Night in Xishuangbanna

  His hand was released and he disappeared. What a ghostly place, Xishuangbanna.
  I’m almost at the small hotel, two bright red pennants fluttering at the entrance of the hotel, which is the only building on the street. The light was faint, illuminating only the two flags. The interior of the hotel is peculiar, and it feels darker than the outside when you enter. There are no lights on the walls or roof, only a few floor lamps sporadically installed on the luxurious carpet.
  I am lucky that there are two girls in the lobby of the hotel tonight. I couldn’t see their faces, they were talking.
  Their conversation seemed to come to a head when I finished a glass of champagne. I heard the slightly fat girl say two words repeatedly: “Tang, fight”. I can’t hear anything else. The taller girl was getting more and more impatient, her eyes were green like cat’s eyes, and she tried to get up with her glass of wine, but was pulled down by her companion and sat down on the seat. “Tangling!” the slightly fat girl exclaimed. I noticed that the flowers on her head were yellow.
  They started another round of conversation, and their voices dropped. I pretended to keep staring at the wine in the glass. For some reason, I had wishful thinking that these two girls were here for me, and I also thought that something was going to happen tonight, in this hotel. The boss at the counter hid, only a languid waiter sat there. I always thought that the girls in the cottage were always invited by men to drink, but I didn’t expect them to drink too. I made up my mind not to go and invite them, but to see what happened. Because the string in my heart was tense, my hand holding the wine glass was shaking.
  However nothing happened. The two girls stood up and helped each other out of the hotel. Their figures soon disappeared into the night. “Two prostitutes,” the hotel owner said to me, who was standing at the door. His tone was both contempt and admiration.
  ”Boss Qiu, are the people who do ‘night tours’ a sex worker?” I raised my voice through the alcohol.
  Boss Qiu laughed and said,
  ”You mean ‘night tour’? That’s a job offered by Xishuangbanna. What kind of job are you asking about? No, I can’t answer you, and no one can answer your question. . . . It’s a serious question.”
  He seemed annoyed, and immediately turned around and entered the store, leaving me outside alone.
  I looked at my watch, it was two in the morning. After walking for a while, I came to the intersection. There were two small alleys in front of me, one on the left and one on the right. People here call these two alleys “coffee alleys” because there are many coffee shops in them. I chose the alley on the left. There is a large tea room in this alley, sandwiched among many coffee shops. It was in this tearoom that I met Yuxiang and Xiaoji – on two completely different occasions.
  Don’t know if the tea room is closed or if there is something wrong with my eyesight, I couldn’t find it. I came to the end of this nameless alley, then turned around and walked back and forth. When I walked back, the alley was empty, even the coffee shop was closed, and it was pitch black everywhere. I turned around again and walked back, intending to get out of the alley and go to another street.
  ”Yuanfeng, you are still obsessed after so long.”
  It was Yuxiang who was speaking beside me. Her voice was hoarse, did she drink alcohol?
  ”Yuxiang, where did you come from?”
  ”From the hotel over there, I’ve been sitting at the same table with you. You didn’t notice me, you were watching the play on the opposite table, and you couldn’t help it. Second use. But they still left you – just like just now, you wandered in this alley with no gain, and the alley left you.”
  She stretched out her hand to me, and I held her hand. It was a big rough hand of a man, certainly not Yuxiang’s hand I had ever seen. I exclaimed “Oh” in surprise. When I made a sound, the hand shook off my hand impatiently, like it was shaking off something dirty. “Yuxiang.” I said nervously. There was silence all around, and she disappeared. I could still smell the scent of the flowers in her hair, and I stood in the alley, undecided. “Yuxiang, Yuxiang!” I called out one after another in my heart. Once upon a time, in the early morning after the rain, how unpredictable she was standing under the foxtail coconut!
  All the street lights were dark except for one at the end of the street. Next to the street lamp, there was a huge traveler banana, which spread its body wantonly, covering the privacy behind it like a villain. I stopped for a while, and went around behind it mischievously. But there was just a brick wall behind it, and the screams of the girls overflowed from the cracks in the wall. I stood in the shadows, comprehending the secrets of the Traveler Banana from the waves of screams. It is not a local resident like me. How did it take root in the small town of Xishuangbanna? I thought I could understand it, but on a night like this, in silent communication with it, I’m still baffled.
  OK, I’m back on the street again. This is Peacock Street, where the lights are bright, people are hidden among bushes and trees, and there are rows of trees – flowering and podded – on the sidewalk. There are so many men and women, but the whole street is silent, why don’t they make a sound? The shops are all closed, but the neon signs that serve as signs are still flashing. There is a small shop owner, lying in a hammock under a tree, reading a picture book by the light of the street lamp. I stood in front of him, waiting for him to look up. But he blindly immersed himself in the picture book.
  ”Yanliu, what are you looking at?”
  ”Plants in Xishuangbanna.” He said and sat up.
  ”Don’t you see them every day? You still need to look at the picture album?”
  ”There are many strange things in it. I have only seen them in my dreams. I am not reconciled.”
  ”So that’s how it is.”
  He ignored me. Lie down again and read his picture book.
  Although people are hiding among the trees, there are no secrets on Peacock Street. Everything is exposed under bright lights, but some of the exposure is unsolvable riddles.
  The food stalls have been dismantled, and the tables and chairs have been removed, leaving only the smell of food in the air. Probably because there was no wind, the airflow was stagnant. The white-haired grandfather stood in front of the door of the small hotel, thinking.
  ”Grandpa, are you waiting for someone?” I approached him and asked.
  ”No wait. I can’t bear to part with her.”
  ”Your lover?”
  ”Yeah, Xishuangbanna. She’ll be leaving soon, and I can feel the hidden rays of the sun.”
  A Dai girl on the wooden floor of the small hotel dropped a red flower, perhaps plucked from her head down. She is also keeping Xishuangbanna? Passion surged again in my chest, how lucky I must be tonight! I said goodbye to the old man and the girl and moved on. I was about to arrive at the place where Gao Shanrong and Huwei Ye face each other across the street. what is that? One, another, a shadow, a little sun, fused with the star-like frangipani… Too many, too many, girls. Is this a cliff?
  I wanted to stay, but my pace was faster. I rushed straight to the frangipani tree and saw the legless girls hanging in the flowers. At this moment, the big yellow dog barked wildly, and it fell on me. It’s three times the size of a normal yellow dog, and its teeth gnawed at my neck. But it didn’t bite hard, just made a bite. I was held down by its claws and couldn’t move. My eyes shot from its ear to the tree, and I saw the beautiful woman hanging in the blue air. How ecstatic she is! “She—” I said softly. As soon as I made a sound, the yellow dog disappeared; at the same time, the girls under the flower tree also disappeared. I got up from the ground and saw the long line of beauties leaving, and they turned into a path from Foxtail Coconut. “She!” I whispered. The place where I was standing immediately became dark, the street lights and decorative lights were all off, and when I looked around, only the distance was still bright.