Chapter 27 – Don’t let me see you in Suzhou

The next morning, I left Hengdian and returned to Suzhou in the afternoon. The first thing I did was to go to the company and report the situation to Manager Chen Jingming. The issue of shooting promotional posters for GUCCI was resolved with the promise Le Yao gave me.

That evening after work, I sat in the office for a long time without leaving. Having left the house where I had lived for more than two years, the fear of having nowhere to go kept haunting me.

Habit is indeed a terrifying thing. My current pain is entirely due to habit. I was used to the love Jian Wei once gave me, and the warmth and comfort that the house once provided.

I was a bit confused about what had happened over the years. Why did I always lose the precious things in my life, yet gain so little?

Perhaps I knew the answer, but was unwilling to admit it. So I comforted myself: At least I see some hope in my work now. The progress in my work will surely make my future life better. So, I should pull myself together and prepare for a new life!

After leaving the company, I didn’t look for a new house. I decided to stay with Robben for the time being. At least at night, two equally lonely and frustrated men could chat about music and this absurd life.

Wandering alone on the street, utterly bored, I decided to go to the bar to find Robben and have a few drinks.

Without hesitation, I hailed a taxi and headed to the bar where Robben was performing.

Upon arriving at the bar, the familiar lights and the crowd with their swaying bodies were still there. I just found a relatively quiet corner and sat down.

Robben came over with a few bottles of beer, sat down across from me, handed me a bottle of beer, and said, “I thought you were done with this place. Why are you back?”

I looked around and joked, “I came here to soak up some decadent vibes. I’ve been living a bit too well lately!”

Robben clinked his beer bottle with mine and laughed, “You’re just too used to the hard life. What’s wrong with living a bit more comfortably?”

I also laughed, raised my bottle, and said, “This is the realm of life. You, young comrade, still have a lot to comprehend… Cheers!”

Robben shrugged and drank with me. Then he asked, “You went to Hengdian to find Le Yao yesterday, didn’t you?”

“How did you know? I kept it so secret,” I asked in surprise.

“I chatted with Le Yao on WeChat today. She said you went.”

“Actually, I really went to Hengdian for work. GUCCI wants to set up a counter in our department store and specifically requested Le Yao to shoot their product promotional posters. This tough task fell on me.” I said and took another sip of beer.

“No wonder Le Yao said she was happy for nothing. She probably thought you went there specifically for her at first.”

“Even if I went specifically for her, it would have to be on the weekend.”

Robben nodded and didn’t ask any more questions. After we finished another bottle of beer and chatted for a while, Robben left. It was time for him to perform.

More and more people came to the bar for entertainment. I was still sitting in the corner, sipping my drink, lost in thought. The night I spent with Le Yao vaguely appeared in my mind, making me feel a bit melancholic. This melancholy was puzzling, but it was real.

On the stage, Robben and another female singer were singing a song he wrote. The applause from the audience was intermittent. My attention was finally drawn to the music, and I started snapping my fingers to the rhythm.

Robben is actually a very talented folk singer. But he is too principled, unwilling to write commercial pop songs or participate in ubiquitous talent shows. So, he has been singing in bars for years, living a frugal life. But he doesn’t seem to mind this hardship. He often says: Playing music doesn’t necessarily mean becoming famous, but it must involve persistence.

However, after knowing him for so many years, I still don’t know what his persistence is. But that doesn’t affect my admiration for him.

In the midst of the music, my phone vibrated in my pocket. I continued to snap my fingers to the rhythm, took out my phone, and answered the call without looking at the number.

It was Circle who called. He seemed to have heard the noise of the bar and said to me, “Zhao Yang, you’re hanging out in the bar again?”

“Enjoy your honeymoon and stop worrying about me.” I said, standing up from my seat and swaying with the crowd to the rhythm of the music.

“Which bar are you in? I’ll come find you.”

“Aren’t you and Yan Yan in Sanya?” I asked in confusion.

“It’s been raining heavily in Sanya these past few days. We’ll go in a few days.”

“Will your honeymoon leave be enough if you go in a few days?”

“We won’t be playing for many days, it will be enough… Stop talking nonsense and tell me which bar you’re in.”

“Soho Bar. Come on, I’ll buy you a drink.”

“Then you’d better prepare more money. Yan Yan is coming too, as well as Jian Wei and Xiang Chen.”

Hearing the names of Jian Wei and Xiang Chen, my heart fluttered. After a long pause, I cursed, “Did you go stupid after getting married? Why are you bringing them?”

“Why are you getting so worked up? The five of us haven’t gotten together in years. Besides, don’t you have a girlfriend now? Let’s all get together and forget about the past.”

“Who told you I have a girlfriend?”

“Jian Wei. If you didn’t have a girlfriend, I wouldn’t bring Jian Wei and Xiang Chen to upset you. I know my limits!”It was then that I remembered, on the day of Circle’s wedding, I had indeed lied to Jian Wei that Mi Cai was my girlfriend. I didn’t expect this lie to come back like a stone I had lifted myself, ruthlessly smashing my own foot, and I couldn’t dodge it.

In my daze, Circle said to me again, “Actually, the idea of getting together was Xiang Chen’s. We’re all brothers who have come through college together. Don’t let those emotional things spoil the fun… Now that everyone is paired up, isn’t it nice to get together?”

I didn’t know what to say, so I just stayed silent.

Circle reminded me again, “Remember to invite your girlfriend. I heard from Jian Wei that she’s incredibly beautiful. If even Jian Wei thinks so, Yan Yan and I really want to see for ourselves!”

I was about to say something when Circle hung up the phone. Listening to the “beep beep” sound from the phone, I was dumbfounded!

The bar was still noisy, but I was restless. Circle had made his point clear, and I couldn’t run away at the last minute. The problem was that I had recklessly claimed Mi Cai as my girlfriend that day. Given the circumstances then, I was like a drowning man clutching at straws, so I could understand my actions. But what should I do now?

After being at a loss for a long time, I finally decided to call Mi Cai. If she had any sense of loyalty, she would definitely help me out.

I took out my phone, found Mi Cai’s number, but hesitated to dial. I remembered that we had argued over not buying insecticide powder when I moved out the day before yesterday. Then she forced me to pay back the money I owed her. I left my guitar behind in embarrassment and almost fled. Would it be too unmanly to call her now?

“Forget it, I’m already a scumbag in her eyes, so why bother about dignity.”

I muttered to myself, then, with the reputation of a scumbag, I plucked up the courage and dialed the number.

Listening to the dial tone, I was surprisingly nervous. This nervousness was justified. I was afraid that Mi Cai would mock my lack of dignity, and even more afraid that she would refuse to help me in my hour of need.

After a while, the call was answered, and I heard Mi Cai’s serious voice again, “What do you want?”

“I need your help.”

“Need my help? Are you planning to jump into a river or a lake again?”

I was choked by Mi Cai’s words and after a while, I said, “This time it’s not about jumping into a river. Do you remember at my friend’s wedding, I told a woman that you were my girlfriend?”

“You have the nerve to bring that up?”

I immediately followed Mi Cai’s words and sighed, “Ah~~! Isn’t that the thing that got me into trouble? My friends all want to meet you, and they’re already on their way. Hurry up and come to Soho Bar to rescue me.”

“Even Jesus can’t save someone like you!”

“Stop mocking me, it’s really urgent. If you don’t come, I’ll be utterly humiliated today!”

“Who cares!”

“Please, can you do it for me?” I pleaded desperately.

Mi Cai responded indifferently, “You’re on your own.”

I was furious, “Are you reincarnated from a heartless nun? Don’t you have any sense of loyalty… Damn it, don’t let me see you in Suzhou again…”

The call was suddenly hung up. Listening to the “beep beep” of the hang-up tone, I was completely dumbfounded!


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