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Short Story: Forward

Jin Yin

I had a weird dream last night. I don’t know if the dream was a good or bad dream. In my dream, I sat on a cloud of cotton candy to meet an immortal who lived in the sky.

Before I sat on the cotton candy, I’d done laborious preparation for this meeting. I carried my name card, a letter about myself, and a portrait of myself. How perfect this is! As the cotton candy lifted me up to the immortal, I practice the conversation.

“Good to see you Mr. Immortal, I’m your devoutest follower, here’s my name card, I’m ready to…”

“Dear boy,” The immortal man appeared in front of the candy cloud, standing on the palm tree.“I've received your information and your letter, your name card is amazing! I will give you the result in five to seven business days, and don’t forget to follow my account with this QR code, see ya.” Then the cotton candy, palms, and the man disappeared.

Lying in my bed with my eyes open, I tried to remember every detail in the dream, and searching answers from The Duke of Zhou app from my phone. It’s a book written by ancient Chinese, which explains if certain things are the good or bad luck. Unfortunately, my ancestor has no idea about the meaning of dreaming an interview with an immortal nor a QR code.

The sun is too bright and I couldn't fall back asleep, I left the bed and opened the curtains, letting lights flood into every corner of my room. “Another day to face the malice of mother Earth,” I said to myself. I turned on the CD player, and let Toots Thielemans plays my favorite Jazz “Dat Mistige Rooie Beest.” While Toots started playing the harmonica, I felt the old intoxication as I first heard his music from the cascade player at 10.

The phone vibrates. It’s a daily video call from my girlfriend. I picked up the call; she is sitting in front of the table, there’s a book on the table. “Llo, my girlfriend,” I said, “what are you doing?”

“I’m doing homework,” she sniffs, “I can’t study anymore, I been missing you so bad and worried about our future.”

”No worried my piggie, I’ll try my best to earning experience in the States after graduation, and I would like to go to grad school, then I can carry you to my hometown.” I’m watching on her face and talking like a jumping joker with a bunch of balloons in his hands. ” I’ll grow a French mustache and come to you with a huge pepperoni pizza with your FAVOURITE mushroom, many many mushrooms. Bon jour..”

“Please don’t put any mushroom in it,” She laughed and wipes the tears off. ” if you do decide to study in UK, we will have to keep long distance relationship for even longer, are you sure you’re ready for that?”

“Think about our future sweetie, bachelor's degree is not worthwhile as master’s. Even those city sweepers have college degree nowadays. I want to marry you with sufficient preparation, at least that I want my wage can afford the daily cost of you and me, my older brother, a house, and our future children.”

“That’s reasonable. However, we don’t know what the future looks like.”

“If we are always is the same path, we will be fine.”

The gloomy mood is gone, and the topics have changed from our future to the daily topics. We kept chatting until I heard her snores through the speaker on my phone. Then I left the room, and drove to Tops Miner for lunch. The lovely waitress greeted me and led me to a seat in front of the television. The TV show is displayed ways to prank others on April fool’s day.

My mind always dropped to a low point in April fool’s day, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like playing jokes with my friends or being pranked by others. It brings a lot of pain in the bottom of my heart. The memories of heading school with my father, television, and my teacher made my heart felt heavy...

“What would like to order today?” waitress said, interrupting my memories. I take a deep breath and tried to hide my red eyes from the waitress, “I would like to order a fish and chips with a sweetened iced tea please”. “Sure, just give me one second.” The lovely waitress takes away the menu and leave me with a mint candy, “Try the candy, it might cheer you up.”

I took the candy in my mouth, letting the candy melted and smoothed my throat. The waitress brings a plate of fish and chips, a cup of ice tea, and a small dish of salad. I finished the food without taking out my cell phone, then I paid the bill and went back to my room.

Arriving in my room at 2:30 PM, I quickly took off my clothes and cut my hair by myself. I've been cut my own hair since I’m studying abroad. According to my experience, I only need 4 scales to fix my head. I used the highest number to cut my hair. To avoid letting people thought my head looked like a lightbulb, I used the other three scales to trim my hair on the side.

I took a quick shower, then opened the wardrobe, took out a bag of tea which my father bought for me as a gift before I left my hometown. When the hot water touches tea leaves, the refreshing tea scent always made me eager to drink. I carefully picked the tea and sat in the chair. I unlocked my phone, and the phone vibrates again. There’s a reminder told me it’s family video chat day. The guilty feeling dyed my brain again. I left the tea on the table and lay in bed.

“What should I do? I do want to climb up for the Master’s degree, but I have no idea about the which career I should choose. Gaining a degree in UK is perfect for me because I can get that degree in a year. But my parents will not agree because they want me to stay in the U.S. Damn it!” I whispered to myself and wrapped the quilt even tighter. I gave up thinking and fallen asleep.

When I woke up again, it was 9 PM. The phone vibrated again and disturbed my sleep, it’s dad. I quickly rubbed my eyes, turn on the lights, and sit on the bed.

“What are you doing my son? You look sleepy.” Dad is talking at me with the radio broadcasting the financial news.

“Ah nothing, I just took a nap. Whats up?”

“Did you eat dinner yet?” Mom said from the kitchen, her voice floating like an echo from the valley.

“Yes I did, I ate a noodle with an egg.” I lied.

“Remember to eat vegetables, it helps you become more healthy!” The valley echoes back.

“Good, so what is your plan after graduration?” Dad switched down the radio and ask.

“I would like to find a job for my elementary living in U.S , I would like to take IELTS tests during this

year, and going to graduate school in UK.”

“Why not US? You have been studied here for almost 5 years, it should be fine for you.”

“I don’t fit in here, dad.”, I touch my hand and said. “And learning in the U.S will costs me two years, that’s expensive.”

“U.S is better place to stay my son,” the echo came closer, as my mom brought a plate of apples to the dinner table, “my high school classmate’s daughter went to California, she said everything is nice and cheap out there.”

“That’s what my friend said too. They said people are getting well paid and live well out there, which different than here, their stocks are always going up.”

“I want to work in China, there’s much more chance for climbing up.”

“That’s what you want after 5 years studying abroad?” Dad’s face become red, “You wasted our money! You don’t know how deep the water is here, the market changes everyday!”

“And the working condition is tough here my son, you can’t survive here.”

“I want to hearing people communicate in Mandarin, mom.”

“Find a Chinese girl and get married in the U.S then.”

Apparently, the conversation can’t be continue anymore, so I switched the topic to other irrelevant things like cooking and the trend of the market, and end the video chat. After chat, I lay on my bed with my heart bleeding, the painful memories haunted me.

I still remember when my father carried me to primary school on that day, we saw the mailman shouting ”Extra! Extra!“ and handed a newspaper to my father titled “NATO BOMBED our embassy in Yugoslavia”. I was too young to understand the meaning of the news title, but I know something bad happened after I saw the protest around the whole country, and our premier‘s tear when the reporters’ body is returned to our nation in front of the television.

Two years later, April fool’s day of 2001, the teacher announced the news about an US spy plane crashed our fighter earlier today in class, I still remember my teacher talked to us with tears in her eyes. “This is the result of fall behind from other nations!”, she said in a frustration and anger tone. “Do you know why you are studying in this classroom? You are leaning for changing this painful history! You are studying to protect your home away from those evils! ” Her tears were not shed in vain, protect my family and make my parents feel proud of my becomes my motive to study.

In the next semester, just after U.S government issue compensation in 34567.89 U.S dollars for the plane coalition, the school’s principal stuck a scroll with “Study for a prosperous and rising China” on the top of the school building.-- It’s the sentence mentioned by Premier Zhou Enlai, and become my motto too.

Yes, staying in the U.S is an excellent choice, I can imagine that me life in here that I can afford my living, have a spare time to work on my personal interest, and living with anything my parents demand in the U.S.. But my family are still 15 hours flight away from me. I can’t leave them. If I choose following my path, it’s undoubtedly that life will be much harder than the U.S. I will compete with millions of new graduates in the workplace. It will be brutal competition. I might never have a good life anymore.

Should I find a reason to drift myself in the way in the ocean? Or should I carry on myself and breaking the cage in front of me? I will betray my parent’s demand if I step forward to my goals. I will betray my ideal if I step back and stay in the U.S. Without grimacing or sobbing, I start crying with big silent tears rolling down my cheeks.

And this time, I dialed mom’s phone number without using any chatting applications. After the phone is connected, I talked and sobbed immediately without have a chance to reply my words. “Mom, I wanna go home. I want to grad school in the UK. I’ve tried my best to keep the deposit. I’ve been cutting my hair for five years. I want to work back home. I miss home. I don’t want to stay in the U.S. anymore; it’s lonely here. I don’t want to speak English anymore. I want to speak Mandarin. I want to marry my girlfriend in hometown. I want to take care of my brother. I want to see the grave of granddad. I..I..”

The emotion erupts, I cried heavily on the phone. So mom finally replies, “ Don’t cry. We love you, my dear, we want your life goes easier than us. We’ll respect your path. Don't cry.”

Then I went to sleep again, with a weird dream again. I dreamed myself standing in ruins at Belgrade with an Ushanka hat and tears in my face. There are also thousands of the people standing behind me. And a radio message passed to the walkie-talkie on my left hand, repeatedly.

“This is 81192, and I ‘m unable to returning to the base, please keep on forward gentlemen.”

”Вперед, товарищи!“

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