I was afraid that uncle’s wife wouldn’t be happy, so I rarely gave others my home phone number and didn’t have a clue who would give me a call on New Year’s Eve. When I nervously answered the phone, I heard Xiao Shan’s voice, “Man, your phone number is so hard to locate. I had to ask our class president for it.”
Uncle’s wife sat on the sofa next to me, seemingly throwing me an inadvertently look but also gave a stare intentionally sometimes. I never had a male classmate called my house before. I was afraid she would misunderstand, so I rushed to ask, “I thought we didn’t have to rehearse today?”
“You forgot already? I told you yesterday that I would bring you the snake oil. You can come out to get it.”
I didn’t respond enough quick. “Uh…”
He said, “I’ll be waiting for you at the entrance of Fuxingmen Subway Station.”
That was the closest subway station to my uncle’s house. It would only take 10 minutes to get there. I immediately decided to go. “Okay.”
After I hung up, I told uncle’s wife that I needed to make some revisions to the script for our play, so my classmate called me to go pick it up. I didn’t even know why I needed to lie to my uncle’s wife. Perhaps if I told her that a male classmate purposely came to give me snake oil, she would think in the wrong way.
Anyway, Uncle’s wife didn’t pay too much attention. It was uncle who asked me, “Where do you need to go pick it up?”
“They live in Longguan. It’s kind of far from here.”
My face didn’t turn red nor did my heart beat faster when I continued to make up my lies. Xiao Shan’s house was actually in Gongzhufen area and he already said that he would wait for me at the subway station. But my lies went through smoothly. “If there’s traffic, I may not make it back in time for dinner.”
I just wanted to give myself some alone time to wander outside, even if it meant that I had to linger in a supermarket. I just wanted to be alone today.
Uncle’s wife said, “Just try to come back earlier. It’s New Year soon.”
Before I departed, Uncle came over to give me 100 Yuan when I was changing into my shoes in the hallway. I didn’t want his money. He said, “Take it. If there’s traffic outside and you can’t make it back in time for lunch, just go buy a hamburger.”
Once we started to shove the money back and forth, uncle’s wife saw us and said with a smile, “Your uncle wants to give you the money, so you should take it. We’re not strangers.”
I could only take the money after what uncle’s wife said
I took the 100 Yuan with me to the subway station. From a distance, I could see Xiao Stan already. He was quite tall with long arms and legs, looking quite sharp.
I skipped to meet him. It was such a cold day, but he didn’t even wear his down jacket, and he didn't even button his coat, revealing his plaid scarf. When he saw me, he gave me a wide smile, displaying a full mouth of white teeth. “You came pretty fast.”
I wore a hat today, but I forgot my scarf. My face burnt with pain from the chilling wind that blew at me when I ran to meet him, particularly the area where I had chilblains. As I used my hand to rub my face, I asked, “Where’s the snake oil?”
In response, he didn’t even make a move and just had his hands in his pocket. “I haven’t eaten yet. You can treat me breakfast.”
The word “fortunate” rang loudly in my head. Luckily, I had the 100 yuan that Uncle just gave me. I said, “I’ll treat you McDonald.”
He wasn’t picky. “Sure!”
I never expected Xiao Shan to have such a large appetite. He single-handedly consumed two full meals and he didn’t even look full yet. Fortunately, he didn’t ask for a third meal; otherwise, my 100 yuan wouldn’t be enough. He ate fast, but drank very slowly. He didn’t even mange to finish one of two hot drinks that came with the meals. I ate rather slowly most of the time. As I slowly chew my food, he slowly drank his drinks. Hanging out with a boy all by myself — I didn’t even know what to say to him. So I just stared at his eye lashes angling downward. He seemed so concentrated sucking on his straw, his long lashes flickering as if there was an invisible fairy dancing on top of them. Suddenly, I became too afraid to look at him. I took the napkins on the tray and started to fold them in my hands.
I ended up folding a very fat Origami crane. Without warning, Xiao Shan bursted into laughter and let go of his straw to say “What is that? An ugly duckling?”
I felt gloomily frustrated. Even though it looked fat, it was still an Origami crane, okay?
He took the crane and refolded it. “You folded it wrong.”
After he refolded the Origami crane, it turned out much more beautiful. When he went to the restroom, I mentally battled with myself for a long time before deciding to secretively take the Origami crane and put in the pocket of my jacket. Just when I succeeded in hiding it, Xiao Shan returned and waved to me. “Let’s go.”
After leaving the warmth of the fast food restaurant, we stood at a street corner in the bone-chilling cold. He handed me the snake oil. It was a tiny glass bottle with a circular lid. The bottle looked elegantly exquisite, beautifully wrought in details. Inside, the snake oil looked yellowish, and half-frozen in a creamy texture. I said “Thank you.”
He asked me, “You don’t live too far, right?”