Chapter 240: Saying goodbye to Apple
Xu Tingsheng and Apple left before the cocktail party ended.
They left the car to Huang Yaming and Tan Yao who had ultimately failed to successfully pick up some young female artistes in the end. Of course, they would not be giving up as easily as that. Huang Yaming’s personal philosophy of ‘the heavens have told me to live a life of debauchery’ had long since been accepted wholesale by Tan Yao without even the least bit of hesitation.
Therefore, the two both felt that they had found their direction in life as well as battle buddy.
Actually, as they saw it, Xu Tingsheng should be a battle buddy of theirs as well. It was just that he had always refused to admit it, stubbornly refusing to be called such.
Xu Tingsheng and Apple walked along the dim streets of Shenghai City amidst the autumn breeze of that dark night.
Apple was smiling throughout, yet also shedding tears.
Xu Tingsheng followed after her at a fixed pace neither hurriedly nor slowly.
Apple stood on a bridge, spreading her arms wide against the banister as she allowed her clothes to be buffeted by the wind, her hair swaying messily as it beat down on her face.
Then, she began singing at the top of her lungs, singing <We Are All Good Kids>.
She said, “I should have been this way originally, Xu Tingsheng.”
Xu Tingsheng said, “This way is great.”
Apple asked, “What should you actually be like, Xu Tingsheng? You’re twenty; isn’t it tiring, acting as Superman? What should you actually be like?”
Xu Tingsheng thought for a moment before pulling up the sleeves of his high end suit and scrunching them before he adjusted his tie askew, undoing the top button of his shirt and holding a cigarette in his mouth…
He fully resembled a good-for-nothing youth like this.
“Hello, nice to meet you. My name is Xu Tingsheng, and I’m twenty this year.”
After having finished, Xu Tingsheng said, “Well, I guess I would probably have been like this.”
Apple laughed loudly at this, exclaiming, “Who would have thought?! But you look so handsome like this.”
Everyone was once an unruly youth back in the day, or at least that is what we believe. Afterwards, life would have changed how most of us are. There was no way for Xu Tingsheng to finish, “This time, I was already changed to how I was afterwards right from the start.”
Actually, men are generally all the same in reminiscing on the days of their youth.
Most people, be they the wealthy, officials, artistes or just normal people etcetera, actually share the same kind of mood and emotions when they are in their thirties or forties with round bellies or coarse hands one day and they coincidentally pass by the slope, park or street where their first date once was.
Once in a while, some men even miss those times when their scrawny self once challenged someone to a fight, having been blocked by a group of people at the school gates after their loss or victory afterwards.
Thinking back on those days of the past, even the nervousness and fear from back then actually feel interesting.
Therefore, it is none other than society which ultimately morphs youths beyond recognition as opposed to so-called ‘growth’.
Calling that conformity that youths have no choice but to submit to beneath societal pressure growth-this is society’s greatest lie, the most ‘blasphemous’ defilement of life.
This is akin to someone slashing a beautiful painting with a blade before proclaiming, ‘Look, time has left its mark on it’, being utterly shameless beyond compare in this way.
Apple kissed Xu Tingsheng lightly. While it was fleeting, it was just so earnest. Do you still remember back when that girl lightly kissed you on the lips for the first time?
Then, she tugged at his hand, continuing to walk.
They walked from the dimly lit streets to beneath the dazzling neon lights.
Soon, they ended up entering some street again.
The two passed through an alley before finding a small store at the end of some street. Outside the door, an ancient light bulb dimly illuminated the old man and his wife sitting by the doorway.
Apple asked, “Boss, Lady Boss, do you still remember me?”
The two of them looked at her and considered for a moment, eventually shaking their heads.
Apple did not feel down as she brought Xu Tingsheng into the store, ordering a few dishes and calling for some wine.
After her first glass of wine, Apple said, “When we first came to Shenghai, Mum helped out in this very store. We lived to the back of this place, in a small place of an old building. I remember every time it rained in the middle of the night, we had to scramble up and take out all the pails and basins to capture the leaking water.”
“Then, hugging each other, we would huddle against the bedframe and listen to the winds and the rain and also that rumbling thunder raging on outside, not daring to fall asleep at all the entire night. Dad used to love Mum a lot. I remember him saying that with the two of us around, it was just like he had two daughters.”
This was the first time Xu Tingsheng had heard Apple talking about her past so earnestly, fragmented though it was.
Back in the year 1993, Apple’s father had suddenly decided to get a divorce before hurriedly leaving Libei. Thus, the ten-year-old Apple had come to Shenghai with her mother, simply because someone had told her mother about having spotted him there before.
They had failed to find him in the end.Still, they had chosen to stay.
Apple’s mother who had been spoiled by her husband in the past began learning to lead a strong and independent life of her own even as she took care of Apple.
“I began attending school here, feeling just so uneasy, just so scared,” Apple said, “The me of back then was actually very quiet, very obedient. Don’t you dare laugh.”
“Actually, I’ve always wondered how I would have turned out if Dad had stayed. Maybe I’d have become another kind of girl in the end, perhaps like this person you should also have seen before. Of all the girls I saw in Libei Senior High, no, of all the girls I’ve ever seen, she’s the one I envy and look to the most. Her name is Ye Yingjing.”
“I envy her even more than I do Zhixin.”
“Of course, my results might not be as good as hers, but they also wouldn’t be that bad. Do you know? There was once a period of time when I wanted to make friends with her, but that’s impossible, right?” Even as Apple smiled, tears continually trickled down her face.
Then, she continued, “But no one cared about this at all. They just said that I looked like some grungy country bumpkin, the students and even the teachers. They said that I had a country accent when I spoke. Not only were my clothes old-fashioned, they said my name was old-fashioned as well. There would even be people who would pinch my clothes, laughing at me for being poor. My family was really especially poor back then. My clothes were always very old, even though they were indeed very clean.”
“Then, they began conducting English classes, and so I learnt that most of my classmates had actually studied English before. They successively went up to the front of the classroom, doing their self-introductions in English and telling everyone their English names. There was a Dave and an Aaron, a Rose and a Jessica…”
“When it came to me, I was nervous and panicked. The teacher let me skip the self-introduction, just asking me what my English name was. I said, Apple,” Apple smiled, “It was because it was actually the only English word I knew apart from ‘hello’ and ‘hi’ back then. That’s why I said it.”
“My classmates were all laughing, but that teacher said that it was a very cute name,” Apple said, “From then onwards, I began telling all those Daves and Roses that my name is Apple.”
Despite having a very cute English name, she had ultimately still failed to receive recognition from the ‘brilliant’ students. In the end, she had been forced into the realisation that she might only be able to assimilate successfully if she imitated those rebellious students who had begun secretly dyeing their hair blonde.
“I learnt to speak like them, walk like them, hang out with them. I gained some friends. Then, I discovered that although more and more people hated me, they were beginning to be afraid to say it. They began fearing me.”
“This included those people who weren’t even willing to be my tablemate before. Afterwards, they would just sit meekly by the side, not daring to utter a sound. Hadn’t they hated me from the start anyway? So, what did I care?”
“Afterwards, gradually growing up, I became more and more beautiful. There began to be many boys who liked me, various boys of all kinds. Then, I learnt how to handle them and make use of them. I was very skilled at that.”
Apple had found her protective colouration.
“Yet afterwards, I had become the way I was when you first saw me. Only in twelfth grade did I learn that I would actually have to return to Libei to sit for my university entrance examinations. Having failed the first time, Mum insisted that I transfer and retake it in Libei. Thus, I ended up entering your class.”
In a small county like Libei, in Libei Senior High, I discovered that I had become the greatest anomaly. When describing myself to others, I would even exaggerate the differences between us before basking in their gazes that found it to be inconceivable and even the actions of those who tried to get on my good side and go along with me.”
“Do you remember those times?”
Xu Tingsheng shook his head, “I’ve forgotten about it. I don’t remember much about back then.”
Apple said, “That’s right! Back then, you seemed like you didn’t care about anything at all except for playing football and messing around with Huang Yaming and Fu Cheng. Even pursuing Yao Jing seemed like the occasional flight of fancy for you, making me want to smile as I watched you. Still, you actually hated me back then, right? You didn’t look at me at all, totally ignored me.”
“Actually, I was already pretty curious about you back then. Still, when I went over to talk to you once, you looked at me and said nothing. The way you looked at me was like those disdainful classmates of mine in the past. So I thought really, who do you think you are? Ever since then, I began getting myself to hate you.”
Xu Tingsheng said, “There probably weren’t a lot of people who liked me back then. I was another anomaly.”
Apple laughed, “Then, three months before the university entrance examinations, you suddenly left and then returned again. After that, you had become like a divinity as it was like you started radiating light all over. Hey, when had I ever seen such a miraculous person before? Therefore, I was immediately enamoured with you. Still, I thought about it afterwards. The real reason, do you know what it is?”
Xu Tingsheng asked, “What?”
Apple said, “It’s because you’d done what I could only dream about doing, accomplished what I could only dream about being. I’ll say something, don’t you laugh. Actually, I realised all of a sudden at that point how strongly I wanted to be a remarkable person, being recognised by everyone without having to rack my brains on how to be recognised.”
Downing a glass of wine, Apple then continued, “I began thinking of a way to approach you. We had our initial contact. Then, I discovered a different side of you, discovering the possibility of warmth and stability where you were. I began to like you. Then, I tried my very best to be liked by you too.”
“All this time, I’ve been hoping so much that I can demonstrate to you a special me, becoming a me you can recognise and approve of. In the meantime, I’ve cared not about forcing myself and tolerated those who’ve bullied me.”
Apple had actually been doing the same thing all throughout ever since having come to Shenghai. She had thrown herself away, masquerading as someone else, changing herself as she sought for approval and recognition, for a sense of belonging.
In the end, she had lost even her own self.
Her source of depression was actually self-denial. She had experienced the darkest times of her life. Even after having arrived by Xu Tingsheng’s side eventually, she had discovered herself to be lacking of any worth whatsoever, just being a burden who was not an independent, able existence at all.
While looking for shelter, a lone Sika deer had been trapped within a dark swampland. After having escaped with great difficulty, she gazed back at from whence she had come, standing still as she gazed upon that shelter. Finally, she turned and entered another part of the forest. It was there that she was truly a Sika deer.
On her second last glass of wine, Apple said, “Thank you, Xu Tingsheng. You’ve allowed me to see the me that I want to become.”
On her final glass, Apple said, “The two of us, let’s say goodbye to Apple together. I’m Cen Xiyu. Cen Xiyu will still like Xu Tingsheng, but she will not be like how she was before. I hope that you will like the original me.”