If one was to do a portrait of Bo Ziren, it probably would have looked like this; a height of five-feet six, slender but voluptuous figure with medium length jet-black hair that was three inches past her shoulder, and the finishing touch was her sharp facial features and a quiet temperament that seemed to distance herself from her surrounding. It clearly does not mix well into a University’s circles, simply a loner.
As time ticked by, this type of person would be excluded and pushed to the edge of the stiff cliff by the name of society. It was inevitable, whether consciously or unconsciously, the surrounding people would eventually sideline them.
“Did you know?” during class, Zhu Mingwen leaned over and told Bo Ziren, “Recently, Fangzheng has been making jokes about you behind your back.”
The pen in Bo Ziren’s hand stopped in the midst of its motion, without so much as raising her head she asked, “What did he say?”
“He said that your orientation isn’t normal.”
Bo Ziren dutifully confirmed the actual meaning, “Abnormal orientation means…”
“You like women.”
Hesitated for a period of time, Bo Ziren finally inquired, “Why did he crack such jokes? There are no benefits in doing so.”
“What’s worse is, nearly half of the people believed him.” Zhu Mingwen supported her chin with both palms as she observed Bo Ziren from a close range, “Normally, this type of rumor is hard to die away. Even if the person themselves comes out and explain, rumors would still linger around. I suggest you find a boyfriend as soon as possible when you have the chance.”
Bo Ziren was quiet for a moment, and then replied, “I’ll not find a boyfriend because of such a silly reason.”
“That’s also right. But you must have had boyfriends in the past, right?” Zhu Mingwen casually asked the question.
“Not even one?”
“No.” she put down her pen and admitted frankly.
Sitting near the window, for a split second the four o’clock afternoon sunlight streamed through the glass window, reflecting a purple-red prism of light on her wrist. When her hand moved away, the light shone on a single character ― ‘cheng’ scribbled on a paper.
It must have been scribbled down while she was absent-minded. Stroke by stroke. As if a clumsy child telling a secret of his own to himself.
There was a feeling of having no one to tell to yet unwilling to share at the same time.
After class ended, Bo Ziren made a trip to the library. She entered the book titles one by one in the computer at the front desk; in the end, there were only two available to be borrowed. Following the classification number on the computer, she effortlessly found the books and noticed both of them looks new. More likely than not, very few people read these books.
Standing at a corner of the bookshelves, flipping through the book patiently, she did not notice that in the next row, a pair of clear sharp eyes were glued on her face.
A moment later, she sensed someone’s gaze on her and raised her eyes. Their gazes collided, and then she leisurely changed the angle, looking away.
The other person was reluctant to retrieve his gaze when she looked away. He stubbornly continues to stare at her.
“Zhou Biran, what book are you looking for?” someone came over and asked while chuckling.
Zhou Biran said, “Looking for a book, but I can’t seem to remember the title at the moment, so just plainly looking around.”
Finished saying that, Zhou Biran put on his headphones as if indicating to the other party to back off.
That night, Bo Ziren spent most of the evening reading. When her eyes felt tired, she got up and warmed up a glass of milk. Halfway through her milk, Bo Ziren suddenly remembered something, in class today she overheard two female classmates talking about an evening radio broadcast program. The male DJ supposedly has a nice soothing voice, and the topic of discussions for the past two days had been love. However, it was only spoken in light context like a simple guide for freshmen in budding relationships.
Bo Ziren glanced at the time, and it was right on. She proceeded to take out a walkman from the drawer, after spending a while searching for the station’s frequency, she successfully managed to find the program without a hitch.
A short intro music played, and when it ended, the male DJ’s voice boomed through the headphones: “En, this is somewhat cliché theme, let’s talk about falling in love at first sight. There are many facets of love, just like your love, and my love is different. But this said topic has more or fewer similarities between them. Most said it was like being shot by a gun.”
“Or perhaps, the heart skipped a beat, time froze, one second seemed like an eternity, and so on.”
“For all we know, there are possibly thousands and millions of faces in this city, on this planet. But, it is that particular one, the only one that you can’t forget after just one look.”
“Maybe it can also be described as the bubbles of happiness that spring from somewhere deeper than the bones.”
“Right, back to the topic at hand, according to my personal opinion, the term ‘love at first sight’, might not be so appropriate or accurate. Love at first sight? Doesn’t that imply that the first sight is a little too cheap? It should be ‘feelings bloomed at first sight’.”
“Of course there are those who loves saying ‘love at first sight’, but in reality, it is just lust protruding its head. As for familiarity breeds fondness, it’s merely time to weigh the pros and cons with that person. The latter may not be reliable, while the former might last longer either.”
“You asked, what about me? If I was to choose, of course, I would choose love at first sight ah, ‘cause my wife is the proof of my herculean effort after falling in love with her. It was love at first sight. Ai ai ai, who asked me to be born without good looks, very few people would fall in love with me at first sight ah. I’m using my real life experience here isn’t to show off my good luck. What I wanted to say is, if you like that person right at the first sight, then it’s an opportunity being thrust right in your face, it’s a gift bestowed by destiny. Don’t brush it off as adrenaline glands going into overdrive. You must realize, nothing is pure coincidence.”
“But I wanted to remind listeners who have none to very little contact with the opposite gender, not to confuse love at first sight with nervousness. Please don’t get feverish, dazed, or sweating all over your palms, and suffer other symptoms all by yourself. First, try to determine if the other party is interested.”
“These are only my humble advice, comes from my personal experience, purely for reference only.”
Bo Ziren listened to the DJ’s smooth and fluent babble while lying on her bed. One hand grabbed the book lying next to her pillow and started flipping the pages. On page one hundred thirty-four, He Mo secretly extended her journey, knowing her parents would not agree, she made an S.O.S call to He Yan. As if he had predicted her action in advance, he did not agree nor did he blame her, instead only told her to keep in mind that her safety comes first. The next day, in the afternoon, she went to the bank and found a new fund remittance, she was so thrilled and grateful that she immediately sent a text message to express her gratefulness. His reply came shortly: [All of us wish you would not go too far, however, if coming back makes you unhappy, then the right to choose where you want to be is in your hand. Our only request is, for you not to forget to keep in touch with us.]
Back in high school when she read the book, Bo Ziran had felt a young girl no more than a year or two older than her traveling in faraway cities alone was fearless and naïve. Now, rereading the book again, she knew only a scarce number of people were fearless. One as young as He Mo, traveling so far, yet how could the only thing supporting her was her wish to see the outside world? The biggest factor was the sense of security in her heart, no matter where or how far she was, she could always find her way back home.”
Bo Ziren closed the book. Turning off the lights and closed her eyes. In the darkness, a certain person’s face floated into her mind. On a cold night like this, it seemed like a fire that burned vigorously, lighting the vast horizons up.
She wrote his surname with her finger on her palm. Vividly, she could see his face when she closed her eyes, recalling every little detail without getting it wrong.
Thinking of him to this extent, delighting in the smallest of things, does all this fall into the category of love at first sight?
For an inexperienced person like herself, it was difficult to know where she falls.
This Friday would be the last meeting. After having dinner, Bo Ziren went to the café, the clock had not strike seven yet when she arrived.
There were two staffs changing light bulbs on the ground floor, the tool box and ladder were placed near the door, affecting the traffic. Customers who were willing to come in was unavoidably reduced.
The waitress behind the bar counter, Xiao Ji, was already familiar with Bo Ziren. She greeted Bo Ziren warmly. After placing her order, Bo Ziren went straight upstairs.
There was no other customer on the first floor as she waited alone for forty minutes, still, there was no sign of a certain person she wanted to see most.
Eight something in the evening, taking the opportunity during a short break, Xiao Ji went up to the first floor to get Bo Ziren a glass of warm water, and gently reminded, “Not sure if Teacher Cheng is coming over tonight.”
Bo Ziren’s eyes were cast low, head resting on the table. She was in the middle of daydreaming when she heard the waitress speaking, so she looked up, “En?”
Xiao Ji pushed the glass of hot water over to her affably, “You are waiting for him, right? The chocolate he had last time was given by you?”
Bo Ziren had not expected her actions were being observed in such details. In the end, she still nodded honestly like always.
“He likes to eat chocolate but not the sweet kind. He likes it bittersweet. Preferably, dark chocolate.” Xiao Ji used the vegetable market’s auntie way of talking to converse with her, “Okay lah, I will disclose a little more information to you. He’s a forever single type of guy, other than reading books, his hobbies are fishing, and visiting museums. Prefers black tea, has light taste buds, and likes to experiment with cooking, following some recipes, but whether his cooking tastes good or bad, I don’t know. He is very friendly and treats everybody gently while maintaining a polite distance. In fact, he doesn’t like people calling him Teacher in private, unfortunately, his temperament can’t escape that line of profession. Actually, what I know is only the tip of the iceberg. Just this, and I’ve told you everything I know. Ah, why are you taking notes, don’t……be so cute.”
The tip of Bo Ziren’s pen braked sharply in the middle of writing, feeling a little awkward.
“Haha, I won’t make fun of you.” Xiao Ji bounced a couple of times on the spot, “I should be getting back downstairs now. The last time I took a break too long, and someone stole the metal pen holder at the bar counter, pity me, I was fined.”
Bo Ziren tore the densely written note off, folded it and kept it safe in her purse.
She rested her head once again on the table, head on her arm as she stared blankly at the string on the old-styled lamp, wondering if he would come today.
Perhaps it was due to helping the lecturer sorting out documents till early in the morning that she lacked sleep. She was really feeling drowsier by the second now. Minutes passed like an eternity. Her eyelids grew heavier and heavier. Finally, she could no longer bear it and fell asleep.
She slept soundly, very soundly and had a happy, fulfilling dream. Her in the dream was still a kindergarten, and it was summer time. She went to buy an ice lolly and the auntie selling ice cream smiled at her and told her to wait a moment. She nodded obediently, waiting anxiously.
But before she got to taste the ice lolly she woke up. The first thing she felt when she woke up was something warm close to her similar to being near a bonfire.
She opened her eyes and caught the sight of a small electric heater placed beside her. Raising her head, what entered her vision was the sight of him sitting on the opposite sofa, holding a book in his hands. Unknowingly, there was an additional pot of hot tea was placed on the table.
Slowly, he put down the book. Smiling gently as he asked, “You’re awake?”
Nice voice, so nice that other than nodding her head she was not sure of what else to do.
“I’m sorry, the first floor’s heater is under maintenance. It is very cold in here.”
“It is okay.” She said, “I don’t feel cold at all.”
“Today is the last session, what would you like to discuss about?” he raised the warm pot and poured tea into her glass.
“I wanted…” she hesitated, and then shook her head, “I don’t know.”
“Do you want to watch a movie?” he looked her and made a suggestion.
“Movie? Here?” she was confused.
“En, there is an old model movie projector here that can show the old black and white movies. Are you interested?”
Almost without thinking, she nodded her head readily.
He went to close the door to the first floor, and took out the projector and faced it against the left wall, those actions were fluid and skillful. As he bent down to tinker with the projector as he explained, “This machine is a nineteen-sixty-five 8 mm film silent projector−−it can only show silent films.”
She pulled out a chair and placed it at a three meters distance away from the wall screen. “Have you watched the movie ‘City Lights’?”
With ‘da da da’ sounds coming from the projector, the film began showing, watching the film rolled through, a sequence of pictures were reflected on the wall.
The small space became a two people’s world. The man played the film as she watched in silence.
The black and white picture traveled back to the thirties–−a funny and clumsy little tramp met a blind flower girl that made him fell in love at first sight. He used the only penny he had to buy a small flower from her and wore it on his peacoat. Love made him energetic, he saved up money so she could have surgery but ended up in the prison. Two years later they were reunited in front of a florist shop. She had regained back her vision, however, because he was a pauper and had nothing, he dared not approach her in recognition.
“Is it you?” eventually, she found him familiar and asked.
Dangling a flower in his mouth, he happily and shyly nodded. She clasped his hand tightly with hot tears streaming down her face.
Such cliché story yet many people liked it.
“City lights… is it referring to her as his light?” after the movie finished, Bo Ziren asked the person next to her.
He thought for a moment, “It is not wrong if you think like that.”
“Obviously a comedy, why do I have a very sad feeling?”
“Someone once said, comedy is the highest form of tragedy and vice versa,”
“I liked this movie very much.” She expressed sincerely, “It was the nicest amongst all I’ve seen.” He looked at her without commenting.
During the last exchange meeting, he personally had played a movie for her, spending a quiet half an hour together like this, felt like an unexpected wonderful gift.
He cleaned up the place and placed the projector back to its original place, switching back on the lights, and rearranged the chairs back. Taking a glance towards the windows, “It’s very late, how long does it take to your dormitory from here?”
“Less than fifteen minutes.” She fetched up her bag.
“I’ll send you off.” He expressed decisively.
Going down the stairs, he followed behind her. Suddenly, she stepped on a loose floorboard on the stairs, her leg twisted and her center of gravity toppled. Fortunately, a strong arm swiftly shot out from behind, holding onto her in time. The lights were a little dim, and because the mishap occurred so abruptly, thus… where his hand was holding her on, had deviated a little from his imagination, closer to the edge of her breast.
It was very obvious, and he also felt it. Smoothly, he retrieved his hand back but did not specifically apologize, saving her from the prolonged embarrassment.
He simply reminded her to be careful.
Coming out from the café, he walked in the direction of her dormitory.
The entire way, he did not search for things to talk about. Even while walking side by side, he kept a polite distance between them. Beneath the streetlights, she would occasionally look down to see their shadows. His shadow silhouette was taller, elongated on the road they were walking on. While turning around a corner, she moved closer to him and he ‘seemed’ not to notice her little maneuvers.
“This is here.” In front of the dorm gates, she said, “Thank you.”
“I should be the one saying thanks. Thank you for coming to the Book Club Exchange till the very last meeting.”
“It is a pity it’s already ended,” she commented as she opened her bag, taking out a bar of chocolate, “This is for you. Actually, I already knew I’d bought the wrong kind since you don’t like sweet chocolates.”
He took it nonetheless. “Occasionally eating the sweet ones is also good.”
The nearer it got to the time to say goodbye, the more she procrastinated. Standing in front of him, she finally spoke a sentence, “Will I have the chance to see you after this?”
Her voice was drowned by a passing sports car. She bid farewell quickly having no courage to repeat the question again, “See you again.”
Waiting till she entered through the gates, before he turned around, walking back the same way they had come. His hand slipped the bar of chocolate into his jacket’s pocket. Inadvertently, his fingers grazed a piece of paper. Opening it, there was a string of number written on it accompanied by a row of words.
[This is my number, if you don’t mind, can save it. If you mind, you can just throw it away.]
His footsteps stopped, standing under the weak street lamp light he needed only a glance to read the note. Together with the chocolate, he put them safely back into his pocket.
After Bo Ziren finished showering, she walked towards the study table. The text she was waiting for appeared on her phone.
[This is my number, if you don’t mind, you can save it. If you mind, just delete it.]
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