Screen Partner Chapter 28
After his screen partner Ruka left, it seemed like everything was going to be different.
In the beginning Xu Zheyi could not say exactly where it was different. When he thought carefully, it seemed to be just some insignificant matters.
For example, if he was thirsty, he had to go and pour some water himself. His clothes were no longer left clean and folded on his bed, smelling of fabric softener. It now felt as if he had too much unused furniture; like his house was empty.
One day, when Xu Zheyi was in the supermarket to buy food, he filled up his whole basket. He did not come to his senses until he went to pay and realized that not only had he taken too much food, he had actually grabbed all of Ruka’s favourites.
Ruka had left his life, but all along he never left his world.
Even now, Xu Zheyi did not know Ruka’s real name. He knew that he liked spicy fried beef and hated all kinds of vegetables. He knew that after dinner Ruka had a habit of drinking a bowl of soup, when he slept he always held his partner very tightly, and that his mobile phone number was 0932XXXXXX.
Xu Zheyi stared at Ruka’s number on his phone once more, and felt like all the blood in his body rushed to his left hand that gripped his phone. He desperately wanted to hit call, and then talk with Ruka under the pretense of dialing the wrong number.
Once his rationality returned a few seconds later, he would always withdraw his finger. He felt that such a move was meaningless.
He wanted to hear the sound of Ruka’s voice.
He must not hear Ruka’s voice.
He tormented himself constantly with this conflict between emotional sentimentality and rationality. It was especially bad at night, to the point that he began to suffer from insomnia.
At such times, he always remembered that morning when Ruka embraced him from behind and whispered gently, I will wait for you to think clearly.
He did not even know what that meant, ‘to think clearly’.
Ah Li was tortured for several days before he finally came to an epiphany: his old wounds could only be cured by new love.
Xu Zheyi was summoned by him via phone, and decided to go out in an attempt to improve his mood. He even went so far as to adopt a new hairstyle. When he looked at himself in the mirror, it made him feel like a brand new person.
When Ah Li saw him, he whistled in appreciation and joked, “It looks like someone is killing it today.” Xu Zheyi answered his words with a punch to the shoulder.
Ah Li seemed to be in good spirits, indicating that he probably had the determination to start a new life.
Xu Zheyi asked him, “What kind of partner are you looking for this time?”
Ah Li thought about it and then replied, “Someone who can live together with me.”
Xu Zheyi smiled at his response, “Then will you go to group dates, or attend marriage meetings1?”
Ah Li answered, “I have a multi-pronged approach.” Ah Li then listed his criteria for choosing a significant other, “They should have a good face, an excellent body, keep a good house, and be a whiz in the kitchen. All this is regardless of gender.”
When Xu Zheyi heard his last words, he almost spit out his mouthful of wine, and then heard Ah Li admit, “I am afraid of women.”
Those words suddenly reminded Xu Zheyi of Ming Ban.
I am actually afraid of men. This sentence summed up the wound that Ming Ban had given him.
He supposed that if he had never met Ming Ban, he may be able to calm down and simply think about whether he and Ruka were a good fit, rather than just blindly refusing to become gay.
There was no easy answer to this dilemma for Xu Zheyi. In the end he followed Ah Li to a bar, and then before he could gain his bearings they had moved on to a nightclub.
Xu Zheyi had not been to that kind of place for a long time. He chose to show restraint, and settled in to drink at the bar. Ah Li broke away from his ‘dead fish’ companion and disappeared into the crowd somewhere. It was not long before he walked back and put his arm around Xu Zheyi and dragged him into a private room off to the side.
Xu Zheyi, who was being dragged along, was completely confused. He could only listen as Ah Li whispered an explanation in his ear. The room was occupied by a group of female graduate students who had come to celebrate a birthday. The birthday girl saw Xu Zheyi seated at the bar, looking lonesome, and took a fancy to him.
“It’s too sad to shut yourself off from everyone,” Ah Li said as he gave him a thumbs-up and then he was kidnapped.
The birthday girl was a beauty with a generous temperament. When she saw her target being unceremoniously deposited in front of her eyes, she immediately moved and sat next to Xu Zheyi. She reached her hand out to him, smiled and said, “Hello, I’m Ivy.”
Xu Zheyi politely shook her hand, “I am Ah-Zhe.”
“Wanna dance?” Ivy asked with a smile.
“Okay,” replied Xu Zheyi as he shrugged his shoulders.
They wove their way through the crowd, came to the crowded dance floor, and then began moving to the rhythm of the music.
Xu Zheyi put his hands on her waist and she reached up and put her hands on his shoulders.
He could not deny that tonight he had gone out, more or less, with the intention of hunting. Strangely, now that someone had taken the initiative to approach him, he felt no enthusiasm whatsoever to follow through.
He lowered his head and looked at Ivy under the flickering lights.
In fact, in terms of appearance alone, this girl was exactly what he liked: long hair, big eyes, and a small frame. Despite that, he just felt that something was wrong.
Especially now that they were virtually in eachother’s arms. The thoughts he held the entire time were that her height was not right, her perfume smelled all wrong—nothing was right.
At this time, Xu Zheyi found that within his heart he probably had new ideal preferences in a partner. In order to meet his predilections, she obviously needed to be a little taller, and her perfume should be a little bit lighter…actually it was better not to wear any perfume. That way, when they hugged, he would be able to smell her body wash or her nice, natural scent.
She, like him, would dislike going out and prefer to stay at home. They would play video games together, all the way to the end. She would like cleaning, always keeping the home neat, so that he did not have to worry about that kind of domestic business. She would spoil that little white furball like crazy and, no matter how windy or rainy the weather, she would volunteer to take it out for a walk. Meanwhile, Xu Zheyi would have dinner, as well as a steaming pot of soup, waiting for her to come home.
At this point, Xu Zheyi could no longer avoid it; the resulting image was far too clear. It was just like he had tailored his ideals around a specific someone.
“Do you have a girlfriend?” In a quieter moment of music, he heard Ivy ask him that question.
He froze, but stayed silent. Just when Ivy thought he would not answer, she heard him whisper, “I have a boyfriend.”
I have a boyfriend.
Xu Zheyi never thought that he would say those four words in his entire life, but once he spoke, he felt that he was not as perturbed as he imagined. Instead, he was relieved.
Although they were only four simple words, for him they were like Armstrong’s first step on the moon. He mercilessly kicked through the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial outer wall, and stepped into an unknown new world.
He did not know what the new world looked like, what colours it was, or how the seasons worked. None of those things were important.
All he knew was that Ruka was there waiting for him, and as soon as he saw him he would wrinkle his eyebrows impatiently and demand, “Why did you keep me waiting for so long?”
When he arrived back at home that night, Xu Zheyi lay down in bed and sent a text to Ruka: Hey, what’s your real name?
The other person did not respond immediately, but about five minutes later he answered: Luka.
Xu Zheyi was happy and quickly asked another question: birthday?
Ruka finally grew impatient, called Xu Zheyi, and demanded, “Do you moonlight as a telemarketer doing phone surveys?”
Xu Zheyi could not help laughing.
That night they talked very late, chatting all the way until eight in the morning. They continued until both sides had a weary spirit and had exhausted their strength—they were out of ammunition with no hope for reinforcements.
The two men were not very talkative people. Especially on mobile phones, it was difficult to prattle on idly about their day. Their conversation topics were somewhat boring, but neither of the two men wanted to hang up the phone first.
At the end of their conversation, Xu Zheyi thought Ruka would finally ask him, are you thinking clearly? However, all Ruka said was, “See you tomorrow.”
If I’m not mistaken, the next few chapters are quite a bit longer. This one was already longer than the last few at least. AND! Our boy finally came to a decision!!
Also, I’m pretty sure this author watched a documentary on the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial while writing this novel since it was referenced twice in quick succession.
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