Breadstick Lover

Translated by: Harvey Thomlinson

        At the mouth of the alley was a snack restaurant. It was there that I first bumped into my breadstick lover. She'd only recently moved from the village. She wore old, faded clothes, and even in July she kept her buttons tightly fastened as she toiled over the fried breadsticks in their seething pots.

              It seemed my breadstick lover was interested in me from the very beginning. The breadsticks she chose for me were always large and juicy, which made Li Liang very jealous. Behind Li Liang's back, I went to flirt with her a few times. She usually laughed at my teasing, but didn't give in to it either, which fascinated me. Then the day came when she asked whether I could help her find a place to live. I was wild with joy and told her that was no problem. On the day she moved house I had my way with her. She didn't call out or shout, just struggled incessantly, grabbing at me so my whole body was mauled. After I'd finished, I was suddenly afraid and said dejectedly, You should report this.

         She didn't reply, but after a while took my hand and said, Let's do it again, but gentler.

         After that my breadstick lover lived with me for three months. Every day she would wash my clothes and make food, tidy and clean the room. When she saw me walk in the door, her face would light up. That period of time is clear in my memory like a mirror. Day after day I would go to work, go home, watch TV and make love. Afterwards, I thought it was probably the closest I'd come to real happiness in my whole life. Once, because she'd eaten a clove of garlic, I cursed her and made her cry. That was the strongest memory I had from that time.

         When Zhao Yue was ready to come to Chengdu I told her, My girlfriend is coming. We have to split up.

         She froze with terror. Tears flowed down her face.

         It's no good being like this, I told her.

         She didn't say a word, just cried soundlessly all night. I couldn't get her to stop and it made me very sad. When the sky was nearly light she wiped her tears away, kissed my face and said, Chen Zhong, give me a little money. I need to go and have an abortion.