Xie Xuanming wandered around the streets for a while, then slowly returned to the rental house.
He didn’t want to depart in his own home and die on the same beam as his mother. Even if it was a feudal superstition, Xie Xuanming didn’t want to be unable to get rid of that suffocating woman even after his death.
The place of death needed to be selected carefully. A hotel was not a good choice. No one would want to stay where someone committed suicide. It was not Xie Xuanming’s intention to put people out of business in order to free himself.
After some consideration, Xie Xuanming chose a certain rental house in the slums of the lower city. Probably because the building was full of people doing drugs, prostitution, gambling and other harmful things, the rent was surprisingly cheap and the landlord couldn’t manage it and didn’t bother to do so, so an “I suck” poster was stuck in the most prominent place of the rental house.
Xie Xuanming was pretty sure that he was not the first person to die in this rotten building and he probably would not be the last.
Which method of death to choose was also a problem. Xie Xuanming did not want to retaliate against society, nor did he intend to disturb the normal lives of the living. However, death was like throwing a stone at a calm pool, no matter how light it was, it would make waves.
Jumping off a building will undoubtedly cause crowds of onlookers; with gas, there was a possibility of harming innocent survivors; with cutting wrists, the choice of location became problematic, and Xie Xuanming himself was not happy to die wet and bloody, that would be too messy.
Xie Xuanming finally decided to take an overdose of sleeping pills and leave peacefully. However, the medicine was not as easy to get as in the novels and movies. Almost every store where he asked about it treated him as if facing an enemy and refused to sell the medicine.
In desperation, Xie Xuanming could only change his mind.
After going full circle, he finally chose the same way of death as his mother.
The rusty keyhole was very unresponsive, and Xie Xuanming struggled to turn the key for a long time before opening the door.
God knows why this house needed to be equipped with anti-theft doors. Thieves of the entire district might be living in this building.
Xie Xuanming entered the room, drank a small bottle of mineral water left on the table and carried the plastic bag into the toilet.
The toilet was very narrow, and the stench from the sewer was so bad that it made one frown when entering, but it had the only pipe in the whole house that could be used for hanging.
Xie Xuanming reached and realized that his height was not enough to tie the rope from the floor.
So he moved a chair from the living room, stepped on it with a tooth-aching squeak and stood up, throwing the rope over the beam.
The sound insulation of the rental house was very bad, and in the bathroom it was especially poor. Hearing ambiguous noises from neighbours was not a rare thing.
Xie Xuanming didn’t want to live at home since the death of his mother. After staying in various hotels for more than a month, he moved to this rental house a week ago.
But in less than a week, Xie Xuanming had already become vaguely aware of the occupation of his neighbour he had never met.
“You are too fast… slow down…”
“Are you in…”
“Um… I’m so tired… I can’t do it anymore… let me rest…”
An ambiguously subdued male voice came through the wall, and Xie Xuanming stopped arranging the rope and rubbed his ears.
Although it could be said that the guy didn’t restrain himself on a regular basis, today was just too much.
Xie Xuanming wanted to knock on the wall to tell them to be quiet and not to disturb him.
But he was not sure whether doing so would interfere with people’s business, so he finally gave up.
While tying the knot, he thought sarcastically that if his neighbour knew that someone had hanged himself across the wall when he was “happy”, he might be frightened into a psychological disorder in future.
Thinking about it, Xie Xuanming finally tied the rope.
He held the rough loop of hemp rope, his heart beating uncontrollably.
Now you just need to stick your head into the loop and kick the chair off…
Ten minutes later
Xie Xuanming stood in silence on the chair, and the ambiguous voice next door stopped.
Choosing death was much more difficult than he had imagined.
Only when Xie Xuanming felt his calves going sore and numb and the chair started shaking did he take a deep breath and braced himself——
He was about to put the loop on his neck when the doorbell rang suddenly.
Xie Xuanming paused, trying to ignore the sound.
Ding dong, ding dong, ding dong.
Boom, boom, boom.
The desperate doorbell didn’t work, so it was replaced by an insistent knock.
The noise was so annoying that Xie Xuanming hurriedly got off the chair, closed the toilet door, walked to the door and opened it.
The anti-theft door opened, revealing an unexpected person.
An older boy with messy hair stood in the doorway, his face unnaturally flushed with the heat of intense action.
Xie Xuanming glanced at his wide-open neckline, then at the slightly open nearby door, and without much effort figured out the identity of the visitor.
His neighbour, a special worker whom he had never met before.
To Xie Xuanming’s surprise, he had seen this guy.
At the bar this afternoon.
The boy was short of breath and didn’t seem to have recovered from the “exercise”. Xie Xuanming broke the silence.
“Are you… next door?”
“You are… the one in the afternoon…” The boy’s voice was slightly hoarse, similar to the voice Xie Xuanming heard across the wall.
Recalling the fierce noises that he heard every night, Xie Xuanming was silent for a while and said, “…I gave you the watch, it can be sold for a good price and you can slow down on your work…”
“Did it bother you? I’m sorry.” The boy’s face turned red and his thin moist lips opened and closed, “People still need to rely on themselves.”
Xie Xuanming said sincerely: “Sometimes you don’t have to be so independent.”
The boy was silent for a while, then suddenly said, “My name is Ji Sheng and I live next door to you.”
Xie Xuanming didn’t know why the neighbour suddenly wanted to introduce himself. He was pretty sure he didn’t have any intention to seek this one’s ‘business’…
He replied embarrassedly: “Xie Xuanming.”
“Oh.” Ji Sheng nodded and said dryly, “Good name.”
Ji Sheng scratched his head, as if he couldn’t stand the awkward chat, and announced the purpose of his visit: “I’m sorry to interrupt, I want to borrow something.”
“Hemp rope.”Ji Sheng worded it properly, “Preferably the kind that is thicker, stronger and doesn’t fall apart easily when tying things up.”
Xie Xuanming was once again shocked by Ji Sheng’s words. The image of hemp rope flashed through his mind, hanging, tug-of-war…
Xie Xuanming’s face changed, a vague possibility irrepressibly crossing his mind.
So his expression became more complicated and he emphasised: “That watch… can really be sold for a good price.”
Ji Sheng was also very serious: “I can give you back the watch, but if you have a rope, can you please lend it to me first? I am in a hurry to use it.”
Xie Xuanming wanted to complain about how there would be such a thing as hemp rope in a normal house, but he changed his mind, thinking that there was indeed one hanging in his toilet, but he didn’t know whether the man in front of him still would want it if he knew the original purpose of that rope…
The two confronted each other awkwardly, and another voice suddenly interrupted, breaking the calm.
“Hey! What are you doing, go borrow something and start chatting with people, can you hurry up!”
The grumpy voice caught Xie Xuanming’s attention. The neighbour’s door opened wide, a man in a white vest leaning out and yelling.
Xie Xuanming could probably guess the identity of this person. He sighed silently that everyone had hardships and money was really hard to earn.
“Give me some more time!” Ji Sheng yelled back, turned and said sincerely, “You’ve seen it too, please.”
As soon as Xie Xuanming wanted to speak, he heard another male voice behind the door: “Don’t be so impatient, this thing is not easy to borrow. ”
Three people? Xie Xuanming’s complexion completely changed.
Was the special industry even offering such services now?
“Please.” Ji Sheng put his hands together and begged, “Give us a sign if there is a rope? If not, I can go and borrow it from someone else. Our band is playing tomorrow and we haven’t finished rehearsing the piece yet, so it’s really urgent.”
Xie Xuanming was stunned: “The band?”
“Yeah, didn’t you see me perform at the bar today? I’m a drummer…“ Ji Sheng paused, “Would you like to take a look, the band is rehearsing.”
“It was our guitarist Li Tan who yelled just now. The one who stopped him was bassist Sheng Kongzhi, and the one who looks very beautiful and is like a girl is keyboardist Su Jing.”
“Fuck your mother, Ji Sheng!” Su Jing threw something in his hand at him and cursed, “You don’t feel comfortable not insulting me twice a day, do you?”
Xie Xuanming followed Ji Sheng, watching the scene in front of him with a subtle feeling.
It was true that there was a band in front of him, but the guitar was not plugged in, the bassist was empty-handed, there was just a keyboard pad in front of the keyboardist, and the drummer’s drum kit.……
The drummer’s drums were a pile of pillows and quilts hanging crookedly from the side of the bed, the rope used to bind them snapped on the floor.
If someone needed to describe this band in one word, it would be “poor”; in two words, “poor” and “sad”.
Xie Xuanming was shocked by the extreme poverty of the band and couldn’t help but question: “Is this possible… to rehearse?”
“Yes.” Ji Sheng said, “Just play the recorded music on the phone and follow it… But the drums are falling apart, so we have to tie them back as soon as possible.”
Xie Xuanming was silent.
He finally understood that the sounds he heard every night were not “exercise”, but the sounds of the band’s rehearsals, and he also understood now why the musicians’ voices were louder than musical instruments.
This band was too poor; there was not a single instrument that could make a sound at hand, and rehearsals had to rely on brains to make up for it.
Xie Xuanming was silent for a moment, then turned around: “I happen to have a rope here, you can borrow it for your rehearsal.”
“Really?! Thanks!” Ji Sheng’s eyes lit up, “By the way, your voice is very nice, maybe you can sing? Are you interested in joining a band?”
“Thanks, I can’t… I’ll get the rope.” Xie Xuanming declined, turned around and returned to his room, Su Jing’s yelling reaching his ears.
“Hey, don’t just kidnap kids into it, are you still not satisfied with pulling me in, huh?…”
Xie Xuanming removed the rope from the toilet pipe, took a long time to untie the knot and brought it out. The door pushed open almost smacked the person squatting by the wall.
Xie Xuanming didn’t know how many times he was frightened tonight. He could only hold the door and look down with his heart thudding. “Why are you squatting here if you need to rehearse?”
“Waiting for you.” Ji Sheng jumped up from the ground with a smile, “Are you busy tomorrow night?”
Xie Xuanming could not figure out what this drummer, whose every step was treading in his logical blind spot, wanted to do now.
But his brain automatically thought about Ji Sheng’s question. Since the rope was borrowed, hanging was definitely not…
“I might be… not necessarily.”
“That’s great.” Ji Sheng’s eyes lit up, he magically conjured up a bracelet and put it on Xie Xuanming’s wrist without hesitation.
“There will be a band festival at the Magic Flute Bar tomorrow. We have a performance. This is the ticket.”
He took the rope from Xie Xuanming, waved his hand before returning to his room and emphasised: “You are coming!”
The door closed.
Xie Xuanming looked down, and on the rubber bracelet on his wrist two curves were drawn with a highlighter, forming the shape of two mountains.
In the dim light, the humble green hills emanated an eerie green glow, with the skewed handwriting standing out next to them.