What a beautiful chapter! I loved translating the bit about A Chinese Odyssey, so touching. Gotta hand it to the author for how each of the details are weaved into the novel so beautifully…
一厘米的阳光， 第六章： 我的小心思
She was thus engulfed with guilt, even when she had already laid in her own bed in the evening, she was still pondering, she should or should she not make up to him with a birthday present? But what he needed, she herself did not know. On waking up the next day, eldest uncle and eldest aunt-in-law, two uncles [father’s younger brother] along with each of their wives came for a visit at grandfather’s house as usual, but even though they did not live very far away, all left even before having lunch.
Ji Yi herself took out the leftover rice from the refrigerator, dug up two spoons of luncheon meat, prepared two pieces of vegetables, cracked an egg, and made herself a plate of fried rice, throwing in chopped scallion and cilantro along before plating. When Ji family’s food was plated, movie channel also happened to start airing a complete movie.
She carried the plate and walked over, taking in a montage that seemed very much like something she had seen before, Stephen Chow holding up a copper mirror, looking at his monkey form face…… she suddenly realized, recalling that it was the ending of the movie from many years ago…… so this is A Chinese Odyssey 2? She had heard too many classmates talked about it, but had never caught it on television.
When those classic lines materialized into a scene, she unexpectedly found that she was not touched by the “Ten thousand years” line by Stephen Chow , but instead committed to memory Zixia fairy’s words when she let her thoughts run wild thinking about her lover: “The person in my mind shall be a peerless hero……”
She was indescribably stirred, up until the end, up until Zixia’s death she still lingered on that sentence repeatedly; Ji Yi was again deeply affected especially by that final sentence:
“I guessed correctly the beginning, but did not the ending.”
She finished the movie, only to discover that the fried rice in front of her had turned cold, could only be put back into the pot and heated up again one more time.
A day passed by very quickly, besides eating was working on practice problems; it was almost eight o’clock in the evening, when it could be said that she had finished all of the weekend homework. When she was tidying up the desk under the light of the lamp, she suddenly recalled last night, that very short walk along the city moat……
“Xixi, your phone.” Grandfather called her.
She ran to the living room, picking up the receiver.
“Finished the homework?” It was Ji Chengyang’s voice.
She was taken aback, “Ji……”
“It’s me,” he again confirmed, “Finished?”
“Um.” She clutched the receiver, lightly breathing.
He said: “Then come down now, come find me at the old parking lot.”
The phone was hung up just like that.
She was suddenly in a flurry.
It had always been that no one would paid attention even if she went out in the evening, it’s really very normal. But to be instructed like that by him, she suddenly had a thief’s guilty conscience, only thinking that he had told her to go down, also to not let herself be seen by anyone, very quickly she took out and changed into her favorite skirt and short-sleeve top, took the key, ran out of the door.
There were familiar uncles and aunts who happened to be returning from a walk, she gave greetings as she passed by, running to the old bus stop for the compound’s internal buses. Because it was switched over to the new bus stop, the place actually remained only in name, there were not be many people passing by.
That black car of Ji Chengyang’s was just parked in the completely dark spot. Seemingly to have noticed her, the car’s light was turned on.
Ji Yi ran over, pressing her chest as she panted, the door of the passenger’s seat was already opened. The moment the door was open, she lifted up her head, seeing him with his hand placed over the the steering wheel, looking at her panting short breaths……
She lowered her head, trying hard to remind herself: definitely mustn’t blush, definitely mustn’t, classmate Ji Yi.
Just like that she got on the car.
“Where are we going?” Ji Yi looked at the direction the car was heading, was not towards outside the compound.
“The field drilling ground.”
“Ah?” Ji Yi was surprised.
Going there for what…… Over there in the evening apart from a few new soldiers keeping guard, even lamps were so few.
Outside the drilling ground was the undulating hills and shrubbery, there were not any actual enclosure.
When they had driven to a hundred meter in front of the drilling ground’s gate, a soldier walked out, using light to flash once, seeing that Ji Chengyang’s car’s license plate was the compound’s internal number, was clearly much less agitated. But in the middle of the night, without any prior notice given, to have a car suddenly come by the place, was still rather uncommon.
The new solider seeing the number only knew it was compound’s internal number, and was about to stop and inquire according to standard protocol just when an old solider recognized that the number belonged to which of the families and very conscientiously gave way, only asking whether they would like the lights.
Ji Chengyang surprisingly did not felt it was that necessary, only drove on inside.
Driving past flaming torch, light shooting weapons and poison detection drilling ground, slowly stopping at where the field of vision was most open, no border to be seen in the darkness. Ji Chengyang said to Ji Yi: “Come, switch seats with me.”
“Switch seats?” For what?
“I’ll teach you to drive.” His words were concise.
The confusion along the whole journey, finally resolved.
She looked on as he got off the car, walked over to her side, opened the door, finally believing this surprise.
And so under Ji Chengyang’s supervision, she really sat on the driver’s seat, on the steering wheel clutched in her hands still remained his warmth. Ji Chengyang seemed very patient, teaching very thoroughly; finally seeing her so anxious, fingers gripping the steering wheel so tightly, they had gotten pale, finally laughed, “Just think of it as if you were driving a toy car, there aren’t anyone here, it’s okay.”
Not only that there was not anyone, there was not even any light.
Apart from the car’s light, there was only moonlight casting a few outlines near and far.
The night was too dark, the surrounding was so quiet it was terrifying; were it not for him sitting beside her, she would have broken her guts out of terror.
However, he seemed to really understood what this first time student was most scared of, the drilling ground that was completely devoid of any obstacles, without anyone onlooking examining, without anyone making judgements, without any pedestrians confusing you, only one person taking a good care of everything for you, to play to your heart’s content.
He then told her to lightly step on the pedal, to familiarize herself with the feeling, then ignited the engine, saying to her: “Just drive.”
She clutched the steering wheel tightly, her large black eyes only stared in front, actually taking this “large scale toy” and drive it.
“Still don’t need to stop? Still don’t need to take a turn?”
The car’s light cast on the path in front, any farther than this could no longer be seen clearly.
She was worried and anxious; he did not take any notice, “It’s okay, based on the speed you are going right now, there are still ten more minutes before we reach the end.”
It was the weather in May, yet she was so anxious that she sweated.
And so when they reached the end, when he said “make a turn”, she successfully stopped the engine.
Ji Chengyang laughed, “Your driving is not bad.”
After he was finished the sentence, he just opened the door and got out of the car, standing in front of the wide expanse of shrubbery, enjoying the breeze.
This is not bad? Even managed to stop the engine.
The side of her face was pressed on the steering wheel, breathing out a long breath, looking at his back. Black top and long outdoor pants, one monotone color, blending his whole person into the darkness.
Wind blowing through the shrubbery, making rustling sound, he turned his body, she abruptly shut her eyes, pretending to sleep. Shortly after hearing the sound of the car’s door opening, Ji Chengyang asked her: “Tired already?”
She stopped pretending, slowly opening her eyes, “A little sleepy now.”
It was almost ten o’clock when they returned. The car took the same directly was when they came, driving out of the drilling ground, with their back towards those soldiers’ salute, the whole drive back was along the main road. He felt like smoking, opened the car window. The warm night breeze constantly blew in, blowing away the sweat on her face. She leaned there, out of the corner of her eyes could see the speck of light on the cigarette in his hand.
He suddenly said, “Is there still anything you have always wanted to do, but did not have anyone to do it with?”
“Things I want to do? Let me think about it……” She leaned on the back of the seat on her side, looking at his profile, “I’ll just tell you when I have thought of them.”
There was someone who would spend his time with her to do things she wanted to do; moreover, this someone, from then until now, was just one person. From when she was ten years old, helped her completed her wish of sitting proudly inside the compound’s theatre and watch a movie that was to her liking, later, watched snow with her up on the plateau. There are still even much more, rescuing a dying rabbit for her, even using drinking glass to make a rainbow for her……
Because she received very little, everything was precious.
Ji Chengyang smiled, placing his arm on the opened car window as he drove, flicking off the long strand of cigarette ash.
A straight road, no cars or passerby all along the way, there were only the street lamps on two sides, as if there would not be an end. In reality, she knew, when the end of the road was reached, after taking a few turns would be the finish.
There, she would have to say good night to him.
When they reached the building, half of the street lamps were turned off at about the same time.
Ji Chengyang was behind the intersection, seeing her back disappeared into the building’s door, he finally threw the cigarette into the bin.
“Many years back when I met Xixi, I was reminded of Lolita,” the words Wang Haoran said to him during the day floated into his mind, “Don’t look at me like that, I am not that perverted. I just felt that whenever I meet her, I always feel like spoiling her, that kind of feeling where a man wants to spoil a woman……”
Lolita, last century’s taboo subject that even European people did not dare to publish nonchalantly.
He had read that 1995 edition, Nabokov’s most famous novel. Nabokov was a world famous author, although in the Mainland his fame could not be compared to Milan Kundera, still, the main character created by him, “Lolita” was not unbeknownst to anyone. Wang Haoran had chosen a lousy choice of words, Lolita this tale of novelty-seeking, sexual passion, was not fit to use to describe Ji Yi.
Ji Chengyang instead thought of another movie. Ji Yi was very much like a small minor character in it, completely unadorned, yet possessed a small face that left a lasting impression on others. Similarly precocious, independent, seemingly frail. Just that that minor character was cold and rebellious, while she, only had warmth that affected others.
- “Ten thousand years” was a line said by Stephen Chow’s character to Zixia fairy , the female lead character in A Chinese Odyssey 2:
曾经，有一份真诚的爱情放在我面前， 我没有珍惜， 等到我失去的时候才后悔莫及， 人世间最痛苦的事莫过于此…… 如果上天能够给我一个再来一次的机会， 我会对那个女孩子说三个字： “我爱你。” 如果非要在这份爱上加上一个期限， 我希望是……一万年！
“Once, there was a sincere love placed before me, but I did not treasure it, only when I had lost it did I regret it beyond anything else, in the world of men, there is no pain greater than this…… If the Heavens would give me one more chance, I would say three words to that women: “I love you.” If I had to put a time limit to this love, I hope it would be…… ten thousand years!”
See also Notes from Chapter 1 about the movie A Chinese Odyssey https://pprocrastination.wordpress.com/2016/01/31/the-healing-sunshine-chapter-two-hazy-memories/
2. “I predicted the beginning correctly…”
This is a line said by Zixia fairy, the whole line is:
“The person in my mind shall be a peerless hero, one day, he will ride on seven-color cloud to take my hand [in marriage], I predicted correctly the beginning, but I did not thought of this ending……”