The flickering of stage lights, the smooth jazz played by talented pianists, double bassists, and drummers; the combo filled the ballroom’s sensual air. Sultry gazes travel down the shadow of the young singer, slowly and drunkenly trailing down her face, neck, back, hips, thighs, and finally stopping at her ankles, repeating over and over again… Lustful fantasies ensue across the room, colliding with one another as the beat went on seductively and further enhancing as they reach the crowd. Disguised in suits, pairs of emptied souls sway their fatigued torsos along with the beat in ecstasy, their daytime alter egos long forgotten and lost, wasting the night away to fulfil their only desire—a slow waltz.
One, two, three…
One, two, three…
‘Who are you?’ You ask me, the strong, tangy scent of liquor seeping out from your mouth. That’s the vodka the manager spent a fortune on last month, I think to myself.
‘I am “me”,’ I replied. It’s the best answer my hazy mind can come up with after a few drinks, not wanting to make a fool out of myself.
You snicker, telling me that I’m cute, yet at the same time suggesting my answer should be ‘Red Cherry’.
‘Am I wrong though?’ Gazing at your ivory white suit, I puff up my cheeks, frustrated. ‘Red Cherry’ is my alias given by my manager. However, I despise the name from the bottom of my heart. I detest the colour red, as well as escaping .
‘No, but it doesn’t mean anything.’ You gently lift up my chin, as if wanting a kitten to lift its head up. How reckless.
I turn my face sideways, flushed with feigned anger, trying to escape from your tease.
‘If “me” doesn’t mean anything, are you saying that “Red Cherry” has more meaning to it?’
Puzzled and with my head throbbing in pain from the migraine, I force myself to put down my glass of wine and lie back onto the black leather chair. I narrow my eyes, trying to grasp the twinkle gleaming from the chandelier.
‘Of course! “Red Cherry” can earn a living, which makes end meet, which then allows you to reflect whether being “you” truly has any meaning. If “you” can’t make a living, then there is no reason in being “yourself”, right?’ At the heat of the moment, you flash me a childish grin, resembling a toddler’s demeanour.
Losing all manners and kneeling down, you put your head between my thighs, gently grinding against my black silk dress while playfully pouting and saying, ‘Let me rest for a while. I’ll tell you tonight what being “Red Cherry” means!’
‘Okay. I’ll wait for you.’ I lower my head, smiling shyly at your way with words. Your pearly whites actually looked gorgeous, faintly gleaming across the room.
You and I lie on the bed naked, melting into each other’s company, interconnected and becoming one.
You push me down with your hips, lightly blowing at my earlobe and asking, ‘Do you get it now?’
I cannot fathom out whether it was deliberate or not; you put a spell on me right after asking. I let out soft moans, suffocating my words.
‘Then think about it again!’ You are honey mixed with poison, giving me not only bliss, but also pain.
I fail to understand my attraction towards you, as well as my obsession with ‘me’.
Such obsession had its seeds planted and blossomed back in my younger days. Saving the nation and our people had once been the sole reason for surviving, which was also the only common interest we shared.
On that day, in response to the news about the war, you clenched your teeth in anger, the fury deep within your heart ignited all at once. You swore you would wreak havoc in the invader’s territory and cause bloodshed among the enemy. I admired your resolve, to which I made an untactful suggestion.‘Of course! We’re gonna drive them away and urge them to give us an apology and compensation, but we mustn’t kill them all!’
My words kindled the flames of wrath burning your heart. Intoxicated by your impetuosity, you gave me a slap on the face as a fierce reminder of our situation, bellowing, ‘Are you actually gonna wait for them to kill you?!’
Among your words, I saw a vague hint of fear masked out by hatred, emotions triumphantly conquering rational thoughts.
‘As if we can kill them all! Look, they also want to annihilate us, but here we are, still alive and kicking. Same goes for them as well!’ With my face still stinging from the burning sensation of your brutal reminder, I frantically held back my tears, saying, ‘Whatever we had thought about, so would they!’
‘We and they don’t mix!’ Your tone slightly weakened, as I witnessed the fire in your eyes faltering. You ended up forcing all negativity on the newspaper and muttered, ‘Neither do we…’
After being torn into smithereens, the newspaper was tossed up into the air and finally scattered onto the floor. Mirroring the floral pattern on my black dress, it revealed a sense of misery.
With all the distress finally forced out of your system, you lay on the bed, eyes closed. I felt sleepless as well, as I lay sideways with my back turned on you while staring at the calico pattern on my dress. Elegance was encapsulated by the black colour of my dress, with a sense of silence hidden beneath the fabric. Its top was embellished with bits and pieces of scattered petals, white with a faint hint of crimson. They reminded me of eyes ablaze with wrath, as well as blood lacking vitality.
Before dawn the next day, the sky was as white as a fish belly, which was revolting. Awoken by hurried knocks at the door, I hastily put on some clothes and answered the door. You stood behind the door, anxiety written all over your face. Chaos had erupted in the main avenue, and backup support was needed.
Sleepily, I rubbed my eyes and followed you, my mind still dazed. Along the way, we crossed paths with schoolmates as we marched towards the crowd hastily. Sharing the same solemn look, hairstyle and fashion, we were one, our youthfulness burning with passion.
As we chanted our slogan and raised our flag high, we made our way to the main avenue.
A voice emerged out from the crowd, hoarse yet filled with zeal. I couldn’t make out what was said, and neither did the others, I thought. Despite this, as the influence of the atmosphere grew larger, our hearts swole with more and more zest. Meanwhile, passerbys shot each other annoyed looks.
At this moment, the veins on your forehead angrily bulged and your bloodshot eyes opened wide from rage. Your murderous gaze was filled with hostility as you shot daggers at bystanders not belonging to our crowd. Hideous faces were all you see, as you turn a blind eye to the guns they held.
As gunshots abound, our faction was broken up, impelling us to dart towards a narrow alley. The distance of a hundred steps had become my worst nightmare. When all hell broke loose, I was hit by something solid, forming a pool of blood forming next to me.
Seconds later, you wrapped your arms around me, desperately dragging me away from the mayhem. As gushes of blood flowed out from my wound, I felt betrayed by my own body.
‘Run!’ I demanded my legs, but they would not listen.
For the first time, I felt my consciousness and flesh ripped apart from each other.
Is my consciousness ‘me’ after this? Is my body also ‘me’? Is ‘me’ being ‘me’ only true when I’m whole? If I lose my limbs, am I still ‘me’ after all? If I change my mind, am I still ‘me’? Am I currently ‘me’?
With endless questions swirling in my consciousness, my weary body plunged into the darkness, followed by shades of red creeping behind me.
Impaled by beams of argent moonlight, the thin fabric of the curtains only serves as an imaginary psychological barrier. Blocking only little light, it simply deceives the weak-minded.
‘What are you thinking?’ Your cheeks approach my bare neck, itching as your breath presses against it.
‘Have you found its meaning yet?’
I turn away without replying, allowing you to bury your face deep between my bosoms.
‘Why must we suffer like this?’ You raise your face to the corner of my eyes, kissing away my bitter tears. Why not simply accept my answer?’
‘That’s your answer, not mine.’ I love you dearly, which is why I refuse to turn myself into you.
You roll your eyes as they twinkle with playfulness. ‘The real answer has been lying deep within your heart all this time. If you really don’t know the answer, why would you know the difference between my answer and yours?’ You ask rhetorically, wanting to win me over.
‘It’s a cheap trick. You’re affirming my answer by denying yours. I smile wryly, my fingertips teasing your earlobe. ‘If you’re not with me, then I can’t find the answer, can I?’
‘Why would I not be with you?’ You kiss me, making me feel alive. ‘I’ve been with you all these years.’
Ten years. When everyone had left me behind in one way or another, you were the only one who stayed with me. Together, we went from hot-blooded students to sacrifices for the prosperity of society.
You begin to quote the famous line from A Tale of Two Cities, ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…’
Without us plebeians, their nobility would not exist. Their nobility was raised by us peasants. Yet, ironically, our lowly status was more worthy than their nobility, and their nobility was more despicable than our lowly status.
You suddenly flipped over the blanket, giving me a hand up. Holding my hand and putting yours gently on my back, we slowly danced together in the dark room, with beams of moonlight radiating off our skin. Lustrous, black hair was complemented with fair, milky skin. Dark pupils met each other, as well as the whites of our eyes.
‘Can I experience “me” through “you” ?’ I nestle myself against your sturdy chest.
Without opening your mouth, your heartbeat silently gave me the answer.
Peace finally returns after weariness dreaded the world. You are already fast asleep. I look up at the argent moon, with my mind echoing with your words earlier.
Is it really the truth that the reason I can’t find ‘me’, is because I didn’t try to experience ‘me’ through ‘you’?
If ‘I’ truly exist, why would I need ‘you’ to experience “me” ?
Unless we become one, without you, I would not exist.
Yes. If it weren’t for you that day, I wouldn’t have existed since then.
All these years, yet I still cannot comprehend why you saved me. Why didn’t you leave me behind and run for your life? Nobody would have blamed you under those circumstances. Who doesn’t want to see every sunrise and sunset with their loved ones? Who doesn’t want to engage in small talk with their family? Who doesn’t want to have fun with their friends? Each individual’s life has different episodes and emotions, all of which are founded on relationships. Is this what you mean by ‘experiencing “me” through “you”’ ?
The moon hides itself as dawn approaches. Basking in the dim, natural light, black and white become indistinguishable. Failing to achieve a balance, they ultimately form tints of grey.
You have to get up and go to work soon. I prepare towels and tepid water for you to freshen up, along with congee and pastries to sate your early appetite. After enjoying your breakfast, you slick up your short hair, all nicely dressed up, and head off to work.
‘You have a lovely smile today.’ Before setting off, you turn around and ask me, grinningly, ‘Have you figured something out?’
I nod and smile.
‘Wanna go out with me for a while?’ You sound relaxed.
‘Aren’t you scared?’ I fear that others will ridicule you for being with me.
‘Who would be afraid of going out with yourself?’ You seem to have captured my mind.
We stroll on the streets as we watch the first glimpse of the morning sun gradually melting away the snow. Tiny snowflakes drift down onto our garments, creating a spitting image of a bride’s wedding dress, pure and graceful. With the corner of your mouth tugged upwards, you turn a blind eye to people’s strange looks. You put your arm around mine. Such a small manoeuvre, yet the hole in my heart has finally been filled.
I cannot live under the sun. I belong to the darkness, showing my most alluring side only under the mellow lights in the nightclub. No matter how perfect pretty young girls are, nobody can compare with your bride’s beauty.
I dream of myself in a white wedding dress, with my veil and gloves, along with a bouquet of red roses in my hand. In your white shirt tucked tightly beneath your black tuxedo, you wrap your arm around mine while accepting people’s blessings for us. With your top hat held high, complemented with your black bowtie and white gloves, we finish the dignified and sacred ceremony…
Your family despised me, saying that I will never be qualified to be your wife. Nonetheless, you left your family behind without demur, running off with me and starting our life together in a small rented room, finding jobs to earn a living.
‘Go find another job, leave the nightclub.’ You don’t like it when other people are ogling at and flirting with your lover.
‘The migraine in my head makes my mind fuzzy, which means that I can’t do “normal” jobs, not even a nightman!’ I laugh to soften the sore feeling of my exposed scars. ‘Poetry is all I can speak of…’
Tears swirled around the brim of your eyes as you remained speechless. You knew my situation better than anyone else.
‘It’s fine really!’ I can’t change reality itself, so I can only change my view on our reality. ‘Didn’t our relationship start because of our dream of saving our country? Is there anything greater than that?’
‘The most poetic thing is loving you!’ A smile broke across your tear-filled face.
Being ‘poetic’ is just a nice disguise for being ‘irrelevant’. Our dream of saving our country is a collection of verses filled with ardour, while love is a great artwork completed by romance. On the tip of my tongue, in the corner of my eyes, they appear to be charming and enchanting. Nevertheless, they aren’t realistic, and there is no right way to go to reach the perfect state.
Folk songs praising the scenery in my hometown, happy wedding pictures put up on the showcases of the photo studios… these all seem so real yet far away. Your face is the most realistic thing in the world. Ten years, yet the child in you has not changed. You are still who you were before, loving me the most.
‘Will you still love me after ten years, when my youth fades away?’ I am your average Jane, scared of change, scared of aging, and scared of death.
‘I will always love you, as long as you need my love.’ Your cheesy words warm my heart. The current you appears to be cuter, as you love to joke around more and know when to comfort me. During our schooldays, you were hot-tempered and impulsive, like a raging bull ready to charge at anyone.
‘When have you become such a sweet talker?’ I ask teasingly.
You lower your head, looking at me, with your pale, expressionless face. Just as you blink, an inferno appears behind you, and thick, black smoke comes out of the dry woods surrounding you. Your skin turns black and melts violently. A savoury aroma from your body fat thickens the air, while your bones remain flawless and pure.
Your family picks up your ashes, puts them into a small jar, and leaves. Immediately after, I creep out from my hiding spot, picking up the remains of your neglected ashes. I envy the dry woods mingling with you, both of which have become inseparable.
I swallow you down.
I will digest you, I will keep you as mine. You will be staying inside my dark insides from now on, until the end of time.
The scorching smell spurts up to my brain from my throat, and my head is about to split out from the pain. I exert all of my energy on my former wound on the head, where cherry red blood is about to be spewed out, piercing my calluses. Its stickiness, its pulp-like structure make me anxious. You desperately carry me, dragging me to a narrow alley. My body betrays me once more. ‘Run!’ I demand my legs, but they refuse to listen.
I look up at you, noticing a hole blown open on your head as well. Crimson blood trickles down your face, spraying over your eyes, and finally dripping into my eyes. You did not let go of me, desperately carrying me up, dragging me to that narrow alley.
We collapse together, face to face, looking at each other. In fact, doubt clouds my thoughts of whether you are really looking at me. Or perhaps, you’re simply opening your eyes.
Completely lacking energy, I close my eyes. So do you, I guess.
Finally, I plummet into the darkness, tinged with shades of dark crimson.
When I regain consciousness, everything has turned white. White heaps of cloth, white pieces of garment, and faces deathly pale. Note offerings and melted candle wax, bleak and suffering from being white. From this point on, you have already become a synonym of ‘white’.
Standing in the boundless field of snow, I naturally think of you. People passing by me are all wearing white clothes, and strangely enough, they all have your face. It’s your face. Your face. Your face. You are everywhere! What a wonderful moment! I laugh heartily, walking up to every one of you and examining every face of yours.
Some scream in fear, while some run away. Some push me away with disgust, while some reach out their arms, their fingertips circling my breasts. Some haul me into the narrow alleyway and beat me up, reducing me into a pulp. Every possession I have has been robbed and my clothes are torn open. And now, I have been buried under the snow stark naked, which has been spotted with pools of red.
I detest this shade of red, but I cannot deny its familiarity. Red was the colour of your fiery eyes, and the colour of my wound. Red was the colour of our dream of saving our country, expressed by verses filled with ardour. Red was the colour of Romance’s greatest artwork. Red was the colour of your family’s cold remarks about me. Red was the colour of the empty rice tank next to my stove. In the ballroom, under the glistening chandelier, radiant beams glow on the black leather chair. The one in a black dress had been pushed down by a stranger in a white suit, and crimson red kept on flowing for ten years intermittently…
Because of the colour red, black and white were able to fuse together. Every day and every night, every month and every year.
Every year and every month, every night and every day. Black and white were able to separate from each other, because of the colour red.
The scorching heat of redness melts white away, leaving black behind. Alas, black remains silent, alone for all eternity.
 桃 and 逃 (which means escaping) are homophones in Chinese. [Click to go back]