(How Far is Forever, Women's collection)
By Pan Xiangling
Autumn just does not age. All those pleasure-seeking young men who used to go hear her sing at the Blue Crown Club years ago, well, they now flaunt protuberant bellies, as if no need to worry that others see them as "new money" with swollen portfolios. Some of these young men have gone bald at the top of their heads, and as a last resort have let the surrounding fringe grow long enough for them to comb it up to try to cover that crowning bald spot. In a popular witticism, this is quipped, the "style of local governments in support of the central government." The wives of this set of men were once movie stars or fashion models. Of these women, who was not considered the most beautiful in her time within her circle? Now, you look around, every single one of them, if not for some paid nip-and-tuck jobs, breast augmentation and/or botox treatments, on top of the weekly "beauty maintenance routine" at the salon – even if they have managed to keep up the craft of their trade, none have been able to sustain their youthful appearance. Except, Autumn.
"Xieqiu Niang," our Madame Autumn still looks the same every year. Every time real-estate mogul K. G. Wang visits the "Autumn Kitchen," he goes through the same routine of babble: "Autumn, how you never change! Always so beautiful, you just don't grow old. It's so unfair, it almost makes the rest of us want to give up living!" ...in that legendary, slightly hoarse voice of hers, once described as "the moon behind a cloud," she would answer in her unhurried way: "Stop trying to kid me. How can I still look young? I've never been young..."
... From the back she looks like a clean-cut girl-student from the 1920s or thirties. But you have to wait for her to turn around. Then, your eyes are simply struck by a kind of bright, stark handsome beauty with a peculiar gossamer quality, and you just would no longer be aware of what type of dress she was wearing. That classic style of qipao gown had long gone out of fashion by then, with hardly any women seen wearing it. But Autumn would – and wear it like it was part of her. Like she had never worn anything else. Years later... suddenly all you could see on the streets would be qipao, somewhat modified to accentuate raised bosoms, to expose more leg, for a sexier, more eye-catching look. Yet Autumn would be wearing the same classic qipao she had worn before, as if to remind people that the new ways of wearing it reflected a certain shallowness.
(Plum Raindrops, Youth)
"I'm in Pain!"
Do you ever feel pain? For example, a headache, that sensation that shatters any meaning to life. You wake up in the morning and suddenly your head starts to throb, though there was no premonition of this last night when you went to bed. You didn't catch a chill, you didn't have a dream, you slept well, but now you seem to have fallen into a dark and sinister trap. And so all your plans for the day fly out the window, and you endure this blurry misery until the next sleep brings you round.
However, compared to a toothache, a headache is nothing! It's like talking about the human soul to a starving person.
...."It'll get better once she gets married," I heard her say from the other side.
Better after getting married? Why? I did not know. Marriage... I had a dim feeling that was going to be an even bigger pain: being abraded, squashed, butchered... and then the uterus pitilessly extended, stomach stretched, and then the vagina ripped apart in childbirth, like suffering through constipation. Whatever you grab becomes useless, you can tear your hands to shreds to no avail, nothing can save you, all you can do is regret and wish that you had never got married and been planted with this nefarious seed. Why were they so full of joy and hope towards marriage, childbearing and living? Was it all one huge hoax? The head of gynecology deceives female patients, older women lie to younger ones, those who have finally made it to the top of the family heap lies down onto new brides, women deceive virgins, mothers lie to daughters, pregnant women deceive themselves, forget the pain and desire a second birth? Does pain have a memory? ...