A GROWN son CAN’T REMAIN EITHER
※ ※ ※ ※ ※
It was almost the middle of the month, and the streets once enclosed with peacefulness, at long last, began to bustle with noise and excitement. Once the sun rose, early in the morning, Bai Luo Yin and Yang Meng rushed toward the main street’s entranceway, which had been completely decorated with the traditional features of ocean decorations and Chinese lanterns. As they promenaded around, their eyes absorbed the lively sceneries. They encountered various performances from traditional Chinese opera, magic shows, acrobatics to……even the distinguishable characteristics of old Beijing’s vendors, loudly broadcasting and advertising their products.
When the blazing sun soared into its’ brightest peak and basked the entire street with it brilliant, they joined the horde of people, happily watching and applauding the lion and dragon dance show as it paraded down the street in all its’ magnificence.
Their eyes were dazzled by an endless array of mouth watering delicacies that laid out in front of them, tickling the five senses that entangled their taste buds. This exhibition was indeed a feast for their hungry eyes. It was just like that, that Bai Luo Yin and Yang Meng could no longer let their stomach suffered in such agony. So, as to cure their hunger, they strolled through the street and tried as many things as possible until their stomach hit its’ capacity and satisfaction settled in.
“Hey, those lanterns over there with the riddles on them, if answered correctly, there’s a prize,” proclaimed Yang Meng in excitement.
Bai Luo Yin followed behind Yang Meng to have a closer look at the riddles.
Before him was a large plaque with a red paper attached at the top. Several string of riddles were written boldly on each sheet of red lantern paper; the powerful strokes that permeated with each characters were visibility delightful.
The rule on the plaque read:
All those who guess correctly, will receive a sticky rice ball in sweet soup or sticky rice dumpling. The more you guess correctly the more you receive but one wrong guess, and it will game over. No second chance.
When it was Bai Luo Yin’s turn, he answered the first two riddles with much ease. Yang Meng, who stood to the side, was given the responsible of holding onto the prizes. Once those precious prizes were within his grasp, no one could pry it out of his hands. But toward the end, there were so many prizes nestled against his chest and in both of his hand that he could barely hold on to them.
Embarrassment wormed its’ way onto the stall owner’s pallid face. If this continued, in less than five minutes, all the riddled on the plague would sooner than later be decoded.
Bai Luo Yin continued, “The fifth riddle on the third row, that idiom is, “A crowd of good friends gathered together.”
The girl in charged of verifying all the answers looked extremely petrified as she said “Incorrect,” with a very low voice, almost inaudible.
The stall owner, whom beforehand stood to the side, interrupted. And in a loud, ear splitting tone, he roared, “Wrong! Next!”
Bai Luo Yin firmly believe in his answer. There was no doubt, in his mind at all, that he had answered correctly. He snatched the answer book from the girl and as expected, with just one look at it, his answer was verified.
“Are you serious, how can you be like this? We obviously answered correctly and you still have the nerve to accuse us of being wrong? Or is it that, you can’t give us our prizes?” bellowed out Yang Meng, using Bai Luo Yin’s fierceness to flaunt his momentary superiority.
In the end, the stall owner himself came out. With a smile adorning his lips, he confronted Bai Luo Yin and Yang Meng.
“It’s the Lantern Festival, a very auspicious day. It’s not that we’re unable to give you the prizes, it’s just that we encourage more people to participate and have a go at it as well. Two handsome men like yourselves, I know you’re both knowledgeable and are expert at answering these riddles. You want the prizes and you can easily obtain them. But the crucial point is, those people standing patiently at the side. You also have to give them an opportunity to win some prizes too right?”
Bai Luo Yin laughed to this statement and turn to leave the premises, with the dignity of a gentleman enveloping his stature.
“Wait a second, take these!”
Upon hearing someone called out to him, Bai Luo Yin turned around. With great agility, he skillfully caught the package that was tossed in his direction, by someone on the other side.
After he steadied his footing, he finally saw clearly what it was. Yang Meng couldn’t help but cry out in alarm, “That’s some freaking huge ass sticky rice balls! Is it……is it even cooked!?”
Bai Luo Yin’s eyes froze, somberness congealed the blood that once graced his picturesque features.
A memory flashed across his mind and drowned out the loud noises of the streets.
Once dusk sauntered by, all the street lights turned on. Together, Bai Luo Yin and Yang Meng stood at the corner of the street. For a long while, they once again, admired and took pleasure in the beauty of all the lights as it illuminated across the street; painting a picture perfect illustration of the festival in all its’ glory and magnificence. Afterwards they made their way back him with contentment already poured deeply into their heart.
By the time Bai Luo Yin got to the courtyard of his house, food was already prepared and everyone was waiting patiently for his arrival. Once Meng Tong Tian saw Bai Luo Yin’s figure approached, he pulled a chair over and gestured him to quickly sit down.
“Come, come, come, supper’s ready,” announced Bai Han Qi loudly, excited intermingled with his voice, as his signature smile crept swiftly toward the corners of his lips.
Everyone lifted the cups in their hands, regardless of whether it was liquor or a soft drink, they toasted each other first before exchanging any words.
“Wait, we should eat the sweet sticky dumplings first.”
“That’s right! It goes without saying that our Tong Tian is the most intelligent.”
The whole family surrounded the table as they happily ate and chat at the same time. Their faces full to the brim with happiness and the events of the few precious days did not affect their mood even the slightest bit. It was as if they had mutually agreed to seal their lips and bury those unfortunate occurrences. It was the last day of the lunar month, they had long ago resolved to only talk about all joyous things and determined to perpetuate happiness and harmonious until the very last minute, last second of that year.
Bai Luo Yin calm and quietly looked at everyone smiling faces. He listened to them discussed each other’s cheerful stories, ate soggy sweet dumplings, and no sooner did a as a strong pervasive warmth infiltrated into the bottom of his heart.
It was unfortunate, that he had that kind of mother, but he was fortunate enough to have such a great family that forgave and love him dearly.
A gleaming reflection of tears in the light, shone on those earthen eyes of Bai Luo Yin. He willed them away, out of his sight before he placed his chopsticks down and walked out.
Aunt Zou noticed that Bai Luo Yin had left so she prodded Bai Han Qi and asked, “Why did Yin Zi eat so little today?”
“I’ll go and take a look.”
Bai Han Qi followed behind his son’s shadow.
Bai Luo Yin returned to his own room, simply gathered up some things and dragged his luggage out. A bag of sticky sweet balls, that he had won earlier, was held tightly in his hand as he pushed the door open and made his way out.
Bai Han Qi stood planted at the front door, looking at Bai Luo Yin with amazement. His eyes continued to drown in astonishment as Bai Luo Yin got closer.
“Where are you going so late at night?”
Bai Luo Yin silently allowed his gaze to reach his father’s face, “Dad, I have to go back.”
“Today is the fifteenth day of the lunar month, the time when the whole family are together. Why don’t you go back once the holiday ends?”
Bai Luo Yin didn’t move.
Bai Han Qi looked the expression on Bai Luo Yin’s face, knowing full well that he will undoubtedly leave, but at the same, he still urged and wished for him to stay.
“Why don’t you at least finish eating your meal before leaving?”
Bai Luo Yin’s heart struggled for a second, a mini war broke out from deep within, but still he faced Bai Han Qi. And, with a stern tone, he said, “I finished eating. Please talk to my grandpa and grandma and let them know that I’ll be back in two days.”
Bai Han Qi let out a long sigh, his heart somewhat unwilling to let go. However, he still patted Bai Luo Yin’s shoulder and looked at with understandings, an air of approval permeated from his gaze.
“Go then. There’s still a whole family here, even with one less member, it will still be lively. Da Hai’s dad went to the army base, so don’t let him celebrate the New Year alone at home.”
Nobody understands one’s son better than his father.
And, no words escaped Bai Luo Yin’s lips as he remained unresponsive. He merely turned around and walked out of the courtyard.
Bai Han Qi stood against the strong whistling sound of the Northern wind and watched as Bai Luo Yin’s shadow gradually disappeared into the distance. A bitter sadness welled up in his chest, and he couldn’t help the tears that reared its’ way around the corner of his eyes. It is said that when a girl has come of age, she will not remain at home any longer, how can it be that a grown son can’t remain at home either?
Gu Hai was dragged from slumber and into consciousness from his position on the sofa. The lights in the room remained on and the windows were still opened wide. He was unable to distinguish whether it was daytime or nighttime, even worse, the exact time or date. He wasn’t certain at all, how many days he had spent in this bemused and hazy frame of mind. His eyes, once like two pristine stones of onyx, now lifelessly wandered toward every and all corners of the room.
The whole room was in complete disorder, almost as if it had been replaced with an uninhabited jungle. Bottles upon bottles of liquor were scattered everywhere, covering the floor as it laid unwavering in the silent room. Some bottles were full, some half consumed, and some completely empty of its’ intoxicating content. While some were strewed across the floor upside down, others were standing upright……. aside from liquor, his stomach was empty of all other solid substances that were needed to sustain life. The agonizing pain of hunger, scorched and set aflame the heartache and sorrow that ate at his internal, relentlessly tearing apart every vitality that once resided within.
Only when his lips pressed roughly against the liquor bottles, that refreshingly cool yet bitter taste flowed down his throat, and extinguished the painful attacks of the fiery flames. He allowed the liquor to consume his consciousness until he could no longer perceived any sense or emotion, and only then, was he able to rest his head and resume the slumber that was unfairly taken away from him.
Gu Hai stood upright, from his bones to the muscles, these two mechanisms that allowed him to be mobile, ached and sore painstakingly. He dragged his tired and somnolent feet over toward the windows, and with one swift motion, he pulled open the curtains, revealing the darkness of the night that had devoured the city. His solemn eyes swept across the landscape. The lights outside were stunning to his vision. More than art, more than aestheticism, life presented beauty in thousands upon thousands of variations; it was indeed, a gigantic panorama of eternal change that befell his eyes.
Large crowds of people spread out all around the streets beneath his looming shadow. Blossoming and dancing amongst the unseen clouds in the midst of the Southwestern night sky, were fireworks. It soared higher and higher into the vastness of the heavens and scattered in all directions before fading into the shadow of the sparkling stars…
Stupefied and taken aback, Gu Hai drew the curtains close, sealing his sight from the gatherings outside. His hand gripped the refrigerator door open, only to find that nothing was in there. His eyes like a global positioning system, mapped out and stalked the floor below his shadow, and not before long, it located a bottle of red wine that had not been opened yet. He then fished around in the tight crevices of the sofa and found the wine opener that had secretly hid itself. With skilled hands, he jabbed the corkscrew into the secured cap of the wine bottles, twisted it several times and unplugged the cork. The bottle kissed his desolated lips and the intoxicating liquid rushed inside his awaiting tongue.
Gulp, gulp, gulp. He chugged it down, but after only two gulps, the doorbell suddenly rang.
His throat paused its’ motion, practically stopping for a moment. Pretending not to hear the invading sound, he continued to force down several more gulps.
The doorbell rang again.
With a sullen, yet calm demeanor, Gu Hai dropped the wine bottle on a nearby tea table, straightened up his spine and walked toward the front door.
A burst of pain shot throughout his forehead from all the alcohol. All ten of his fingers, that had not been active for days, felt clumsy and awkward as if they were not apart of his body. He struggled to turn the doorknob several times before he, somehow, unknowingly, managed to finally jerk it open.
Outside stood a lonely figure.
Gu Hai stared, blankly. Dumbfounded.
Bai Luo Yin was still wearing the same down jacket that he had wore the day he left. He dragged the same luggage as before. And, his hands were encased and kept warm by the same pair of gloves that Gu Hai had given him, that Christmas Eve, all those weeks ago.
His hands gripped tightly onto the bag of sticky sweet dumplings, as two attentively red ears peered down at Gu Hai.
At this moment, time ceased.
Neither of them said a word to each other. They silently observed each other while an undercurrent of immense and passionate emotion swept under and surrounded them.
At long last, Gu Hai strode over, each step lessened the proximity between them. He suddenly pulled Bai Luo Yin toward him, held him tightly within his arms and trapped him in his never ending warmth.
No one can describe that feeling of when you recover everything that you have lost. That feeling was the same one that engulfed, possessed and overwhelmed Gu Hai at that very moment. It tortured and continuously attacked his heart, causing him to teeter on the verge of collapsing. As if any second now, the edge of the cliff will crumble, sending him into an endless pit.
Nor can anyone put into words or even come to understand what Bai Luo Yin felt at that very moment, how precious…how dear Gu Hai was to him.
Gu Hai wrapped one of his arm firmly around Bai Luo Yin’s back, as if to embed him into his own body, while the other hand, curled around the back of Bai Luo Yin’s head. With his face slightly turned, his cold lips gently caressed the outer edge of Bai Luo Yin’s ear, allowing himself to take solace in Bai Luo Yin’s body heat.
Originally, Bai Luo Yin’s heart was very calm. Even when he pressed the doorbell, he didn’t have any particular feeling or expectation that could be pinpointed. But once Gu Hai hugged him with such intensity, all kinds of emotions effervescence to the surface. Sparks of electricity ruptured throughout his body, igniting his nerves and encased him in a feeling that he refused to word.
After what seemed like an eternity, Bai Luo spoke first.
“Gu Hai, I’ll remember this, you owe me one.”
Gu Hai’s body stiffened for a second, as he momentarily released Bai Luo Yin before a steadfast resolution rain over him.
“I will repay you back!”
With a faint smile, Bai Luo Yin almost relieved, urged Gu Hai to take his belongings inside.
Gu Hai peered down and noticed the bag in Bai Luo Yin’s hand, then asked, “What’s this?”
“Sticky rice balls, I won them by answering all the riddles on the lanterns correctly.”
Gu Hai took the bag and glanced over at the digital clock hanging on the wall. It was only then, did he realized that today was the Lantern Festival.
For a moment, he felt extremely touched. A twinge of happiness manifested within his soul.
“Then, let me boil them, you just need to sit here and wait.”
After he said this, he hurried into the kitchen. And, just as he was about to turn the gas in the stove on, his eyes caught sight of Bai Luo Yin who had joined him inside.
“I’m warning you. You better try and cook them thoroughly in one go this time. If you keep on tasting one and throwing one out as you go, there won’t be anything left for us to eat.”
 This reminded Bai Luo Yin’s of when Gu Hai cooked dumplings for him, and before he gave it to Bai Luo in, he would check to see if it was cooked or not.
 This refers to when a girl gets married and move out to live with her husband, so to Bai Han Qi, how can it be that this notion would apply to a son too. XD You funny man you!
Are you Addicted?