After returning from Changbai Mountain, a sense of senility came straight at me. I really felt that I was old. Anyone spending a few years experiencing what I did wouldn’t be interested in any worldly disputes. What I did most often was longing. As I sat in front of the stove and listened to the rain, my mind would unwittingly drift back in time. I would fall asleep while thinking about it, but then suddenly wake up again.
Someone told me that if I didn’t want to think about it all the time, I should write it down, because written words could be forgotten more quickly.
So, I’ve been writing a lot recently. On the one hand, I wanted to see if he was right. On the other hand, I did a lot of research on memory and found that it was less reliable than I thought it would be. I was kind of afraid of losing it, so I wanted to write everything down before I forgot it.
I was always afraid of remembering the past, but I never actually wanted to forget it.
I wrote a lot of things down one by one, but whenever I wrote about Pan Zi, I often had to stop and slow down.
I could recall a lot of things about Pan Zi—numerous things, in fact. In my mind, he always looked the same as he did when I was a child. But all I could remember now was the black and white photo on his gravestone. He looked old in the photo, which was a fact that often brought me back to my senses: even though I thought he had always been the same, he still aged.
But I sometimes thought that if Pan Zi were still alive and saw that old-looking photo, he’d probably smash the gravestone himself.
I remembered that I had encouraged him to go to school before since he wasn’t well-educated. He’d sometimes listen to me and take some correspondence courses, but he had a poor foundation so there wasn’t much progress. I also talked him into learning how to cook. Pan Zi was great at making salt and sugar congee, which he often made for me. He’d also make me some boiled eggs in vinegar dressing. That was the way they ate in the battlefield, and l actually liked it a lot. Pan Zi always felt that Little Master Three was too worthy of these foods, but he didn’t stop making them and even made me a few extra sausages while he was at it.
After he passed away, there was a time where I didn’t dream of him at all. But I was actually hoping to dream of him, because I thought that I was the one who had killed him. I thought that rather than dying in a stone cave, his ending should’ve been marrying a woman and living a happy life full of arguments and laughter.
Uncle Three still hadn’t come back. I figured he was probably gone.
During the Spring Festival and family meals, Uncle Three’s seat was always empty. My father usually waited for him at the door until the meal was ready to be served. He always thought that whatever his brother had done out there could be forgiven as long as he came back for the Spring Festival. But Uncle Three never did come back. As the years passed, my father gradually stopped waiting and said, “He’s probably gone.”
Uncle Three was especially loyal to friends, so did he go and pick up Pan Zi at that time? I thought it would be great if Uncle Three had been with him during his last moments in the darkness. These two people were definitely better off together.
I remembered that over the past ten years, there were a lot of times when I thought that I wouldn’t survive. But whenever I was at the end of my rope, I always felt relieved. There were so many things that I really didn’t want to do alone. If I died, then I could go find them and they would take care of me. But in the end, I still made my way to the top of the industry. Were they there blessing me?
I had written a lot of things before, but whenever it came to Pan Zi, I always had to stop and write slower. I knew that it was because one day, his name would no longer appear in my writing.
It had been raining for the past few days when I finally made it to that part. I put down my pen that day, no longer very interested in writing any further.
There was a person whom I had been waiting ten years for—someone I could at least say goodbye to one day—and another person who wouldn’t appear again, no matter how many decades had passed.
But I wouldn’t be sad; I’d just light a cigarette. I was his Little Master Three, after all. The man Pan Zi had followed would never bring his brothers down.
Merebear note: Yvette translated this for the 2021 Qingming Festival (Tomb-Sweeping Day) but the original text was uploaded on November 4, 2015
Translated by: Yvette
Edited by: merebear226