The fact that Tang Yi was busy dating every day was a company anecdote, and there was nothing to hide from the public. Everyone forgot how the news came out in the first place and no one knew how it spread. Once Assistant Xiao Yang noticed that the situation was a little serious, so he went to consult the opinion of the person concerned to see if it was necessary to clarify.
At that time, Tang Yi was in his office reviewing documents, and in the reception area of the general manager’s office was Zhou Hao, the big boss. When Xiao Yang saw that the occasion was not right, he checked the schedule with Tang Yi and wanted to leave but was stopped by Tang Yi. Later, after Xiao Yang reported the situation truthfully, the answer came from Mr. Zhou.
At that time, Zhou Hao’s face was calm as he sat on the sofa. He let out an “oh” and nodded thoughtfully, “Your General Manager Tang is indeed in love every day.”
Xiao Yang was stunned and confused, thinking to himself: I’m an assistant, I wonder if you know this. He gave his boss a complicated look, and Tang Yi coughed a little but succumbed to Mr. Zhou’s lewd authority — Xiao Yang heard him say, “Let them be, it’s okay.”
This non-committal attitude kept Xiao Yang dazed for a while. After returning to his senses, he began to deeply blame himself for being too unqualified as an assistant — his office was next door to Tang Yi, and he could even answer phone calls for Tang Yi, but why had he never noticed anything suspicious?
Gu Yanting left the hospital and went to a nearby restaurant with Chen Xuan. Chen Xuan’s mind was simple; she was not yet implementing a project and knew very little about the core content of the company. Therefore the conversation with Gu Yanting, half public and half private, was all circling around Tang Yi.
When she finished telling this story, she tilted her head and muttered in wonder while taking small sips of soup, “How strange.”
Gu Yanting ate very little and spent most of his time listening to her, smiling a little at her words, “Not strange, your Mr. Tang has a superb ability to keep secrets.”
He and Tang Yi hadn’t graduated yet when they started dating. The two vigorous youngsters were like ripe fuzzy peaches with excess hormones secreting all over their bodies. At the beginning, both of them were very reserved, but later, after their first intimate contact late at night in front of the cinema, they couldn’t stop feasting on each other.
At that time, as the graduation was approaching, most of the students around them, excluding those who had already found jobs or planned to go to graduate school, were caught in a kind of inexplicable panic. It was mixed with many campus romances that were about to end, so the benches in the school’s grove and the corners of the gym were filled with couples anticipating the sadness of parting.
Every time Tang Yi called out to Gu Yanting to go for a walk, he was very straightforward. After calling Gu Yanting out, he would walk along the school path towards the grove, swaggering past the pairs of mandarin ducks in love. Gu Yanting had been a little affected by Lin Rui’s incident earlier, and when he went for a walk, his heart was pounding nervously in fear that others might see Tang Yi whose reputation would be tarnished as well. Who knew that while his heart was in a tizzy, Tang Yi had no scruples. When they arrived at the grove, Tang Yi’s eyes would shine brightly, and the first few times Gu Yanting was so scared he almost ran away.
But how could Tang Yi give him a chance to back out? During the daytime it was fine, but at night he would never let Gu Yanting go until he was held down on a stone bench and nibbled on enough. Gu Yanting had started watching porn movies when he was in junior middle school. He thought he had more than ten years of experience in watching the battles. He didn’t know how many times he had rehearsed the scenes of flirting and teasing in his imagination, but he always dropped the ball at every critical moment. Sometimes he even felt lucky that he was bent. Otherwise, if one was to be coached by Tang Yi like this, even a straight one would have to get crooked. When he thought of this, he was a little nervous and asked Tang Yi with a grunt, “You just, you haven’t ever liked anyone else, right?”
Tang Yi gave him a cold look.
Gu Yanting was anxious inside, but after being glared at, he changed his words, “There’s always someone who likes you, right?”
“Well, there is,” Tang Yi leaned back on the bench, put his arm around Gu Yanting and helped him straighten his collar, then said, “Luo Dong from your dormitory just gave me a love letter yesterday. I haven’t opened it yet.”
Luo Dong was the only one in Gu Yanting’s dormitory who was from the sports department, playing basketball and skateboarding, and his street dance performance was indispensable for big occasions such as the New Year’s Day party. Usually the two departments had different courses, and Luo Dong was too busy putting on a show, so his relationship with Gu Yanting and the others was just that.
Gu Yanting was shocked at hearing this and turned around to stare at Tang Yi, “How come I didn’t know?!”
Tang Yi looked at him with amusement, “How would you know? If I didn’t even have that ability, would you still be able to stay in your dormitory safely?”
Gu Yanting: “……”
It was one thing for him to be affected by what happened to Lin Rui and it was another thing for him to really roll around with a man. If people knew about their relationship, indeed, it would be hardly possible to stay in the dormitory, let alone to stay comfortably.
Gu Yanting didn’t like the feeling of being excluded and isolated, but he couldn’t hold back. That night, halfway through his sleep, when Luo Dong came back from a party, he jumped off the top bunk and went at him.
The other guys in the dorm were taken aback, and Gu Yanting, who went crazy inexplicably, caught Luo Dong and beat him up. Luo Dong, who was a sportsman himself and usually liked to practise MMA to facilitate his pretences, reacted and quickly fought back. When the others pulled them apart, they were intentionally biassed and only pulled Luo Dong back, shouting “We are all brothers, let’s talk properly”, so, in fact, Gu Yanting kicked him a few more times before being pulled away.
Fat Sod was smart and tried to smooth out the episode. He smiled at Luo Dong and said that Gu Yanting had had too much to drink, while giving Gu Yanting a wink. Now that he thought about it, Fat Sod must have guessed there was something behind Gu Yanting’s abnormality and deliberately helped him deal with it.
Unfortunately, Gu Yanting was clueless. His eyes red and he yelled at Luo Dong like an ape, “Stay the fuck away from Tang Yi, you idiot! I won’t spare you if you dare to mess with him again!”
Luo Dong’s nose was bleeding and his eyes were spewing fire, but he was too angry to say anything.
The people in the dormitory couldn’t figure out what was going on, and Skinny Monkey couldn’t help but say something in Luo Dong’s defence. “Boss, did you misunderstand something? I even saw Luo Dong invite Tang Yi to dinner the other day, how could he attack Tang Yi?”
“That’s my wife! He invited him, my ass!” When Gu Yanting heard it, he exploded even more and roared without thinking.
There was a collective silence in the dormitory, and Luo Dong froze. Well, Lin Rui played around, and there were speculations, but the person concerned had never been honest enough to admit it.
This kind of thing was like a transparent fig leaf. Obviously everyone could see everything, but as long as the leaf was still there, they could pretend to be polite to each other, and even the people who noticed something would have a vague sense of shame of prying into someone’s privacy.
But when the fig leaf was pulled away, underneath was naked rascality.
After Gu Yanting finished yelling, he knew that something was wrong. His first reaction was that it was bad and he couldn’t ruin Tang Yi’s reputation. So he swallowed, and lied very unskillfully, “I’m chasing, chasing, I haven’t caught up yet.”
Fortunately, it was late at night and the noise didn’t alert the other dormitory students. Taking into account the fact that Gu Yanting was usually a righteous man, and that there was Fat Sod on his side, everyone finally went back to sleep with their own thoughts. The more Gu Yanting thought about it in the middle of the night, the more he felt that he had done something stupid, so he sent a text message to Tang Yi.
“I seem to have done something wrong.”
“I beat up Luo Dong, and I told the dormitory that you were my wife.”
“What should I do? Why don’t I tell them tomorrow morning that I was sleepwalking?”
“You’re not going to be mad, are you?”
He finished texting and looked at the time. At half past one in the middle of the night, Tang Yi must have been deep asleep. Who knew that after a while, the phone buzzed twice, and Tang Yi came back with one word, “Idiot.”
Afterwards, the attitude of the people in the dormitory was indeed a bit subtle. When Tang Yi came to him again, he smiled and entered the room, patted Gu Yanting’s shocked face and said, “Pack up and go? I have rented a good place.”
If Tang Yi wanted to keep a secret, he could indeed keep it a secret and no one would be able to guess a thing. But if he really wanted to throw caution to the wind, no one could stop him.
Gu Yanting finished the meal with mixed feelings, his heart in a mess.
When Tang Yi first said he was breaking up, he thought that Tang Yi was most annoyed by pestering people and that he would just wait until Tang Yi’s anger subsided.
When he heard on the phone that Tang Yi had a new partner, he thought, “I hate Tang Yi, we will never see each other again until we die of old age.”
He could never wish Tang Yi to live a better life after leaving him, although he didn’t want him to be miserable either. This kind of a very contradictory mood made him unable to let go for nearly a year. Later, during the New Year, he was out of town. On New Year’s Eve he called home. Mom Gu, teary-eyed, worried about him, saying: how cruel you are, you are so far away, how lonely you are during the New Year…
Somehow, Gu Yanting thought of Tang Yi at that time.
He suddenly began to understand why returning to T City early during New Year holidays, he would always run into Tang Yi walking around the entrance of the community.
When colleagues around him were booking tickets to go home, or when the TV was packed with the Spring Festival and the motorbike army was returning to their hometowns across the province, everyone rushed to the place called home with a smile on their face. But Tang Yi didn’t.
Their house in T City was Tang Yi’s place of residence. Only when Gu Yanting returned there could it be called home. So Tang Yi was usually strong and domineering, but when the New Year’s bells rang, it was still hard to avoid waiting for Gu Yanting to come back.
On the night of New Year’s Eve, Gu Yanting smoked a whole pack of cigarettes. It was the first time since he had quit smoking and he thought a lot, shrouded by the smoke. He began to wonder if Tang Yi would be better off without him.
Tang Yi’s last words were indeed a knife stuck in his heart. Gu Yanting felt pain, but he could bear it.
But that scene in front of the hospital at the beginning, he could do nothing to get over it. Tang Yi’s eyes were full of misery and fear, and every breath he took was filled with disappointment and sadness – “You haven’t thought about it, have you? If I was also in the bus, badly injured and in a critical state, I might also have ended up here. There wouldn’t be someone to sign for a surgery.”
After Tang Yi left that night, Gu Yanting didn’t know how long it had been before he found Lin Rui. Lin Rui had already warned the hospital, obviously knowing he would come to visit. When he entered the ward, Lin Rui was huddled on the hospital bed, his thin hospital gown making him look a little frail and pitiful.
Gu Yanting stood at the door of the ward, his mind reverberating with the words “badly injured and in a critical state, wouldn’t be someone to sign”. He started to be afraid, and when he looked at Lin Rui, who had not yet completely calmed down, he suddenly thought: what if it was Tang Yi.
In case it was Tang Yi…
Gu Yanting went into full self-denial mode for the first time ever. This included a year of working eighty hours a week continuously.
His career was legendary. He overcame his stinky stubbornness, he changed his low IQ and his habit of speaking without thinking, and he showed an extraordinary investment instinct by chance. He was finally starting to get the hang of it, but he couldn’t get past the hurdle in his heart.
He felt he had wronged Tang Yi — in what could have been a life-or-death situation, he had given Tang Yi an utter and complete isolation.
In the past two years, Gu Yanting’s time had been devoted to his work, and his life became much less dull and tasteless in comparison. Every late night, all the fragments he could recall, whether they were of hardship, sorrow or affection, couldn’t be separated from the figure of the other man.
He travelled all over the country on business trips, passing by this small northern city several times by plane or train, but he could only look at it from a distance.
The whole country is the road to Tongguan. Looking at the western capital, I am hesitant(1).
Is Tang Yi in love?
Is that man good to him?
Would it be better if I didn’t show up?
Did Tang Yi occasionally, just occasionally, ever think of him?
Gu Yanting lowered his eyes, feeling that in addition to earning a little more money in the past two years, he still hadn’t grown up — he shouldn’t have come back. But when he came back, he didn’t want to leave.
Tang Yi received a call from Zhou Hao in the afternoon. The latter was still two days away from finishing his business in C City. Tang Yi heard a faint tiredness in this phone call and said with a smile, “Mr. Zhou shouldn’t work too hard. There’s a high incidence of colds these days, so take care not to catch a cold.”
The two of them had been together for more than two years, and Tang Yi’s attitude was more like a friend. The title also remained the same Mr. Zhou. Zhou Hao didn’t mind hearing this and smiled, “It’s okay, how’s your side?”
“Pretty good, but the company just had a new order,” Tang Yi said after a pause, “The other party’s representative is… Gu Yanting.”
Zhou Hao was silent for a moment, and Tang Yi waited for a while, rubbing his brow, “I haven’t talked to you about him because there’s really nothing to talk about. You should already know everything you want to know. I’ve just gotten the news that he’s back this time…”
“It’s okay,” Zhou Hao interrupted him and said after a pause, “you don’t need to be nervous.”
Tang Yi was a man who acted the more relaxed the more stressed he was. No matter what the occasion was, he would rarely be so nervous that he was nearly incoherent. This was the first time for such a gaffe, so he slowly took two breaths and said to Zhou Hao, “I’m sorry.”
Zhou Hao: “…It’s okay.”
Tang Yi: “I…”
“It’s nothing, Tang Yi.” Zhou Hao smiled, “I said, we’ll part if it doesn’t work. However, you always have to give me a trial period.”
He really didn’t seem to mind anything, blocking Tang Yi’s next words and saying with a smile, “Are you free in the next two days? Arrange a time to come to my house, you haven’t been here yet.”
- From “The Goats on the Hillside – A Nostalgic Journey to the Tongguan Pass”, a poem by Zhang Yanhao