Huffington Post)在2014年5月16日发布的一篇博文,原文题目为“This Is Why
You Ignore Everybody On The Subway — And Why You

李琳 译


It is October now. Some gentle wind has breezed into Nanjing. The
summer’s heat can still be felt. Wandering by the Xuanwu Lake, My heart
is eased by the tender night, with its cool moonlight floating on the
quiet lake. Burying myself in all of this, I am waiting for the train
that will take me home. Do not know from when beginning, I became
sensitive and eager to flee and this feeling is swelling in my heart day
after day.

  1. signal 2. much3. plugged 4.message 5. behind 6. misinterpreted 7.
judged 8. unfamiliar 9. anxious 10. turn11. dangerous 12. hurt 13.
conversation 14. passengers 15. predict 16. ride 17.went through 18. in
fact 19. since  20.simple

Now, the train is approaching slowly from Shanghai. In its short stay in
Nanjing, I finally succeed shoving in the crowded compartment. Another
unbearable night. Everywhere before my eyes are people’s heads. There
seems no hope for a little movement. Living in this era, except for a
peaceful world, nothing can be harder than access to a berth ticket that
allows you to speed along the Beijing-Shanghai line. Carried by the
stream of people, I could move only a little step at once. Someone’s arm
is sticking closely on my chest, somewhere in the corner is sending out
stinking fishy smell, and occasional quarreling and babies’ crying keep
hovering beside my ears. It seems as if I was lost in a messy dream
created by a poor sleeper. Finally reaching my seat, I am not a bit
surprised that it has been already occupied by a stranger, a very common
stranger, like anyone else in the train. “I am so sorry, but…” before I
finish my words, he stands up at once, leaving with hands folding in his
arms. I cast a short glance at the luggage rack overhead. The luggage is
so terribly crushed together that I am sure another leaf would break the
rack down. Holding my backpack, I sit down in no time. Surrounded by the
annoying and endless noise, my mind drops into a complete blank. 


Before I could settle down, the trainman begins to yell. No one knows or
even pays a little attention to what he has said. As the door is closed,
a deep boom penetrates the crowed throng. Trembling slightly as pulled
by the locomotive, the train begins to move. Finally, I think. The train
progressed rather slowly. The light outside is getting dimmer. The
pitch-dark night is encroaching on each segment of the train. I put on
my earphone, and familiar melody flows into my brain. Closing my eyes
and adjusting my body in a comfortable condition, I try to seek for a
moment of peace.

  While the subway’s arrival may be ambiguous, one thing about
yourcommute is certain: No one wants to talk to each other. In our
contemporaryculture, the prospect of communicating with — or even
looking at — a strangeris virtually unbearable. Everyone around us
seems to agree by the way theyfiddle with their phones, even without a
signal underground。

The song is over, and the train has driven out of the city at a much
higher speed. Regular sounds are made as wheels crash with railway
joints. I open my eyes, which are instantly tortured by the glaring
lamp, and close the mp3. As I look outside, a young girl’s face emerges
on the window. I stare at her in the window for a little while, then,
shoot my eyes onto her. She is still immersed in the outside world,
without any knowledge of her intruding a stranger’s sight. Girls like
this one can be seen everywhere. Only she, herself, is clear how life is
entwined with joy and sorrow. She wears a long blackish-green dress, a
black knitted shirt, a pair of black-rimmed glasses and waterfall-like
hair pouring down behind. Around her fair neck, a delicate golden
necklace is shimmering softly. She leans against the window, cuddling
slightly, focusing her cold eyes on one certain place outside. Is there
anything attractive of the monotonous night? Perhaps somewhere out is a
good place to chew over one’s most inner heart. Others’ mental world is
such a mystery for me, just like the endless night. For fear of
embarrassment, I close eyes and turn on the music again, releasing my
whole weight onto the chair.

  It’s a sad reality — our desire to avoid interacting with
otherhuman beings — because there’s much to be gained from talking to
the strangerstanding by you. But you wouldn’t know it, plugged into your
phone. Thisuniversal armor sends the message: “Please don’t approach

The light outside comes and goes, so does each city along the journey.
Unwittingly, Nanjing has been left behind. My mind is drifting casually
amidst the stifling compartment as well as my unclear memory when I
suddenly catch sight of a young boy sitting in front of me. Boys like
this one can be seen everywhere, but each one has his own story. I
cannot but watch him stealthily. He wears a green plaid shirt, a gray
short-sleeve inside, and a pair of handsome jeans, with a black backpack
before his chest. He sits still, completely soaking himself in the
music, just like a wood carving. He probably has no idea that he has
been reflected in a girl’s eyes for an instant, a brief but beautiful
instant. Only after a little while, I have to reset my eyes somewhere
else, for fear of eye contact with him.

  What is it that makes us feel we need to hide behind our screens?

Unaware how long I have been wedged here, my body does not ache at all.
It is likely that the surroundings are more prone to be overlooked while
one is caught in the past. All the present stuff flits away, leaving no
meaningful impression. What a terrible night! Both the suffocating
compartment and the grievous bygones keep stirring in my mind. I turn on
the cell phone, only to find nothing new. It is twenty-two fifteen and
there is still a long way to Zhengzhou. Counting how many hours left, I
even feel the tedious journey cannot be withstood any more the next
moment. Boredom is more likely to call up bad memories. Even now, it is
still hard to believe today’s fiasco in the interview of my ideal
university and the break-up call from ex-boyfriend several days ago. In
the desperate pursuit for love and school attainment, my relentless pay
turns out a monodrama with no audience. The painstaking effort has been
recognized by no one else but only me. On the subway to the train
station, tears kept flooding out of control, which might have been
pitied by other passengers nearby. At thinking of this, the thread of
thought is abruptly interrupted by a loud crying from a peddler. A woman
in a uniform pushes an iron wheelbarrow, squeezing into the aisle, which
stirs up a fit of complaint and movement. She keeps apologizing for the
disturbance while yelling out her quite fluent lines. I am kind of
amused by the sudden incident. As I turn around, my eyes happen to meet

  One answer is fear, according to Jon Wortmann, executive mentalcoach
and author of “Hijacked by Your Brain: How to Free Yourself WhenStress
Takes Over.” We fear rejection, or that our innocent socialadvances will
be misinterpreted as “creepy,” he told The HuffingtonPost. We fear we’ll
be judged. We fear we’ll be disruptive。

I wonder if anything in the wheelbarrow deserves a purchase. But nothing
interests me after a careful search. I turn to the window again,
unexpectedly to run across the girl’s eyes. In the short eye contact,
which is a bit embarrassing, I say nothing, neither does the girl. Yet
the one or two seconds just now seem to have already blossomed into a
sweet fairy tale. Far away out of the train, the moon sheds her liquid
light silently over the fields on both sides of the railway, the highway
beyond the fields extends with the streaking train, and the warm yellow
light guides the hurtling cars on the highway forward. It occurs to me
that in high school, below the balcony of the dormitory, there was also
a road like this one, lightened by the same mild light. For every lonely
night, I have dreamt more than once of driving a car under the
mysterious firmament with my loving girl beside, to explore the
vanishing street, all the way to the deepest ending. Completely free as
I am in the campus of university now, that night and that girl have
never appeared. I come to end lost in the process of seeking and fail to
get my bearings. Instead of being free, I would rather say I have been
imprisoned by a larger cage and trapped by some invisible things. Even
worse, those old pals that have been around could not be found anywhere.
Does the girl in the window cherish the same experience as mine? Has she
ever been forgotten by the world like me? Why cannot I see any hope
sparkling in her eyes? I ask myself. The woman and her voice fade away
with her wheelbarrow, leaving the train peaceful again. I cast a
fleeting glance at her—she has fallen asleep, curling up in the corner.
I take Kafka on the Shore out and read carefully, trying to be a
consolation to myself in the undesirable situation.

  Strangers are inherently unfamiliar to us, so we are more likely
tofeel anxious when communicating with them compared with our friends
andacquaintances. To avoid this anxiety, we turn to our phones.
“Phonesbecome our security blanket,” Wortmann says. “They are our
happyglasses that protect us from what we perceive is going to be

I still cannot fall asleep after the fifth attempt. Once I close my
eyes, the past images run though my mind to and fro, like a commonplace
film played again and again. Another autumn, and it is late into the
night, but why is the compartment made so chilly? I wrap myself up in my
thin sweater, hugging myself more closely. Is there anyone who can ask
to turn the air conditioner down? I guess it may not be that easy for
the boy opposite to feel cold. That is really not bad. Somehow, I seem
to be kind of uplifted by some firmness glistening in the boy’s eyes
just during the short eye contact with him. But that might be another
wishful thinking on my part. To think that my life gets so wretched that
I should have to seek for solace from a stranger. If I confess all my
feelings to him, I would be definitely considered as insane. But frankly
speaking, I even refuse to remove my eyes from his face from now on,
perhaps out of curiosity, or boredom, or both. Is there anything more
interesting than appreciating a dull boy’s face on such a dreary night?
I am now somewhat amused by my curiosity. As I am waiting for a proper
time to strike up a conversation with him, a clear ring comes from my
bag after a long silence. The registration system of Shandong University
must have been opened. Cheer up, girl! Application for a good university
can never be easy. 

  But once we rip off the bandaid, tuck our smartphones in our
pocketsand look up, it doesn’t hurt so bad. In one 2011 experiment,
behavioralscientists Nicholas Epley and Juliana Schroeder asked
commuters to do theunthinkable: Start a conversation. The duo had
Chicago train commuters talk totheir fellow passengers. “When Dr. Epley
and Ms. Schroeder asked otherpeople in the same train station to predict
how they would feel after talkingto a stranger, the commuters thought
their ride would be more pleasant if theysat on their own,” the New York
Times summarizes. Though the participantsdidn’t expect a positive
experience, after they went through with theexperiment, “not a single
person reported having been snubbed.”

The train stops at a small station. The yelling of the trainman rises
again. This time I get his words. The middle-aged man announces with his
typical dialect that we will stay here for half an hour. The passageway
is jammed with passengers and a man sleeping beside me on the floor
pillows my lap now and then. Lucky as I am to have a seat, it is not
comfortable at all. I might as well get off to take a walk. Someone
standing behind in the aisle moves over to my side and smiles his
apology embarrassedly, “would you please have me get down my luggage.” I
say yes and make way for him. Then he hurries off with his heavy bags
after extending thanks. Now a patch of room is available for my
backpack, which has been a big burden for me all the way. I put it onto
the rack, noticing that the girl is smiling while talking on the phone,
not a bit indifferent but a little more lovely. Making sure of the
valuables with me, I leave from my seat. While passing though the aisle,
I wonder if I should stay to hear what the girl is saying. Her words may
be more inviting than an aimless walk. The door is not far, but it takes
me rather long before getting there. Indeed, too many people are in my
way, but for another, I am a little attracted by the girl’s talk. The
noise is quite a torment for my ears, but one thing I can be sure of is
that she is also a university student of my age and is preparing for a
postgraduate school

  In fact, these commutes were reportedly more enjoyable compared
withthose sans communication, which makes absolute sense, since human
beings thriveoff of social connections. It’s that simple: Talking to
strangers can make youfeel connected. The train ride is a fortuity for
social connection — “thestuff of life,” Wortmann says. Even seemingly
trivial interactions canboost mood and increase the sense of belonging.
A study similar in hypothesisto Eply and Schroder’s published in Social
Psychological & PersonalityScience asked participants to smile, make eye
contact and chat with theircashier. Those who engaged with the cashier
experienced better moods — andeven reported a better shopping
experience than those who avoided superfluousconversation。(文都供稿)

The station is a little shabby, and anyone else can hardly be seen
except some passengers on the platform in twos and threes. It is deep
night now. The air gets cooler as the train goes up north. I button my
shirt to the top one to keep warm. Up in the sky, stars are unexpectedly
studded here and there. I stroll near the door, stretch a little bit and
light a cigarette. The incense of nicotine brings me a moment of peace
as it permeates my lungs. Should I talk to the girl? Looking at her
through the window, I ask myself. She is still talking on the phone. I
think over and over while hesitating again and again, but fail to get an
answer. The nearby passengers chat away with their unique dialect. The
plate which indicates Shanghai to Zhengzhou is covered with a fine layer
of dews. As I touch it with fingers, a fit of chill penetrates my whole
body, giving my mind immediate refreshment. The girl in the window has
put down the phone and is looking around carelessly while yawning and
stretching. Maybe she is also suffering from the night, isn’t she? Maybe
she is eager for a relaxing talk to pass the time. Well, why not
initiate the conversation with this question—are you applying for a
postgraduate school? Thinking of this, I am a little bit relieved as if
something tangled in my brain is untied all at once. It appears that
complying with the inner sound of one’s heart is really a pleasant

Hanging up the phone, I am reassured by the encouraging words from the
other side of the phone and my anxious nerve calms down to some degree.
It is eleven fifty-five, only several minutes left before the ending of
the terrible day. Out of the window, the sight has stopped some time
again. So many stopovers, what is the distinctive point of the “express”
train? If only the train could hurtle all the way to Zhengzhou. After
turning back, the boy opposite has changed to another person. Where is
he? Has he arrived and got off? Aware that he has gone never to appear
again, I feel some loss somehow. Honestly speaking, I really wish to
have someone like him with such firm eyes to travel along, even if there
is only now-and-then wordless eye contact between us. I pretend to do
some stretch to broaden my horizon and hope to catch his figure
somewhere by good luck, but he seems to have left forever. Apparently,
the beautiful word “luck” never applies to me. I give a silent sigh, and
press myself again onto the window. Turning on the phone and sliding my
thumb aimlessly on the screen, I find nothing useful to read. Social
software always loses its appeal when the one using it is idling away
his time. If only East China Normal University had given me the offer.
Then the cold and unbearable night, what of it? Feeling gently the
necklace that has been with me for three years, I close my eyes slowly.
Nearly unconsciously dropping into another world, I feel a slight
movement beside me. Slitting my eyes sideways, I am instantly
exhilarated. It’s him! 

After quite a few passengers getting off to have some relaxation, the
compartment looks spacious now. I return on the train, only to find my
seat have been occupied by some other one. Instead of a polite claim, I
would rather he sat there for the present, or even all the way to the
destination. Since the seat beside the girl is vacant, now I am
justified to sit with her. But faced with such a good chance, I fall
into unnormal timidity. What is my real intention? I have been
accustomed to loneliness, which has been clearly written in my diary,
haven’t I? Would this brusque start of talk back the girl? I am not
given too much time to hesitate before being pushed more inside to the
girl’s place by the ones behind. Finally I make up my mind to sit down.
Much to my surprise, I catch a bit of delighted amazement gleaming in
her eyes.

“Are you preparing for the entrance exam for a postgraduate school?”

“No, but a postgraduate recommendation.”

“A postgraduate recommendation?”

“Yep, I am applying for a postgraduate school.”

“Your schoolwork must be very good.”

“I’m placed second in our school.”

The train is started again. The owner of the seat comes back, and I
return to mine. What a pragmatic girl! The pragmatic dialogue, the
pragmatic smile, perhaps her life is also pragmatic. Otherwise how can
she be one of the top students all through her college years. To be
pragmatic, isn’t that exactly what I am short of? Our conversation is on
and off, so is our eye contact. But my thirst for the leisurely
communication has never ceased. I begin to be infatuated with her voice,
her serious expression as well as her heart-melting laugh. Outside, the
highway cannot be seen any more, and the moon hides behind the black
clouds. Unknowingly, it begins to drizzle. Sitting here shrouded by the
curtain of night, I am thinking over for another topic. Which kind of
synthesizer do you think is more appropriate for the stage keyboard,
Roland’s, or KORG’s? Ah, how silly to talk like this!

“And you? Are you a college student as well?”

“Yep, in Ningbo University, majoring in Mechanical Engineering.”

“Mechanical Engineering? It sounds really difficult. There must be
numerous formulas and a strict standard for math.” 

“Absolutely right. And what’s your major?”


“Reading and writing and reciting, you must have a lot to do every day.”

“Of course, but I love English, so it’s not that painful.”

“Then what’s your direction for your master’s degree?”


He nods silently, as if lost in a deep meditation, wondering what kind
of research translation is on earth.

It is spitting outside. The rain must be cool even in October. Imagining
being tapped by the chilly sprinkles out there, I feel even colder.
Isn’t the trainman in short sleeves cold at all? If he is selfish enough
to say, “Hey, I’m so cold that I’m going to turn down the air
conditioner.” Perhaps none would complain. Most passengers have fallen
asleep in all kinds of postures, wrapping themselves with whatever can
be used—coats, blankets, or even newspapers, which may look strange, but
so warm. I now regret extremely having not followed mother’s words,
having thought only a couple of days in Shanghai has no need of too much
clothes. The boy must also feel cold now, his sleeves pulled down and
his shirt buttoned to the top one. I am so silly to hope to be offered
his shirt by him.

“That I came to Shanghai this time is for the interview of East China
Normal University, the result of which was thought absolutely all
right…” the girl casts a glance at me, breaking the silence as if to
avoid the wordless embarrassment between us. She shakes her head and
frowns slightly, as if knocked badly by something afflicting.

“Haven’t you been admitted?”

“No, and I don’t know how it came about. I might have been too nervous
then and haven’t answered the questions well”

“Is there any other chance left?”

“Once I arrive tomorrow morning, my parents will be waiting there. We
will hurry to Jinan in the afternoon for the interview of Shandong
University the next day.”

“Is Shandong University within your grasp?”

“I’m not that confident now, but compared with East China Normal
University, this school is not that challenging.”

The girl pauses a little while and continues, “haven’t you noticed my
red and swollen eyes?”

I approach closer to her, look into her eyes and then check my watch. It
is one o’clock already. 

“Because of staying up late?”

The girl smiles, “partly out of this, but more because I have cried all
the way since departing from Shanghai.”     

“Cried all the way?” I am a little confused.

“On the subway to the station, tears were running out of control.”

“It’s no small blow to you.”

Hearing his words, I become uncertain now. East China Normal University
is my ideal school, but there is no need to be so heart-renting, for I
am clear that this school is not the final choice.

“Maybe. Something that you feel sure to obtain suddenly disappears. The
disappointment is not that simple as that brought about by the rejection
of an ideal school. It seems like that something you have been
accustomed to leaves you unexpectedly, making you helpless, or even at a

“Um… I have had this feeling before, or have been experiencing it all
the time. But, it’s not a big deal. Just seize your opportunity at

The girl shakes her head slightly, as if forced to accept something
unacceptable. With her chin in one hand, she puts another on the table.
We stop saying anything and gaze at each other. Now I can feel that the
distance between us is being shortened.

“I have made a great effort for East China Normal University, which was
thought to ensure my admission. However, everything turns out a

“Life cannot be anticipated. Most of the time, things will not go as
expected. You have to learn to get used to that.”

He comments in a moderate manner. At some point, something muffled in
the heart seems to vanish in a flash, which makes me even wonder what is
the point of my anguish just now. However, I don’t want to tell him “I
feel much better as you tell me this.” I hope to hear more comforting
words from him as well as his tone of steadiness and power. As chatting
with him, I am given more chances to appreciate his assuring eyes.
However, am I a little greedy and mean to think like this? But luckily,
he might be unaware. Besides, is there anything wrong with the
requirement for some outside consolation? Then go ahead, Li Lin. Be
brave to pour out all your misfortunes to him. At thinking of this, I
feel much more relieved and delighted. Perhaps the most pleasant thing
in the world is to follow one’s heart.

The girl is silent again, as if thinking to herself how she can learn to
get accustomed to all those undesirable experiences. The water bought in
Nanjing has already run out. In fact, it was a long sleep that was
expected before the journey, not such a condition. Where is the peddling
woman at the very moment when I am thirsty?

“The woman frequented her figure when not needed, but disappears for
good and all when I am thirsty for a bottle of water.” I tease myself.

“Are you thirsty?”

“A little bit.”

The girl takes out an orange cup, “Why not go getting some water? I am
also a little thirsty.”

I take over the cup with hesitation. To use a stranger’s cup, that is
really uncomfortable for me. However, it seems all right to the girl.
Then how come there are so many misgivings on my part? Just some help
from a stranger, just a bit of drink. I must worry too much.

The water service is set at the connection between two compartments,
which is a little far from my place. Just like tramping over hill and
dale, I have to squeeze myself into and out of the crowd another time.
The passage is cluttered with deep-sleeping people. Beside each seat is
leaning a poor drowsy passenger who has not got a seat. I take each step
carefully for fear of treading on a body or stirring up someone’s dream.
Closing the water service, I suddenly notice something creeping on the
floor. I stop to check. It turns out a lobster. Nearby is a broken bag,
from which might someone’s delicacy slip out. I wake up the bag’s owner,
a middle-aged man with sparse hair in a striping short-sleeve, in the
pocket of which is a packet of Hongta. What I see is an absolute
middle-aged man, even to say a representative of his age. Seeing his
creeping lobsters, he seems to suddenly emerge from his dream and
catches each of them one by one into the bag. Adroitly tying the bag, he
extends his thanks and returns to his dream. Back to my seat, she is not
seen anywhere. The water is a little hot. I only take several sips
before waiting against the seat back. 

At three o’clock, she returns to my opposite.

Seeing her, I give a courteous smile, and she responds the same way.

“The water is a little hot. Wait for a little while.” the boy says
considerately enough.

“All right. Just leave it there.” 

Suddenly, something occurs to me, something that I want him to know. No.
Actually, I am ready to tell him anything that comes into my mind now.

“In fact, my original seat is beside yours.”

“So, why are you sitting opposite to me?”

“Because your side is contrary to the train’s travelling direction.”

“Contrary to the travelling direction. So what?”

“I would feel carsick.”

He bursts into a fit of laugh. Is there any laughing matter? However,
since he has been glum all the way, to amuse him is also a pleasant
thing for me. It is so unnatural of me to begin to please a stranger
consciously or unconsciously. If my awkward situation can cheer him up,
I will share with him generously. Moreover, since I was so honest, would
he have doubt that I am actually regretting not sitting with him?

“So interesting?”

“Nothing. Just too many differences between people. I know someone who
can’t go along with the traveling direction, but with little knowledge
of those who can’t go against the traveling direction.”

To be honest, I have no idea what I am laughing about, just amused by
her lovely frankness.

She gives a demure smile and doesn’t say more words. Her eyes are fixed
back on the outside, with her figures stroking the necklace around her
fair neck 

I notice the English word engraved on the pendant of her necklace. The
letters are designed in a fine, round hand, but too little to make out.

“What does your necklace say?”

The girl looks down and up again, “isn’t it clear?”

“Not very much. Love?” I choose one word based on my only idea about
girls’ necklace.                                                        

“No, seven letters in all.”

Looking more closely, I still fail to recognize it, so I shake my head.

“Forever.” the girl utters a word in very standard American English.



Now it seems really the seven letters after a second look.

“Is it that difficult to recognize the word? I can’t figure it out why
everyone fails to make it out the first time they see it. Besides, each
inquiry doesn’t seem to be careless.”

“Why do you prefer the word ‘forever’?”

A delicate smile creeps on her face, and her talking speed is not that
hurried any more. She answers gently, “don’t you think ‘forever’ is so
beautiful a word?” 

“Exactly,” I blurt out without any thinking.   

“But it has never worked on me.”

“In what way, love?”

The girl takes a deep breath, and then typically shakes her head, as if
some bad memory is called up.

“Not long ago, I received the break-up call from my boyfriend.”

The boy listens to me carefully without a blink of eyes, as if attending
an English grammar class with full attention.

“We had been together for a long time and I had already taken him as my
lifelong partner.”

My heart has just been brightened when the recalling brings me back into
the abyss of sorrow. Whatever situation I am in or will be in, those
sharp recollections will make me relive the bitterness whenever they
come into my mind. I try to calm down and come clean about myself as if
telling other ones’ story.

“We had planned everything—where we would settle down our home, what we
would do, and even for what we would quarrel with each other the first
time. I had let him know whatever I can think of. To be at his side,
just waiting for our next life period, I felt I was the happiest woman
in the world. Life for me seemed free from worry forever and filled with
laughter for no reason. But what I had never expected was that he was
such an irresponsible man.”   

The girl’s eyes drift outside again and silently shake her head the
second time. This time, I could feel her tears could run down at any

“My French class had just been over when he called. I was so happy to
see his name glimmering on the screen, thinking he must miss me. How
silly I was! As soon as he began to speak, I came to realize something
was wrong with him. Once he finished, I fell into an absolute daze as
for what had happened on earth, but one thing I was clear was that we
were done.”

I am at a loss as to how to comment and comfort her. Although her heart
is distant from mine, I could tell truthfully from her tone that she is
overwhelmed with desperate sorrow.

“He must have had a heart of stone, just analyzing sensibly the present
situation, leaving no chance to me to express my opinion. It seemed I
was informed by my dear boyfriend of a piece of bad news. I had no idea
how long I had been standing there. People came and went. I was lost in
a droning blank, with all the sense stripped off me. But strangely, I
was totally unconscious of any pain, as if the soul had left my body. I
don’t know how long had passed before the flood of sorrow swept over me.
I even forgot how to breathe, how to cry and how to sense. I can’t
remember how I had got over those days, but there was one thing I got
clear from then on.”

The girl suddenly stopped and looked back at me.

“What thing?”

“I can’t hold my drink.”

I am confounded at first, then smiles kindly, “yet not a bad thing.
Still suffering?”

For a moment the girl stares blankly, “suffering…, but in a different
way. My resentment at his leaving has been diluted by time, except that
an occasional thought of the past would plunge me into a momentary
sadness. After all, too much has been devoted on my part in our

The girl’s eyes are blurring somewhere above my shoulder. Perhaps she is
sleepy or exhausted after the utmost sincerity of her history. Or she
just spreads what is on her heart on the eyes-focus and savors it alone.

“Sleep for a while. You might not be used to staying up.”

The girl rubs her eyes and looks me over again, “you might not, either.”

“Me? I’m Ok. Anyhow I have never intended to sleep. Even having
successfully fallen asleep, I would have a very hard time.”

“Your eyes are bloodshot and glazed.”

“It is a tough journey on the train after all.”

I take a drink of water, the temperature of which is just right. I am
quite sober now. But the redness in his eyes indicates his lack of
sleep. It might be true that I was sleepy just now, but at this moment
the casual conversation with him offers me inexplicable sureness and
impulse, dispelling all the sleepiness. The raining city might have been
left behind, and the moon begins to shed its limpid light generously,
keeping the train company in the lonely night.

“Well, sleep for a while.”

The boy nods his head and closes his eyes. I turn on the phone, a new
message lingering on the screen, which informs me that my friend has
helped me sign up for the interview of Shandong University. Alas! Some
mixed feelings are pent up in my heart. I try to seize another
opportunity, but with great regret at the same time. Almost everyone has
fallen into sleep. The trainman in a short-sleeve, the embarrassed
peddling woman, what are they thinking about, and what is the shape of
their inner feelings? Having finished the assignment and staying alone,
would they be afraid to face up the daylight memory? My dry eyes
struggle to make out the time on the watch—ten to four. How time flies.
Maybe, I think, I have been enjoying every minute spent with him. 

The train is speeding through everyone’s dream, while each one carrying
his dream is hurtling toward the upcoming dawn.  

I wake up slowly. Because of the awkward sleeping position, the whole
body feels uncomfortable, just like an old rusty machine. The train
stops at one regulating station. Outside are the criss-cross rails and
the flickering signal lights. The morning dawns fresh and bright as soon
as the first ray of sunlight pierces through the rolling dark clouds.
The girl’s face appears clearer bathed in such crystal light, and the
necklace glints against the beams as her chest heaves up and down. She
is still deep in sleep. I cannot help watching her closely. She has a
delicate face as well as a slim figure, her collarbone protruding
distinctively. It isn’t six o’clock yet, and our shared time has been
only several hours till now, which, however, has become part of my
precious ethereal memory. Somehow I hope to embrace her. At the thought
of the parting in one hour, I feel a surge of pity. If only the train
could travel all the way where life ends.

Under such circumstances, I should have succeeded falling asleep. I
subconsciously glance at the watch—six twenty. There is still less than
an hour before reaching the destination. The sky is still overcast, even
in the early morning. Every now and then a train screams past from the
opposite direction. All the passengers seem to have the same internal
lock. Once the clock rings, everyone stops to sleep. And once it rings
again, everyone begins to open their eyes to chat, joke and laugh. I
look around as the self emerges again from the deep unconscious, only to
catch him staring at me. Almost by reflex, I smile with corners of my
mouth upward.

“You wake?”

The girl stretches herself, “hum, not a sound sleep, too many dreams.”

“Light sleep engenders more dreams.”

“And you? How about your sleep?”

“Not very satisfying. For the present, a hot bath and an uninterrupted
sleep on my soft bed are most wanted.”

“I do envy you. You just go back home, while I have to rush to Jinan
this afternoon.”

“Go straight home?” the girl continues.

“First of all, I will find a place to have breakfast. My stomach has
been empty for the whole night.” I smile. 

The sun has just come out before hiding behind the domineering dark
clouds again. I have no idea how to say goodbye to the girl, or how to
continue our conversation not to say goodbye. 

“Are you hungry?” I look forward to a positive answer somewhat.

“A little bit. Energy tends to run out much more easily in such a cold
environment. I’m still a little cold. Why is the temperature regulated
at such a low level?”

The boy just gives me a casual answer, as if his attention has been
distracted by something else instead of the air conditioner stuff. What
is in her brain right now? Why hasn’t he invited me to share with him
the time after getting off? 

“Have breakfast together?” I finally extend a brave invitation.

The girl smiles, with faint shyness on her cheeks.


She answers briskly, but I am not that sure and begin to waver at the
moment. That is exactly the answer I hope for, but seemingly I have not
been fully ready for such a happy ending. In the midst of annoying
babbling voices, a boy and a girl just chat away about some casual
topics, passing the time together before the train reaches its terminal

My heart is brimming with ecstasy of longings, as if a weight was lifted
off my mind at last. At least, we do not have to say goodbye at the
railway station, which is so satisfying for me even if it is nothing but
an ordinary breakfast.

As the train pulls into the station slowly, all the passengers begin to
move. Here is the destination, and the train has completed its mission.

Carrying my baggage, I am pushed forward automatically by the people
behind. Once stepping onto the earth of Zhengzhou, I cannot help
shivering a little attacked by the dry and chilly air. Over-shadowed
under the gloomy sky, the whole city of Zhengzhou appears dismal and
dreary. Delighted, I make my way slowly, looking around for your figure.

Carrying my bag on the back, I hide myself as well as my complex
feelings among the crowd. Seeing you off farther and farther, I remain
where I am, hesitating to catch up with you. 

Where are you? Why haven’t you showed up from the many strange faces? I
get a little anxious now.

I keep standing there before your slim figure is completely out of
sight, as if my body had been frozen by the penetrating cold air. 

I take hold of my baggage and walk faster. A burst of loss sweeps over
my mind. But you must know that even a bit more time will do no favor.

The backpack feels extraordinarily heavy, slowing down my pace. You
might be still looking for me, or you might have understood me, but
please forgive and forget a stranger and his flee.

Far away, the bell sings out the hour of seven. Pigeons are hovering
above the square against the cloudy sky.

Heading eastward from the station exit, I look back for the last time.
Sharing the cold and lonely world, you might have never thought to
embrace me.

You may know that, nothing can be forever in the world.

Heading westward from the station exit, I dare not look back. You might
have vanished into the sea of people. In the pale and grey October, how
I wish to embrace you. 

But I am not brave enough, to promise you “forever”. 


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