By Wang Zisi
You once reminded me of the geometric principle that two straight lines will only intersect at one point on a flat plane. Even if we should stretch the two lines endlessly, there can only ever be that unique intersection. Do you remember?
—Oh, hi! Long time no see! How have you been?
L and Y were originally good friends. L was introduced to Y by a mutual friend who asked him along when they went to eat at a restaurant near school. That day, Y wore a pair of white-framed specs that complemented his tanned complexion. When he smiled, his eyes would sort of squint into lines, and his mouth would curve into arcs, revealing two spruce rows of whiteness. The expression disarmed you unexpectedly for being both childlike and candid. At times, his low voice got drowned out in the restaurant's din, but when he conversed with the girlfriend who was shorter, he always tilted his head ever so slightly to meet her gaze head-on, as if he wanted to envelope her with his aura. The girlfriend seemed clingy; she grabbed his hand whenever the chance arose, and leaned her head on his shoulder as though it were a starling atop a perch; in short, she behaved as if she were afraid of being expelled from the intricate web he wove with his words. L watched their interaction with interest, even amusement, he couldn't remember the last time he had met a guy as refined as Y: there was something immediately compelling about his forthright yet elegant demeanour. That night they didn't get a chance to talk one on one, so L asked the mutual friend for Y's MSN and added him. He didn't think that someone as introverted-seeming as Y would have much to say over MSN, but what surprised him even more than the fact that he actually did was the number of passions it turned out they shared: manga, Mayday songs, Meryl Streep movies. L would wait almost daily by his computer for Y to come online. The two of them would natter on without end, until Y could no longer resist the call of sleep and logged off. After three months, L asked Y out to see Meryl Streep's latest film. Physically reunited at last with his chat buddy, L wrapped his arms around Y upon sight. The gesture, so heartfelt, caught Y offguard. Soon, however, the ease with which they talked online found its way into their tête-à-tête in flesh; indeed, they seemed so much like old friends at a reunion that an onlooker would never have guessed that the two of them had only met three months ago, that this was only their second encounter in person. Y loved to dissect the movie as it was unfolding; in order to hear clearly what Y was whispering, L had to turn his body towards him. So, for the length of the movie, the two of them leaned into the armrest dividing their seats, shoulders touching. L could not help but register in the dark the warmth of Y's body and his gentle tuft of arm hair as it brushed lightly up against his own—a strangely erotic sensation. Even after leaving the cinema, L continued to feel Y's body heat where the latter had grazed him, ghostly but there. They ran and just made the last bus. It was packed, and amid the crowd, L couldn't find anything to hold on to. The driver seemed to like to press the brake a lot, and violently too; a few times L almost lost his balance and fell over, to the grim tsk-ing of other passengers. Hold on to my arm, said Y. Grip it. L could barely believe his ears. So, tentatively at first, he clung on to Y's slight but toned arm, using it as support. During the journey, they were mostly silent. Still, the handholding not only allowed L to survive the bumpy ride, but also banished any discomfort that might have been brought on by their cessation of speech. (That electric body heat!) L, the first to alight, sent Y off with his eyes, and as the bus gathered speed and rolled away into the distance, the warmth that had accreted over the evening left him, replaced by despair. From that moment, L understood that his feelings for Y were no longer pure. Their weekly meeting would become the nexus of his schedule, life would henceforth be whiled away in anticipation of their next encounter. Perhaps you might say that L was foolish—if the person you like already has a girlfriend, shouldn't the thing to do be deaden any feeling you might have, in excess of friendship, i.e. nip the wishful thinking in its bud? Really, they should have been more careful, you and I, but we weren't, you always like to rest both hands on my shoulder as you surprise me from behind then wash your words up the shore of my ears, I keep telling myself not to fall for you but one careless glance and I lose resolve, one day you fall into a nostalgic mood, we go to your primary school, I listen as you talk, that's right, on that court did a schoolmate pull down your shorts, yes in that room did a teacher give you a slap, hey in that hall did the entire student body cheer your PSLE score, shard by shard, we piece together your story, the blank sheet of twenty plus years filling out by itself in one afternoon, how I wished you could have gone on, I would have listened forever, I will remember: your smile, your voice, even your memories, if you didn't agree to it, why did you help bring about it, the poisonous fruit? The night we got drunk, the two of us fell into one bed, and you lay with your face facing mine, I realized it was the first time I was watching you up close without fear, do you know how like a baby you seem, asleep? Your face flushed from drink, your lashes flickering, all the while as the rhythm of your inhalation-exhalation exerted an inexplicable pull: I suddenly found my lips pressed against yours, I guess I must have wanted to try it on for size, to know what I would never have, who would have guessed that you would kiss me back? Even if piss drunk, I was sure of it: you wanted it too! So I threw everything to the wind and met you with even hungrier and even wetter kisses, as if between those lips lay the secret route to your heart, which I had finally found, so happy was I that tears flowed down my cheeks but, all of a sudden, you jumped out of bed and ran off, sparking my inward cry: it's over! over! I sent an SMS to apologize, you didn't reply, more precisely, from that point, I never heard from you again, I couldn't bring myself to hit you up, after all it was I who crossed the line, trespassed into territory not meant for me, you had said that we would always be friends, do you know what forever means, I thought you meant it then, but you never came anymore on MSN, I realized with a shock that our interaction had mostly taken place on the Net, how many times had I watched you go from offline to on-, then from online to off-, but now you would always be off-, the grey status of your inactivity an epitaph, one by one I went through my unbearably long list of friends yet could find no one with whom to chat, and anyway it's not like the rest of them cared, after a while I stopped going online, I was too embarrassed and I didn't dare, after Emily and you broke up, I became her confidante, oh, the two of us abandoned and by you, isn't there something funny in that, she told me that it was clear after a while that you loved yourself more, that your gentleness was put on, you were like the stars whose brilliance was meant to be admired, not possessed, even by a girlfriend; listening to this, I thought: the day will arrive when I too shall grow sick of this looking up at the sky, I'll cross my fingers and hope it'll come soon—
Watching Y leave, L is suddenly troubled: how many wrong ones has he loved—can it really be that none of them has loved him back? Not one?
I replied to you: Don't be so sure yet. If I fold your flat plane into something three-dimensional, the two lines will meet again. Don't forget, the Earth is round.
Y and L were originally good friends. Y was introduced to L by a mutual friend... To be frank, at that first meeting, L did not leave any impression on Y; on the one hand, Y was mostly paying attention to the girl, on the other hand, L and him did not know each other, it was hard to pull a conversation out of no hat. Only that night, after Y accepted his MSN add, did they really start talking. In fact, Y was more in his element over the Net, because, he often felt, with encounters in person, pressured to come up with an answer he hadn't thought up of yet. He wasn't good with strangers like that. It was in their gaze, he supposed, a threat... Henceforth, whenever Y logged on, L would be online as well. In the beginning, it was L who initiated the chats, but after the two of them grew closer, upon the discovery of common interests, Y would come to say hi just as often too. Just like that, talking to L soon became a habit, even a necessary thing to do, inseparable from the act of going online. Indeed, it was hard to resist L's bonhomie, and good humor, and moreover, how thrilling to find someone who shared his love for manga, who actually knew something about it! Even though Y had only met L once in real life, anyone could see that they hit it off good. In the realm of human affairs, wondrous things did happen. The day Y finally asked L out, it was raining cats and dogs, Y sent L an SMS telling him that he had forgotten his umbrella, with the result that he was now marooned in Block __ of Estate ____, could they postpone the meeting until the weather cleared? Ten minutes passed, the rain, ever relentless, showed no sign of letting up, instead a silhouette approached in the form of a purple umbrella shielding its owner's face; of the owner, only the lower torso could be seen, along with a pair of thin, almost feminine, legs. L! It was L coming to rescue him. I only have one umbrella, but neither of us are fat; I think it'll do, was the first thing he said, with a grin. Who knew that the wind would choose this very moment to display its muscle, and invert the umbrella that, had it not been for the fact that both of them were holding on to it together, would have been shanghaied away? Aiyo, L cried. I'm wet. With L's hand on Y's bare shoulder (Y was wearing a singlet), the two of them made their way out through the rain, bodies closer than ever. L's hand was unusually cold, but delicately bony like a girl's. Just like that, they plodded along, supporting each other under an umbrella, all the while at the mercy of the elements. Their laughter, however, never stopped. If you chose that moment to ask Y point-blank if L's feelings for him had become inappropriate, Y would deny it vehemently. Y was not so insensitive as to overlook L's touchy-feeliness about him, except that he also held the view that there is no need to be a stickler for rules between men. Y also vividly remembers a scene with L, where, because the latter was so tired from burning the midnight oil the night before, he had fallen asleep on Y's left shoulder as they were riding on a bus. In order not to disturb his companion, Y patiently bore with the extra weight, and even took pains to hold himself extra still. Through the window, the sun splashed itself over the two of them, gifting the pair with the dapple of whizzing roadside trees, as well as the warmth to fight the manufactured cold of the bus's air conditioning. Y gazed at his friend, resting on his shoulder with a contented look on his face, whose pressure on him seemed to exert a stabilizing gravity. How soundly L was sleeping, how unexpectedly his sleep resembled a newborn's. All at once, Y felt a tenderness well up from inside him, and, without actually conscious of doing it, raised his right hand, and, patting the sleeper gently on his head, smiled a knowing smile. He was protecting L from the tumult of the outside world. The driver and the other passengers did not exist for them. All too soon, the bus neared L's stop, L awoke, raised his head, snatched his belongings and alighted. Now, missing the weight on his shoulder, Y experienced a strange bereavement (which, of course, if you questioned him, he would again vehemently deny). To tell the truth, the company of his friend was starting to grow on him. At the end of the week, after L's exams were concluded, L invited Y back to his hostel room to hang out. Free to make merry together at last, they drank to their hearts' content, and under the influence of alcohol, shared secrets that they would not have revealed to each other sober. At last, the two of them, completely wasted, fell into one bed. Head spinning from the liquor, Y closed his eyes to feel better. At length, he felt someone kissing him, a few brushes against his lips at first, as if testing his reaction, then more firmly, mouth pressing down on mouth. Confused but hypnotized, Y let the other set of lips take over his own. The other party's movements were so slow, so gentle, containing in them so little of the violation that they actually constituted, that Y began to kiss back, matching their rhythm. The other party then followed up with silky caresses—soft fingertips were sent down the far reaches of his body, arousing sensations in areas where only a few select others had been allowed access before. There was nothing to do but respond in kind, of course. It was as if the other party were asserting a claim to his body, and he had just discovered that submission can itself be an erotic thing. But when the other party's tongue abruptly entered the moist cavern of his mouth, Y suddenly awoke to the reality that he was kissing L. Seized with a deep panic, he pushed his homosexual lover away, rushed to the toilet, and under a gushing tap, spat and gargled all evidence of their passion away. Had he really kissed another man? How could he? Reliving what had just happened, Y remembered the hand that L had sent out all over his body. Why, L had even touched his… Y wanted to vomit. He must have gotten drunk, how could it have been otherwise, I don't kiss guys, I'm normal, I like girls, let me call Emily, we'll chat for hours, she only has eyes for me, she said so, if she doesn't see me for one day, or hear from me for one night, she doesn't feel right is what she said, I feel the same way about her too, so there's no way I can be gay, you were the one who plotted to get into my pants, with your MSN seduction, every time you sat next to me and "accidentally" touched my body, to think I never suspected you once, the birthday gift you urged me to keep, though I tried my best to refuse—too extravagant—but it was tainted in the end, like your hostel invitation was tainted too—from the first you wanted for me to get drunk so that you could take advantage of me, it was your scheme, hah! Did you really think you could get me to be like you? FUCK OFF! From now on, keep your fantasies to yourself, I won't ever like you, but I did kiss you, I did! I was too drunk to think clearly, no thanks to you! I can't have you mess up the life I'm going to share with Emily, I'll come online but appear offline to see if you're there, oh you are, you must have been waiting for me to come online, well, continue to wait bah, I'll block you and then delete you, not to mention your actual person, just seeing your handle fills me with rage and shame, rage for the way you schemed, shame for my naivete, I'll delete your phone number too, which only makes me realize that I have memorized it, fuck, why do I still think of you even when Emily's in front of me, and feel guilty, and dirty, oh I'll burn the bridge, I will, from now on, I'll grip Emily's hand even more tightly, kiss Emily's face even more frequently, you know how I feel about public displays, she chides, but this only proves that I love you, right? Yes, it can't be any other way, I love Emily, Emily's a real stunner, you don't know how many suitors I have had to fight off to win her hand, if I were to dump her now, everyone'll think I'm mad, I'm not a gay, I will never be you, I like girls, I like Emily, only her—
As briskly as he can muster, Y walks away from the one reminder of the greatest disgrace of his life, stopping only in the middle of a deserted square much later. Noon's blazing sun hangs in the cloudless blue sky, it's so bright around him that everywhere is a searing white; only a small bouquet of a shadow hovers in front of his shoe.
Twelve thirty-one. He examines his wristwatch, the present that L had given him on the occasion of his twenty-third birthday. These six years, he's been wearing it everyday. He likes how it feels around his wrist. In fact, all these six years, he's never seen a watch he's liked better.
Y sets off again in the direction of his destination. The wedding planner that Emily hired has made an appointment for him to try a suit at one; now's not the time for silly thoughts.
(Translated from Chinese by Lee Yew Leong)QLRS Vol. 9 No. 2 Apr 2010