I would never forget the days we spent rehearsing our play, largely due to the kindness that Xiao Shan’s grandmother showed me. She was really too good to me.
When Spring Festival almost approached, we already had our lines memorized inside out. One day when our rehearsal ended early, I forgot whose idea it was, but someone suggested that we go ice skating. I was southerner so I had no idea how to ice skate. Ever since we started to rehearse for our play, our small group had developed into an extremely close-knitted clique; our friendship became more unbreakable than metal, stronger than steel. Several of them even relentlessly insisted that I tagged along. Xiao Shao also said, “We’ll be there, so you won’t fall.”
After putting on the ice skates, I didn’t even know how to take my first step. Two of my classmates held each of my hand, and I trod carefully forward. Whenever their speed increased a little, I just wanted to scream out of fear. In the end, a classmate lost patience and turned his head to call Xiao Shan, “You hold her.” And he turned back at me to say,” Xiao Shan can backward skate beautifully.”
Xiao Shan taught me with extreme patience. With every step he took backward, he started to describe how I should turn my neck in the same manner he usually used to explain how to solve a math problem. He was always very logical in his speech, lucid in his train of thoughts, and always used the most simplistic explanation.
I shielded in shyness when he praised me. “No, it’s because I used to roller skate, so I understand how I should balance myself.”
My dad bought me my first pair of roller skates when he went to United States on a business trip. I still remember that pair of shoes being pink. Dad loved to buy me things in pink, because in his heart, girls would be delicately refined in pink. The roller shakes were in a size a bit too big for me so I was actually able to wear them for several years. Later, shoes similar to roller skates became available for purchase in China, but the designs were much more simplistic. It was also my dad who taught me how to skate. He held my hand and I skated around the basketball court in front of our house. I actually skated for several weeks before I mastered the skill.
I fell brutally hard. Xiao Shan helped me up and in exasperated tone, “What were you thinking about? You haven’t even learned to skate, yet you’re multitasking.”
I kept silence. Sometimes when I asked him some questions about the English reading comprehension, he spent half a day explaining it to me, but my mind still drifted off somewhere. He got frustrated and thought I was dumb and unmotivated. Ever since I was young, no one ever said I was dumb. In the past, all of my teachers always praised me for my learning ability. In front of Xiao Shan, however, I was always the dumb one because he was just too intelligent.
He feared that I would fall again, so he didn’t dare to let go of my hand again and just held it as I skated slowly. It was a little windy that day, but when the wind blew at my face, I didn’t feel any cold chill. I didn’t even wear a hat. I just had a scarf wrapped all around my neck and head. Being almost an adult now, I never had a boy hold my hand for such a long period before, even though we were both wearing gloves. I recalled the last time a boy held my hand. It was in elementary school during a performance event on June 1st Children’s Day. This realization caused my heart to suddenly beat faster, very fast and slightly discomforting. Xiao Shan, on the other hand, appeared perfectly normal and unaffected, holding my hand tightly as if he was holding a little sister or maybe a classmate. Anyway, I was just his classmate. I didn’t turn my head to look at him anymore and solely concentrated on making myself look more natural.
After ice skating, we went to a little shop to drink some boba milk tea. With a cup of simmering hot boba milk tea in each of our hand, the cozy pleasant smell was especially poignant. Everyone started to chatter about our plans for New Year; someone even suggested that we go to the Temple Festival. I didn’t utter a sound and concentrated on drinking my milk tea. As I sucked on a tapioca ball, I suddenly heard Xiao Shan said, “Ai, your face is frozen!”
I touched my face. There was a harden spot, somewhat itchy. I never had chilblains before. I heard people say that chilblains caused severe chap and ulceration. If I got them on my face, did it mean facial disfiguration? I stopped drinking my milk tea, and pressed on the harden spot with as much force as I could exert. I just wanted to rub on it till it was gone. Xiao Shan said “Don’t rub it. The more you rub, the worst it gets. I have some snake oil at home that a relative gave us. I’ll bring you some tomorrow. You just need to rub some on two times and it’ll heal.”
The next day was New Year’s Eve. We all agreed early on that we would stop rehearsing from New Year's Eve to the 5th day of New Year, since everyone needed to celebrate New Year. At first, I just assumed he just mentioned it casually in a passing. I totally did not expect him to show up on New Year Eve. I also didn’t expect to hear the phone to ring right when I just got out of bed. My younger cousin was still sleeping, so my uncle’s wife feared that the noise would wake her up so she rushed to pick up the phone. She listened for a brief moment and called out to me, “It’s for you.”
© 2011, JoleCole. All rights reserved.