Chapter 13: Frank and Honest
Old Qin passed away quickly, during his trip. No one knew how much pain he was in, but because he didn’t know of his condition he had no fear of it, nor any worries about the future, so even though he passed suddenly, he also passed peacefully. This was some comfort to his grieving family and friends.
Gu Zhichang had already taken initiative and prepared the funeral committee. There would be a gun salute, and he arranged for all of the criminal investigation team, including everyone in civilian posts, to attend. Then he had assisted with the many various funeral arrangements. Old Qin’s family was already in disarray, so they were as grateful now as they were sad. The political affairs section sent a flower wreath, and the deputy director stood in line with the rest as a show of support from the organization.
Gu Zhichang looked sullen. He just stared at the body in the coffin, as if he were in his own world. It was like he was his own spirit that had left his body and was looking on beside him. Chen Ting wept from the funeral service all the way to the crematorium. Once everything was all over he plunked down on a bench and rested his head on his hands, covering his eyes. It seemed he still could not believe it.
Gu Shi came over and stood before him for a moment, hesitating whether to say anything or not. “The team is heading out,” she said softly. “Do you want to go back with us or go home and take a rest? Chief said no overtime today.”
Not far away Gu Zhichang and one of the family members were holding hands, consoling each other, both of them wiping away tears.
Chen Ting pulled himself together and looked at the person before him. He looked dazed for a moment, then responded, “I don’t want to go anywhere right now. Can you sit with me for a minute?”
Gu Shi was a bit taken aback and felt a little awkward. She waved to the people in the Naveco van some distance away, then sat down without a word.
“I’ve never looked at you as a boss, and never called you one. You don’t mind, do you?”
Gu Shi shook her head indifferently.
He looked at the exit where the cremation had just taken place. “Tell me, is there anything sadder than policemen like my teacher? Your whole life never putting much effort into your family. There are many who remain single because of overtime, or get divorced, go through all sorts of difficulties, yet never attracting attention in their careers. In this system where there aren’t enough top positions to go around, the awards and accolades, titles and salaries, are not worth all the sacrifice and hard work that goes into getting them. And then it’s all over, and you’re dead. At the very end the ones who give you a heartfelt farewell are your work partners and apprentices.”
“If a person can live his life working with elders he respects, juniors he can count on, if he can have a few people who wholeheartedly see him through tough times, then he’s been rarely blessed.”
Chen Ting looked blankly at the gravel on the ground, grinding it over and over with his foot. “All the same, sometimes I still really admire Teacher Qin. He said what he wanted to say, did what he wanted to do, and never seemed to get himself tangled up with indecision. He failed sometimes, but he lived life to the fullest.”
“This kind of place and this kind of situation will invariably make one emotional.”
“No, I didn’t just feel this way today,” Chen Ting said, raising his voice. Gu Shi looked at him, a bit surprised.
“You don’t understand. I admire you too.”
“What’s there to admire about me? I’m merely an assistant section chief. It’s just a small position.”
“I’m not talking about powerful positions or nominal positions or anything like that. Maybe it’s because you have a policeman father, and because he’s more democratic. So no matter what decision you make, you won’t shrink back in hesitation. I’m not like that.”
Gu Shi knew he was referring to his mother, head of Chinese medicine at a third-grade class-A hospital. She saw her once at a free public security personnel medical screening. She had healthy skin and a youthful, well-proportional figure. She wore rimless eyeglasses on her tall, fairskinned nose, and she spoke in a dignified manner that left no room for questioning, as if she was not in the habit of repeating herself. From start to finish she spoke plainly, politeness packaged with a cold, detached smile.
When Gu Shi was doing on-the-job training at the police academy she was sent to the local police station to do fieldwork. There she ran into two types of rather demanding people. The first type was the silly drunks. Then there was the conceited, educated type. She didn’t know why, but Chen Ting’s mother seemed like an advanced case of the latter type, one of those people who others tried hard to keep their distance from.
“For example, I would never dare say ‘no’ to a two-faced boss, even though I know most of the time they are only concerned with keeping their job. I’d never tear into a colleague who was a wolf in sheep’s clothing, even though I knew she was talking about me behind my back. And I never speak up about my appreciation for kind, capable people, not even my teacher, who diligently trained me.”
“It’s natural to maintain the status quo. I can’t do any of the things you just said either.”
Chen Ting paused. “I even don’t dare tell the person I like my feelings.”
Gu Shi could understand that under special circumstances someone might suddenly blurt out their feelings, but she didn’t expect him to talk about this. And Chen Ting’s red, teary eyes were fixed directly on her.
He noticed her reaction and lowered his head, disappointed. “Tell me, if someday I died suddenly like Teacher Qin, won’t I leave behind a lot of regret because I always followed my boss or my parents’ orders instead of making my own decisions?”
Gu Shi impulsively covered his mouth. She felt his lips on her fingers quivering slightly, driven by his whole trembling body. She let go reflexively. The atmosphere suddenly became a bit delicate. She could feel Chen Ting looking at her, his eyes glued to her, as if he was stroking her face with his eyes. Her whole head began to burn. Even her ears were probably flushed red. This wasn’t his usual self. He usually never made direct eye contact with her.
In truth, though she never showed it out of courtesy, she had always kind of looked down on Chen Ting. At co-worker get-togethers he would leave in a panic because of a phone call from his mother, and she had heard that his mother had vehemently opposed his previous girlfriend, that they were on the verge of getting married when one day the girl came down to the station crying, begging him not to leave her. Aside from looking helpless, he hadn’t seemed all that sad then. He had even seemed a bit cold and detached like his mother. “Momma’s boy” was the word she would use to describe him.
Now, the momma’s boy was actually talking about “the person I like”. She didn’t carry it on further, she just flatly said, “You should go back home and rest”, then she quickly took her leave. Leaving him there by himself, feeling defeated.