| CHAPTER NINE: Encounter A Bosom Friend Jiang Langsha|
I dreamed I fell into an ice hole. I was shivering from coldness until I couldn’t shiver any more as I turned to be a corpse. Meanwhile someone walked towards me. He looked familiar, resembling my uncle Din, or my aunt, but when I took a close look, unexpectedly that person was my father! He bundled me with a big quilt, took me home, and put me on my bed.
Though I was in total consciousness yet my body could not move. By then, my younger brother Danfeng came towards me with a lighter in his hand. He made a fire with the lighter and started to burn my quilt. I yelled desperately, “ Don’ t burn my violin, don’ t …”
“ I’ m not burning your violin, I’ m just burning some rotten rail-wood to dry your clothes.” My baby brother’s voice changed to a young man.
I woke up from my dream, found myself in bed, not alone but together with a unknown young man. I jumped down from the bed with surprising, then realized I was naked, totally not even with a under pants. I was soon trembling again.
“They should be dried up now. Quickly put them on, or you will catch a cold.” The young man pointed my cloths by the fireplace.
I put on my cloths as quickly as I could, took a look around, recognized that was the wooden hut by the rail cross where a senior rail-and-fence-switchman used to stay. I remembered when I was at primary school I used to pass here twice a day from home to school and back. How come an old man became a young man?
“My name is Jiang Langsha. My master told me that from time to time he asked you to buy Toufu and vegetables for him. Do you remember?” That young man introduced himself to me.
“liangsha?" I thought, “In English it should be ‘river sand wave’. How can a rail-switchman have such a romantic, capitalist ‘four olds’ name?” I felt a little funny.
Seeing me more relaxed, he went on, “Recently I grow a habit that after supper I always wait for you to play the violin. I could tell you are progressing very fast. When you did not show up for a week I wondered why, thought you might have moved away. Luckily I heard you again yesterday. But your unusual playing of the song ‘home, sweet home’ (He also knew ‘home, sweet home!) made me a little worried. But not until I went to switch the rails I found you were falling sleep on the railway. Very dangerous you see.”
I felt very grateful to him, not only for his saving my life, but also equally if not more importantly, for his appreciating my violin, which was vital to me, particularly at that moment under such circumstance.
To be with a confidant I surely could “make myself at home.”
“Can I have some hot water? A-n-d do you have something to eat?” I asked casually.
“I baked a sweet potato for you. It should be ready by now.” Jiang got off from the bed, took out the sweet potato from the fireplace, peeled off part of the skin, and passed it to me.
The baked sweet potato was truly sweet and hot, so was Jiang and his hospitality.
Watching me devoured voraciously like a hungry tyke he looked commiserative and irresolute, but still asked, “You got wounds all over your body. Did your parents do it to you?”
“No!” I immediately denied, “How could my parents …” I couldn’t talk further. In China there is a proverb “the ugly domestic affairs can’t be revealed to outsiders”, or “the disgraceful family affairs should never be spread.” In English might be “don’ t wash dirty linen in public.” Therefore I could say nothing but to chew my sweet potato mixed with snivels.
After my emotion cooled down a little bit I began to think that I could actually survive by staying here for a couple of days, but my mother couldn’t. She must be anxious to death my where about. Imagining my mother quarrel with father I started to be happy again.
Jiang looked tired. He wrapped himself around with an army coat, sat on the unique wooden armchair. After being recharged with the hot water and sweet potato I became energetic again. I felt I should do something to entertain him in return of his kindness. But as soon I started to talk, like a vehicle with a break out of order I couldn’t help making stories far away from or even opposite to the facts, stories such as “my parents love me more than any brothers in the family. They forced me to learn the violin, and put all their hope on me to become a dragon (to be rich and famous),” Bula bula.
The alarm clock rang. Jiang suddenly stood up, cut my hot air and said to me, “I have to go to switch the rail. I think you are tired too. If you can’t go home tonight, you may stay here. ‘Tomorrow, we will have milk, we will have bread’.” He imitated the tone of Lenin in the movie “Lenin in 1918”, smiled with a sense of humor.
Like that, I made Jiang Langsha an acquaintance. And later he became one of the most important figures who had their influence on my thoughts and impact on my life.
I became a devil harming everybody around me
Let me continue my story about staying overnight with Jiang Langsha.
When I woke up next morning, I found meself again in Jiang’s little plank bed. Although the quilt swelled badly, I wrapped myself as tightly as possible with it.
Jiang, no longer a stranger but rather a fried, was still sitting on the wooden armchair wrapped with his army overcoat. (Army items were the most popular and most common among the civilians during the Cultural Revolution.)
Seeing me came back to the real world, he mixed some herbs with alcohol and daubed on my wounded spots, “I learnt this when I was at so called ‘vast world’ (countryside). I don’t believe the drug will perform some kind of miracle or wonder, but surely better than doing nothing.”
“You, also have been one of the educated youths?” Thus the scene that we sent-off the elder brothers and sisters to countryside appeared to me again.
(In the late 60’s and early 70’s, almost all middle school and high school graduates, the formal red guards were sent to countryside as so-called “educated youth” to be re-educated by the peasantry.)
“As a man in my age, who could escape that glory? However I was unlucky, stayed only a short period before I managed to come here.” Jiang narrated, with a jocose smile from his small narrowing eyes.
“Our great leader Chairman Mao teaches us ‘great achievements can be made in the vast world’, while you hide yourself in such a little hut, not bored?" I teased him.
“Bored? No, not at all, just the opposite.” Jiang looked rather serious, more serious than needed, “There was nothing I could do in that vast world, but in here, this little hut I can read, numerous books. The world in the books is far vaster than the ‘vast world’. It is infinite vast, endless and no limitation.”
Jiang pulled out a book beneath his bed, “Look, see what this is, ‘David Copofield’ by Degence.” He passed the book to me with an excitement.
I, as a boy grown up under the red flag had never read a foreign book by then. I turned the pages randomly to show my politeness and disapprovingly passed back to him.
He did not take the book form my hand, but added, “This was my favorite book when I was your age. I have gone through it quite a few times. Every time when I read it, I felt I was the little David. Thanks to it I overcame all my loneness and sadness…” Seeing me still hesitating he insisted, “Take it home and read it. But promise me not to damage it or dirt it and make sure you return to me when you finish reading.”
To respond to his fervency I had to turn the pages again, this time, I took a look at some illustrations. I did that for I had to give him some face, especially when the sweet potato from him I got in last night was not out yet.
Jiang looked at the wounds on my face and my hands sympathetically, hesitated for a moment but still suggested, “How about I take you home. I will try to talk to your parents. We got 36 minutes until next rail switching, 35 minutes I mean.” He paused, and then complained with anger, “Who gave them rights to beat a kid like that, only because they are parents?”
Immediately I had to explain it again that my parents were not responsible for my wounds, at least not mainly. I also made up another story that I was just betting with my brother Danjin that I could stay outside all by myself without going home for two days.
“Right, I see, and understood.” He imitated a tone of someone from some movie, as he did before when showing he says one and means another.
I went on my staying with Jiang as it happened to be Sunday that I had no school to go. At lunchtime, he let me share some food from his lunch-box.
After lunch he joked seriously, “have had my food, you should work for me too, as the book says, ‘there is no free lunch in the world’.”
After announced that he went out to pull the rail fence down at the road crossing. After the train passed, I gave him a hand to pulled the fence up. To my surprise the fence was much lighter than I thought to be.
Close to 3:00 PM I stood by the road crossing, stretched my neck like a duck expecting my family to pass by as I remembered the whole family planed to go see a movie at 4PM, a movie of the only “film star” in Chinese cinema at that time, the 西哈努克. Half an hour later my family showed up. The little lion was the vanguard, followed my parents, then the tail my brother Danjin. I waved a little yellow rail-flag to draw their attention but failed. The little lion inattentively looked at me like an unknown distant star in the universe. Followed the parents, also showed little concern as if I were somebody else’s dog or cat. That made me believe that they had agreed the same attitude towards me before he went out. I was so anxious that I yelled out, almost yelled out I mean. Meanwhile my wisdom instigated me to pull down the rail fence to block my brother Danjin. He stopped; kept looking at his toes. Seeing that the little lion retreated. He bended his waist to get trough the fence, and dragged his oldest brother, “Come on, let’s go, or we will be late for the movie.”
Seeing two sons were on the other side of the fence mother also stopped. Father walked forward for a few more steps realized he had lost his function as the family locomotive, also turned his face around. Instantly a kind of joy, a joy of victory and hope emerged to me. Hence I made a decision, make sure they do not see the movie.
Until then Jiang did not notice that I had put the fence down by myself, he rushed out with an ugly face to scold me for taking work as play and quickly he pulled the fence up, then he noticed that he was surrounded by my family. His ugly face suddenly turned to be much better looking. My mother stared at him enquiringly and questioned, “Who are you? What are you? What’s the relation between you and my son?”
Jiang Langsha immediately introduced himself, including “although not old enough yet to be a leading class, (working class was regarded to be the leading class at that era) surely not an anti-revolutionary.”
Seeing father approaching him Jiang added, “I’m an old friend of your son. It was me who invited him to stay overnight therefore not his fault. I’m sorry to have caused your worry, I sincerely apologize.”
Father intentionally avoided his eyesight from Jiang, very impatiently urged mother to go to the cinema. Mother looked troubled and her eyes turned red, however unwillingly she followed father to walk away.
My father’s attitude toward me must have enraged Jiang, he suddenly raised his voice shouting, “Only because you are parents you could abuse your child like that?”
Those words were like electric that shocked my Mom. She turned back and rushed in front of Jiang, “Who abuse him? Let’s make it clear.”
Again father pressed on mother, “It’s not worth to waste our time here. Watching movie is the main issue today. Let’s go.”
“Sorry, you do not abuse your son, only consider him less important than a movie.” Though Jiang used sarcastic language to keep his sense of humor but the serious facial expression from his congested face revealed his excitement and anger.
Obviously Jiang’s sarcasm incited mother a great deal, she neglected father’s pullback, stepped further toward Jiang and argued, “How do you know I take my son less important than a movie? Who is feeding him and raising him every day up to now? How much do you know my family affairs? Today I might as well forget the movie. Let’s talk until it become absolutely clear.”
Heard mother “forget the movie” a joy of victory gushed from my mind. Now it’s the time to please Mom by turning my spear to Jiang. I roared at him, “How dare you talk to my Mon like that? Who invited you to get into my family business? You, stop stick your nose on other people’s affairs like dog bites rat.”
My “turning my weapon around” ingratiated Mom a little but not father, not a bit. He made his last effort to hasten Mom going with him to the cinema but failed, he walked away all by himself. My baby brother followed father in a distance and frequently turned his head back to us.
I dared not to check Jiang’s reaction towards my abnormal attitude of “bite the hand that feeds one”. Thanks God at that moment a train drawing near. Jiang pulled down the road-crossing fence with mother and Danjin on the other side. Through the successive clearance between moving carriages I saw the silhouettes of mother and Danjin getting smaller and smaller toward home. Combined with the rhythm of the train wheel rumble my heart palpitated acutely, “Bang bang, bang bang, bang bang…”
After the train was gone, I affably offered my help to pull the fence up. Soon after that I apologized for the crude and reckless words just spitted out from my mouth, and expressed that for atonement I was willing to work there for two days for nothing except rice and bed.
Jiagn paid little attention to what I was saying as he was in a state of profound thinking, “Your parents too, are intellectuals. How can they also…” He bewilderedly suspired.
Like that I stayed with Jiang for two days. A little by little he told me about himself.
Jiang Langsha was from an intellectual family. In the year 1957 his father was put on one of the right wing headgears. As same as all the other a million right wings his father was also sent to be transformed far away form home. Immediately the mother had to draw a distinct boundary between her and the right wing husband by divorcing him and throwing herself into a working class’s embrace. After the family’s reorganization, Jiang Langsha suffered much maltreating from the new family man, to put it into clear words, frequently suffering from beating. When family contradiction rose to a non-reconciliatory level, Jiang as an elementary pupil had to give up the family, or more correctly to leave his mother. Through the introduction of his schoolteacher he was adopted by a working class family, a family with a daughter only wanted a son very badly. Jiang had never seen his parents again since then.
When he was a high school freshman the Cultural Revolution started. He stayed in and absorbed himself all in his book world ardently without taking part of any revolutionary activities until he was sent to countryside as an educated youth. After had been a short while there he found it was pure waste of time and life that he made some excuses to return back to the city. Somehow he got himself acquainted with the former master of the little hut, the one I used to know, and replaced him for the job. (Afterwards I discovered Jiang concealed a portion of the facts, which I will explain in later chapters.)
His story made me understand why he ejaculated so furiously to my parents for their ill-treating me, as he too used to be a severely abused child. In a way we were two bitter gourds on the same cane.
Jiang also told me his father was a writer, and his dream was to follow his father’s footsteps to be a writer. Very confidently he said, “The most important book I want to write in my life is ‘My Father’, because I’m very proud of him.” Jiang’s small narrowing eyes shined when he said that.
Jiang’s words shook my heart, and also aroused my kind of jealousy. Yes, how wonderful if one has a father that can be proud of, even that father may not a communist party member but a right wind.
Two days later, father went back to his 5.7 Cadre School. I, as a little bird with un-flyable wings returned to the nest. Another a few days had past. Gradually my wounds were getting recovered. However, when everything seemed to go back to normal, something mishap started to happen in the school.
First happened to teacher Lao. One day after school, Lao called me to go to his home. He closed the window, put a muter on my violin, and then asked me to play the melody a 隆 shell 斯 the 库 the repeatedly. I stopped playing while I noticed Lao’s eyes were turning red. After a moment dead silence Lao started to tell me a story about Tchaikovsky. Followed he said, “If someone has no forethoughts, must have immediate worries. You are a young man full of talent, passion and ambition. Therefore I hope you would always thinking of the future and not to entangle your time and energy on those everyday trifles.”
“Teacher Lao, if you have no other more important things to talk I’ll have to go home. Today is my turn to cook, one of the everyday trifles. If I’m late to cook, I would be surely again scolded.”
Just when I got out form teacher Lao’s door I bumped into Lao’s wife. I greeted her as usual, but she greeted back not as usual, worse than usual.
I would never have thought that that was the good-bye moment to my dear teacher Lao and his wife.
The truth was after my father went to talk to the school authority; Lao’s home was immediately searched. Thanks to my father’s learning and instruction the working class team found all the cultural trash, the western classical music tapes and records. Teacher Lao was sent to a countryside school as a punishment for his wrongdoing.
Even today when I recall that matter I still feel grief in my heart.
Teacher Lao was not the only one got involved with the trouble caused be my father, Ma Xiaomao’s home was also searched. As Ma’s father was a reactionary authoritative intellectual her home had been searched several times before, therefore noting significant was found, except the violin method “Hohmann”. But, something much worse than Hohmann was one of the workers dropped Ma’s violin on the ground when he did his searching, “not intentionally” as he excused himself. The violin had a few cracks on the top, and the neck fell off from the body.
Ma Xiaomao narrated her calamity with tears. I immediately took her to see master zhou, the one who taught me to make my first violin. Surprisingly the good and warm-hearted master zhou rejected my knocking at his door. On our way back Zhou’s daughter chased up and handed me a piece of pigskin hide glue (an special glue for making and repairing the violin), then she told us that his father was also strongly warned by the school worker’s team, though as a worker himself his home was spared from being searched.
Zhou’s daughter’s story scared us. We rushed to the church to see whether teacher Li was OK. Thanks God Li remained untouched. What a relief! I was really glad that I did not expose anything about teacher Li to my father.
I used all my knowledge and craftsmanship I learnt from master Zhou to glue Ma’s violin head and my violin body (the one my aunt bought for me at the May-First Cultural store) together, so that Ma would have a violin to play for the time being.
Without teacher Lao, the school Mao Team became a group of vapidity. We both quitted it and concentrated ourselves at home practicing.
Thanks to my father, calamity happened to my teachers, schoolmates and friends. That turned my love for him to hatred, gradually growing a desire of revenge.
For that period, I quite often had nightmares, if not the sky falling off, was someone chasing to kill me, every time when it came to the key point I could heard others calling “Mama”, yet I had no one to call for help.
At the point I became clearly aware that I, as one of the communist products who wanted to be a human individual, to be different from the Party molded pattern, stood there all by my own, as I had no Communist Party to rely upon, neither the Party member parents who manufactured me. No matter what happens to me, obstacles to encounter, adversity to face, difficulties to overcome, the person and only person in the whole world I could rely upon was I, me and myself. The fact left me no choice but to fight my own way out, studying and working hard to make myself strong, strong enough to change my living environment. My better and happier life as an individual rather than a product in the future would be the best prove of my correctness of the life style I chose to live.