When Gu Yanting returned home, he threw himself on the sofa all the way to the wall. Drunkenly trying to sleep, he suddenly remembered that Tang Yi didn’t allow him to enter the living room with his shoes on.
This thought was like a bolt of lightning to the head, causing him to burst out with amazing agility and explosive power. He sprang up from the sofa and jumped to the door, kicking his shoes off in a panic. His eyes were blurry and he couldn’t see which pair of slippers was his. He felt that they were swaying back and forth, and he had to reach out and grab them several times before he caught a pair.
When he was putting on his slippers, Gu Yanting subconsciously smiled in the direction of the sofa. In the past, if he entered the apartment without changing his shoes, as long as he smiled and corrected himself in time, Tang Yi would frown and glare at him, but there was still a way to circumvent his lecture. This time his head was a little dizzy, and after he hemmed and hawed, his mind automatically echoed various instructions from Tang Yi.
— When you’ve been drinking, go to the toilet first, throw up if you can, pee if you can’t.
— You have to wash your hands after puking and brush your teeth before you go to bed.
— Get into bed, lie down properly and sleep against the wall.
The toilet, which was usually a few steps away, was extraordinarily distant. Gu Yanting groped his way carefully, feeling that everything around him was playing hide-and-seek with him. Just now something was clearly far away, and then it sprang up in front of him while he was distracted. But he didn’t dare to march decisively yet, nor did he dare to wave his arms at will. All these things were carefully picked by Tang Yi. Once he broke a vase after he had been drinking, and it took Tang Yi four months to find an identical one.
Gu Yanting was hunched over and shrinking, like an old thief who stole sweet potatoes. By the time he reached the toilet like walking in a line of fire, half an hour had passed. It took another half an hour to vomit, pee and wash his hands, and when he came out of the bathroom, he didn’t forget to gently pull the toilet door shut. Then he once again used the posture of a sweet potato thief and carefully groped his way back to the bedroom.
As he rolled up in a quilt and consciously leaned against the wall, Gu Yanting thought, my wife is too fierce. The familiar scent of softener on the quilt cover lightly enveloped him, and he let out another satisfied ‘tsk’, “Finally, I can get a good night’s sleep.”
However, the sleep was not as sweet and sound as he had hoped.
There were many noisy and chaotic scenes in the dream, various faceless people. Gu Yanting couldn’t see their faces, but he knew exactly who those people were.
It was as if he was five or six years old and Mom Gu was holding his hand and taking him to a neighbour’s house to visit.
“What a handsome looking boy!” The neighbour’s auntie smiled and stroked his head, grabbing two candies from the table and putting them in his hand.
Gu Yanting frowned and looked at those candies that had been lying there for who knows how long. They were colourful, looked like round lumps and the wrapping was twisted on both ends. Mom Gu was very embarrassed, urging him to take them and say thank you. He was reluctant to take them. The neighbour’s auntie smiled and praised again, “This child is so shy.”
Gu Yanting was not shy. When Mom Gu peeled the candy paper away for him, he clearly saw the slimy, sticky piece of sugar that stuck to the paper. He knocked this lump of sugar away and said with some disgust, “There is no brand!”
Both Mom Gu and the neighbour’s auntie were taken aback.
Gu Yanting snorted again, “There’s no expiration date either, they have all gone bad and melted!”
The neighbour’s auntie’s face instantly became like the candy paper, red and green. She was so embarrassed she couldn’t even squeeze out a smile. But Mom Gu was so angry that she pointed at him and said, “You, you, you!…”
Apart from this “you”, she didn’t say anything and her raised hand didn’t land. She was just very angry and sighed sadly.
A proper beating was inevitable anyway. Dad Gu came home and dragged off his shoes and smacked him, while Mom Gu tried to pull him away, saying over and over again, “Don’t, Lao Gu, don’t hit him, he’s not… don’t hit him! What should we do if the child hates us later!”
Although Gu Yanting had not been beaten a lot since he was a child, growing up while being beaten, he slowly understood the painstaking efforts of his parents. His academic performance was always poor and he even got into a few gang fights in primary and junior middle school. However, later, during the high school entrance examination he was able to perform exceptionally well, and was just two points short of the admission to a major high school.
His father was so happy that he couldn’t keep his mouth shut. He was kind to Gu Yanting throughout the summer vacation and often stewed pork ribs for him and made his specialty pot-roasted meat.
It was just that when he couldn’t see it, his father would sit in the corridor with his head hanging and smoke one cigarette after another, as if he had encountered some big trouble.
In the end, Gu Yanting was inexplicably accepted into a major high school. Some people said that his family had paid for him to get in, but of course Gu Yanting didn’t believe them. The major high school was the place everyone wanted to get into. Although it was possible to find someone who could be “accommodating” within the five point range, the standard of 15,000 for one point was clearly stated.
But two points was 30,000 yuan, which was enough to cover their food, drink and clothing for a whole year.
Gu Yanting didn’t have a comfortable time in high school. They say it is better to be the head of a chicken than the tail of a phoenix, and those who didn’t have enough points were put in a separate class. Except for him, the class was full of classmates with some family background. His trousers that barely covered his ankles and his shoes that occasionally had holes in them didn’t fit in with the class atmosphere, bright, shiny and slick. His foundation was far from letting him keep up with the pace of a major high school and he struggled with his studies.
However, he was still at the top of his game. The English teachers at school would always bring out Gu Yanting’s name when talking about such words as “handsome” and “mesmerising”. He became the new male god of the school in a time of extreme distress.
Under the contradiction of low self-esteem and arrogance, he was reluctant to make friends with girls and was gradually ostracised by the boys to become the lonely one.
Lin Rui was the first boy who was well-dressed and good-looking and who also treated him with affection and warmth.
As a direct result of the accident, Gu Yanting continued to rest at home for six months after treatment. Apart from hearing from the doctor that there was a slight brain injury, Gu Yanting didn’t know what the consequences were. His father and mother kept their mouths shut about it, and he didn’t feel any discomfort, so that was it.
But because of the beautiful face of the boy who descended like an angel from the sky that day and because of the hungry times that came after, since the culprit couldn’t be found and his father borrowed from all over the world, Gu Yanting suddenly pulled himself together and started to concentrate on his books.
When he went to school again, it happened just in time for him to take the final exams.
His efforts were not in vain, and after the exams he was reassigned to a regular class, far away from the special class of students who repeatedly crowded together to make fun of him.
He wore only his school uniform every day and his shoes still had a hole on the thumbs. But that sense of inferiority was slowly disappearing. Later he also gradually mingled with the boys in the regular class and had more and more friends.
Gu Yanting was very dependent on his friends. He would rather suffer a loss and be a fool, he would rather have this bunch of friends who only ate and drank with him than be alone.
It was too hard, like being abandoned by the whole world.
He didn’t know what that innate fear was all about, but he just instinctively resisted it.
The dream scenario became more and more chaotic and complicated. He suddenly saw himself on a bridge, running stumbling towards a beautiful woman, calling her “Mom”. And suddenly he felt himself flying down from a high cliff, with a muddy, raging river under him. Another dream was that the teacher gave them a test and everyone was about to hand in their papers and he himself hadn’t written a single word. He was so anxious that his heart was about to jump out of his chest.
Finally, there was a tall, jade-like figure, holding a pile of papers in his hand, walking into an opulent office with his head down, and he himself, sitting behind the boss’s desk, was smiling and waiting for the man to come closer, his eyes full of tenderness.
Gu Yanting sighed gently in relief; the anxiety and impatience of the whole night finally subsided, and he passed out comfortably.
When Gu Yanting woke up again, the clock on the bedroom wall pointed exactly to twelve.
It seemed to be raining outside. The other side of the bed was cold; the chill of the autumn rain soaked Tang Yi’s side turning it icy. Gu Yanting raised his hand to his head and rubbed his temples, while habitually moving to Tang Yi’s half of the bed to warm it up.
Tang Yi was a little afraid of the cold, and it was Gu Yanting’s task to warm the quilt during the autumn and winter seasons, otherwise Tang Yi would rather sleep on his body.
The dull pain of hangover washed over his temples, feeling like they were about to burst open. Gu Yanting warmed up a bit and then became uneasy. He lay on his left and on his right, and finally fished out his mobile phone from the bedside table and sent a text message to Tang Yi.
— Wife, why are you still working overtime? What time will you be back?
The phone was quiet, and no one answered after two minutes had passed.
Gu Yanting stared at the phone for a long time and sent another — I’m warming your quilt, when will you be back? Do you want me to pick you up?
Still no one answered.
Gu Yanting suddenly became a little worried — Tang Yi wasn’t working overtime? Why didn’t he reply to the text message? Could it be that something happened?
He sat up with a start, feeling that the more he thought about it, the worse it was. He panicked and dialled Tang Yi’s phone while putting on his pants.
As he grabbed his coat and rushed outside, the phone that had been hung up three times in a row was finally picked up.
Gu Yanting was full of panic and tripped when he was leaving the bedroom, almost falling, “Tang Yi, where are you? I’m going to pick you up!”
“Pick up yourself, fucker!”
Tang Yi looked at his mobile phone with a livid face, gritting his teeth and yelling, “Gu Yanting, can you be more fucking reliable! Let me sleep!”
The person on the other side of the line suddenly fell silent. Tang Yi had insomnia tonight. He was obviously sleepy as hell, but he couldn’t fall asleep. He counted all the sheep and their children and grandchildren before he got a little bit drowsy.
Who could imagine that just after he fell asleep, Gu Yanting would start texting and calling as if he was in convulsions, all with inexplicable words.
Tang Yi wrinkled his face. The irritation of insomnia made him want to eat Gu Yanting alive, but his reason still let him have a little bit of kindness left, so he waited for the other party to explain what he meant tonight.
The dark night was exceptionally quiet; the sound of rain hitting the window was clear and cold.
Tang Yi closed his eyes and took two deep breaths to calm down his anger.
Something seemed to fall on Gu Yanting’s side, and then there was an inexplicable silence.
Tang Yi waited for a full three minutes and this time he didn’t bother to pay attention to the other party, reaching out to hang up the phone. A second before his finger was about to press down, a broken question suddenly came from the microphone.
“Tang Yi, let’s not break up, okay?”