I was still going around everywhere with two streams of nasal mucus, he was already a member of Young Pioneers*. The adults all say children don't have memories, yet I remember clearly that the Zhang Ziyue when he was between 8-14 years old had already been handsome and tall, attracting others' attention. Supposing that an adult had asked me then, I would definitely have said that if I obtain Ziyue, I would definitely keep him in a golden house**. However, no one asked me this and I also did not have the capability to construct a golden house to hide him away in a golden house. Thus, I have been secretly in love with him all these years without anyone knowing.
*T/n: From Wikipedia: The Young Pioneers of China is a mass youth organization for children aged six to fourteen in the People’s Republic of China. The Young Pioneers of China is run by the Communist Youth League, an organization of older youth that comes under the Communist Party of China.
**T/n: Pun playing on an idiom 金屋藏娇 which means a golden house to keep one's mistress
Dr. Zhang Ziyue researched about Nuclear Physics after he graduated, after conversing with him did I feel that the small lives of the mass of common people are actually grasped within the hands of these intellectuals. He was already on the list of elite figures then, tall and handsome, had a graceful bearing and girls pursuing him were so pretty that they could go audition to be cast in the "Dream of the Red Chamber"* and were so many that they could form a World Cup team. Gentleman Zhang seemed to think that they were not worth looking at and even selected here and there like an emperor selecting a consort.
*T/n: "Dream of the Red Chamber" is one of China's four great classic stories. It portrays many female characters.
Seeing this stance, I don't even dare to imagine. I've said it previously, I am someone who is satisfied very easily, even my meals I only eat until I'm seventy percent full. Zhang Ziyue treats me as a little sister of his neighbour and to me, this one and only status is what I have exchanged for with 20 years, other girls don't get to squeeze in. I don't carry any improper thoughts that are beyond me.
However, it was like a thunderbolt out of a clear sky, Zhang Ziyue suddenly decided to tie the knot with this Miss Li Yan who he is currently dating. My first love finally became someone else's husband and from now on, neighbour girl will become strangers.
I have seen this Miss Li Yan before, she is not Wang Fei and Li Yapeng's daughter*, but an elite, fair and beautiful person in the advertising world who even more so than an advertising model, is praised when standing together with Zhang Ziyue. An elite matched with an elite, the child born will be an alluring woman. The Zhang family is over the moon and my dad and mum also became delighted as if the one marrying is their own daughter. I'm the only one who is sad, yet I still can't display it. People all think that failure in love is a kind of stigma and it's due to an individual's composite index not being high enough but I actually wonder if it's just the hormones at play.
*T/n: From Wikipedia: Faye Wong is a Chinese singer-songwriter and actress, often referred to as “the Diva” in the Chinese-speaking world.
Li Yapeng is an actor. The both of them are married. Their daughter is known to be flamboyant and very fashionable with many designer brands. More can be found by searching about their daughter on the net.
In short, I was jilted. It just had to be the summer vacation, other than my house I had nowhere to go and I still had to force myself to smile every day. At night after the lights are switched off, my tears stream down in the darkness. Only I know the sweetness and bitterness of my first love. I have earnestly hoped countless times that one day, Zhang Ziyue will suddenly knock on our house door and tell me, "Minmin, I've understood, the person I like is actually you."
"However, it never ever happened. Zhang Ziyue witnessed my birth, saw me wearing open pants, saw me wearing my bra, that old guy even know the dates of my period. In front of him, I have no gender, Xie Huaimin is Xie Huaimin and not a young woman in her prime.
No matter what, he is already getting married. He has again taken another step towards becoming bald, a beer belly and getting haemorrhoids. While I'm still young, isn't it?
However, I'm still sad.
The summer this year is especially sweltering, the small town beside the sea which is usually cool has abruptly transformed into the three furnaces beside Yangtze River*. The family clinic's business has been going very well as there was an endless stream of people who received heatstroke. My dad was kind and charitable and emulated the sage from ancient times, distributing complimentary herbal tea for preventing heatstroke.
*T/n: From Wikipedia: The term Three Furnaces refers to the especially hot and oppressively humid summer weather in several major cities in the Yangtze River Valley, within China.
Our family has no son so I'm the coolie, standing outside the door every day boiling water and preparing tea while giving out the miracle tea for reducing temperature to tourists, passers-by and beggars. Even though this job is very lofty, my figure was very insignificant. There was a boy who said to his mum, "Why does a beggar also give us stuff?" I was sweating profusely with unkempt hair and red eyes which scared him away. After going back and looking at the mirror, I also gave myself a scare. I wonder who the female ghost with messy hair and dirty face as well as a face full of grudge was? I held the water bottle and casually washed my face, tied my hair up and took a deep breath. "Xie Huaimin, keep your spirits up. You're not considered ugly and can also be considered to be capable, there are still many guys who will strive hard with the goal of obtaining a wife like you. Let Zhang Ziyue become the past." I pushed the washroom door open. Zhang Ziyue carrying a smile on his face leapt into my sight. All the fine hair on my body became inverted. Did he hear what I said just now? How can that still be fine? God damn it, standing anywhere else is fine, why did he have to stand outside the toilet door?