“Xiao Yuan, I want you to be happy, but I can never catch on to what you’re thinking…”
Yaoyuan finished solving the last major problem, the bell rang, and anguished wailing resonated through the exam room, a sound filled with a tired resentment and dissatisfaction that reached the sky.
After handing in the exam, Lin Zibo was the first to yell: “I’m done for ahhhhh! My computer’s going to get locked again!!”
“It’s over—why is it so hard—”
“Oh my god—”
Yaoyuan asked: “Did you finish? Is the answer for the last question 80?”
Lin Zibo said in grief: “I finished, but I messed up on three of the major questions! It is 80.”
“I did all the multiple choice questions wrong!” the Math Representative yelled.
Yaoyuan comforted them: “I also did a lot of the multiple choice wrong, I even did two of the last two major questions wrong.”
A few people left, but the majority were still shouting like crazy inside the exam room, like they were putting on a show of evil spirits dancing in riotous revelry. After comparing their answers with each other, the scene dialogue changed to a show where people compete who got more questions wrong.
“I got all the last three major questions wrong!” Lin Zibo shouted.
Yaoyuan thought bullshit, you clearly got 80 for one of them just like I did in his heart but with his mouth he said: “I also got so many of the fill-in-the-blanks wrong, and two of the major questions, I got more wrong than you.”
“I got more wrong than you!” Lin Zibo wailed.
“I got the most wrong!” the Math Representative shouted.
After a round of tussling, everyone got ready to go home, and a girl asked Tan Ruikang: “Kangkang, how did you do?”
Tan Ruikang was a bit baffled, saying: “I finished everything, I probably got 140 points, how did you guys get so many wrong? Xiao Yuan, you got the last two major questions wrong? How? I saw that you clearly did the second question correctly in the practice booklet you bought.”
Tan Ruikang didn’t understand the mentality of these students at all, and didn’t get that in these situations, you must demonstrate the traditional Chinese virtue of modesty. He always told things like they are, and this immediately put Yaoyuan on the spot.
“I mixed them up!” Yaoyuan’s mind worked quickly: “I thought we were supposed to use a different formula, ugh, was your answer to the last question 80?”
Tan Ruikang thought for a bit, and said: “I got 42.”
Lin Zibo said regretfully: “Then you got one question wrong, I asked the teacher yesterday, I did the solution exactly the same.”
Tan Ruikang didn’t really believe it, but didn’t argue with Lin Zibo. He nodded, then got his stuff ready to go home with Yaoyuan.
“Wow, 140 points,” someone said as Tan Ruikang descended the stairs.
Tan Ruikang smiled modestly, Yaoyuan was completely speechless. There was no evening self-study after an exam, the sun was setting in the west, in autumn Sanzhong’s entrance was full of splendid brilliance. When they reached the front gates, Qi Huiyu came riding on his bicycle, and smiled: “Wife!”
Yaoyuan said: “Don’t go too far!”
Qi Huiyu patted the back of his bicycle, purposely provoking him in front of Tan Ruikang, saying: “Let’s go eat, there’s just two subjects left tomorrow, come over to my house. I’ll show you something good and buy you a birthday present while we’re at it.”
He smiled suggestively at Yaoyuan. Yaoyuan hesitated a bit, but Tan Ruikang said furiously: “Don’t go!”
That was a bit too direct, so Yaoyuan said: “I’ll see after the exams.”
“I’m waiting for you,” Qi Huiyu said. He whistled, then rode away.
Zhao Guogang wasn’t home again, but Yaoyuan was accustomed to it. He said: “Do you remember the math answers? Let’s compare answers.”
Tan Ruikang said: “We don’t need to compare, I’m confident.”
The corner of Yaoyuan’s mouth twitched, and he said: “I want to see how I did then, can I do that?”
Tan Ruikang said: “Don’t, it’ll affect your condition for tomorrow’s exams.”
Yaoyuan felt completely resigned. Just as he was flipping through the menus to order takeout, Tan Ruikang said: “I’ll cook for you.”
Yaoyuan said: “We don’t have any ingredients, what can you cook.”
Tan Ruikang hadn’t changed his shoes yet, and went downstairs once more to buy ingredients. There was a large supermarket right across from their neighbourhood, so Yaoyuan could only let him do as he pleased. He went to his bedroom to call Qi Huiyu.
On the phone:
Yaoyuan: “What are you watching?”
Qi Huiyu: “Haha, a porno, have you watched one before? If you come now, my parents aren’t home…”
Yaoyuan: “I’ve seen it a long time ago—I once found the magazines and CDs my dad bought from Hong Kong…”
Qi Huiyu: “No way! When did you watch it?”
Yaoyuan flipped over lying down, and lazily said: “When I was in sixth grade, but my dad probably realized I touched his things, so everything disappeared, not sure where he hid them… the girl in it…”
Qi Huiyu: “Yeah, yeah, exactly! Whoa, Japanese girls…”
Qi Huiyu swallowed, then started describing some of the contents; Yaoyuan listened while his face turned scarlet, then Qi Huiyu asked: “Are you hard?”
The two continued to chat for a while. At first Yaoyuan wasn’t really feeling it, but under Qi Huiyu’s vivid and colourful action descriptions about grinding and licking and whatnot, he couldn’t help but get hard. He reached into his sweatpants, fondling his own cock.
“Xiao Yuan.” Tan Ruikang pushed on the door and came in.
Yaoyuan’s sweatpants were tented in the front, he immediately curled his knees up and used one hand to pull the blanket over himself. Loudly, he said: “What! Why didn’t you knock before coming in!”
“What’s wrong? Not feeling well?” Tan Ruikang asked in confusion.
Yaoyuan’s anger came from everywhere, Qi Huiyu’s voice said: “Did your dad come back?”
Yaoyuan said: “My brother.” He looked at Tan Ruikang in annoyance, and Tan Ruikang asked: “For the fish do you want it pan-fried or steamed?”
“Don’t care,” Yaoyuan replied testily. Tan Ruikang left, and Yaoyuan flipped over, having been given a huge scare. He actually hadn’t realized that Tan Ruikang was back.
They talked for some more, then hung up. Yaoyuan went to take a shower, and when he came out Tan Ruikang had made a table full of dishes and even opened a bottle of beer. He said: “Dinnertime.”
Yaoyuan sat down while drying his hair, the fair muscles of a youth showing under his pyjamas. All the dishes on the table were dripping with oil, Tan Ruikang cooked according to his hometown habits, everything was heavy with oil and spice. Seeing it killed his appetite. Usually when Zhao Guogang cooked at home all his dishes were very light, mostly keeping the original taste of the meat and vegetables and based heavily around steaming and stewing.
Yaoyuan went to open the electric rice cooker, and found that the only thing inside was some rice steeping in water.
Tan Ruikang: “Oh no, I forgot to plug it in!”
Yaoyuan said: “Let’s have the dishes first.”
Tan Ruikang was extremely distressed, but Yaoyuan didn’t really mind, he knew this guy had to mess up. Tan Ruikang nervously poured him some beer and used his chopsticks to put food on the plate for him, saying: “Uncle is very busy every day, it’s been a long time since we ate at the table together.”
Yaoyuan took a sip of beer. The taste wasn’t something he liked, he preferred red wine, but didn’t say so out loud so as not to ruin Tan Ruikang’s mood. Absentmindedly, he said: “Has it been that long?”
After thinking about it carefully he realized it was true, Zhao Guogang hasn’t been back to cook dinner in two months, and Yaoyuan always went out with his friends on the weekends. Even when he stayed at home they would order takeout.
After that last time they ate together when Tan Ruikang had first arrived, they haven’t eaten officially together for half the entire semester.
Tan Ruikang said: “Xiao Yuan, ge needs to tell you something, don’t get too close to that guy named Qi Huiyu.”
Tan Ruikang told him: “He’s not a grounded person, he’s frivolous, gege is afraid he’ll lead you astray.”
Yaoyuan looked at Tan Ruikang being all earnest, originally he wanted to talk back at him, but suddenly he had no words. He found it both upsetting and hilarious, and thought what’s the point of being serious with him.
“Got it,” Yaoyuan said sincerely.
Tan Ruikang said: “And don’t do those disgusting things with him, you need to live cleanly and honestly…”
Yaoyuan snarled in his mind, finally couldn’t take it anymore and said: “Okay, I get it!”
Tan Ruikang was startled, Yaoyuan sighed and said: “Let’s eat.”
If it had been Zhao Guogang telling him this, Yaoyuan definitely would have thrown down his chopsticks and left immediately. But when it came to Tan Ruikang, Yaoyuan needed to maintain some basic courtesy. He’d probably never really viewed Tan Ruikang as his family, but rather just as a relative, and relatives can say what they want.
“You’re angry?” Tan Ruikang asked.
Yaoyuan said: “It’s not what you think, ugh I can’t explain it clearly to you.”
Tan Ruikang said: “How could you do something like that in public? Especially since you’re two guys. Xiao Yuan, you’re not…” As soon as he got to this part Tan Ruikang’s expression became very strange, as if he was both disgusted and incredulous, and also a little bit pained.
“I’m not what?!” Yaoyuan shrieked, he just absolutely couldn’t communicate with Tan Ruikang.
Tan Ruikang said: “Don’t do that again, I’m going to talk to the teacher on Monday, ask her to switch your seat.”
“I’ve been deskmates with him for three years.” Yaoyuan said: “Everyone’s just joking around! It’s not what you think! Can you stop acting crazy? If you tell the ghost woman this, it’ll get out right away, and something that didn’t used to be a big deal will actually turn into a big deal!”
“And Qi Huiyu’s had a girlfriend before!” Yaoyuan said, angrily: “You’re the one not used to the way we joke around and connected it to homosexuality, I’m telling you, this is very normal!”
“You haven’t even seen us when we go to karaoke or play truth or dare, Zhang Zhen even kissed the Class Leader from next door on his lips!”
Tan Ruikang was shocked, his chopsticks falling to the table with a clack.
Yaoyuan was angry one second, but the next he was finding Tan Ruikang’s reaction very funny, and started laughing like crazy. It was like watching a cartoon, the act of dropping your chopsticks was really too dramatic. He immediately laughed so hard his stomach hurt, convulsing as he bent over the table.
“You… What are you laughing at? Tan Ruikang asked: “For real?”
Yaoyuan wasn’t angry anymore, grudgingly he said: “Eat, eat, stop pestering; you’ll know eventually, everything’s just a joke, it’s not as disgusting as you think.”
Tan Ruikang said: “I think there’s something off about the way he looks at you, and he even calls you his wife, is that something to be said jokingly?”
“Zhang Zhen called me his little wife too!” Yaoyuan said: “Why aren’t you talking about him?”
Tan Ruikang was at a loss for words, he said: “He has a girlfriend, I think he’s just kidding. Maybe gege is just too sensitive, sorry.”
The stereo in the living room was playing Chan Yikshun's “My Perfect Match,” the lyrics reverberating with childhood nostalgia. The two of them had some drinks and started talking more, it was clear from Tan Ruikang’s expression that he was a little tipsy. He said: “Does it not taste good, I’ll go fry an egg for you.”
“No need, the taste is pretty good.” Yaoyuan smiled, saying: “Pretty delicious.”
Tan Ruikang said: “You eat very little, I know you can’t finish it. From now on I’ll learn more from Uncle, just make do for now.”
Yaoyuan thought this guy looked unsophisticated as hell on the surface, but he was quite self-aware. Absentmindedly, he said: “It really does taste good, my dad’s cooking is too mild, it’s good to change up the flavour once in a while.”
Tan Ruikang said: “I’ve troubled you guys by living here, you’re not happy either.”
“Nonsense.” Suddenly Yaoyuan felt pity for him, and rushed to reassure him: “You’re my ge, we’ll always be related, how can you say that.”
Tan Ruikang shook his head. Yaoyuan thought that this topic was too heavy, but they couldn’t avoid it, so he could only put on an air of sincerity and rack his brains to say: “I’m just like that as a person, my dad always says I have a bad temper, don’t take it personally.”
Tan Ruikang said: “Xiao Yuan, I want you to be happy, but I can never catch on to what you’re thinking…”
Yaoyuan said: “No, no, I’m pretty happy like this, really. I haven’t eaten like this in a long time…”
Yaoyuan suddenly felt that he was pretty disingenuous, was he happy right now? He didn’t feel happy at all. Tan Ruikang’s cooking wasn’t to his taste, he never liked beer and was forcing himself to drink it, not even the rice was cooked. Right before, his mind had been full of thoughts like how can he eat faster and get out of here to go play video games and listen to music in his room.
Whose fault is that? Yaoyuan thought that it definitely wasn’t his fault, but of course, it wasn’t Tan Ruikang’s fault either.
Thankfully the doorbell saved him, otherwise Yaoyuan was about to go crazy.
Zhao Guogang was back.
Tan Ruikang: “Uncle.”
Zhao Guogang was a little surprised: “Oh, you brothers are having dinner? Tan Ruikang made it?”
Tan Ruikang smiled: “Let’s eat together.”
Zhao Guogang saw Tan Ruikang’s reddened eyes, then looked at Yaoyuan, and nodded. He took off his jacket and sat down. Yaoyuan went to put his jacket away, and said: “You drank again, don’t eat so much greasy food.”
“It’s fine to drink a little more.” Zhao Guogang said: “It’s been so long since I had dishes from your mom’s hometown.”
The switch on the electric rice cooker popped up, Zhao Guogang ate at the table with the two children, as soon as he was home the mood had turned harmonious. Yaoyuan finished eating quickly and went to his room to play video games, leaving the mess for his dad to pick up after. Finally, he didn’t have to talk about any of these heavy topics anymore.
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Kapsoura.