In his junior year, Qian was elected to be the president of the drama club. It was a challenging responsibility because every year graduating seniors left vacancies that must be filled, usually with inexperienced students. New cast members had to be coached which added stress to the already daunting task of completing the drama club performance for the graduation ceremony in three months.
Another problem was his lack of proficiency in English. He had to frequently consult with
Yi-Shan and her two friends Jia-Yu and Xiao-Bo related to script changes and screenplay interpretation. The frequency of these sessions started to annoy Yi-Shan so she was very happy when Jia-Yu and Xiao-Bo told her they were going to join the drama club.
He recalled that at the first club meeting in September at the beginning of the school term, three new girls had joined the drama club. But the only one he remembered was Yan-Luo. What he could recall with clarity was the meeting itself.
That day, the air was sultry and the weather was behaving like a bad tempered girl. Intermittent torrential rains pounded the streets accompanied by thunder and lightening. The sky was nearly as dark as night with the exception of a few shafts of light peaking thorough the clouds.
The meeting room looked like a flowering umbrella tree with a motley array of colors, sizes and styles lined up quietly side by side. The odor of wet clothes, mud and the body odor from sweaty feet rendered the atmosphere in the room repugnant. The students had opened the windows hoping to freshen the air.
Qian noticed a girl with a chagrined look on her face and, from her appearance, he surmised that she had worn the wrong clothing today. She wore a yellow knit top which was soaked from her long wet hair hanging down in clumps. She had on a long green ankle length polyester maxi skirt patterned with white geometric figures. The front of the skirt, unprotected by her umbrella was totally soaked and the back had mud stains from walking. Although the sandals were very stylish the sand between her toes gave her a very awkward appearance.
After the registration process was completed by everyone, Qian introduced himself and highlighted some of the more important procedures. “You have been given a handout that lists the planned activities for the year and a list of contact phone numbers of the executive committee for the drama club. Any questions?” Of course there weren’t any questions as the introduction speech had taken a long time and everyone just wanted to get out of there and go home.
“Well then let the new members introduce themselves and everyone give them a big round of applause.”
He could see the disappointment on their faces at this request but was happy that they were courteous enough to make the new members feel welcome. Only two of the three stood up; Yan-Luo and Xiao-Bo. Since no names were mentioned, there was some confusion as to who should introduce themselves first. But that didn’t matter for long because Yan-Luo started to leave the class room. She paused at the door for a moment and said, “I have to leave first and then come back.”
She quickly found a wash basin and started splashing water from her cupped hands onto her shoes. She quickly realized that this was not going to get it done so she pulled up her skirt and put her foot into the sink. She was feeling more relaxed now that the stream of water was washing the sand from between her toes.
Then, someone in the distance called out to her. “Yan-Luo, is that you?”
She recognized Qian and was totally mortified to have a senior classman see her this way and especially the president of the drama club that she was looking forward to joining. She wanted to dig a whole and crawl into it but then decided that the damage was already done so she might as well complete her mission. She picked up her sandals and rinsed them both clean under the water stream and then put them back on.
Qian thought that maybe he spoke too softly since she didn’t acknowledge him so he asked again much louder. “Is that you Yan-Luo?”
For some inexplicable reason she became instantly angry and glowered at Qian. “Well what do you think? Do you see anybody else in the corridor genius?”
The words had no sooner left her mouth when she regretted saying them. Maybe the temperament of the weather had somehow rubbed off on her and caused her to react the way she did.
“I merely wanted to tell you that you have left some items in the classroom and I can’t lock the door until you retrieve them.”
She was so embarrassed that she thought maybe she should just jump in the river and drown herself. Then she wouldn’t have to apologize to an upper classman. She was so traumatized and tongue-tied that she couldn’t even muster a thank you. She turned away and ran into the classroom to gather her things. Qian followed her into the room and they both stood there for a moment. The air was heavy, almost suffocating and the situation was very awkward. She just wanted to go home and escape his sight. She turned and rushed out of the room without saying good bye.
Qian thought he would never see her again; especially after she did not attend the next weekly social gathering of the drama club.