Forever Love chapter 1

Chapter 1

Foreword

In Dedication Of May 2, 1998.

Chapter 1

It is snowing in Tokyo, not just a little, but the plane still managed to land. I look out through the wide, bright windows, there is a thick white layer of snow where cars haven’t driven past. Snowplows move somewhere in the far distance, and in the snow, lovers about to part tightly hug.

The foreign air is full of an unfamiliar atmosphere, just like a sigh of loss of a generation passed*.

* 恍如隔世 as if a generation had passed, as if being cut off from the outside for ages; over here it describes the sorrow that times have changed

There is a summer aquatic plant by the glass window, its leaves tender green. I am just like it, so out of place here.

The person here to pick us up is the other school’s student council officer; with clear, delicate features and easy manners. The coach is clean, I find a seat next to the window, pull my scarf tight, shrink down.

The boy is introducing the school, but I listen alone to my earphones.

It’s not enough for him to just talk, so a video plays. The TV screen in the car flickers, the imposing front gates of the school appears, but the shabby rear gate of the school immediately follows.

The whole bus bursts into laughter, “Forever Love” plays in my earphones.

It turns out to be a film by their school’s directing majors, a parody of one of Bruce Conner’s* particular film techniques.

* Bruce Conner (the author wrote Bruce Corner, but I think that might be a typo): an American artist-filmmaker, famous for his artistic filming techniques and perspective

When the bus enters the downtown area, it’s as if one suddenly walks from a deserted street into a party, the surroundings all at once bustling with activity. I press my nose to the glass window, the pedestrians, buildings drift by like mists of clouds – out of nowhere, the red coat of a boy, burns my eyes.

“Miss home?”

I turn around, the student council officer is already sitting next to me.

“No,” I say, “I left my friend to come here.”

“A boyfriend, right?”

I laugh, and say, “Where you get that from?”

Without answering, he stands up, asks, “What song you listening to?”

“An old song from some years ago,” I reply.

“Whose?”

“X-Japan.”

He nods, “5 or 6 years about, already an old song!” Then he walks to the front of the car.

Only then do I realize that the bus has already entered the campus, and that I’ve missed that beautiful front gate.

There is a social in the evening.

I am in the corner, watching them laughing, screaming, just as if they are celebrating some festival, with ribbons, with foaming beer; here, there, all over the place.

Someone is calling me. Dunno who told them I can play the piano, but they clamor for a song.

Seeing no way to refuse, I only nod my head to agree.

I sit in front of the piano, look at the alternating black and white keys.

As my finger presses down, I hear someone from somewhere behind me shout:

“Fellow student, the music room’s to be used for a meeting this afternoon.”

I ignore him, the me back then was like a chestnut in a bag of marbles.

“Classmate ……” He called again.

“Forget about it!” The other boy said, “Let her play, I like that tune.”

At that, I stopped, and looked back. Under the window closest to the door of the music classroom, with the wind blowing the muslin curtains like tendrils of smoke, the two of them stood there, letting the afternoon sunlight jump into their hair.

For one moment, I was not awake, and the boy spoke again.

“Excuse me, can you play that song from just before again?”

“Huh?”

“My friend here likes it,” He added.

That was such a strange reason, he’d been about to kick me out just now!

I couldn’t help but let out a soft “hey”, and that friend of his immediately turned red.

“There’s no need!” The friend said, flustered.

Seeing him being so cute, I decided not to give them a hard time about it, and continued to play the song.

He stood behind me and said, “You play really well!”

“Because I love this song.”

“Forever Love?”

“Yes,” I said, “Forever Love!”

That’s how I met Ouyang and Xiao.

Others reminisce about the past just as if reading a lover’s last letter to them; with some pain, yet with some joy. But my past is like an onion; it peels open to reveal layers and layers, it also makes one cry.

Just like the song I play. It’s only a love song, yet it has been endowed with so much other pain.

My young life too, shoulders too many things.

But the audience doesn’t care. This is a boisterous party, immediately after my piano is an explosive dance song, and everyone begins to dance before I even hear a bit of applause.

What a terrible beginning, how befitting of my downcast mood.

Someone behind me asks, “What are you looking at?”

Without turning around, I reply, “Looking at the fish.”

“Look at the fish for what?” He again asks. What an inquisitive person.

“To understand the happiness of a fish,” I say.

“You aren’t a fish; how do you know that the fish are happy?”*

* 子非魚安知魚之樂 Buddhist allegory; Two Buddhist monks, A and B, stroll along the river. The former says, “These fish come out and play about at their ease – that is the enjoyment of fishes.” The other asks, ” You are not a fish; how do you know what constitutes the enjoyment of fishes?” The former replies, “You are not I. How do you know that I do not know what constitutes the enjoyment of fishes?” etc etc. Full story here.

To know how to use Japanese to play Buddhist allegories with me!

I turn around, the student council officer with clear and delicate features, nods and bows at me.

Not bad, to actually know to discuss the connection between fish and the happiness of people with me. The elementary education in Japan also teaches this stuff? No way!

“My mom is Chinese.” He explains.

I snort to myself. Turns out it’s the result of a Sino-Japanese collaboration.

“You are really good at playing the piano.”

“Because I like that piece.”

“Forever Love?”

“Yes.” I laugh.

“Yes.” I say, again, “Forever Love!”

He tells me his name is Kaga*.

* 加賀 Jia He; this is the translator assuming that a student from Japan would most likely give a Japanese name, and using a kanji dictionary to write it as romaji (please do tell me if it’s wrong, tho you can also tell me if it’s right XD)

The window next to my bed faces southwest, if I kneel on the bed, I can stick my head out, over the people coming and going below.

Several days of heavy snow have washed the Tokyo sky especially clear. In the evening, the glow of sunset surges forth, lush orange-red around the setting sun, the color gradually fading, little by little, out towards where the clouds end as blue sky, just like a smear of dainty, charming pink, with just a tinge of purple; so pleasing to the eye.

Under the sky, rows upon rows of buildings divide up the stretch. I make a window with the forefingers and thumbs of both hands and move the space around, trying to frame a perfect composition.

It’s as if I suddenly hear Xiao’s voice; “If you look out through this window, you can see the past, can see your hometown.”

My eyes haze with tears.

On the rooftop of the school’s laboratory building, we were together, waiting for Ouyang. I’ve already forgotten what we were there to do, but we just patiently waited, yet he – that old man – kept dragging.

I faced the sunset, lost in thought, no idea which spacetime I was in, when suddenly Xiao squeezed one of his earphones into my ear.

It was that familiar beyond familiar melody, the one I’d listened to over and over again over countless nights.

Gloomy lights, a song full of sorrow.

Piano with strings.

Loving and parting.

Xiao made his fingers into the form of a window and said, “If you go far, far away, just look at me like this. I’ll be in here.”

Ouyang and I said goodnight over MSN*.

* MSN messenger; used to be a popular instant messaging client

Leaving?

Yes. No more looking back.

When I’d been a child, our family had been poor. We lived in a big house with all sorts of people. During the rainy season, the laundry could only be hung in the hallway, over the windows, and that made the inside of the rooms extremely dark.

My mother hadn’t money to send me to kindergarten, so when she went to work, I could only stay in the house all day. In those days, it was not easy for a divorced woman to raise a child, I was sensible, never made a fuss.

But I was still lonely.

Sometimes I would poke my head out of the window, would make a small window with my hands, would search for some landscape by myself.

One day, a small being asked me, “What are you looking at?”

I found a boy standing in the verdant, thick shrubs outside my window.

The time that was still, began to move, I got my first friend. We played every day, separated by that window. He would tell me stories he heard from his parents, would pick flowers for me.

Every day, he would come under my window right on time, and then, in the evening, he would leave when the clouds tinged with hues of sunset.

Why don’t you go out? He always asked.

Mommy won’t let me. I said. I had long hair at that time, like a fairy tale princess who’d been locked in the tower by the witch. We played games, and he played the prince that saved me.

That temporary prince had only been in my house once.

He mustered up courage, climbed through the window, and stood in front of me.

I’ll take you away, he said.

What arrogant words!

Like that, we could play together forever!

Really, what a captivating offer!

No sooner had I finished speaking, then footsteps came through the door, my Mommy had returned.

We were shocked, he climbed out the window and left.

Did someone come? Mommy asked.

I shook my head, said, I’m by myself.

Over the days that followed, he hadn’t shown up. As usual, I watched by the window every day, made a small window with my hands, and patiently waited.

The rainy season passed, and someone came to the compound. Grandma came to see me.

Growing up, this was the first time in my life that I saw her. The old woman stood in front of me, looked at me, and said, “What a pity……”

It took me a long time to understand what her pity was all about – I was a girl.

A lifetime was just being alive for a few short decades, at the same time one was busy with making a living, one still had to have excess emotions to find fault with others, really need to exert yourself to live! The sorrow of women was being despised by men, while also despising themselves at the same time.

So I learned to love myself. As there is no one in the world who could really understand you, you must cherish yourself more.

I still kept thinking about that boy.

One day, he finally came. His eyes cried red, he told me he was leaving. His Daddy was going back to work, he was going to be taken away.

Daddy, he had a Daddy. Even though that Daddy had separated us, I hadn’t even a Daddy who would meddle with me.

“Can you give me something to remember you by?”

Words so easy to say, but for me, in this home so short of money, was I even able to take out something that truly mine?

And so he felt about his body, pulled out a shell, handed it to me.

“I picked this up at the beach back at the old home.”

Then he left, looked back with every step. I said goodbye behind his back, yet goodbye seemed so far it seemed forever.

Then Mommy got a very good job and we moved to live in another city, from a shabby compound to a high-rise with a manager and a combination lock. We went on with our lives. For the first time, I went to places away from home, before that, I’d never even been to a park.

I went to school, had a lot of friends.

Things from the past gradually fade just like this, sometimes I don’t even remember if I had a friend of such short duration.

It seemed to be a dream I had during those lonely years, a dream I talked myself into making.

Humans, always forget so easily what should not be forgotten.

Especially when it comes to loyalty and affection.

At that moment, I suddenly hear someone calling me from downstairs, so loud that the whole building can hear. I look down, only to see Kaga.

That handsome boy looks up at me and asks, “What are you looking at?”

Why does everyone love to ask this question. Why always feel such interest in the inner workings of others?

I point to the west.

“Thinking about whom?”

“A friend from college,” I say, “The last time I met him was around this time.”

“And then you came to Japan?” He asks.

I faintly smile, he really is such a curious person, “No, he left first.”

Some people leave with a wave, some things fade away with a smile. I am now alone, awake, standing in the freezing Tokyo evening wind, as if I can still hear the faint sound of Xiao’s guitar.

Kaga looks at me for a moment, says, “Come down, I’ll take you nearby for a walk.”

The nearby Kaga means, is just an alley behind the school that sells snacks, the kind of alley one can find near any university in the world. After dinner, the aroma of the place is overwhelming, all the little stores full with their respected guests.

We find a barbecue stall. The owner has a beard, and his petite wife, on seeing Kaga, immediately clears out a table.

“Still takoyaki*?”

* 章魚燒 Japanese snack shaped as little round balls, with pieces of octopus inside

“Yes.” Kaga says, “Make it a double.”

“Barbecue?” I ask.

Kaga laughs, and says, “Did you think to have kaiseki* here?”

* 懷石料理 kaiseki cuisine; a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner

The lady boss smiles and serves the fragrant, grilled octopus. I cheer up.

Made me remember a boy who pursued me in high school, we would go eat barbecue each and every time we went on a date. I was in Chongqing at that time, because of my mother’s work. In wintertime, just before it got dark, a barbecue stand would set up by the side of the road. The two of us would sit in the corner, eating, talking about the entrance exams, about the future, and so on.

Right before college, he almost cried as he said, “Don’t leave me, I will love you forever!

“How far is forever?” I promptly asked back.

He was speechless for a moment, as if it was the first time he’d met the girl in front of him.

We broke up in the end, went to our own universities.

Saw him again at the reunion before I came to Japan, him with his girlfriend. When our eyes met, his face turned red. Poor him still remembered the rash vows he had made, but what was to fondly recall of that impractical thing?

When no one was around, he’d asked me if I was going abroad.

I said yes, was to go to Japan as an exchange student, with an internship before graduation.

My mother had remarried, and my stepfather wished for me to go study in the United States so that I could help manage theirs and my mother’s business in the future. I thought that if I was going to go, why not choose a place I liked? So I came to Japan, where Xiao had always yearned to live.

He nodded his head and said, “That’s just like you.”

He was much more mature than before, as were the words he had said. I was unable to make sense of it.

A video store across the street, its fluorescent yellow lights on, familiar melodies, like a gentle overflow of fragrance, waft through the air like smoke.

I begin to hum a song in my heart.

  “Forever Love, Forever Dream

このままそぼこいて Stay with me like this

夜明けに震えゐ心を抱きしめろ Hold my trembling heart in the dawn

Oh, Stay with me……”

In a moment of distraction, I see Xiao sit down in the seat next to mine, his legs habitually cross.

“Hey!” He smiles at me, “How’s it going?”

“Just fine,” I say.

“Have you contacted Ouyang?”

I turn my head, guilty.

“Then, what about the person I wanted you to meet?”

I glare at him, to actually mind my business.

Xiao laughs, “I’m not minding your business! When you miss Ouyang until you can’t no longer, you’ll again go for him to dote on!”

“You mind your own business!” I return.

He stands up, waves his hand, walks out, his figure disappearing through the doorway.

When I look back, the familiar silhouette has already dissolved amidst the passing years.

I write my mother a letter, by e-mail. Although I’m not sure how much time she’ll spend reading my dutiful letters from the piles of paperwork waiting to be read, I shall do my best to fulfill a daughter’s obligation.

I’m trying to adjust to life here.

Our photography professor is married to a wife from China, so he’s especially friendly to us. During class, he slips in a snippet of Beijing opera, and the whole class fills with applause.

He says that most of the students that study aboard in Japan, are Chinese. There’s their own clique in the school and often, also interesting activities.

I say that’s right. And in my heart, I think, a thousand years ago, didn’t the Japanese come in large numbers to the Tang Dynasty in order to study gold-plating? How’s it that after a thousand years, it is entirely opposite?

Kaga studies law, they only have one class every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, so they ask me over to play.

Once, twice, any more and it’ll become a habit.

Now that I thought about it, wasn’t it like that with Ouyang and the others back then? We met in the music classroom again and again, and when we didn’t meet, we’d feel that something was missing.

Xiao formed the group BAND behind his parents’ backs. And when there was a performance or something, he would drag me and Ouyang to watch.

Inside the crowded and noisy bar, the silhouettes and the smoke, the lights and the music; these sorts of places had an atmosphere both numbing yet sobering at the same time. Onstage, the lead singer dressed in punk hugged the microphone and roared songs out from the depth of his soul. The wine in the glass was red as blood.

Ouyang and I would find a quieter corner, where he would drink beer and I would drink juice.

Xiao just sat on the stage, strumming that guitar of his that I’d decorated with some Picasso, his big, deep, melancholy eyes sweeping back and forth over the audience, and when he spotted us, he would smile an innocent, charming smile.

Truly a beautiful child!

I said, hey, Ouyang, how did you guys become friends?

I don’t know, Ouyang grumbled.

I laughed: You must have needed him.

Because being completed was just like that. Just like me, after I met you guys, my life became complete.

My words full of ambiguity made Ouyang uncomfortably scratch the back of his head, so I simply, with wicked intent, leaned in and kissed him on the cheek.

The music burst into confusion, Xiao’s guitar string had snapped. His head lowered, his bangs slipped to shade his eyes, blood oozed out from under his skin.

Ouyang jumped up, ran over, used a handkerchief to cover Xiao’s bleeding hand.

I remained sitting there.

It’s okay, Xiao seemed to be saying, it’s enough to keep on as before.

Yeah, you could just continue after a string broke, but how could you get back what has already been missed?

Could eternity only be achieved, through destruction?

I was leaving for Japan, Ouyang came to see me off. People were coming, people were leaving, in that large airport hall.

I thought that between us, other than parting, there was also a hint of something else.

But that was hard to say.

Ouyang gave me a piece of paper, filled with what medicine should be taken when where was uncomfortable, how it should be taken, what shouldn’t be forgotten, what shouldn’t be taken, and what shouldn’t be all gulped down in the morning. He was a medical student, always awfully long-winded on such stuff.

He handed me a Chinese knot, which he probably braided himself. I took a look at it and said, “This thread……”

“Seems too short.” That was Xiao’s habit and mine, both of us, at the same time, our words the same.

I was finally about to leave, when “Forever Love” played at soft volume in my headphones, as if hateful that the atmosphere wasn’t enough.

“Go home,” I said to Ouyang, “You’ve already done this much, it would be too much to also ask you to watch me leave!”

He said yes, but suddenly reached out, grabbed me by the shoulders, and held me tight in his arms.

When he let go, I turned my back quick, and suddenly burst into tears.

I knew that Ouyang and I were definitely not boyfriend and girlfriend, but we both deeply loved each other.

Xiao too.

But we are so far from each other, have scattered, have broken.

The years are like the wind, with nary a trace of the fleeting time.

Many decades later, who will I still remember?


Forever Love

Forever Love

Score 7.2
Status: Completed Type: Author: Released: 2003 Native Language: Chinese
That year, I lost a friend, left another friend, went away to study in Japan…..If memories would, just like this song, sing out this period of grey from the years of our youth; that would be a beautiful story.

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