The two of us walked around the rocky ridge and walked to the foot of a mountain. There were countless brown caves on the mountain with open mouths and white snow falling on top of the cave dwellings. There were well-repaired stone steps on the previous road. I followed Chen up slowly. Pingpo fell into my eyes, and the large white snow was like a huge velvet blanket. The field of vision in front of the carpet can see the plains and mountains hundreds of meters away. On the right side of the carpet are earthy brown caves and caves, drilled into square caves, perfect refuge. I sat down cross-legged, and a hot air balloon slowly rose from the land in the distance, passing through the grottoes here, and then drifting to the ridges in the distance. I took a look at my watch, and it was about two o’clock in the afternoon, which was almost the time to take off. Because of the cold weather, I heard that it has not been flying for several days. Those balloons flew far away to the other side of the sky, and the glare of the sun coated them with a transparent film, like when I was a child watching cartoons, the people inside were flying in the sky like this.
Chen walked around in the stone cave next to him, and sighed with me that it was so beautiful.
”Well, it’s really beautiful.”
But I feel so empty in my heart, maybe it’s because I don’t know what to do with beauty. But what can I say, can I tell Chen that I think all this beauty is meaningless? Isn’t this what I thought of in the past, a free and unfettered world like a picture book, like the travel channel on the TV set in my house? Why do I feel so lost?
”Let’s go to the foothold of the hot air balloon. Going south, there is a group of stone pillars sunken in the forest.”
”Okay.” I propped myself up with my hands and carried my bag and followed him down the mountain. Along the way, we had a snowball fight for a while, and when we reached the side of the sunken landform, many hot air balloons had already descended and stopped in the open space to rest. Although I have seen many stone pillars, the white triangular cones scattered in a cedar forest made me feel shocked. We walked along the viewing platform to the top of the mountain, and the white snowy area was stained with a golden edge. Chen said to take a few photos of me. I was jumping around on the snow, just about to ask him if he was patted, the glove was shaken by me to the edge of the cliff, and it fell down.
Chen smiled and shook his head, and handed me the blue gloves on his hand: “Use mine.”
”What about you?”
”I’m not very cold, and there is still a pair in
my bag.” I took it, and sat on the edge of the cliff with him to watch the sun move little by little. Someone was walking slowly on the ridge not far away, and some big dogs were running on the snow.
I asked Chen how he was living in London.
”I like it very much. In China, I might have a dinner with my colleagues after work. In London, it’s easier. Generally, the local culture is to go to a bar for two drinks at night. They have no other activities, but they like to go to bars. Chatting with locals is also possible. Very tired, too many slang words to understand. At the weekend, I go hiking in the suburbs by myself. Anyway, I am more used to living in London. Later you come and I will take you to play.”
”You never did Have you ever left Shanghai?”
”Basically. I want to go abroad after a few years of work. The economy is tight and I don’t have the courage. Just forget it.” I smiled.
After graduating that year, I really didn’t even pass the second book. Like many people who might never need to study, I entered a private college. I worked hard, but I don’t have such talent. I also found out that it took me so long to reach such a place. The summer when graduation was announced, I became an adult. Although no one celebrated my birthday, I did my hair, bought contact lenses, and took off my braces. There is no longer the smell of steel wire in the mouth. The piece of glass in front of me was removed, and the world no longer felt burrs. Most importantly, from that moment on, I no longer have to keep my eyes down. But unexpectedly, the world did not make me feel brighter.
After that, I often wanted to go to farther places to get rid of the barrenness of reality. I talked about a few boyfriends, but I don’t know what love is. Before taking geography class, I would imagine the appearance of many places, and I never thought that I would go to these places in the future. I really went there later and found that in my imagination, they are more mysterious and older.
Zhou Yi didn’t do very well in the exams, so at any rate he crossed the line and went to a school that was just the corner from me in Shanghai—that’s what I saw from Renren.com. Although this site is now just like the caves we have just walked through, it is a ruin left by the times. We didn’t talk any more afterwards, as if it was a time gap that fell out of thin air that afternoon. I walked past his desk several times and he was joking with others. I didn’t say hello to him, and he didn’t talk to me again. Some are just the sound of moving desks and chairs, the sound of paper, and the roar of younger students erupting from a distance outside the window.
Those sounds are like echoes, and occasionally only faintly sounded at certain moments.
If I could raise my eyes that afternoon, maybe something would be different. I felt Zhou Yi’s breathing getting closer and closer to me, but I felt fear in my heart. I’m afraid that he will only see the thickness of my lenses, not my eyes, when he gets closer. I was afraid that he would really come to kiss me, but he tasted the rust in my mouth. So I stood up abruptly, picked up my schoolbag, and said I was going home. Soon, I heard him stand up, follow me behind, and accompany me down the stairs.
When I got outside the stairs, I realized that the sky had dimmed. He took me through a narrow and dark alley, with the smell of oily smoke coming from both sides, which is the smell of the life of our kind that I have always smelled. But the narrow alley was quiet, maybe because I wanted to break the silence, Zhou Yi asked me if there was a school I wanted to take the exam.
”Just stay away from home,” I said.
The hustle and bustle on the street at dusk rushed into our ears, that was our last conversation.
I said goodbye to Chen on the last day of the bus. After he returned to Istanbul, he flew directly back to London, and I had to transfer to Moscow for more than ten hours to go home. That week, Chen and I had Christmas dinner and New Year’s dinner together, leaving a lot of footprints on the snow together. Although I hope no one will interrupt my journey, maybe I will be more difficult without him. We didn’t talk much later. He also doesn’t use WeChat frequently. Only in a new year two years later, I saw him post a blue glove in the mountain and snow in his circle of friends.
”Remember our journey in the snow? It’s so beautiful. Then you ruined my gloves.”
I wanted to laugh a little. There was a huge snow in my eyes, which was where I wanted to go in the future. For some reason, a tunnel slowly appeared in the heavy snow. In this dim, damp, narrow tunnel, someone walked in front of me and led me through the darkness. However, at that moment, I hope that this tunnel will not end, and it may not have an exit to the light and the future.