I need to open the album of vain memories, it is necessary to give an account of myself after many years. They are more than one person, with different faces, heights, different shyness and smiles; of course, there is the indecisive or unknowing me in the eyes – the disheveled me, the helpless struggle after the heart of so many good wishes.
I mechanically followed behind the woman. The road is lined with tung blossoms in bloom, the wind blowing, a psychedelic fragrance. There are no leaves on the paulownia trees, which are the tallest flowering trees on the plain, and they blossom passionately in spring. Is it a flood of lust, or a fruitless flush of love? I have never seen the seeds of the paulownia take root, and the only way for Sango to plant the seedlings of the paulownia was to take cuttings from the roots, wait for the lotus-like leaves to grow, and transplant them a year later. I knew that on some level I was an adult, primed for human animal reproduction, just like all the men on the old river bank, restless with the passion of spring in strong or weak bodies.
The third aunt is in another village, four or five miles from our village. The third aunt is not my mother’s real sister, but because of the geographical proximity, it seems closer than many real sisters. The third aunt’s house is simple. My aunt’s husband was an old veteran of the Huaihai Campaign and was hit by a bullet in his left leg on the battlefield, so he needed to hold his knee to stand up. When I was at school, I often saw him limping to town with a pouch on his back to receive his monthly allowance. The third aunt is concerned about my marriage, just as concerned about their own children, every time they go must ask, have you found a girlfriend, and even when you go to school to ask me, have you been with which girl, and said there is no shame, in their eyes, no matter what age as long as you can get along with the right girl, you do not worry about marriage after adulthood. I certainly do not deny it, on the one hand, do not want to let others look down, look like they are very incapable, on the other hand, I think this kind of thing makes people shy! The first thing you need to do is to look for someone, how embarrassing it is.
But now, vanity or shyness, the wolf has been running around for several years to the age where it is necessary to start a family. In the old river bank, life and death is a big deal, looking for an object is a big deal, if a man is very old still can not get a wife, it is not only his own thing, the family and even the family will be disgraced. Behind the scenes, some people would say from afar, “Look, you’re in your twenties and you still don’t have a date; it’s hard, there’s a paralyzed child in the family, and there are four nooks and crannies in the house (meaning the family is poor). My mother carried such a humiliation on her back that after I was born, an educated man in the village said, “He’s a kid again, be a bachelor.
Aunt San came to solve my mother’s humiliation. The third aunt with her eloquent sisters-in-law said with confidence that they would find me a suitable match, not far away, in another small village to the west of their village, the sister of the nephew-in-law of the third aunt’s sisters-in-law – in fact, it is not a mouthful, you come to the old river bank, many people can almost climb relatives. Since the wedding is a big event, there will be a lot of people worried about this, for this reason can not sleep at night, for this reason to find relations or said to know the roots of the more at ease. The mother who couldn’t sleep at night had some joy on her face, just a year ago, I returned from a long trip and almost made her very ill. Strictly speaking, the Henan girl and I can only be considered pen pals, because of the common love of literature, correspondence, produced a plausible emotion. At that time, I was still in a cement factory in a city in the northeast of the car team, snow-like letters arrived, so I was in a foreign country more comfort. We agreed that I would go to meet her in the small town when the snow fell. I really did meet, a small dark hotel, talking to each other indifferently, in reference to the focus of a fundamental disagreement – I want to take her back home; she only accepted me to stay in her small town, almost equivalent to the way to join the family. In retrospect, how foolish I was, the residual poison of certain traditional ideas taking root in my mind, refusing to leave my hometown and pay the right price for love.
I’ve seen my mother’s face gradually get more and more happy, I decided to go with the third aunt’s sisters-in-law.
I am familiar with every programmed process of marriage in the countryside, my elementary school classmate Bian Tou once came to our village for a blind date. That day the flat head dressed neatly, neat, a cut flat head looks a bit flat head deliberately grow long hair, surprisingly can not see any defects. The girl in our village is a few years older than the flat head, her father is a carpenter, and her family is not bad. The flat head walks with a characteristic, outward eight, feet flung outward, brand new bicycle pushed by hand, meet the village men will pull out a cigarette to spread a circle. When Biantao saw me, his hand stopped in mid-air when he wanted to hand me a cigarette. I asked him what was going on, he said nothing, nothing, come to play. Afterwards I learned that this is the so-called matchmaking. The blind date of the flat head did not succeed, because the two villages adjacent to each other can not hide anything, the bicycle is borrowed, the suit on the body is borrowed, the feet of the pair of three-joint black leather shoes may also be borrowed.
I don’t mean any ridicule, I know that such people are the majority in the countryside. I dropped out of school in a hurry and went out to work, which to some extent relieved some of the pressure on the family, at least in terms of clothing, and I no longer had to worry about who I was going to borrow from.
The girl had arrived, and I always suspected that the girl was taller than me – after years of humble existence, life, I look at everything with a sense of oppression. The matchmaking place is at her sister’s house, a simple and plain courtyard, the man is not at home, the third aunt and the introducer briefly said a few words and sat in the courtyard, leaving us in the shadowy light of the hall, the door was taken by the girl’s sister, a beam of light through the doorway, forming a tangible but insubstantial division between her and me. My eyes wandered to other places, but refused to fall on the girl’s face; perhaps the girl did the same, wringing her hands and waiting for me to speak. Time was almost at a standstill, as if I could feel the light moving, shifting little by little. My eyes must have lingered for a moment in the process of balking – long hair, dark complexion, danfeng eyes, a few not-so-subtle freckles distributed on the sides of the nose. It was a short time, a long time, and in that indeterminate amount of time, we seemed to have a preliminary impression of each other. The initial meeting was considered a success, only to be met a second time.
The main road from the village to the town street was said to be tarred, and every family needed to contribute to the construction of the road in the west of the village. Our family was busy on the road section, a village of people were busy, shoulders and hands, people with oxen and horse carts were more economical, driving livestock to pull the dirt from the pit to the road. We could only use the crate, slowly prancing like a snail. Aunt San’s sisters-in-law sent a letter saying that I should fulfill the second ritual, which was to go to the girl’s village to be looked at – or at least to let her parents know the height and weight. I rode my new Ingles bicycle, which was still a fashionable mountain bike at that time, to the girl’s village like a gust of wind. We met under some big trees outside the village at the time we had agreed in advance. The girl stood in the spring light, and the girl stood in my memory. Now that I think about it, almost every girl I experienced was simple, hiding a simple heart under their serene appearance, and their tacit approval or acknowledgement of me made me feel like I still had value in existence, unlike all the oppression I felt every time I stood in front of a stranger.
Is my heart too high, or is it a raw egg that doesn’t understand the beauty that lies beneath the surface? I was questioning myself, and after many questions I still found myself shallow. I look at the girl’s eyes, the original good-looking eyes no longer exist, the upper eyelids are swollen, eyes a little red. Later, the introducer explained that the girl loves beauty and had to go to the county to do a double eyelid, which led to redness and swelling. But no matter what, the words spilled out of the water has stopped me, so I step towards swallowing the bitter fruit of self-brewing.
I thought I was a rural alien, at least in my love of literature, and wanted to find someone with similar temperament to myself as a wife. How close to a fantasy, like a person who always thinks he is a phoenix in a henhouse, born to live a noble life. And the trials and tribulations of life had just begun, the ethereal things twisting and knotting before my eyes into real dreams. I wrote poems in the brick kiln factory and took them to my language teacher back then, I submitted them to the county tabloids and would secretly rejoice when my tofu block of hollow lyrical text was published. I read books in the cabin of a fishing boat swaying in the sea, Tang poems and Song lyrics, the flower of love in the tangled and unreal and beautiful. I submitted a manuscript to a poetry magazine, and a letter of return was read with great excitement. I wanted to join the army, just like many poets in the profile of “military poet”, sounding atmospheric, full of pride – but I was still forgotten by the times, stranded on the shore in the era of the great literary flag dancing wildly. I looked at the backs of those who had gone before, when the spirit far exceeded the temptation of material things to people, even the newspaper in the cracks of the marriage advertisement also wrote: “a man, literature lovers”, as a bargaining chip to win a good marriage.
Reality was a brick wall that stood in front of our family. The reality of our family could not be more obvious: my second sister is married and my third sister is about to get married, which is delayed because of me. My father and mother are in their sixties and have little strength to contribute to the land – not to mention that my father is paralyzed. In this way, I, the oldest son who had been the envy of the people for many years, entered an awkward situation. Originally I had the possibility to continue my education and go to university and run to the city, originally I had the opportunity to enlist in the army and dream of being a “military poet” in the barracks …… everything has vanished, in front of the hard reality seems unbearable.
The mother has entertained many matchmakers, those matchmakers have different faces, different ages, different genders. Their arrival was a source of joy and sorrow. It started with the second brother. My mother would send me out to buy a box of cigarettes, my father would talk with the matchmakers, and my mother would cook a few delicious meals to entertain the matchmakers. These matchmakers were like the sheep economy and cattle economy in the livestock market, with their hands tucked into their sleeves, exchanging prices in sign language to reach a sale, the difference being that the matchmakers were dealing with people, and they chattered about things related to their profession in their daily walks, meals, and sleep. Some matchmakers are considered to have professional ethics, before the success of the matchmaking, rarely take to the host family; some are basically charlatans, every day to and from the villages, eat into the belly, into the pocket, as for the wedding, often nothing more than a virtual shadow of what was said in passing. But you must not say anything bad about it, they often do not have enough to do. There is a special word called “matchmaking”, meaning that a good marriage, will be some people add oil and vinegar to turn everything upside down, dissatisfied with the man said the man’s family of all kinds of fault, the same for the woman’s family dissatisfaction.
My mother walked the tightrope of her sons’ marriages with fear and trepidation, while anxiously begging for advice from relatives and friends, and at the same time entertaining various faces of charlatans with goodwill. The second brother went to the northeast and found his own partner; the third brother came from the army and returned from demobilization to marry his third wife. My turn, I am the tip of my mother’s heart, is her last hope and concern. I became a family mother will be able to say: our family finally no one bachelor child, I’m sorry, let the young and old worry about it. This is living in the bottom of the most humble satisfaction ah, we cattle and horses like, we mustard like, we insects like, after solving the problem of food and clothing is the only thing left to think about – to find someone.
And then lower the standard, even if the other party is ugly, or slightly disabled. My mother called me to the inner room, the matchmaker is a familiar person from the neighboring village, more than fifty years old, I should call my sister. My mother said, your sister is right, the girl is a little shorter, darker skin, but capable ah, a hand in the family land, perhaps more than you can also work. You see what we have at home, your father’s illness is getting worse. I was silent, I was silent in boundless despair, feeling the darkness squeeze over to me in a mass. I know that girl, she is my elementary school classmate. I also know that the girl can do, a person riding a bicycle to the town street to sell their own planted leeks eggplant cucumbers. I know more about my father’s illness, coughing every night, coughing out the stars, coughing up the night. But do I therefore take a back seat? I have to hide or bury all the desire for love, just to find a woman?
The second blind date still ended in failure. Love, or maybe there is no love in the old river bank. The smoke rises, the women call out the names of men and children to go home for dinner, and at night, blow out the lights to do the things that make a living. Turn off the lights, close your eyes, you can’t see anything. I can’t see anything, what a helpless country love.
I’m not even as good as my little hairy boy, Silver. Silver and I were walking in the snow when Silver saw his beloved girl arrive from afar, clad in silvery moonlight. Silver is straightforward, inarticulate but not anxious, and there is always a way to get close to the girl you like when you see her. Silver and I worked in a city when I had a lot of love, a singing forget stuttering he was very popular with girls, can not wait to live together, can not wait to sing together every day to live. Another girl who was bewitched by Yinzi’s song, came far away in the winter snow, and the two embraced together. I became an outsider, but I was happy for their sweet love. I have this ability to be in awe and thrilled in the presence of something beautiful without thinking about so-called embarrassment or jealousy. I am a person with little jealousy, and the beautiful longings that are lacking in my human world my experience, even if they are realized in others, I give my sincere blessings.
However, it was still not love, or the shallow joy of youth, Silver replaced the object one by one, foreign, hometown, all kinds of faces, and he did not feel guilty. This makes me fearful, some superficial or transient beauty in the end what it says – instinctive desire, or the unlimited pursuit of beauty?
The love I wanted did not appear, and my father’s condition became serious. When I was reading Yan Lianke’s new novel “They”, I was struck by a fragile nerve – Yan Lianke was going on a blind date, his mother had divided the work, his sister had to clean the house early in the morning, his mother had to buy vegetables and cut meat early in the morning, “and his father… -The task assigned to him by my mother was that when the sun came out and the village was warm, he would hide in the daylight in the small courtyard behind my house, not to move, to warm up, not to let my partner see him as a sick consumptive person, coughing and spitting when he moved, often for half a day in a row”. My father was such a sick consumptive person, in the early years and Yinzi’s father in the village to build earthen walls, building earthen houses, and later fell paraplegic limbs, and the same cough cough cough pneumonia bronchitis, a mouthful of phlegm held in the cavity for most of the day can not be spit out. I suspect that all fathers in the countryside have the same sad face, excited, joyful and powerless in the face of their children’s adulthood. The matchmaker was about to arrive, and this time the matchmaker was replaced by someone from the village of the girl who had fallen in love with Yinzi. We woke up that day in the freezing snow and lied about coming to this village early in the morning. The girl’s mother could not resist the encouragement to propose a marriage to one of her sister’s daughters. I knew it was thanks to the silver beloved girl, yesterday talking to the middle of the night, her aunt’s daughter was vivid in my mind, my sleep, if it really could be a marriage, it would be such a great pile of good things, when they all married and became our women, everything was springing to life.
My father was making his own plans, getting up early in the morning and stumbling to our backyard, walking down a gentle slope and down the avenue to the cattle house that had been there for years. Sometimes I think my father lived in the village as a silhouette if nothing else, like a paper man floating in the wind. My father was a hard worker, herding sheep when our family had them, feeding cows when they didn’t, feeding them head to head, bending his knees with one hand to renew the grass under the guillotine. The guillotines rotated one by one, with my second brother, second sister, third sister, and finally me, cutting wheat straw or corn stalks in the moonlight. The rest of the time, what was my father thinking about? He couldn’t do anything about the lack of money at home, he couldn’t do anything about the need to contribute to the fields, he couldn’t do anything about saying nice things to others, and he couldn’t even articulate what was on his mind. Whenever he wanted to speak in anxiety, the veins on his neck bulged, his facial palsy twitched, his shoulders and arms trembled, but he could not speak a complete sentence, so he could only sigh and give up all his efforts.
What can we do if we don’t give up? In the countryside dictionary there is never the word “easy”. Want to say marriage, the necessary conditions are: a newly built house, and so the girl married over without having to worry about living; the grain in the bin, you can not be empty in the granary, otherwise, even the best people will brush off; both parents, and so in the future have a child can help with the management, so as to save the worries. My mother lied to the matchmaker, saying that my father went to the market and could not come back for a while, the matchmaker and the girl’s family left satisfied, saying that the weather was fine one day, so that the children could talk to themselves, and things were deep and shallow and finalized.
We talked in the matchmaker’s earthen room, the girl’s white, the girl’s good-looking eyes, let me some excitement. Sometimes I will judge myself, late at night, in every quiet moment, in the face of something animalistic performance. I will see the blue sky and green water when weeping, I will be in a crowded spot when I hear the sound of drums from the deep alley, I will see the birds flying up the forest a little when a blur in front of my eyes. And now, I want to grab that girl’s white hand and never let go of it again. We exchanged our views on each other, she was weaving tapestry at home, the export kind, also have a small income, I suggested that when things become we go to a broader world, we want to go to the south, even if working, the days will have hope. No longer talk about what poetry and literature, for many years after that I was insulated from literature, indistinct love and hate, I know this is a kind of transfer, the fate of personal suffering to blame on the innocent literature – and they, too, can not yet enter the mysterious door.
The blind date ended inconclusively, and countless inconclusively formed the flat memory of my adolescence, and this time it ended inconclusively. In the girl’s father micro-visit to find out that I also have a sickly father, categorically not allowed his daughter and I dating. The sunset, the earthen walls, the tall aspen trees, and the fantasies of going south all disappeared in the cold winter day.
I was a stone’s throw away from my cousin’s wife’s house, and I could often hear her cries when I sat down after dinner. The only son of the first uncle’s family, equivalent to the inheritance of the incense, more than thirty years did not find a date. The cousin’s family is in the town street, after the supply and marketing agency contracted to sell fertilizer, the family economy is better, so they found people who specialize in bringing girls from frontier areas to bring cousin’s wife. I was 13 or 14 years old, junior high school age, some legends and stories to exchange with cousin sister-in-law, cousin sister-in-law is not older than me a few years, is going to school, was shouted home by parents, said someone to recruit people to work, cousin sister-in-law followed the road in a daze. What she didn’t know was that the person who came put down the money had been tucked into her father’s pocket, and she had been promised to be someone else’s daughter-in-law. She was crying, running out again and again in the night, wanting to go home.
Where can I go back home? The first uncle’s family are typically honest people, the kind of people who will not resist even if they are bullied, but they love people, eggs, captive chickens and ducks, cut meat at the market, to cousin sister-in-law is like coaxing their own children, even more than their own children. When the youngest cousin became jealous, whether she ate meat or eggs, either she didn’t have any or she could only eat chicken heads and feet, she couldn’t stop crying anymore. The fire in the stove is bright and dark, a thin figure sitting in front of the stove, eyes wooden, looking into the bright and dark fire, looking into their own obscure future. She must not understand how she crossed the mountains to become a woman on the plain, how she became someone’s daughter-in-law from a child who just came out of school. The cousin inherited the honest face of the eldest, mute with a few stiff words to express their good, catching the market, on the field, one in front of the other, absolutely no more than two steps away, always keep within a handful of each other can grab. A woman’s fate is thus tied to a man, a family living and living to meet the arrival of such a mountainous woman.
I was involved in the “hunt” for my cousin’s sister-in-law, who ran away in the night, crossing the river bank to the wheat field in Nan Gangzi. The first time I saw her, I was told by my aunt that the day would slowly get better, and that the family had food and cattle, and that your pocket money would not stop, so what else would not work? I looked at the slowly moving moon, a person’s future is so bifurcated, like a river flowing into the wilderness, youth, dreams, the future, where you make the decision, and when you are awake to walk on their own free path?
My fruitless matchmaking journey continued, and by this time, my thin cousin’s sister-in-law had completely become a simple woman on the plain. My eldest uncle and aunt died one after another, and my younger cousin was married off to another village. The first time I saw a woman, she was still jealous of her father and mother, and she said she had given her cousin all the goodies. A pair of children is her greatest comfort, to the twenty-first century, as economic conditions slowly become better, parents in Sichuan far away will also take the train far to visit their daughter years apart. The wizard of time, not always wielding a light baton, will sometimes raise a bright knife to make you succumb, let you change, let you become the one you least want to be.
The time has come for my cousin’s wife to worry about me, and I sometimes have a fleeting thought that she will not also attract a distant girl as my object through not so glamorous channels? But in the eyes of the family, such a thing does not hold true. The fate of these women from afar was not favored at first. They first face their much older men with fear and trembling, then they muster the courage to try to befriend the women of the village for sympathy and understanding, and even finally, after settling down, they have to pay more materially and spiritually than other local women to face the harsh reality and live themselves as a normal person.
This is the good ending. The bad end is slowly presented, the older men in their teens and twenties lost their ability to work prematurely, or even die, they have to face the old and young at home alone, longing for their children to grow up or go to college, have a day of work, in order to step out of the torment. The most painful end also has, was led to the foreign women stubborn temper, after the hopeless resistance to a bottle of pesticide or a rope died in a foreign country.
I still gave up on such a cruel way, my father still quietly hid in the small courtyard behind the village when the matchmaker arrived. And so it came to pass that an elderly matchmaker on a tricycle made a marriage happen in the last days of his life. In accordance with local custom, we bought all the bride-price and held a preliminary marriage agreement ceremony at the girl’s house. Half a fan of pork was unloaded from the tricycle, a dozen boxes of wine were unloaded, cigarettes and sweets were unloaded, and people from the man’s and woman’s families sat together and exchanged glasses, while the girl, who was a stranger to me, and I had a brief exchange in the inner room. The money for the bride price is not much, two thousand returned four hundred, sixteen hundred even if signed a marriage contract that is not good to speak openly, if there are no other twists and turns, this woman in the shadow of the dim light will be my companion in this life.
My father is getting old. My father seems to defy his own aging, blood pressure is low to an unbelievable value, the cavity is like a bellows huffing and puffing with heavy breath, the hospital in the town street refused to accept, saying it is best to hurry to the county. My father could not go to the county, my mother said we have no money to go to the hospital, the money to build the house has not been repaid, the bride price and the bride price spent the money to sell pigs, borrowed money to pay for the marriage someday in the future. I wanted time to stop, my footsteps to stop, my father’s life to stop, but it did not help. The last light of my father’s labor stopped at a certain moment when he got up from bed after taking some medicine and injections and went to weed the grain field behind the village. My father worked in an awkward manner: his right arm held the hoe handle under his armpit, and one by one he painstakingly cut the grass away from the field, the daylight blazed, and no more sweat could be squeezed out of his thin black body. He sat on the ground and wanted to roll a dry cigarette before he realized that he had quit smoking long ago because of pneumonia and bronchitis …… The next day he lay in bed and never got up.
My fourth blind date failed, the woman’s family still sent someone to find the village clerk’s house, the original bride price and bride price of the money and things entrusted to us.
The withdrawal was a bolt from the blue for an ordinary farming family, how should we face the future? How to face this stained life? This is what my mother thinks, or represents the view of most of the elders in the countryside. I was a little disappointed, perhaps everything is determined by God, in my original numb soul did not rise too much tide. My father’s health was getting worse and worse, lying in bed with the arm that could only move to grab the air again and again, asked him, he could not say, beads of sweat rolled down from the black thin cheeks, you can see he was doing his last hope and effort. I seem to be able to hear his unspoken helplessness, and I always seem to see his back as he stumbles into the sunset light while avoiding the matchmaker again and again. I can always see his back stumbling into the sunset while avoiding the matchmaker. Is this the way to go, to say goodbye to a short, broken life with regret and disappointment?
I have also made a vision of my life, if I continue to go to school, like more farm children out of the farm gate, what kind of glory is that? I left with excitement, exaggeration and even some despicable mentality – oh oh, I finally left this black and white world where I could never make waves in my life, and a bright, lighted life was waiting in the city ahead of me, and I would try to blend in with more strange and enviable people, sitting like them in the wide, towering office buildings and doing forever. I will try to blend in with more strange and enviable people, sitting like them in the wide office buildings that tower into the clouds, doing things that are never related to the land again, and I will kick my shoes out loud when I return home to show those people who despised our family back then.
The autumn breeze pounded on the doors and windows, leaving my father breathless. This old body, eaten away by time, is about to return to the dirt, to the dirt where he has struggled all his life. There is no improvement because of hard work and frugality, not because of the children’s struggle to make him stand tall on earth. The father in the hospital bed again and again want to rick up, grab the memories that are dissipating in the void, grab those who may have been beautiful light, into the arms, and the soul in a little bit of peeling, out of the body. I felt as if I saw my father floating away in the void, his limbs spreading, his voice lang, he did not shed tears when he waved his hand – to his loved ones left behind in his hometown village, so far away, soaring to another world with regret and relief.
The worst I could do was to become a complete country bachelor, hanging my head low in the face of the ridicule of others. The bachelors on the old river bank are the free people in the world, one person is fed and the whole family is not hungry, slipping on their shoes and slowly walking to the root of the earthen wall, picking their teeth with a straw, looking into the distance with eyes that have lost their light, facing the life and death of the village with their almost statue-like fatigue, perhaps they are the only ones who understand the meaning of living better, using the simplest algorithm to subtract the toil and dreams, and then turning into earth, turning into a crop on the wild land The first time I met my wife, I was a little bitter.
The meeting between my wife and I is another kind of chance coincidence, the inevitable flower and fruit after countless chance will be quietly hanging on the branches one day. The broad and narrow sense of love never had any realistic meaning in the old river bank, for life for death for companionship may be closer to the answer. With the birth of a son, all of this has become a mountain high, the land in the countryside never holds a complaint, the flowers that bloom the fruit step by step to catch up with the season. I am a seed left in the fingers of God, when close to the soil is destined to take root, scatter leaves, flowers and fruits, grow into their own appearance.