Lotus was alone taking a walk in the campus. The sunshine was very beautiful in the early spring. Everything came back to life in the spring, and people were also busy getting rid of old, bad experiences acquired last winter, redeeming themselves, and welcoming something new. The campus was thriving and full of life at the time, like an ivory tower protecting its students from an unnecessary turmoil coming from an unknown society, and providing students with a chance to dream. It was said that a University in China was the best place for young people to dream in, a place where you could be an idealist without calculating the consequences, where you could pursue your dream boldly, until it was crashed into pieces by the harsh reality; if you were a fighter, to explore the unknown world as much as you can; if an adventurer, to start career empty handed; or if a Platonist, to meet true love which could only be found in fictions or movies...
When Lotus went by the school gate, she saw Zhang Qiang chatting intensely with some person. That person was very familiar, one whom she could never forget nor forgive. All those years, her mind was fully occupied with not thinking about him, fearing his image might once again inflict pain on her. Now, her heart sank unconsciously. Memories were surging into her mind, and his name fell from her lips, “Gao Sheng”. Was it him? But how could he come to her school?
Lotus felt tired. All her good mood vanished in a minute, and she started way back to the dormitory. She threw herself onto bed, fatigued, and exhausted. There was a sense of emptiness in her mind. For the first time in her college life, she felt hopeless, and depressed. Her mind went blank. Again, she searched for the memory of the past, which made her become what she was now. She tried hard to forget and forgive. She once deceived herself that she had already got through it; however, the memories were just there. Just like a wound, even if it was healed, it would leave scars on the skin. Two years after, when she saw this face again, and she was still very unhappy. You may lash the wave, but the water still flows, you may drink the wine, but your sense of happiness does not grow.
Lotus stood up, and went to the mirror, studying the figure in the mirror carefully. In
a moment, Lotus spotted crow’s feet around the corners of her eyes. Alas, twenty years of bitter-sweet life had made her a totally different girl from the one she had been before. But now, she had a strange feeling that she was traveling in a perplexing maze, and after a few circles, she was back at the point of departure. Her mind went back to what happened six years ago.
Lotus was born in a village located in the junction of Inner Mongolia and Shan Xi Province, Northwest of China. With the climate in the North of China being very dry, the life of the villagers was very hard. Lacking rain all year round, the village could not boast many trees. To the local people, land was their God, who determined their joys and sorrows. In a worship of their God, the village people worked like slaves. They sowed the seed, hoed up weeds, spread the manure and waited for the harvest honestly and patiently.
Water was scarce in the North of China. There wasn’t any running water supply in the village so the local people had to walk a few miles east of the neighboring village to carry water from the only well there. In order to get water from the depths of the well, people needed to dip a barrel into the well and pulled the rope up, dragging the barrel out. Usually the barrel would only be half full.
Drinking water was a problem for the villagers, not to mention domestic water use. The village people would have but a few chances to take a shower, so they washed their bodies in a primitive way. They filled the washing basin with water, and used a towel to clean their body. That was already a luxury to them.
Even if this was the only well in the village, ignorant villagers, most unfortunately, never thought of protecting this old facility so that there was no cover on its rim, and rain water flew into the well unhampered. Ignorant naughty children would even piss into the well sometimes, making water quality still worse. In the whole village, not all of the children could get a chance to receive a good education, except for the children of some rich families in the village or the ones who had rich relatives in the city. In most cases, they would go to the city to study. Lotus heard that the daughter of a rural doctor in the village was studying life science in a famous university in Xi’ an province. Aunty Liu’s son went to Mongolia to study agriculture. Such insights would always make big news in the village.
Lotus was the only child of the family, which was a rare phenomenon in the local village. Despite the fact that the government promoted the One Child Policy in China, she lived in the remote area, and most of adult inhabitants of her village had two or three children. There was a time when Lotus had a brother, but he died of fever two months after he was born. Mum’s health was ruined as a result of this intense grief, and father has been addicted to alcohol ever since.
In Lotus’ memory, her parents always looked weather-beaten and old. Father was a silent man. Though he was in a way alienated from her, and never talked to her like a friend, she still loved him dearly. She realized that Dad’s strictness and high requirements placed on her would make her a better girl. So she never complained of Dad’s harshness. Usually, Lotus helped Mum to do family’s chores, cooking meals, washing clothes, lighting the stove, from a very young age.
When Lotus was twelve years old, she would always carry water for the family with a big shoulder pole, in fact a too big one for her age. There were always two blood traces on each side of her white shoulder when she took off her clothes, but she never told the parents about them.
One day she got up early, put on the shoulder pole, and went to the east village. The road was damp. The stones scattered on the road ruthlessly, shining unusually bright in the rays of the morning sun. She walked with quick little steps, breathing quickly, afraid of being late.
Lotus heard someone calling her from behind.
She looked back. It was Gao Sheng, running fast.
Gao Sheng was a city boy, but he had relatives in this village. The rumor had it that his grandpa once used to be a red solider and distinguished himself in the war of liberation. After the war, his grandpa insisted on moving back to his the home place to find his roots, so he choose to live in the village. Gao Sheng would come to see his grandpa twice a year, and on those occasions he enjoyed playing with Lotus, because Lotus was a sensible girl, as he thought. They became playmates.
Gao Sheng was a very charming boy who inherited his grandpa’s good looks. He had a darkish complexion. His strong muscles moved in a certain rhythm as he ran very fast. The earth under his shoes crackled with sparks, which looked like beautiful bubbles in the summer .
“Lotus, I have finally caught up with you!” He gasped and wheezed. “Why don’t you let me help you? Am I not your friend, um?”
Lotus felt embarrassed a lot. She would always blush when Gao Sheng was in near her. Her heart was beating very fast. Gao Sheng was always in good humor and witty. Also, he always gave Lotus a lot of instructions, like a big brother.
“I don’t want to bother you.” Lotus felt her face turned red. The sky was tinted with red color too.
“You are being silly. I am would help you all my life. And carrying water is just a piece of cake. Men are always stronger than women. What is the use of men? Men have been made to protect women. If it isn’t so, what is the use of strong muscles? ” Gao Sheng laughed and took the shoulder pole himself. Gao Sheng meant what he said.
A feeling of reliability offered by this strong boy grasped her heart unconsciously. She felt her heart beating like a jackhammer.
Lotus followed Gao Sheng happily and hurriedly. Here started the friendship between the two children.
There was a knock on the door which interrupted Lotus’ nostalgic thoughts. Lotus put on her slippers to open the door.
“Damn, Lotus, what the hell are you doing here? You look so pale. What’s wrong?
Why have you taken so long to open the door? Let’s go to the park and have some fun.”
This was Wang Xing, her roommate, also previously her classmate in the junior middle school.
They got to know each other in their youth, coming from the same Province, the fact that allowed them to meet again in this university.
“No, I don’t feel well today, and I want to stay in the dorm.”
“Come on! Stay at home on such a sunny day? Are you kidding?”
“Have you ever seen me kidding like that?” Lotus was a bit annoyed.
“I am sorry, but I really think you shouldn’t stay with books all day long. Just relax.” Wang Xing softened her tone.
Lotus was felt a bit sorry for being so brusque. She looked outside, and pondered a little. This was the real world where people got together based on the same interest. However, there weren’t really too many people who would genuinely care for each other. We get along with each other every day, afraid of doing an offense. How many people in our lives do we really love? Why couldn’t she enjoy the company of the people around her and have a good time with them? Maybe she needed to go outside.
“Ok, spare me five minutes, and I will be Ok.”
Lotus began to change her dresses. Wang Xing was waiting with a broad smile on her face.